Now is the winter of our discombobulation
Made ice fog by the smoke machines of Channel 8.
PREVIOUSLY on Bats Left Throws Right: Forty years of pretending its congenital Nixonian road rage is "just a nervous tic", and that dementia was a condition which beset Ronald "Gipper" Reagan only later in life, has led to a modern Republican party in which both Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence could be seen as viable Presidential material by a percentage of its base which exceeds the sampling error; forty years of explaining how we Actually Won in Vietnam but Lost on CBS, and pretending it is "basically okay with" racial equality has resulted in a Republican base which will buy, and eat, any shit the Brand shovels in a bag; forty years of running from the rhetorical swordsmanship of Spiro Agnew leaves that portion of the mass-market media which isn't completely in the bag with the social and analytical skills of the whipped dog.
And as we've mentioned before, it's possible that there's no better place to see the results, unvarnished, than ringside at the nightly Attempted Teleprompter Reading on a local, mid-sized market channel in a Hopelessly Red State such as, well, my own. It's like looking at the results of thirty years of Reaganism by checking bumfights.com. The locals lack the talent, the awareness, and the consciousness required to make this stuff deniable, let alone plausibly deniable. A pinnacle, or nadir, of sorts (records were made to be broken!) was reached last week when Channel 8 featured back-to-back performances by former Marion County Prosecutor and currently unindicted co-culprit Carl "Facetime" Brizzi; Brizzi was so compromised by his butt-buddy and chief campaign backer Tim Durham's Ponzi dealings that he refused to run for reelection last year. His replacement is a Democrat, which is the reason we keep Democrats around in these parts, and he fulfilled a campaign promise to refile the drunk-driving charges against IMPD Officer David Brisard, charges Brizzi had dropped without a hearing because when police finally got around to testing Brisard's BAC (and got a .19, two hours later) the draw was performed by a technician who might not be eligible to do so under one reading of a revised state law. (Brizzi, who was best known in these parts for his myomorphic nose for poon and television cameras, is currently under professional investigation for his using all that preening time to, among other things, prejudice cases pre-trial. So it's not like Channel 8 has any reason to steer clear of him at this late date.)
Of course 8 can't really be expected to try, anymore; its Statehouse man Jim "The Dean (Broder) of Indiana Political Reporters" Shella gave up pretending sometime during the Bush administration, and now confines himself to trying to shape Mitch Daniels' talking points into an inverted pyramid, just from force of habit. Here's Shella's three big stories of the week:
• Mitch Daniels' Super Colossal Brain singes Illinois, by reacting to its recent income tax increase by inviting Illinois businesses to relocate to Indiana.
• Mike Pence, winner of a straw poll in Iowa, currently running even with Daniels in New Hampshire despite five minutes, compared to five years, as a candidate, and the object of a seeming groundswell of interest in his economic/religious credentials, will no doubt run for Governor.
• Dick Lugar is going to be challenged in the 2012 primaries by the awesome power of 150 Teabaggers.
Okay, just to shag the fungo first: anybody's who's spent five minutes watching Indiana politics knows Dick Lugar could switch from Republican to NAMBLA and still win a twenty-second term. It's one thing to puff this sort of shit up to the level of news filler; it's quite another to say "Lugar is prepping for a fight" because he's holding a fundraiser.
As for Pence, well, again, I have no idea what the man will do. But there's no question that a Pence presidential run would hit Daniels in the solar plexus; there's no question that Pence is a better match with the Republican rank and file, who are the people who vote in primaries, being a sort of Mike Huckabee without the tax increase, or Sarah Palin without the trailer; and there's no question that wherever "Governor" came from it wasn't Pence's mouth. Shella--the longtime host of a local PBS program White People Laugh At Each Other's Jokes About Inside Indiana Politics,--asked his panel this week whether Pence's speech about Federalism didn't mean he was definitely running for Governor. Funny how Pence giving up the #3 position in House Republican leadership didn't have any deeper meaning.
But mostly it's been a week of slightly frostbitten, somewhat strangled (there's really no other kind on the Prairie) mirth at the impending war with Illinois Daniels sparked because he saw a moment's self-aggrandizement in it. Illinois, which has a two-party system, voted to raise taxes for the next few years to deal with its deficit. Indiana, which doesn't, will deal with its own deficit the way it has ever since Daniels' original plan to--what was it, now? oh, yeah--temporarily raise taxes to reduce its deficit was shot more fulla holes than the Moran Gang, and in less time, too: it will slash education spending, raise taxes that don't count as taxes, and fob the rest off on local government, then declare another miracle surplus.
The goddam petulant child routine would have been a hoot on some sensible planet. Right after the vote Daniels was urging disaffected businesses to relocate in Indiana (to someone who looks down on Daniels--yes, it's a large club--his little neener neener had the distinct aroma of Speech I Used To Win the Lovely Cheri-with-an-i Back for Marriage #2). By week two we're spending taxpayer dollars on ad space to encourage just that. Never mind, of course, that for the first six years of his administration Indiana's income and corporate taxes were actually higher than Illinois'; never mind that our base sales tax is 17% higher, thanks to the Daniels' increase. Never mind that this flood of new businesses is coming from Illinois, not Indonesia, and might thus be expected to bring along all their employees, rather than create jobs for any of the 10% of Hoosiers who don't have one.
Of course if they promise new jobs that counts in Indiana. The one guy doing so was the owner of Jimmy John's Sandwich Joint Franchisers and Labor Intimidators, Jimmy John Liautaud, who's so angry about the Illinois tax increase he's planning to move--to Florida. And suddenly add "about 80" employees to his staff of "about 100", as, you know, a Freedom Dividend. Again, it's one thing to drag this dickwad part of the story; it's quite another to swallow him whole.