Tuesday, October 18

Pity Party

Matt Bai, "Does Anyone Have a Grip on the G.O.P.?" October 12

IF we might say this just one more time: you can't fix something by not looking at it.

You can wade through Bai's 7000 + words if you wish, but you're not going to find what's supposed to be wrong with the Republican Presidential campaign line-up excepting Romney and Perry (yes, Perry; this was the cover-story of this Sunday's Times Magazine, and that October 12 publication date is the standard mid-week reveal, but script approval must've come during the twenty minutes between Perry's declaration and his first two debate performances). Criswell speaks!
“If we have a Rick Perry versus Mitt Romney battle for the nomination, it’s a little hard to say, ‘Ooh, the party has really gone off the rails,’ ” [Bill] Kristol told me just after Perry entered the race, a development that essentially ended Bachmann’s brief ascent.

(And presaged the rise of Herman Cain.) "Nuts" and "off the rails" are evidently the generally accepted descriptions of the problem, clear to everyone, except maybe the 75% of Republican voters currently supporting one or another of these undesirables.

So let's begin with Bai, and the Times Magazine, and its proclivity for turning national politics into a mush sandwich with a side of wingnut deference. There is, I believe, precisely one example of the sort of extremism the Republican Establishment objects to--or, more precisely, objects to being saddled with--in the piece: Michele Bachmann's suggestion that no one should pay any Federal taxes at all. Like that differs from the Republican party line in some significant way other than her honesty, or her forgetting to add "except the Poors". Alternately, every Republican insider--lobbyist, think-tanker, PAC sinecure, former Bush/Reagan/Ford functionary, Mitch Daniels--quoted expresses his admiration for the Teabag agenda "to a great extent". But what's left out? Is something too nutty for them? National Bow Down To Jesus Day? Arming preschoolers? What? How long do they get to protect the Franchise while proclaiming themselves more sensible, and expecting to be taken at face value? For as long as the Times publishes a Magazine?

Early on there's this from Scott Reed, former RNC executive director and Dole-Kemp campaign manager:
Did he mean to say that the party was slowly co-opting the Tea Partiers?

“Trying to,” Reed said. “And that’s the secret to politics: trying to control a segment of people without those people recognizing that you’re trying to control them.

That sort of candor from a political operative has all the refreshing qualities of an eyedropper of anti-freeze in the middle of the Gobi. We fucking know what these people actually think. Fer chrissakes. If journalists had been asking them tough questions about this shit the past thirty years they wouldn't have this dilemma now, because the Reagan coalition would have disintegrated by '87.

Likewise, the beyond-tiresome Mitch Daniels, Sensible Moderate routine tells us what, exactly?
The establishment’s preferred candidate, generally speaking, was Mitch Daniels, Indiana’s second-term governor, who served as a political aide in the Reagan administration and as budget director for George W. Bush. Probably more than any elected official in America today, Daniels makes an argument about the moment that precisely reflects the thinking of most establishment Republicans. He did so, most memorably, in a rather unlikely forum — at the annual gathering of far-right activists known as the Conservative Political Action Conference, held in Washington this past February. Daniels devoted much of his keynote speech to the establishment case for reducing federal debt and remaking entitlement programs, which he calls a generational challenge, rather than trimming government on the margins through discretionary spending. But he also made a forceful case for the willingness to compromise and for broadening the party’s appeal beyond the most conservative voters. He didn’t say overtly that he was open to new taxes, but he told the audience of activists that Republicans simply couldn’t succeed in solving the nation’s intractable problems without giving something up in the process.

Mitch Daniels, testing his Presidential chances in a party of ravening nutjobs, sidled up to tax increases--without which, in anything approaching the real world, his major campaign theme, the Debt, would have served as a burial shroud for his Presidency--without exactly, you know, mentioning any, and suggested that the culture war might find itself on the back burner in the interim--without, you know, pledging to name a Log Cabin Republican Attorney General--and this is Political Courage and Fearless Straight-Shootin'? Hell, for the two years of his Non-Campaign Campaign (Contributions Welcome) he tried to distance himself from his own record at OMB by blaming the Bush administration for having other people in it. As though he was pretty sure he heard that $50 billion dollar figure for the Iraq war from a neighboring stall and felt obliged to pass it on.
When I met Daniels last month in his cavernous Statehouse office,
It just seems cavernous because he's in the center of it, Matt.
he cautioned that the Tea Party movement, like all effective popular movements, had an effect far beyond the proportion of its actual numbers. “I wouldn’t minimize for a minute their importance,” he said, “but I wouldn’t fixate too much on the Tea Party. There’s a whole lot more to the Republican Party than the Tea Party.”

Wow. Thanks for dragging that out of him.

Look, the Republican party is in desperate need of a couple of rivers to reroute to clean up its stables. Pretending the Teabaggers are some sui generis, formerly apolitical bunch which suddenly awoke to our Crushing National Debt in late January, 2009 isn't doing them any good. Letting Mitch Daniels pretend he's the man to Save the Economy, when he was the man who wrecked it, right in front of 95% of the voting-age population, isn't doing them any good. Letting George Eff Will blather about the Republican establishment from whatever bow-tied sinecure he was manning that day, well, look:
George Will recently said there is no such thing as the Republican establishment, which is a little like Michael Douglas saying there’s no such thing as Hollywood. But Will’s point, shared by a lot of other longtime Republicans I spoke with, is that the real establishment, the league of Protestant lawyers and bankers from the Northeast and Midwest who once exercised enormous influence, was smashed in 1964 when Barry Goldwater, acting as the advance guard for a new breed of ideological conservatives from the West and South, wrested the nomination from Nelson Rockefeller. (Among Goldwater’s most vocal G.O.P. opponents at that time was a liberal Midwestern governor named George Romney.) Since then, this argument goes, the idea of any singular establishment has been little more than a convenient media conceit.

Sure, sure, the money went West, and the racists changed parties. And since then the Republican party--traditionally reliant on electing Presidents to bend legislation to its will--has nominated Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, two George Bushes, god help us, Bob Dole, and John McCain.

Forty-five years, one Movement "Conservative", and one other guy they claimed before disowning him. A stunning reversal. This is the result of polishing your mythos for a lifetime, without ever being asked what you're doing, or why, or why your pants are on the floor. It's a party which stands ready to defeat Jimmy Carter again, to pull down the solar panels on the White House (as if), and get back to fucking things up even worse while enriching its donors. Mission Accomplished! And apparently no one's allowed to ask Why, not until the whole thing collapses on us, at which point anyone who manages to crawl out of the rubble will be told, "Because those people were nuts!"


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Matt Taibbi:

Bai is one of those guys -- there are hundreds of them in this business -- who poses as a wonky, Democrat-leaning "centrist" pundit and then makes a career out of drubbing "unrealistic" liberals and progressives with cartoonish Jane Fonda and Hugo Chavez caricatures. This career path is so well-worn in our business, it's like a Great Silk Road of pseudoleft punditry. First step: graduate Harvard or Columbia, buy some clothes at Urban Outfitters, shore up your socially liberal cred by marching in a gay rights rally or something, then get a job at some place like the American Prospect. Then once you're in, spend a few years writing wonky editorials gently chiding Jane Fonda liberals for failing to grasp the obvious wisdom of the WTC or whatever Bob Rubin/Pete Peterson Foundation deficit-reduction horseshit the Democratic Party chiefs happen to be pimping at the time. Once you've got that down, you just sit tight and wait for the New York Times or the Washington Post to call. It won't be long.

Bai is the poster child of those guys.

(I know we've all read it, but it's so perfect.)

Steve said...

I buy the Sunday NY Times every week, including this week. When I see Matt Bai's byline, I go right past the article because I know it's delusional bullshit. The guy is a douchebag, like so many Times writers (yes, I'm talking to you, Moustache of Understanding). I just hope that Krugman shoulders the rest of them into their lockers when he passes them in the hall, and I hope he makes it painful.