OR, Ya Don't Need a Brain To Suffer Brain-Freeze.
Is there any explanation--any at all--for why we suffer through this time after time after time? There are so many godawful components to our godawful mass-market media political coverage--the superficiality, the venality, the faux-balance, the careerism, the cynicism, the herd mentality--that you'd imagine that somewhere a seam would just blow, and the whole thing spill out like a crap piñata. Instead, all the friction between the endless reporting of the same script in use since Nixon cowed today's journalists' grandfathers and what really happens in really America just gives you and me rug burns.
Pierce shows how it's done. Roy shows how it's done. Bai shows how you make the big bucks:
There’s really no arguing with the consensus view that, after repeatedly courting calamity in prior debates, Rick Perry did grave damage to his presidential campaign Wednesday night. First the guy says that anyone who disagrees with him on illegal immigration must not have a heart, then he gets all twisted up while trying to attack Mitt Romney, and finally comes this new gaffe about … um … hang on a second … wait, it’ll come to me.Opening with a gag is a time-honored practice. Look into it.
I'm sorry, but how does "he said people who disagree with him on immigration have no heart" come to lead off a list of gaffes? That's the one thing Rick Perry's done that belonged in a debate. If characterizing your political opponents is rhetorically beyond the pale, throw everybody off that stage, and shutter the Republican party.
The question I’ve been pondering today, though, is why, exactly, this latest Perry moment strikes all of us as so consequential. Sure, the obvious answer is that Mr. Perry looked, again, like maybe he wasn’t the sharpest butter knife at the tea party. Fair enough.No, the obvious answer is that being a dolt--which Rick Perry was, and was known to be, unequivocally, before he ever entered the race--won't get you called out unless you slip on a banana peel and fall face-first into a custard pie while your pants fall down and your Texas-sized belt buckle accidentally sets off a nearby seltzer bottle. Repeatedly. And because in Republican circles that still might get you applauded, which won't get mentioned, either.
But let’s be clear: tongue-twisting and mind-lapsing aren’t necessarily deal-breakers. If they were, former Presidents Dukakis and Gore would be out playing golf together and boring their caddy to tears.Well, let us just thank our Maker, whomever or whatever we imagine Him/Her/No Gender Preference to be, that none of these people is boring. Excepting Jon "The Semi-Sane One" Huntsman and Mitt "The Eventuality" Romney.
People wrote entire books about the dumb things George W. Bush said (“Is our children learning?” and so forth), and sold them briskly at checkout counters, and still the man tormented his detractors for eight years.Tormented his detractors? I guess "people with an abiding belief in America's bright promise and moral leadership" found him thought provoking.
Look: those are back-to-back fucking sentences. Michael Dukakis was boring! (and, oh, he was defeated by George Herbert Walker Prescott Bush, who was a comparative one-man Mardi Gras, I suppose). George W. Bush was an imbecile, but he was President!
On what planet does this stuff resonate? Let me put it another way: no wonder 98% of movies made in this enlightened age are one long festival of computer-generated shit blowing up, loudly, to the delight of the fourteen-year-old boy in
If being inarticulate or at a loss for facts were disqualifying traits, Sarah Palin would not remain one of the most formidable Republican presidential candidates who isn’t running for president.
And if "being inarticulate or at a loss for facts" were traits that were regularly pointed out by the mass-market media when plainly encountered it might not be so easy for Republicans to ignore them.
No, there’s another level to Mr. Perry’s self-inflicted wound, and it has to do with the most powerful commodity in American politics: authenticity.Once you can fake that, you're in, so long as you apologize to Jean Giraudoux.
The problem is that he didn’t seem to know the basic details of his own proposal. Here he was calling for what would be a truly radical restructuring of the federal government — involving many thousands of jobs and many billions of dollars in federal expenditures — and he didn’t have a grasp on which sprawling departments he would shutter. It seemed the idea was not his own, but rather something he had tried and failed to memorize.Now for cryin' fuckin' out loud, this in a piece explaining how there was more than just that Oops! at work.
Please explain to me what reason anyone ever had to believe that Rick Perry was a thoughtful politician espousing what are largely his own ideas. If you can, please move on to Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and Mitt Romney; save Gingrich for last, because that involves the biggest sucker list since Charles Ponzi drew breath. Perhaps, for extra credit, you can explain why every goddam Republican Presidential candidate for the last thirty-five years has sounded like this. It's a fucking party of panderers. If it's a sin to sound like you tried and failed to memorize something, how big an accomplishment is it to have successfully memorized something that is entirely designed to please the ignorant?
And in this way, Mr. Perry violated one of the core tenets of modern politics, which is that you have to at least sustain the artifice of ownership. We know, of course, that presidential candidates don’t actually write their own speeches or stay up late at night tinkering with their own proposals to overhaul Medicare. We get all that.And we express this nuanced understanding by insisting that they make us believe the opposite if they want our support. CGI politics.
[Y'know, now I think of it, some Presidents do write their own speeches (with help) and do stay up all night tinkering with proposals and studying issues. Over the past fifty years we've called those "Democrats". Or "boring". ]
But we do expect them to really believe in the things they propose — to have the requisite conviction to know and recite with passion the basic policies that someone on their team stayed up nights to craft. Say what you want about Mr. Bush, but no one ever doubted his deep well of resolve on tax cuts or education reform. He had command of his own plan, if not all the underlying data.Honestly, Matt, just what runs through your mind when you look down at your razor each morning? Pat Robertson sounds committed to his plan. Adolf Hitler sounded committed to his plan. Larry Craig had a story and stuck with it. That means ab-so-fucking-lutely nothing whatsoever. If your plan is flat wrong, simply ridiculous, doomed to failure and disastrous consequences, your enthusiasm for it is worse than indifference.
There’s nothing more central to Mr. Perry’s campaign than the idea of scaling back the government in Washington — that’s pretty much the whole tamale right there — and what he proved last night, in 60 or so agonizing seconds, is that he hasn’t thought deeply enough about it to even master the basics of his own agenda.
And this proves, once again, that so long as someone has good hair, a place to stand, and manages to spit out those lines without kicking over the podium, the Matt Bais of the world promise never to question the underlying assumptions.