Monday, December 31

In Other News, CBS Thinks Bobby Parker Is A Creep, And If He Thinks They're Still Going To The 8th Grade Dance Together He's Crazy.

SOME may say it's just the Vicodin talking (see below), but it started weeks before that. It started with Hillary's cleavage.

I know that people like to imagine otherwise, but the ruling coalition in this country (ruling because it has no more ability to govern than it has sufficient democratic instincts to do so) consists of a bunch of standard-issue Weekly Standard neo-fascists (I'm bringing it back! Why are "conservatives" like fascists? Because they are! Short, but it didn't take three years to get into some semblance of publishing shape, either) throwing shit at a wall to see what captures the, you should pardon the expression, "imagination" of the public. Which I suppose we all, fascist or not, do to some extent, but only these guys and their sorry-assed centrist Democrat dopplegängers get theirs broadcast by major networks or published by the Newspaper of Record.

(Speaking of the Gray Lady, I heard someone say that Kristol would be taking the Bill Safir(e) chair. It's true those two enjoy the commonality of being lying fascist bags of shit, but Safir(e) in his heyday was at least lively, even if you wouldn't have left your nine-year-old alone in a room with him. Kristol's taking the Tierney chair, folks. Tierney represented the Times' Pander Offensive; he was the New Yawk editor's idea of the sort of Midwesterner who finds David Brooks such a delightfully contrarian 19th century mind. In this, as always, we find a reassuring cluelessness, as when a regional symphony orchestra backs Van Halen, or Celine Dion tries to rock out. No Midwesterner reads David Brooks. Few have even heard of him. At any rate, the Tierney experiment is now officially a failure and it's time to return the space to the paranoid ravings of well-born East Coast hucksters, where it belongs.

(We can't pass this by without noting that Andrew Sullivan called Kristol "an extremely talented writer", proving that some people can't tell the difference between a Bartok string quartet and the mock pleadings of a buggered cabana boy.)

Where was I? Oh, so look at Hillary's cleavage. You would not have described it as such. Your grandmother would not have described it as such. It raised no boners beyond the terminally infantile erections of Right Blogtopia, and merited only a half-hearted What The Fuck among adults, but it was on the "News". And look what's happened since. The diapered fantasies of your mewling Chris Matthewses and your puking Tim Russerts, barely contained in the best of times, started boiling harder than an Irish dinner. (By the way, does anyone imagine either of these two has ever had sexual relations without both themselves and the victim being dead drunk?) The smooth-shaven Barack Obama suddenly had a message, and John Edwards suddenly had one that was being heard, his former Breck Girl locks now a Kennedyesque mop. Clearly some switch had been thrown, dear reader, and the resultant light was invisible to anyone with a healthy adult sex life.

Now, this points out a couple of things about the string pullers. One, they obviously realize that sex sells, as we all do, but they also know that infantile notions of sex sell best of all. It wasn't Gennifer Flowers got the faithful all riled up; it was the thought of Paula Jones kissing the Bent Clenis™. It wasn't schtupping Monica, it was leaving a stain. If Larry Craig had been caught in a Watergate suite with a male aide it wouldn't have played three days outside of Idaho. And two, I believe we can take it for granted that they share the Don't Fuck Mommy/Look I Made A Poo-Poo frame of reference; nobody with a healthy sex life could possibly care. We are under perpetual attack by the forces of infantile sexuality, not in a reasonably-well-adjusted, specialist-publication way, but in an Oh My God In A Public Men's Room! How Disgusting, and I Hope They Have More Pictures On A-18! sense.

Of course the real point is power, as it always is for the well-born erectile-deficient; leading the New American Gladiators crowd to the polls is just a means to that end, so once something like this takes hold it gets attached to "important" concepts (if it were all about sex Russert might begin to catch on at some point, though I doubt Matthews would) like Mike Huckabee Is Too Religious (a concept as wistless as the Clinton cleavage, and no less effective. As Jay B pointed out, seven years ago the EmEssEm were outraged someone would embarrass a Presidential candidate by asking him to name the president of Pakistan; now it's outraged that an utterance can be parsed to suggest an unfamiliarity with how its paperwork is progressing this week).

So I was not really surprised when NBC's Richard Engle broke the weekend wall-to-wall Bhutto: The Islamic Elvis bit (someone needs to explain the "she cracked her skull on the limo door" thing to me, though. Is this supposed to suggest it was suicide or something? Are they planning to indict Dr. Nick?) for this:
New bin-Laden Audio Proves Surge Is Working

(although I thought he should have added "Besides, he's too religious,") because that's exactly what NBC's "terrorist experts" said about the last bin-Laden audiotape, and hey, you go with what you know, plus the alternative--having accurately reported the truth about "al-Qaeda in Iraq" for the last four years--is as unthinkable as it is impossible. Still, it's plenty amusing to hear the same guys who were painting him as Goldfinger a couple years back now analyzing the terror threat contained in an intercepted 8-Track message to his evil hordes. Is it any wonder that the abiding symbol of our last war on Islamofascism is a cartoon mouse giving 'em the finger?

They Should Have At Least Read Me My Rights

SO two weeks ago I bunged up my knee while fighting crime rogering a pair of leggy supermodels getting out of my chair, and five days later I went to the immediate care place, where Dr. Surly kept me waiting forty-five minutes while he rogered the x-ray technician finished the application for his license reinstatement saw to the pressing medical needs of the two people who were there ahead of me, neither of whom (nagging cough, possible broken finger in a no-doubt drunken fall) appeared to justify the exhaustive search of 19th century case histories that was taking so much time, before sticking his head inside my room for one minute twelve seconds--I swear I saw nothing of him below the shoulders for another thirty minutes--to tell me there was probably nothing he could do for me, even though he hadn't even spoken to me to that point, let alone conducted what I believe is usually termed an "exam", and that he'd probably give me some Ibuprophen. This last, I believe, is a standard bit meant to scare you off. At any rate, if he thought I was gonna sit there for two hours and go home with anything short of Schedule II narcotics he was crazy. Thirty seconds later I heard him snapping at the x-ray tech about the fact that I was still in the exam room and not on her table. In three tries she got no images, so she rushed out and got the other technician, who was about half her age, and who said something I didn't quite catch about this having to happen when You Know Who was on duty, so I bonded with them, and then they put the plates directly under my leg instead of in the cabinet underneath, and the pictures turned out fine. Maybe the best I'd ever taken.

Dr. Surly returned--all of him this time--and did some more muttering, and actually touched the knee, and told me the x-rays showed "no breaks or tears". I would repeat this to the osteopath five days later, just to hear him confirm that tears wouldn't have shown up anyway. He said he suspects a meniscus tear; I think he probably suspects a scam to get prescription painkillers. He sent me for an MRI Saturday, either to see just what sort of damage there is, or to see how much I was willing to pay for a chance at additional scripts.

So Saturday morning I'm about to be swept into the Gaping Maw of Claustrophobia (no problem for me, but my Poor Wife has vowed never to have another) when the tech, who is far too cheery for 9 AM, asks what radio station I'd like to listen to. And I tell her I'm totally innocent of local radio, having last listened to it in 1972, and how about NPR? And she says, "We don't get that." And that's the end of the conversation, and without further discussion--which might have run something like "I'd rather have you scream in my ear for the next forty minutes than make me listen to most radio stations"--she snaps the headphones on me and the gurney starts to move, and there's a bunch of the usual local radio guff--disc jockey inanities followed by locally-produced commercials for some health club with zero production values--followed by "You've Got A Friend" by James Taylor.

And I knew I was in trouble. James Taylor is not a grand mal seizure of suckitude provided the dose is kept small, but there's no question he portends the sort of Lite Rock or "Adult" Contemporary--now that I think of it, why is 90% of the typical "Adult" Contemporary playlist twenty-five years old, let alone lyrically teenaged?--that serves as some sort of default listening position on the grounds that it's the stuff people who don't like music listen to. Which is, I would like to have explained to Excessively Cheerful, precisely bass ackwards, but it was too late. Here, to the best of my recollection--and I had nothing to do but remember it--was the rest of it:

"Lady" Little River Band
"Kiss You All Over" Exile
"Stuck on You" Lionel Ritchie
Something I Didn't Recognize by Someone Other Than Celine Dion but Close
"Make It With You" Bread
"Kiss Me" Sixpence None The Richer (the one song I actually like, but then I'm a sucker for hurdy-gurdies and women with that haircut)
"Jazzman" Carole King
Something Written By Jim Steadman on a Three-Day Piña Colada Bender and "Sung" by Someone Who Unfortunately Is Celine Dion
"All Out of Love" Air Supply

I would swear on my grandmother's grave this is true, but I figure if you're familiar with the concept there's really no need.

Friday, December 28

Caution. Men In Trees.

You might be right, Melinda , that experience doesn't make Hillary Clinton or John McCain the "safe" candidate in light of the Bhutto assassination. (I'll admit I've found myself warming to McCain while he survived the greatly exaggerated reports of his death, and as the other GOP candidates I thought I might support have begun flailing.) But (via the excellent Ed Morrissey )...

OH, I'm sorry; introductions. The writer being informed by the excellent Ed Morrissey here is the redoubtable Rachael Larimore, whom I like to think of as Slate's desperate attempt to prove that whole anti-contra-reverse-counterintuitive contrarianism schtick is in fact so genuine that it extends to their hiring practices.
...I hope that we can agree that Bill Richardson is a wildly dangerous candidate in comparison.

Let's back up just a bit here, but not enough we're tempted to mash the accelerator and smash into these people, forcing us to exchange insurance information: 1) Benazir Bhutto is assassinated, leading any number of Americans to feel they need to have an opinion about what this means. 2) Some of these Americans have column inches to fill, if only in cyberspace. 3) One of them is John Dickerson. 4) Dickerson decides that what it means is we'll be backing "safe" candidates like John McCain and Hillary Clinton from here on out, seeing as how we now know the world is a dangerous place, especially for opposition leaders returned from exile to the powderkeg of their homelands in a desperate attempt to make the US State Department look like a player. 5) The campaign discussion group at Slate then comment on his comments, after first checking Cap'n Ed to assure a firm grounding in Subcontinental politics.
Here's what Gov. Richardson had to say :

President Bush should press Musharraf to step aside, and a broad-based coalition government, consisting of all the democratic parties, should be formed immediately. Until this happens, we should suspend military aid to the Pakistani government. Free and fair elections must also be held as soon as possible. It is in the interests of the U.S. that there be a democratic Pakistan that relentlessly hunts down terrorists. Musharraf has failed, and his attempts to cling to power are destabilizing his country. He must go.

Really? He wants President Bush to overthrow the government of another country?

No! Really?

Fer chrissakes, "what Richardson had to say" would have been regarded, as recently as two years ago, by these very same people, as a sort of Hopeless Hippie Unicorn-Flavored Pacifism, assuming it wasn't aimed at someone the Bush administration had foolishly bet the farm on. And we can just forget about pointing out that Richardson initially supported overthrowing the government of Iraq; recognizing this would have required fact-gathering, and you can't put that sort of thing on a Slate expense voucher.

Now, the doctor told me that if I keep my head perfectly still in these sorts of situations I could minimize the risk of further, possibly catastrophic, injury. So, this being Slate 'n'all, let's see if we can manage to throw a net over what this might actually mean. Not that we necessarily have a net that large.

1) Larimore actually means it. Okay, that's impossible, you say; "conservatives", even the Facile Libertarian branch, actually live for overthrowing governments. Plus, the very idea that it would be shocking for Bush to overthrow another government is so absurd it must be an ironic suggestion. Fine, except a) this is Slate, after all; maybe they want you to think that and b) this is precisely the sense the excellent Cap'n makes of it: "Richardson is a dangerous kook for suggesting a serious US diplomatic response in terms which would allow someone like me to claim he supports a US-military-backed coup".

2) She means to chide Democrats. As in, "Right, now Democrats are in favor of overthrowing foreign governments with military force. Fucking peaceniks." We might raise the objection that this would negate the complaint: even if you can pump enough air into Richardson's remarks to make it sound like he's suggesting military action without the thing blowing up on you--and you can't--haven't you been cheering that sort of thing on (from the sidelines, despite one's Naval commission) for the better part of a decade now? But then, this is Slate and movement "conservatism", the land where Francis Bacon is a Sunday watercolorist. We would also note the Cap'n makes this argument, as well, but it wouldn't do the vertigo any good.

3. The Ol' Switcheroo. Having turned American foreign policy into a flaming bag of dogshit on the front porch, maybe they figure now is a good time to start whistling and walking in the opposite direction. This would certainly explain the elevation of Bill Richardson to Democratic Party spokesman and dead solid lock to be your next Secretary of State, a rise which must have pulled double-digit Gs, assuming gravity operates in Nowheresville, where the ride started. Unfortunately, the worst you can say about Distorto Bill Richardson is that he sounds sorta like a Republican, only saner. But maybe that's the thing they fear the most! Or, maybe...that's what they want you to think they fear the most! Ow, my head!

UPDATE: Okay, it's not an UPDATE, but the Cap'n had a really cool one about how Richardson did too use the word "force", so there. This was part of an internal debate with the "Richardson apologists" who plague his comments and those of every other right-wing site that allows them, however, we were somewhat unclear about how Richardson saying, as both we and the Cap'n quote, "We must use our diplomatic leverage and force the enemies of democracy to yield..." turns into a justification of taking "force" to mean whatever the fuck you say it means. So we scanned the piece again, and we're not about to do that without some marginal payoff. So here's a look at how this important matter is seen by Shot & Sail Republicans. Friggin' in the riggin':
The stupidity of this statement cascades through several levels. First and foremost, how would the US "force" Musharraf to step down? Should we invade Pakistan to fight on the side of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, who have pursued that same goal for the past six years, thanks to Musharraf's alliance with the US? Or does Richardson expect us to conduct an assassination?

Okay, first, we are simply going to ignore that business about Musharraf as sudden recipient of radical Islamic attentions on 9/12, after innocently siding with The Good Guys; it is, after all, merely a device to buttress the claim that Bill Richardson wants to send US military forces to fight side-by-side with, if not under the command of, Osama bin-Laden, and as such must be seen as fungo practice for a possible future Democratic administration. And we'll just pass on by that "diplomatic leverage...does that mean assassination, Bill?" routine, on the grounds that "diplomatic leverage" is an altogether foreign concept to the Right at this point, so it would not surprise us to find your average wingnut asking if it involved waterboarding, ice skates, or refried beans. We will simply note that Richardson had, in fact, answered the question before it was asked. That this answer is not taken as satisfactory is grounds for disputing it, impugning it, or questioning the sanity of the speaker, but it's not grounds for redefining common terms to make them mean what you wish they meant. But let us sail on:
Better yet, why should we dictate who runs Pakistan? Isn't that a rather bald assertion of so-called American imperialism?

The other day I jokingly remarked somewhere that the major cultural advantage of living in Indianapolis was that I could drive a couple miles down 16th Street and buy myself one of those head-restraint systems they use in auto racing and so avoid crippling whiplash injuries from crap like this. Now I wish I'd really done it. One: if you believe in something--and people who supported preemptive war in Iraq either believe in the right of the US to dictate to other governments, or they believe in nothing whatsoever, in which case they should have admitted so in 2002--or you don't, but you are not allowed to simultaneously profess belief and question others for apparently doing the same, without regard for the sometimes devastating effect that can have on the innocent soft tissues of other people's necks. Two: the single exception to this rule occurs when someone--let's call him "Bill"--has put forward a definition of "so-called American imperialism" which both rejects it and defines it as "dictating who runs something-or-other" and then urges precisely the opposite course of action. At this point you may criticize "Bill", but it'd be nice if you quote him to that effect while you're at it. Alternately you can a) praise him for finally seeing the intense otherworldly glow of your own brightness or b) shut up.
And after we somehow force Musharraf from power, what comes after? Even with a passive removal of support, something has to push Musharraf from power. Does Richardson have a clue what that might be?

In fact, he does, or he imagines he does, and it can be discerned by the simple expedient of reading what the man fucking said.
I'll give him a hint. We did the same thing in 1979 with Iran and the Shah.

So now, not content just to ignore what Richardson said in the first place, we offer to explain to him exactly what he said, except by faulty historical analogy, which, to the extent that it's true, undermines our own case! If you'll excuse me for a few minutes, I need to drive a few miles down 16th Street.

Okay, I'm back. Assuming that withdrawal of US military support led to the overthrow of the Shah--a man we'd actively propped on the Throne we righted for him, and who had spent every Cold-War dollar we'd given him in the intervening thirty-five years on pissing off every single subject who had survived genital electrocution--is gratuitous at best, and suggesting the Iranian Revolution represents an inevitability is pure flummery. Bhutto isn't wasn't a returning exhiled imam, she was a species of democrat; Musharraf didn't declare martial law to stave off the Taliban. If we believe that US political pressure, and not a popular uprising of his own people, overthrew the Shah, then we have to concede that Richardson is onto something, and we have to admit, under the circumstances, that it might result in an improved situation in Pakistan. Meanwhile, neither Pakistan's more powerful neighbors, nor the international community, is going to be comfortable with an Iranian-type Islamic revolution taking place.

Of course, a really, really good time to have thought about all this was before we threw in with an anti-democratic military strongman with a history of duplicitousness, just for the sake of some Bush-administration puffery and a guaranteed opportunity to capture bin-Laden and lead him down Pennsylvania Avenue as a prelude to remaking the Middle East. And how'd that one go?

Thursday, December 27

White Christmas

THAT most wonderful time of the year, when you're reminded, once again, that the renewed hope one finds in the promise of increasing sunlight is balanced by the sheer number of blind racist idiots out there, and the recognition that you share a closer genetic link to some of them than you're really comfortable with.

I think I've mentioned before that my Poor Wife and I used to play a game with family gatherings and racism. It had a single rule: you had to look at the other the minute somebody made some wholly gratuitous racial remark, and the object was to be the first to get there.

I suppose we started playing about twenty-five years ago, and the great attraction of the thing was that it wasn't a game we'd invented, rather, it was one that developed organically and was then codified. If either of us was of a more scientific bent it might have involved plotting Cracker Comments over Time, or versus Phases of the Moon or corollated with Bill O'Reilly career highlights, but we're Arty, so it was just another excuse to sigh knowingly. And if there's a sort of Oprahesque smugness about the thing, it's a mistake to think we imagined the issue was limited to our parents' generation, that Brokaw-limned bunch that fought the Nazis and the integration of public schools. It's just that they were a lot more likely to make unguarded comments, seeing as how they saw no reason to be guarded in the first place, so that back when more of them were alive you might spear a line drive from any corner of the room. It kept you on your toes.

As they grew less ambulatory, or even stopped being animated, the game grew less exciting. If our dwindling number of elders didn't understand the need to couch their racism in more acceptably up-to-date terms, still the process which fed them ammunition--Brokaw's nightly Songs of Encumbered Speech, for example--did. So eventually racism was replaced by crypto-racism, the way skinny ties give way to wide ones, the way Movement "Conservatism" replaced the klavern, and the acceptable locus for the expression of racial opprobrium, at the family dinner table or on the local "news", became public education.

This was around the time my wife returned to teaching, and got a job in an urban district. For a couple years the game was suspended because she became a sort of human batting cage, and it took us a while to catch on. She'd be asked some innocuous, chit-chatty sort of question about how the school year was going, then be prodded about classroom troubles, and she'd answer innocently enough about some fight, or a miscreant caught pulling fire alarms, and be met with, "Were they black?" So she just started avoiding telling those stories. (Like any good game there are some worthy off-field anecdotes. It was around this time that we moved from a half-gentrified area of downtown to one which was more of a raw canvas, which caused her father to offer to foot the cost of a Rottweiler, and culminated in a visit from her baby brother [now in his early 40s] who spent the entire time surreptitiously looking out the front window to see if the darkies were stealing his hubcaps.)

There probably were some points scored in the past few years, but the game was as dull as a denial from Mark McGuire's lawyers until the Indianapolis Public Schools Dress Code brought some new, if unwelcome, vitality last year. The promise that forcing them into Best Buys vestments was going to turn those ghetto punks into fine young scholars thrilled our family members the same way it thrilled local teevee "news" producers, in the same way "Bomb Mecca" sounds like a reasonable course of action to people who imagine their tiniest synaptic event counterbalances the 5.9736×1024 KG mass of the earth. School uniforms, of course, are an idea so appealing to the authoritarian mind that they've had the opportunity to have been proven meaningless time and again over the course of the last couple decades, but this time the intended victims were as Black! as the headlines the IPS superintendent hoped to generate. The latter part of the program was a success.

Now, let me point out here that between the two families precisely one person--my Poor Wife--was actually affected by this. No one else pays anything beyond state and federal taxes to support IPS (and every other school in the state or nation), no one works inside the city limits, no one lives anywhere where they're likely to catch a glimpse of Dangerously Low-Riding Ghetto Pants. Except on white kids. But it was almost universally hailed as the solution to Domestic Unrest.

SO this Christmas morning we spend an hour with the remains of my mother, then head over to my sister's for breakfast, or, as I like to call it, "breakfast", and the plates haven't all been cleared yet when we have the first score of the day, or what would have been if I could have turned my head while seething, when my sister's mother-in-law starts in about how some teacher or neighbor or second cousin of hers had said something about all the IPS students who get free school lunches but wear designer clothes (see I'm White and I Don't Have a Teevee That Big)! And I have to admit, dear reader, that I sort of exploded about it before catching myself, not that I didn't believe she deserved a punch on her 78-year-old snout, regardless, but because I don't want to be the source of disharmony in someone else's home, and it sure would be nice if everyone else felt and acted the same.

And by now you will have noted that what was such a great idea last year is now the source of a new complaint--the Coloreds are dressin' all uppity! It just fucking does not matter. I thought I made a reasonable save by mentioning that a lot of the students were also wearing clothing that had been provided (with much fanfare) on the grounds that they couldn't afford a complete change of wardrobe at the whim of that same heroic administration which was so highly praised the Yuletide previous. It was not a response to her comments--they didn't deserve a response, just an expletive--but an opportunity for someone else to take over the conversation, which allowed me to object to dress codes in general and not the unspoken underlying urge to see all black people in stripes.

So then it was on to my cousin Jane's place, to see the rest of my father's family, where we are treated to a) the tale of all the trouble they're havin' at the school where my cousin Pammy teaches, Redacted High, in the formerly all-white hillbilly enclave of Deletedville south of town, and how this is all the fault of the IPS students who are there illegally because they lied about where they lived in order to escape the New IPS Dress Code ("Weren't never a speck o' trouble in Cracker Township til these undesirables showed up.") and b) the rather ironically amusing sight of one of my third cousins, home from his first semester at college, pimp-rollin' his way through the living room with his jeans buckled at the knee.

You don't visit us often enough! someone is sure to tell us at every family get-together.

Monday, December 24

Seasonal-Appropriate Wishes Event

I hope you all will take a moment to remember, through tenth eggnog or seventh Xanax, that somewhere tonight in some icy outpost a cold, lonely, homesick young man or woman is keeping a watchful eye on greedy, wasteful, hubristic, thieving bureaucratic motherfuckers on your behalf. And that, unlike the people we defend ourselves from with guns, these mofos really are capable of taking our freedoms overnight.

Whether you chose to celebrate or ignore the quadrant-shifting sun/earth relationship, to accept wild postulations of Ice Kings or happy elves, dance naked round the fire, or quietly hope for undeserved salvation, may you get your wish, may the gifts you give others delight and fit properly, and may you yourself receive just what you need and no more. May your opponents wise up, your screenplay be greenlighted, and your teeth be their whitest. May the year to come be better than the last. And Lord help us all.

And may the women and men of our Armed Forces, scattered across the globe, come home and get laid. Amen.

Sunday, December 23

How I Spent My Autumn Hallucination

MoDo, "Savior or Saboteur?" December 23
Just when I thought I was out, the Clintons pull me back into their conjugal psychodrama.

FRIENDS, just for the record, I've heard more convincing denials from fucking smack addicts, okay? And I mean no disrespect to Junkie-Americans by that.

Maureen Dowd has perpetrated just under thirty columns since returning from vacation or rehab September 25th. What say we take a little survey, with a special focus on her brave, Cold Turkey kick?

Since that time she's written ten (10) columns that didn't mention Hillary. She writes three a week. So three times a month she's found some other topic. This means that if you were a MoDo column, and you weren't about Hillary Clinton, you'd have the same statistical relationship to all other MoDo columns that someone who thinks George W. Bush is doing an excellent job has to the population at large. Or, put another way: if you had a part-time, on-call, minimum-wage job, and you were called in as often as Dowd writes a column without an appearance from Hillzilla, you would have starved to death sometime around Thanksgiving.

We might also note here that there cannot possibly be any pressure on her to write more often about Hillary, so that 30% may include some padding. Which, now that we think about it, would explain some of those other columns.

Like to see how the equation would look hanging over the sofa? Okay, since September Fred Thompson (1 column) has participated in his first Republican debate, and has gone from The Next Reagan to The Current Reagan. Rudy Giuliani (2 columns, one concerning how he'd handle Hillary, aka The Debate Dominatrix) has gone from +10 to dead even nationally. The last column she wrote about either of them was on October 17. Mitt Romney's held and lost leads, sparred with Giuliani, and gone negative on Huckabee. He got a column on The Speech. John McCain, recently removed from life support, got to share a column with Joe "Talks Too Much At Congressional Hearings on the War" Biden and Gen. David Petraeus. This ties him with Cécilia Sarkozy. (While we're here we may as well note that the October 10 column entitled "Bomb Bomb Iran" concerned the position, not of the man who made the line famous, but of a Democratic Senator from New York.) Mike Huckabee. the biggest story of the campaign so far, has risen from nothing to front-runner while remaining stuck on Nothing in Dowdland, or exactly one column less than she's dedicated to pretending she's Clarence Thomas.

How 'bout over the mantle? Five columns total concerning Iraq, two of which were really about Cheney, including one of her patented faux-interview fantasias in which Tim Russert asks the Vice President pointed, sarcastic questions. Just so we wouldn't miss that it was fiction.

Care for some Clenis™, a sweet jab of the old mainline Maureen had sworn off before being forced to hit back up? Eight, counting today's, not counting the repeated suggestions that Hillary overinflates her experience as First Wife. Since Rudy's mid-speech cell phone act "almost made Bill and Hillary seem like a model of normalcy" on September 23, we've had "Bill and Monica" (Oct. 21), Halloween's Hillary as the "one who acts French, overlooking her husband's peccadilloes", Girlfriend “play[ing] the Fury with Bill’s cupcakes during the campaign” (I'm assuming; I'm not exactly 100% sure what that is supposed to mean) and "playing the victim after Monica" on November 4, "Bill's galpals" on November 21, and the fantasy version of Barack "Senator Smooth Jazz" Obama zinging Hill with "White House intern" and "stain" remarks exactly seven (7) days ago. Wow, too bad she was dragged back into that marital psychodrama against her will, huh? She'd almost made it to the front gate of the clinic this time.

Let's move on to Iraq, which is an important enough issue to have sparked nearly half as many columns this fall as were dedicated exclusively to Senator Clinton. Then one looks closer. Two columns on Dick Cheney. Two on WMDs. One on Condi Rice. One on Doug Feith. Doug Fucking Feith! The woman gets 800 words in the New York Times three times a week, and apparently the last time she bothered to look at what's happening in Iraq was sometime in early 2005.

In case you've forgotten, with the single exception of crazy camp-follower Ron Paul, every candidate, present and former, for the Republican presidential nomination publicly supports our current level of operations in Iraq, excepting those who propose to expand it. Out of the subset of these which MoDo has bothered to write about in the past four months, only one--John McCain--has had more ink devoted to his position than his hairdo. Perhaps coincidentally, Senator McCain is the only one whose Iraq position could be reasonably understood from having scanned the headlines two years ago.

Still, somehow, it is Ms Clinton's vote for the Iraq War resolution and for Lieberman-Kyl which have brought the country to the precipice. Republican white guys, being, like all white guys, some degree or other of fake cowboy, are permitted to track horseshit into the house without reproach.

Just for fun, let's roll the credits over a montage of autumnal MoDo moments:

(On Lieberman-Kyl): “Barack Obama would have voted no if he had voted.”

(On Hillary): “she’s the only one in Congress [Dick Cheney] can easily persuade anymore”

“an estrogen equation”

"Sometimes when Hillary takes heat, she gets paranoid and controlling"

“the sort of belittling treatment that she sometimes dished out to her husband and his male aides at the White House”

"It’s almost as if she’s offering herself to Clinton supporters as the solution to the problem of the 22nd Amendment."

“She is a control freak”

"Bill is a narcissist"

“In The Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan lays out what he sees as Obama’s 'indispensable' capacity to move the country past baby-boom feuds and the world past sectarian and racial divides”

“my mom and another Catholic girlfriend actually had Southern Protestants ask them to lift up their hair so they could see the mark of the devil or the horns”

(Al Gore): "waxy orange makeup." "bloated fat guy".

"Wouldn’t sticks and carrots — cultural fluency, smart psychology and Reaganesque dialogue — be a better way to bring the Iranians around than sticks and stones?"

All over a shot of the Pulitzer medal, slowly dissolving. Literally, I mean.

Friday, December 21

Ho Ho Horseshit

Tom Coyne, AP: Notre Dame astrophysicist has theories on star of Bethlehem." December 20

LOOK, if NORAD wants to spend taxpayer dollars tracking Santa every year, I say fine. Gives the Boys something to do in the years between North Korean missle tests. I'm not too worried whether your kid's school permits green and red napkins or calls it "Christmas break". I don't think a creche belongs on the courthouse lawn, but I'd be willing to overlook it if wasn't a stupid ratings ploy designed to rally a bunch of obnoxious hypocrites.

So I think my real point here is this: if there is a God, He surely intended His editors to have more brains than His geese, sufficient to recognize the difference between hard science, soft or "feature" science, Holiday fluff, and self-promoting bullshit, and while the rules might be relaxed in a spirit of fun, that shouldn't extend to the point of slack-jawed credulity.
As a theoretical astrophysicist, Grant Mathews had hoped the answer would be spectacular -- something like a supernova. But two years of research have led him to a more ordinary conclusion. The heavenly sign around the time of the birth of Jesus Christ was likely an unusual alignment of planets, the sun and the moon.

No, it "likely" wasn't.
The star, though, has long been immortalized in Christmas songs, plays and movies. Astronomers, theologians and historians for hundreds of years have been trying to determine exactly which star might have inspired the biblical writing.

In reality, theologians solved it over a century ago. It's just that editors don't like the answer.
The Gospel of Matthew indicates Jesus was born in Bethlehem when Herod was king. Roman historian Flavius Josephus wrote that Herod died after an eclipse of the moon before the Passover. Mathews said among the possibilities are 6 B.C., 5 B.C., 1 B.C. or 1 A.D. The star could have appeared up to two years before the wise men arrived in Jerusalem, he said.

Mathews believes that means the Christmas star could have appeared anywhere from 8 to 4 B.C.

Look, Doc, I'm sorry, but the Nativity story is a steaming pile of fiction, concocted decades after the death of Jesus, if any, by people who knew nothing about his birth but felt the urge to tell the tale and shaped it for their intended audience. Jesus winds up in Bethlehem (Matthew just drops him there; Luke pulls the "worldwide census" groaner) strictly to "fulfill" prophecy that had nothing to do with him, the better to wow Matthew's Jewish audience. Luke wrote a little later, when the Christian cult had begun focusing its membership drives on Gentiles, i.e. the Roman poor. He may in part have copied directly from Matthew; both used Mark as a source, the Synoptic Gospels being something like the Fiji Wedge of my college days, when frat boys aligned themselves to look over each others' shoulders on test day, the vertex of the angle being the one guy who studied.

(By the way, just as a little sample of how this pot-au-feu is concocted, that "The star could have appeared up to two years before the wise men arrived in Jerusalem..." has nothing to do with anything except the internal consistency of the Matthew tale. We have no knowledge of The Wise Men beyond their being from The East, nor anything of their methodology. They might have taken twenty years to make the trip, or finish their calculations, for that matter; they might have fortuitously been attending a Magi convention at the Bethlehem Marriot.)

The scholarship here is not obscure, and there's really nothing to oppose it save the doctrinal insistence that everything in the Bible must be literally true, a position even more head-meets-wall obtuse than usual when it comes to justifying Matthew and Luke on the Nativity. (One December I'd like to see that cute lil' feature come across the AP wire.) So what begins by saying "Herod died between 6 B.C. and 1 A.D." (the earlier dates are generally accepted) almost immediately runs into serious problems. Only Matthew tells the Star tale, and Matthew simply gives Herod as referent, but Luke, stuck with his census story, links it (clumsily) to a Judean census that took place in 6-7 A.D. So when we set off to use "science" to prop up Matthew we must first reject Luke out of hand, something which might suggest the whole operation should have been filed where it belongs before we wasted any more time on it.
Mathews believes the Christmas star is most likely an alignment of planets. He said there are three likely times for this:
--Feb. 20, 6 B.C., when Mars, Jupiter and Saturn aligned in the constellation Pisces.
--April 17, 6 B.C., when the sun, Jupiter, the moon and Saturn aligned in the constellation Aries while Venus and Mars were in neighboring constellations.
--June 17, 2 B.C., when Jupiter and Venus were closely aligned in Leo.
Mathews believes the April 17, 6 B.C., alignment is the most likely candidate. It makes sense because he believes the wise men were Zoroastrian astrologers who would have recognized the planetary alignment in Aries as a sign a powerful leader was born.

Good thing they had grounds for further evaluation, or those Zoroastrian astrologers would have spent all their time on the road.

Look, for one, this isn't Biblical. The Magi (who are remarkably adept with Jewish scripture for Zoroastrians, by the way) see the star of the king of the Jews and come to Jerusalem, but when Herod sends them off to find Jesus they do so by physically following the star, which hovers over his location. The first could be an astrological calculation, assuming one is okay with a Biblical commendation of astrology, but what end of the telescope do you grab to find the second? It's no natural phenomenon, it's a portent from God, and once you admit that into your story you've pretty much blown any justification for all that computer time at NASA. Aside from the book deal, I mean.

And for another, I don't know about you, but I read The Old Farmer's Almanac every year, and there's some celestial must-see event every time, yet somehow none of them warned Christians about George W. Bush.

This is nothing new. I remember reading about the Star in an anthology I got for my eighth birthday (and which, IIRC, lighted on that supernova Matthews rejects as Bad News). We've been able to theoretically reverse the paths of the planets since the 17th century, and we've always had the evidence of Chinese astronomers to fall back on. If there was some highly suggestive cosmological event during the reign of Herod the Great I think you can trust you'd have heard about it from your grandparents, and dollars to doughnuts it'd figure in 98% of the History Channel's programming over the next five days. Regardless of the violence it did to scripture, or history, or archeology. It's a dry well, Doc. Aside from the book deal, I mean.

Again, Christmas fluff is one thing, the suggestion that there's some evidence-free yet scientific-y basis for a belief that some hard facts cling to a fictional account is quite another. And this time, when we get to the seventeen-paragraphs-later disclaimer, it doesn't even disclaim much. Instead, we get a fuzzy, we-just-need-that-last-piece-of-evidence routine:
Mathews concedes, though, that any of the other events could have been the famed star. Unless a document is discovered that allows historians to more accurately estimate exactly when Jesus was born, it will be impossible to say what caused the light with absolute certainty, Mathews said.
"I think it would take more of a historical reference more than an astrophysics," he said. "There are plenty of strong opinions out there. I think this is as good as you can do for now."

You're just being modest, Doc. I'm sure we can do a lot better.

Thursday, December 20

Look, I've Got Presents To Wrap

• And Why Are There Nuts in my Nut Log? "Why I'm For Paul," by John Derbyshire.

• Oh, So He's the Guy. Robert Novak, Washington Post: "When Mike Huckabee went to Houston on Tuesday to raise funds for his fast-rising, money-starved presidential candidacy, a luncheon for the ordained Baptist minister was arranged by evangelical Christians. On hand was Judge Paul Pressler, a hero to Southern Baptist Convention reformers. But he was a nonpaying guest who supports Fred Thompson for president."

• But Isn't That His Campaign Slogan? Raymond Hernandez and Christopher Drew, New York Times: "Obama's Vote in Illinois Was Often Just 'Present.' "

• So Is A Slime Trail, If You're A Snail. Michael Ledeen, NRO: "This is a Continued Sign of Progress."

• It's Like A Guy Who Makes His Living Selling Horse's Hooves and Pig Rectums Wishing They'd Ban Hot Dogs. Jonah Goldberg: "The most enjoyable aspect of watching the HMS Hillary take on water is the prospect that Bill — and his cult of personality — will go down with the ship, too."

Wednesday, December 19

Maybe I'll Just Move The Whole Blog To Roy's Comments

I WAS all set to write about how the dumping of Emeril Lagasse would have been the greatest piece of church-bell-ringing news the Republic had received since Vicksburg, if only it had occurred before the invention of videotape, when Chad's repsonse (to this ) yanked me back to less pleasant matters.
I have to admit, though, for something that will most likely have results that will horrify me, the Republican in-fighting for the 2008 race is the most fascinating and downright exciting US political competition I've seen in my meager twenty-eight years.

It's actually longer than th...oh, wait, I forgot; before we zoom out for a moment it's Shorter Kathryn Jean Lopez on Mike Huckabee:
What Peggy Noonan said, but with extra bitters.

So...why is the Republican race so fascinating that it threatens to actually spill over into the American consciousness, if any?

1. The elephant in the room. On second thought, time and incompetence may have passed that metaphor by; alongside the massive Iraq bull there's a regular flock* of slightly smaller ones, and Republicans, at long last, find themselves trapped by the trick they've been playing on Democrats for Chad's entire lifespan, namely, the idea that speaking reasonably to Republican constituencies is political suicide. (Witness the attempt to manufacture outrage at Huckabee's "bunker mentality" comment, which was really little more than a bland observation.)

I don't buy that, and I've never bought it. Bush's approval ratings may have found their natural bottom in the 30s after testing Nixon's depths, but sheesh, that's a long way down, and how much of that support is soft? A lot of Republicans would sooner admit that Jesus was a hippie. Recognizing Bush's failure is the same thing as recognizing their own, and that's expressly forbidden by the contract. I'm not recommending telling a churchbasement** of Iowans that Reagan was a racist, but I think there's a level where the whole patriotism=war support thing breaks down.

But of the major Republican candidates, plus Fred Thompson, only Huckabee didn't immediately paint himself into that corner. Which brings us to:

2. The Starsky & Hutch Factor, aka Old Skul Campaigning, aka Billick Takes the Tie in Regulation. That is to say, the distinction between what campaigns are trying to accomplish and what might amount to something approaching Good Government. The modern political campaign didn't begin with Kennedy in 1960 or the Selling of his opponent eight years later; those are Teevee Age precursors. The modern campaign began in Iowa 32 years ago, and both parties have been trying to defeat Jimmy Carter ever since. From early campaigning (his brilliant recognition that the meaningless Iowa caucuses could mean something in the meta- sense) to pop culture ops (Playboy) to gotcha! moments (Ford, Poland) every non-incumbent campaign sinced has traced directly to Mr. Peanut.

Yes, generals are always fighting the last war, and football coaches always play not to lose, and campaign masterminds would never advise anything as ridiculous as taking a position on the merits and announcing that position to crowds that haven't passed through a metal detector. What actual primary contests we've had since '76 have been about alignment, not issues, and our Presidential campaigns since have been about selecting the most congenial beer swiller or avoiding the guy who wore the funny hat. So the supposed hard-core constituency of the Republican party hasn't been asked to think an issue through, let alone change it's collective mind, in so long that the very existence of that mind should be called into question.

But then Giuliani had no choice but to run as Mr. Nineleven, John (I Warned About The War, Really) McCain doubled down in 2004, thinking that was the safest path, and Mitt wouldn't risk rocking any swiftboats with a strategy of going from Zero to Top Spender in 4.85 seconds. And Fred Thompson, well, what would you try to do with him if you could, and why would you even try?

Add to that the crazy competing calculations: Giuliani banking that a national lead in the polls would overcome losing actual votes, Romney believing, conversely, that money and six Iowa farmers would overcome his single-digit excitement, and Fred Thompson imagining that to most Americans "lumber" is an action verb. And McCain getting old enough that he couldn't tell shampoo from guano.

Huckabee, on the other hand, occupied that I'm Sorta Carter But Less Idealistic, Like, Or Perhaps Crazier, Or Both niche (Anderson, Perot, Perot, Nader, McCain 2000) where that Pottery Barn foreign policy was presumed safe. Now that he's moved up enough to hire Mike Shanahan Ed Rollins, I guess we'll see, but if Ol' Ed grabs anything other than the Reagan playbook I personally stand to lose five large.

And again, I don't buy it. Why th' fuck would you be afraid of sounding crazy to the American public? Look what they watch on television. Look what they eat. Hell, look who they think can cook. And speaking of:

3. Reagan. I don't mean it this way, but it seems a good time to mention, again, Peggy Noonan and that plaintive "Could Ronald Reagan even run in today's Republican primary?" And rather than "Was he conspicuously religious enough without being, y'know, all insistent about it or something?" let's ask what the Great Deficit Cutter would have managed to run on? Republican debt? Reforming Republican incompetence? Reforming Republican criminality? C'mon, Ronald Reagan was as much a prisoner of "Ronald Reagan" as anyone.

You'll recall that The Field fell all over itself making with the Reagan comparisons early, and in this we can't really criticize the strategy much, since Reagan by now is a much more competent leader than he was pre-mortem, But when the stress came the Reagan coalition split like a teenaged swain whose girlfriend's parents just drove up. And that happened in 2005.


* Acceptable: Edward Topsell, Historie of All Foure-Footed Beastes. (1607). He uses "herd" as well, in the same paragraph.

**Not a collective noun, but should be.

Tuesday, December 18

Just Wow.

Kia, at Roy's.

Is Huckabee's Popularity An Early Warning That People Like Him?

John Dickerson, "Too Funny to be President? Huckabee's a Joker. That's a problem." December 17

BEFORE I forget, almost lost in the excitement of yesterday's premier of Joementum II: First as a Farce, Then as a Slightly Different Farce, was the welcome return of Tom Ridge, the man who put the Department of Homeland Security on such a solid footing before skedaddling leaving public service after twenty-two years in order to profit off the connections he'd made in the final eighteen months. What better on-stage complement for the Senate's sniggeringly superior AV Club members than the only Republican of any stature who was too incompetent to get an initial job in the Bush administration?

I later learned that Lieberman had explained his endorsement of someone "across the aisle" by saying no Democrat had asked him. Which certainly has the ring of truth, but let's stop for a moment to consider the implication, which is that Lieberman thought his endorsement was worth something. The late Norman Mailer once said something about the World's Heavyweight Champion arising each morning with the somewhat unsettling knowledge that he was possibly the toughest man in the world; McCain shares with Lieberman the existential purgatory of knowing that, but for the other, he might be the sorriest-assed egotist in the United States Senate.

But then none of this heaps scorn on Mike Huckabee or his supporters, and so fails to advance the current agenda. John Dickerson, who may be the toughest questioner in American journalism, just as someone must be the best archer in NASCAR, frets that the Huckster just might be too funny, in the ha-ha sense, to be Commander-in-Chief:
Mike Huckabee is occasionally funny, but he is always the funny guy. "If you think that Medicare is expensive now, wait until 10,000 aging hippies a day find out they can get free drugs," he said in one GOP debate. "I may not have any foreign policy experience," he told Don Imus, "but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night."

Hear us, O Lord, and smite the man who dares mock Thy Hippies in a Republican debate. Who dares be unserious on Imus! Give us the man of gravitas, Lord, who will shackle the Bitch of Gotham, who will chain the Dog of Chelsea, and who will Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran. Seriously, I kid the Faithful, but they're our most important supporters. So long as they remain Faithful, if you know what I mean. Speaking of which, the other day Hillary Rodham Clinton walked into a lesbian bar, and...
There is a limit, though, which the Udall examples thunderously show, to how many jokes a candidate can tell before voters think he's not serious.

Yeah. Mo Udall, Thunder of the Desert, Template of the modern American presidential campaign. Funny how the memory plays tricks. I supported Udall in '76, and I can't for the life of me remember when he led a single state before it didn't matter anymore. Makes a welcome break from all those Huckabee=Dean stories, though. Big Mo does remind us that one may campaign for President while Mormon without making a major speech about it, and while exhibiting a genuine sense of humor. If only he'd had nicer hair...
The attacks work on several levels. They suggest Huckabee is too light for the job and also that he makes jokes because he's hiding something. Behind every quip is a troubling reality on taxes, immigration, or his criminal justice record in Arkansas, the subject of Romney's brand-new ad. The strategy seeks to transform Huckabee's best asset into a liability.

Troubling reality? Because, in the first two instances, Huckabee has been something other than staunchly unreasonable like his peers pretend to be? Wouldn't Troubling Reality make a fitting name for the Romney campaign bus? Or Giuliani's bio?

Look, it may well be that the people who control the Republican party will brook no tax increase under any circumstances or admit any sympathy or concern for illegals nor their children. But when did that become part of the membership pledge, and why is public opposition "troubling"? As I understand it, they have no problem (yet) with white people voting in the Republican primaries, and god knows there aren't enough black people to worry about. Why don't we let the voters decide what's "troubling"? And if Hurtlin' Mitt Romney or any other candidate would like the Republican nomination to turn on Mike Huckabee's record of pardons, let 'em do so, their own closets being so notably spic-and-span.
Hucakabee also can't joke his way past inexperience, and he has a problem with his party in this regard on the subject of national security and foreign affairs. His lack of any background is dangerous in a commander in chief, say critics, and worse, if he becomes the nominee, Republicans will give away what has been their national security trump card since the Cold War and especially after the attacks of Sept. 11.

Don't look now, but the last seven years have actually reduced this to "Republicans think Republicans hold the national security trump card". And polling indicates that Republicans already plan on voting Republican.
Given this sobering worry, Huckabee may have given his opponents an opening this Sunday with his article in Foreign Affairs, in which he criticized George Bush for having an "arrogant bunker mentality." He also described international relations in terms of the school playground (America is the stingy straight-A student and therefore despised). Not a joke, exactly, but a metaphor that's on the juvenile side.

Sure, the Grand Old Mature Metaphor Party.

Bosh. Here's what Huckabee wrote:
The United States, as the world's only superpower, is less vulnerable to military defeat. But it is more vulnerable to the animosity of other countries. Much like a top high school student, if it is modest about its abilities and achievements, if it is generous in helping others, it is loved. But if it attempts to dominate others, it is despised.

Once again you'll have to forgive my memory, because I could swear that when Ronald Reagan said something like this it was hailed as a master course in Communications, and that when Fred Dumbo Thompson lovingly puts that sort of thang in his Dear Ol' Biscuit-Bakin' Mama's mouth it's "folksy". Juvenile? Okay. Shockingly misemploying the third-person neuter pronoun in place of the masculine? To some cranky blogger, maybe. Unserious? Only in that it--along with the "bunker mentality" line--is too mild a rebuke to the Republican foreign policy disaster his fellow candidates try desperately to ignore.

I have no brief for Mike Huckabee. Quite the contrary. I just think the impulse to Gore the national political process is a lot bigger threat, and its fingerprints are all over the anti-Huckabee crusade, which has offered up the objections of the Republican economic elite under the guise of "increased scrutiny of a front-runner". Is Huckabee really a worse candidate than his fellows?

Monday, December 17

Oh, For God's Sake

Peggy Noonan, The Pulpit and the Potemkin Village: Would Reagan survive in today's GOP? And is Mrs. Clinton in for a fall this winter?" December 14

YOU'LL recall that when the second Bush administration solved the great "Stupidity or Cupidity?" debate for us, in favor of the former, we cautioned against the premature burial of the latter. And, sure enough, it has picked itself up off the mat, dusted itself off, and begun hurling entire Ronald Reagan commemorative silver coin sets at Mike Huckabee, and not with the intention of bankrolling him, either, but because it's the only weapon they have left.

We're not changing our stance; this sort of thing is still in the service of Institutional(ized) Idiocy, for which we offer the incontrovertible argument that they let Peggy Noonan chime in!

Yes, Peggy Noonan, who's made a second career out of combining hagiography and delirium tremens, thinks Mike Huckabee is too religious-seeming to be the Republican nominee.

Yes, this is the exact same Peggy Noonan--assuming we can postulate something constant at her core, an admitted philosophical and psychological leap--who last week, seven (7) days ago, just a sennight past, drooled over Mitt Romney's reinventing himself as a Quasi-Mormon. The same Peggy Noonan who saw a miraculous cross in the 9/11 wreckage and heard the beat of angels' wings and cosmic dolphin squeaks in the rescue of Elian Gonzalez, (and excused their, well, drowning out his mother's last words).

Which is the way God's PR always seems to work. The Big Guy hogs the credit but shucks the blame, a sweet proposition until you consider who He has to let do His talking for Him in exchange. Consider the following head-spinners:
Christian conservatives have been rising, most recently, for 30 years in national politics, since they helped elect Jimmy Carter.

and, regarding You Know Who:
Not a regular churchgoer, said he experienced God riding his horse at the ranch, divorced, relaxed about the faiths of his friends and aides, or about its absence. He was a believing Christian, but he spent his adulthood in relativist Hollywood...

Of course Peggy is a Republican, a theologically-tolerant Catholic (so she told us last week), and almost preternaturally dense, so we might charitably excuse her apparent ignorance of Carl McIntyre, Billy James Hargis, or David Noebel (the acclaimed author of Communism, Hypnotism, and The Beatles), who had more to do with Goldwater's defeat than the victory of the cloven-hoofed Trilateralist Carter. Still, one might think she'd run across Bob Jones, Sr. somewhere, and I think we can bank on a certain familiarity with Fr. John McLaughlin, SJ, once known as "Nixon's Favorite Jesuit", though we don't remember there being a whole lot of competition. At any rate, the suggestion that Carter, who in the '76 campaign surfed a small, journalist-wind-aided wave of Born Again Christianity that he did not create, owed his election, or some percentage of it, to a nascent Conservative Christian movement is about as absurd as suggesting that Ronald Reagan (whose personal relgious indifference suddenly comes to Light!) somehow didn't. If Republican voters in 2008 are more likely to excuse religious extremism in a candidate than they would in their next-door neighbor, where d'ya suppose that might have come from? In the long run maybe Reagan would have been better off talking to his horse.

This is the space Movement "Conservatism" has occupied for thirty years now, and which, contrary to high-school Physics and plain common sense, continues to provide the sort of vitality that rubber forehead prosthetics have brought to cable-network sci-fi serials. In both cases the reason is the same: a small but dedicated and easily-satisfied audience; the distinction is that producers of space operas rarely if ever display open contempt for their audience. The full-on war on Huckabee by the already piss-frightened "economic conservatives" might manage to deny him the nomination (something he might have managed all by himself, anyway), but it's not going to attract Christianist voters to The Annointed One.

That is, to the extent that Huckabee's surge represents the sort of simple-minded fundamentalist tail-wagging people such as Peggy Noonan--the same people who two scant electoral cycles ago were telling the rest of us how unfair and odious that sort of anti-religious bias was--now tell us it does. I'm not convinced. I think he represents the Ross Perot inclination in Presidential politics, as combined with the possibility of actually winning a major-party nomination. Granted that On Your Sleeve Religion treads the line between issues and personal competence, still, Huckabee gives every indication of being both the guy who says it like he sees it, and someone with a better-than-even chance of being more-or-less sane. I'm not a Republican primary voter, but if I were those are better odds than I'd give Giuliani. And while I think Huckabee is full of shit, that's an evaluation of his positions; with Romney it's a personality profile.

Thirty years. Thirty years of the Cult of Reagan growing to ever more absurd proportions, often, as here, from a shape-shifting necessity to camouflage its real legacy. You can't really argue we slipped off the rails to the Left in that time. Is it still Morning in America, or do things look worse to "conservatives" in almost every respect, aside from tax cuts and a Courtful of ideological cretins? There's no more signal fact than St. Ronnie campaigning on the evils of the National Debt for sixteen years before nearly quadrupling it in eight, but we could add eliminating the Department of Education vs. using it to effect the elimination of urban public schools improved mandatory test scores, principled opposition to nation building vs. taking on the Hoover Dam of nation-building schemes, criticism of Somalia and Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. demands for patriotic silence while troops are in the field in Iraq, a President who is "not above the law" vs. one who is a law unto himself, and use of the filibuster vs. nuking the filibuster vs. using the filibuster again. These are not just broken campaign promises or evolving perspectives, and they're not peripheral matters where Partisanship meets Poker. They're the result of a willingness to say whatever a particular situation required in pursuit of temporal political gain, regardless of the consequences to the nation. And those are just the blatant dichotomies left in my poor memory pan, before we get to violating the principles we all mostly agree are Good Things, like the sanctity of the ballot and the Bill of Rights, honesty in public officials, public procurement, care of our citizens in time of need, and, first and foremost, the best possible protection for our men and women in harm's way and the best possible care thereafter.

And which, we might add, have fuck-all to do with the Religious Right, which may well have supported a lot of that stuff but has mostly bankrolled candidates, slimed Democrats, and seen its agenda get the short shrift (in no small part because its leaders played footsie under the boardroom table). Assuming they're polling for Huckabee now just because he's one of their own, so what? It's gratuitous to assume that Religious Right voters are as well served by Romney simply because his line of God patter matches his conversion to their social agenda. Chalk it up to unbound Reagan-Myth hubris, if you like; I'd point out that this is the same party which slimed John Kerry and Jack Murtha when it was expedient, and which has portrayed timid little centrist Democrats as raging Bolshies for decades. And after thirty years of battling over the Plejullejunce, and Cecil B. DeMille's prop Ten Commandments, and school prayer, and creationism, and six years after backing George W. Bush faith-based stem-cell decision, the power boys suddenly find the Fundies a bunch of Stone-Age entrail readers unfit for sufferage. What a surprise.

Friday, December 14

Back (Crisis!) Home (Crisis!) Again (Snow Emergency!)

WHEN last we larked through the Hoosier State, you and I, a giant makeshift "Teabag", commissioned, sewn together from old sheets, stuffed with property tax statements and ceremoniously lowered towards the Indianapolis Water Company Canal as the cameras looked on by--if standard surveys are to be trusted--a group of irate citizens, 87% of whom could not have identified the reigning monarch at the time of the original Boston Tea Party if you spotted them K-i-n-g G-e-o-r and g, had successfully removed popular, two-term Demopublican Indianapolis mayor Bart Peterson and replaced him with a guy who had found out he was running only that morning. This, despite the fact that Peterson's only responsibility for the property tax Crisis! was shepherding a county option tax designed to avert a looming long-term actual crisis in police pensions, and despite the fact that the vote returned to power a Republican mayor/City-County Council combination whose last salient fiscal accomplishment was appointing a crony-and-kickback specialist Library Board so incompetent it approved a $145 million-dollar building project without hiring a construction manager, leading to a thrifty sub-contractor replacing the standard concrete-and-rebar formula with a less-expensive wet-sand-with-nails-stuck-in-it mix, resulting in a three-year delay, lawsuits thick as a DQ Blizzard™, and a $50 mil cost overrun that we know of. All of which wound up--wait for it--on the property tax bills of all those protestors.

Democracy simply does not work! The rare local news viewer with an attention span of more than 30 seconds and a partisanship level below Rabid could only stand by and watch as the wholly-predictable political process turned The Great Tax Revolt of Ought Seven into a golden opportunity to fleece people in exciting new ways while removing those services which won't be missed until after the next election. Oh, he might smirk as Mayor-elect Incognito decided sometime between Election Night and his first tentative Whack-a-Mole public appearances that those Property Taxes he'd campaigned on eliminating might on second thought be somewhat useful after all, and he could only yell at the screen as a succession of semi-skilled teleprompter readers intoned about The Governor's Plan to solve the Crisis! just prior to the whole thing being allowed to creep back in the closet with a lifetime's collection of other stupid impulse purchases. Somehow, between last summer's insistent coverage and the end of leaf raking the whole thing had been subsumed (as brave Indiana blogger Doug Masson has pointed out) under the rubric "Reform" when it is, in fact, a Restructuring of taxes that pay for vital services away from certain types of property tax onto (mostly) the statewide sales tax. The expedient of returning the inventory tax whose elimination served the same function in the Crisis! that the underwater portion of that iceberg did to the Titanic is, judging by the coverage, that rare idea which is untranslatable into English. The full-on proponents of Property Tax Elimination, known a brief season ago as Angry Citizen Voters were returned to their place as Unreasonable Cranks, even though 30% of Legislators seem to agree. As always, the reader is invited to propose any real-life antecedents which did not result in the immediate family filing commitment papers. Personally, I'm fresh out.

This, of course, is just a quick fly-by. The resultant swell of excitement among the august members of The World's Third Worst State Legislature™ will be familiar to anyone who owns an unspayed cat. Their first impulse was to split the solution into ten separate bills, on the off-chance that some of those Tax Revolters might actually continue paying attention through next November. Their second was to begin amending the state Constitution like, well, as if it were the Constitution of the State of Feline Estrus (the latest being a proposed amendment to prohibit taxing church property, even though we don't). This is Indiana. The legislative silly season always resembles a cross between Full Metal Kansas and the political sentiments available on your average West Texas jukebox, but still. Why th' fuck would any sane person give them ammunition? It is impossible to believe that voting-age tax protesters could have been completely unaware of what they were unleashing.

And this week marked the release of the Governor's Blue Ribbon Panel recommendations, which (as Doug points out) was not charged with solving the problem, but with finding ways to "reform" local governments which were, at most, a quarter of the problem. The Panel comprised state Supreme Court Chief Justice Randy Shepard, who will now spend a considerable portion of the rest of his public life being asked to recuse himself, and former Governor Joe Kernan, best known as the man who managed to lose the governorship to that guy from the Leprechaun movies. Space does not permit us to go into their findings in great detail. Let's just say my own expectations were met. Lowered, even.

All this couldn't come at a worse time for local news, which would prefer to allot its two hours/channel day to shopping tips (in the Spirit of the Season and with due consideration to the anti-news sentiments of its news-viewing audience, Channel 8, which was the only channel with a daily Iraq report, has now eliminated it in favor of having the guy who used to do it try to sneak it in ten minutes later while mumbling). They've certainly tried all the usual tricks--every theoretical Precipitation Event for the last six weeks has been pre-tallied as Possible Flurries! when in fact it's snowed exactly once, and at some point even notoriously environment-adverse Hoosiers are going to catch on. But a couple weeks ago there appeared on local radar an event even more portentious and viewer-distracting.

Hannah Montana came to town.

I mean, "she" apparently came to town, judging by the fact that the collective tongue of our local teleprompter-readers was so far up her Disney-manufactured fundament for a fortnight you could see only the soles of their shoes, which I believe is a quote from Alec Guinness. The artificial hoopla was like a combined Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and a Super Bowl halftime show starring someone they'd managed to reanimate the corpse of literally, rather than figuratively, this time. How badly do you need a job? And these are flipping adults, for want of a better term, and even if they didn't realize that this 14th Incarnation of Elvis according to the sacred rolls of White Suburban Girls Aged 13 to 13-and-one-quarter has about as much chance of lasting until they get their learner's permits as George Bush does of being inducted into the Orator Hall of Fame, they might cast a casual glance at the crapola they read every friggin night about Incarnation #13 (Lindsay Lohan) and #11 (Britney Spears) and note how they're gettin' along. At least they might act like they realize she's a fictional character and there's, for want of a better term, an actress underneath, and one who does not deserve the same fate, no matter what she's done or who her Daddy is. They sit there night after night jabbering about the effect of violent video games, single-parent households, or sagging blue jeans on Today's Youth, and yet never give a moment's thought to the psychic damage festering in the cesspit of blind consumerism. Nothing against this particular flavor of the month, mind you; I just think some balance would be nice. If instead of cosseted suburban consumerettes it were fifteen-year-old African American boys swooning over Miss Montana they'd be reporting on the latest Congressional investigation.

One positive note in all this: I have resolved that for the rest of my life I will vote for anyone whose position is, "We're too stupid to solve problems. Let's tread water and hope something floats by."

Thursday, December 13

Ghost Dance

THAT National Review Romney endorsement: Oh, Mildred! as a certain cartoon rabbit used to say. Apparently they're now one stock-option leverage maneuver from turning into the National Lampoon, except instead of teen smut comedies some bright boy entrepreneur would be plastering NatRev over a string of "conservative" ocean cruises with Jonah and JLo.

Which reminds me; here's Jonah the other day:
Irving Kristol has cited the fight over Utah’s statehood as a quintessential expression of how America practices theological pluralism while insisting on moral conformity.

Which, first of all, I don't quite get the point of (which is okay; neither did Jonah). We forced Utah to Constitutionally forbid polygamy, which is what the big tsmisis was about, you should pardon the expression; that would seem to attack "theological pluralism" at least as much as moral heterodoxy, not to mention the fact that the issue of Utah or Utah-esque statehood involved a lot of just plain ol' anti-Mormonism over and above their reproductive proclivities. But after giving the matter some thought, I decided holy fuck, Irving Kristol is still alive. Maybe this is some way explains the attraction for Mitt Romney: both operations are run by superannuated prophets and desicated saints.

Anyway, NatRev endorses Mitt on the eve of his destruction, potentially, in Iowa. which was supposed to kick off the Mitt the Frontrunner campaign to counterbalance his running neck-and-neck with the Fred Thompson Juggernaut nationally, despite having outspent the entire field twice over. He's got a big lead in New Hampshire, but a win there will be discounted and a late Huckamania! surge could taint it, plus there won't be weeks to bask in its glow this time. Romney has to have expected that he'd sweep the two, then make his "If you squint hard enough I'm the only Christian with a chance to win" speech, and at least hurt Rudy among the Christianists. Now he's trailing another religious whacko, and this one's not afraid to say it. If Huckamania doesn't peter out, if lack of money and organization don't do him in, Romney's toast.

(I have to give Huckabee provisional points for his response to the Jesus=Satan flap, for saying he'd try to do better next time, plus he really hadn't gotten the hang of everything he says being amplified. Of course, if he had a staff maybe he would have expected to get Connie Chung'd*, and then he had to go on to gripe about "dumpster diving", which is another way of saying "people looking into my record.")

That NatRev piece spells out the sad state of mental deterioration that comes from locking yourself in a sealed box for several decades.
But [Giuliani] and Mike Huckabee would pull apart the coalition from opposite ends: Giuliani alienating the social conservatives, and Huckabee the economic (and foreign-policy) conservatives. A Republican party that abandoned either limited government or moral standards would be much diminished in the service it could give the country.

[Ed. note: shouldn't that be "lip" service there?]

Imagine, O you Democrats, the luxury of rejecting every candidate who didn't measure up to your every notion of sound social policy or your economic (and foreign-policy) outlook! Personally, I'd be left with George McGovern, and he's not running. Now shift your focus from the peripheral and try to imagine the Infinite Fireball of Hubris that existed twenty-five years ago if the Cosmic Conservative Microwave Background Radiation (CCMBR) can still boil water. Try to imagine what the Universe would look like today if, back then, they'd applied these standards to the divorced, church-avoiding, out-of-wedlock fornicator Ronald Wilson Reagan and his professed admiration for FDR.

Giuliani's out because of abortion and homo nups? Fair enough, but let's hear the end of "Democrats censored Bob Casey" once and for all. Huckabee's too populist? Okey-dokey. This time let's see the End All Social Programs plank get backed up with some paperwork, and you people go back to being the party of permanent-minority 19th century crankiness. You have somehow managed to define the "conservative" "wing" of the party as a pose while simultaneously (and stealthily) rejecting George W. Bush for being a conservative poseur. This is how Christian theologians came to spend several centuries arguing whether Adam and Eve had innies or outies. I'd like to say it is not how we elect a President, but what the hell do I know?

* In the flap that followed his "Rape: lie back and enjoy it" remarks, Bobby Knight said that while Chung "swore like a sailor" during the interview, her bad language was edited out while his own was left in and bleeped.

Wednesday, December 12

Wow--Did The Icy Skeletal Hand Of Death Just Give You A Neck Massage, Too, Or Am I Imagining Things?

I Could Swear The Banner Said Leading Candidates

WaPo: It's Fred Thompson Day!

IT'S apparently part of a series. So I'm guessing. The difference between reading The Washington Post, former newspaper, former employer of professional journalists, and visiting my dear gray-haired mother, former cognitively functioning member of society, is that I care about what my mother has to say, however addled. Otherwise, they make roughly an equal amount of sense anymore.

So I'm not quite sure how I stumbled upon this thing. There are six, yes, six, I'm serious, six separate pieces on the Unstoppable Downhill Log Roll that is Fred Dalton Thompson, not counting video and bullshit polls. The big question they raise is: just how badly do these people need jobs? And the answer is: enough to chew the Used Squeak Toy of Conventional Wisdom So Beslobbered The Dog Won't Even Touch It Anymore. Short survey:

The 2700-word bio (Joel Achenbach):
There are presidential candidates who are congenitally ambitious, having started campaigning for votes shortly after leaving the womb. There are other candidates for whom being presidential timber is a birthright, something inherited, along with a famous name and a jaw line and maybe a beachfront compound.

Then there's someone like Thompson -- a reluctant candidate, not terribly interested in stumping, slow to enter the race and so laid-back that he declines to take a wide-open shot at an opponent during a televised debate.

The Rib Tickler (the abominable Robin Givhan):
If one simply heard Fred Thompson speak and did not have the benefit of seeing him, it would be forgivable to assume that he, with his slow-as-molasses, just-us-regular-folks drawl, might be wearing overalls and a pair of muddied work boots after moseying in from the field.

The Real Tinsel Underneath (Dana Milbank):
Is it possible to be too folksy? Thompson seems determined to find out. The big man with all those Hollywood roles is trying to slow-drawl his way to the GOP nomination. To the extent that Thompson has a pitch, it's that he doesn't change his views like, say, Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani. "Where I stand does not depend on where I'm standing or what political office I happen to be running for," he asserts.

The Excuse Me Senator, But Where You're Standing Right Now Is "In A Pile Of Bullshit" Faux-Balancer (John Solomon):
2. Thompson loves to tell voters about his support of the right to bear arms, his lifetime membership in the National Rifle Association and his A grade from the gun lobby during his Senate career. Thompson, however, didn't join the NRA until 1994, the year he ran for political office -- the U.S. Senate -- for the first time. And recently he noted that he hadn't been hunting in a very long time.

The "Don't Blame The Media Because The Guy They Called 'The New Reagan' For Six Months Turned Out To Be The Old Earl Dodge" Explainer (Michael D. Shear):
Thompson's team waited because he wasn't ready. His late start meant he had to build a campaign organization in a fraction of the time others took. And Thompson, a policy wonk, wanted to contemplate the big issues before he jumped into the fray, former aides and advisers say.

Okay, hold it right there. I'm not sure if this attack of vertigo comes from reading all the above or just the sudden drop in air pressure from that "wanted to contemplate the big issues" bit. Name me one single stance of the Thompson campaign that couldn't have been predicted a year ago by anyone with any understanding of domestic politics. Or, for that matter, by a Thompson supporter.

Tuesday, December 11

You Be The President!™

I have to admit that the more I've thought about the Frank Rich-approved notion of Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee as the Two Sides of the one-sided Avoid Clinton-Bush Era Hyperpartisanship (But Not Always Successfully!) coin, the more I like the idea. And the more I like the idea, the more I think what a good fit for a game show it makes. Cut to:

Maddeningly dark and foggy set (sort of a cross between the CSI morgue and a Coldplay concert) with a raised, stainless-steel-and-lexan boxing ring in its center, surrounded by skeletal steel lighting towers. In the ring, on opposite stools, sit Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee, each reading a Bible; at its center stands a man in a striped referee shirt, possibly Judge Mills Lane. The surrounding studio seats, dimly perceived, are divided at the cardinal compass points by aisles lit by running lights. As a disembodied voice intones the show's tagline:

Let's meet the next ChallenJARRRRRRRR!

and the crowd screams, lights beneath each aisle flash a random pattern of Red, Blue, Green, or Purple, until they suddenly freeze on one, indicating the politics of the next questioner. Mr. Red comes jogging down the aisle to take his place at the small smoked glass lectern at the side of the ring. The giant holographic clock above the ring is set to 30 seconds. The Mills Lane guy holds his hands, palm up, in front of him, then makes a sweeping official-looking pointing gesture at Mr. Red while saying, "Mr. Red...GO!"

MR. RED: Uh, my name is Nathaniel Abraham, and I'm a Bible-believing Christian, and i was fired from my job at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution because I refuse to believe Darwin's Theory of Evolution.

Okay, I haven't really thought it out past this. Should it be a real competition or a rigged teevee-real competition? Should other contestants--or the disembodied voice--be allowed to chime in with, "But you lied about the job description," or "This is a matter for the courts"? Should the combatants each have a Bully Pulpit card, or get to play a Signing Statement Exemption to block? Should they fight as tag teams, with Obama-Oprah vs. Huckabee and the Masked Dominionist? Should there be a waterboarding segment? I'm just spitballin' here.

(I haven't yet seen anything on Abraham's cv; he either walked a post-grad tightrope worthy of Philippe Petit or his deceptiveness goes back a lot further than Woods Hole. As P.Z. has pointed out, the fact that someone with advanced degrees would even have applied for a job that so ill-suited him is, well, fishy. But it's that "Darwin's Theory of Evolution" bit that caps the deal. No matter how the man got through grad school--excepting a body double--he knows there's no such thing.)

Monday, December 10

And Yet, When Teenagers Display This Level Of Ignorance And Apathy We Call It An Education Crisis.

THE vibe in Missouri right now feels different than the usual “it’s too early to think about politics” malaise. Four years ago, we were up in arms from the get-go. I’d tramp over to my parents’ house like a Union picket and unload on my Republican father — a very quiet man — as I watched the war reports on CNN. The eight or so blocks that separated our houses sprouted a Hooverville of yard signs. Now I can jog an hour and not see one “Support the Troops” magnetic ribbon or a blue “War Is Not the Answer!” plea. Instead, our quiet neighborhoods remind me of de Chirico paintings: empty, well manicured, but with some unnamed anxiety hovering outside the frame.

SO Sunday the Times kicks off a series of campaign reports tapping into our nation's Strategic Novelist Reserve: writers in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Missouri--which makes your average Hoosier feel like he's ducked a round of birdshot--and San Francisco, sitting out on the Bay like some cultural counterweight. This, of course, raised a couple of questions immediately: 1) Does the Times Op-Ed section in fact have access to accurate maps of the interior? and 2) Why aren't these people on the Op-Ed pages every day, and Maureen Dowd and David Brooks out writing novels about, I dunno, a young trombonist's economic coming-of-age in the heady "Reagan Spring" of 1981, or a middle-aged woman who decides to get something down there pierced. Not necessarily respectively.

Whitney Terrell, quoted above, turns in a fine meditation on the war which, at 650 words, clocks in at roughly what MoDo spends on slumber-party invective three times a week (she once called Willard Mitt "puffy-coiffed", which certainly raises the question of whether she's ever actually bothered to look at him or if "puffy" is New York slang for "steel belted"; at any rate, she wrote an entire column about The Speech Sunday which never once referred to him as Governor Underpants or The Breederator, which suggests to this writer that Romney too closely resembles the CEO of a family-owned publishing empire for her to feel comfortable taking a swing. And I say that simply because I read that entire tree-killing column, and I'll be damned if I'm not gonna get anything out of it, however slight). Terrell closes with an anecdote from his teaching gig:
Meanwhile, my students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City — most of whom define themselves as “middle of the road” — nod vigorously when I ask if the war is an important issue. But when it comes to candidates, things get murky.

“Anyone for Hillary?” I asked the other night, before we started class.

Out of 21 students, I got one unenthusiastic half wave.

“Giuliani? Edwards? Anybody?” I went on, feeling like the teacher in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

Finally, as if to put me out of my misery, a young woman in the back row raised her hand. Like many people here, she had a relative — a brother — who had just returned from Iraq. “I want the war to be over,” she said, “but at the same time, I don’t want to feel like everything he did over there was just a waste.”

Had any of the candidates convinced her that they know what to do?

“Not yet,” she said.

Of course this is the week the respective primary races "tightened", either as the unlikely result of voters, who have had the good sense to ignore this shit up to this point, finally deciding to pay attention or, as seems reasonable, pundits and the pollsters who work for them deciding that horsemeat can sizzle as well as a steak. Obama Surges in Wake of Hillary Missteps! It's 7 points in New Hampshire. It was 10 points last time, a "surge" of, roughly, the fucking margin of error. (Bubububut it was 23 points last Arbor Day! Which shows how useless such polls are.) Iowa's always been close. South Carolina is interesting, but the real story there is that Homeboy Edwards fails to move as the wire approaches. The Democratic race has always been headed for a shootout of Hillary Clinton vs. Dislike for Hillary Clinton, and the Junior Senator from Illinois has been its designated Other almost as long. I don't doubt that Obama has closed; I don't doubt that he can win. I'll just believe it when it occurs, not when the Times and ABC and CBS and CNN tell me he's about to.

Huckabee may be a slightly different matter, but there's certainly reason to doubt the Christian Right Awakens! storyline. As an example, this tidbit from Rassmussen:
40% of Voters Don’t Know Which Republican Gave Speech on Faith and Religion
Monday, December 10, 2007

While pundits and analysts have pored over the details of Mitt Romney’s speech last week, nearly half the nation’s voters could not identify which Republican had given a major speech on faith and religion. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 60% were able to identify Romney as that candidate. That figure includes 66% of Republicans nationwide, but just 52% of Evangelical Christian voters....

It’s interesting to note that Evangelical Christians are somewhat less likely than the population at large to know of Romney’s faith. Among Evangelical Christians, 65% were able to identify Romney as the Mormon.

And I'd be happy to supply an alternative, if admittedly partial, explanation:

Their other candidates suck.

Of course this comes on the heels of wall-to-wall anticipation of Mitt's JFK Moment, followed by endless jibber-jabbering analysis of whether Romney had indeed measured up to the slain 35th President or more closely resembled Washington's Farewell to the Troops. Remember, these are the same people who spent months chronicling the seismic groundswell that resulted in Fred Thompson entering the race.

As all such matters will, eventually and usually too late, this leads to somebody on the Op-Ed pages of the nation's Newspaper of Record explaining that the pundits got it wrong. I believe they draw straws for the privilege. Frank Rich:
Having failed to anticipate so much else, including the Barack Obama polling surge of days earlier, the press pack has proved an unreliable guide to election 2008. What the Beltway calls unthinkable today keeps turning out to be front-page news tomorrow.

Frank, I'm pretty sure I saw you running with them...
What really may be going on here is a mirror image of the phenomenon that has upended Hillary Clinton’s “inevitability” among Democrats. Like Senator Obama, Mr. Huckabee is the youngest in his party’s field. (At 52, he’s also younger than every Democratic contender except Mr. Obama, who is 46.) Both men have a history of speaking across party and racial lines. Both men possess that rarest of commodities in American public life: wit. Most important, both men aspire (not always successfully) to avoid the hyper-partisanship of the Clinton-Bush era.

Though their views on issues are often antithetical, Mr. Huckabee and Mr. Obama may be united in catching the wave of an emerging zeitgeist that is larger than either party’s ideology. An exhausted and disillusioned public may be ready for a replay of the New Frontier pitch of 1960.

On the one hand, we'd be better served by hearing more honest if poorly-thought-out confusion from creative writing students, and less of the Zeitgeist as explained by people who a scant three paragraphs ago were explaining that they, as a class, had gotten everything wrong to this point. On the other, it might be nice if they saw their mission as requiring they take the Zeitgeist out back and break a couple of its ribs on occasion, when deserved (say, now, for example) instead of orally servicing it time and again in the hopes of getting a new car out of the deal. Not always successfully? Huckabee's a circuit-ridin' preacher. Some backwoods populism thrown in the mix doesn't make him The Promised Uniter. As for Obama, just give me one partisan issue he's proposed a solution to, and I'll tell you how many days he'll spend in the Oval Office before the first Limbaugh attack hits.

Meanwhile, 2/3 of the public has decided it would rather believe in Iranian nukes than waste all that perfectly good irrational fear and hatred. Meaning, I guess, that it's time to look for Fred Dumbo Thompson atop next Friday's Zeitgeist survey.