Friday, October 31

Joe The Stand-Up Comedian

“All right guys, I didn’t prepare anything,” Mr. Wurzelbacher said at a rally at the Washington Park gazebo in Sandusky. “The only thing I’ve been saying is just get out and get informed. I mean, really know what you’re talking about when you’re talking about it. Don’t take everyone’s opinions. I came to my own opinions by research. Get involved in the government. That way we can hold our politicians accountable and take back our government. It’s all ours.”

Can't compete. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, October 30

Incuriouser and Incuriouser

In the mid-1940s, with budgets tight, the new head of production at Universal Studios decided to change its image towards more "prestige" films. To this end he revived a deal with the J. Arthur Rank Organisation--which had fallen apart just a couple years before when the films were poorly received--to import high-toned British productions.

At lunch one day a group of contract writers and producers were complaining about how their budgets were being cut while the studio spent money to import films such as The Tawny Pipit.

Nunnally Johnson told them they had it all wrong. "That picture's going to be a big money maker," he said. "Why, every lover of pipits in the country will be lined up to see it."

WHICH reminds me: Tina Brown has a new website. It's the one to which drifts of undecided voters flocked to find out who Chris Buckley was endorsing. Don't expect any linkage. I bring it up only because the gang at the XX Factor found an essay there by former Ms editor Elaine Lafferty claiming Sarah Palin is "very smart". Don't expect any linkage. (The egregious headline says "Brainiac", leading us to suspect that Brown's new Dog and Pony operation is so small she's doing all the editing herself. Both the sub-head and the body attempt to add heft by announcing Ms Lafferty's Democratic party affiliation, which suggests that some people operating Big Effing Deal Web Rollouts are actually not aware of all internet traditions. Her self-description comes right before she announces she's working with the McCain campaign, which, oddly, isn't supposed to affect the sort of person who might be persuaded by the piece.)
Now by “smart,” I don't refer to a person who is wily or calculating or nimble in the way of certain talented athletes who we admire but suspect don't really have serious brains in their skulls. I mean, instead, a mind that is thoughtful, curious, with a discernable pattern of associative thinking and insight. Palin asks questions, and probes linkages and logic that bring to mind a quirky law professor I once had. Palin is more than a “quick study”; I'd heard rumors around the campaign of her photographic memory and, frankly, I watched it in action. She sees. She processes. She questions, and only then, she acts. What is often called her “confidence” is actually a rarity in national politics: I saw a woman who knows exactly who she is.

So by "smart" you don't mean what most of us think of when we hear the word--some big, strapping Buck who's overpaid and overpraised for his ability to catch a ball? Lemme just take a moment to get my head around that concept; "smart" and "dribbling" have always gone hand-in-hand for me. Okay. You mean she's "smart" like $100K worth of designer duds from Saks, right?

Okay, sorry. I know that was like shooting fish on bicycles in a barrel.

And this, in turn leads Meghan O'Rourke to grab the wrong end of the stick and start thrashing around her personal life for something to connect with (in fairness, this is apparently something which does not actually require a stimulus):
Does it matter whether Palin is a feminist or not? Isn't it possible that she could be a net benefit for feminism without being one? I, too, am bothered by Palin's politics on a number of women-related issues, from abortion to abstinence-only sex ed. But before I go to the "she's terrible for feminism" place, I think of two 9-year-old girls I know, and I try to see this from their perspective. This is the first election they're really going to remember. And what they'll remember is that Hillary Clinton very nearly was the Democratic presidential candidate and that Sarah Palin was a dynamic, funny, personable VP candidate.

Your lips to God's ears, Meghan. How well I remember my own youth, when Barry Goldwater (our only Jewish presidential candidate) tabbed William E. Miller (the only Catholic ever to run on a Republican national ticket) and the result taught me so much about tolerance.

Really. When you start saying things like "It could be a net plus for Feminism if the children of today were to grow up realizing that a powerful woman could enforce the Bronze Age moral codes that treat them as chattel" it's time to ask yourself: 1) how you got here and 2) how you get back out.

What had brought me to this magnetic storm of cerebral events was my search for the new script addition, the one which insists that Councilwoman Palin is, in fact, highly skilled, competent, and intelligent, despite all evidence to the contrary. This is not the Misunderestimation Ploy of the hardline Right, but, rather, a sort of public plea for mercy, a hesitation about piling on, from people who either have paid no attention to what's actually been coming out of her mouth, who have conveniently developed temporal global amnesia about the Bush administration and the Republican party generally, or who were smitten with her SNL appearance. O'Rourke obliges:
No doubt Palin is smart; but what troubles a lot of voters is whether she's intellectually curious and whether she's open to debate and advice.

I'm sorry, but when did intellectual curiosity become optional equipment? I don't expect it in That Bagger at Marsh, not because he's a bagger, but because he was obviously dropped on his head at an early age. He's not running for office, that I know of. "Intellectual curiosity" is not the same thing as being intellectual, or being an academic, or a pointy-headed elitist; it's the minimum requirement for acceptance into public discourse, among other things. I don't think anyone is asking Sarah Palin to descant on Proust. Sure, she's proven herself smart enough to be a sleezy politician, and to hold wingnut audiences in thrall--in much the same way that crowds at those Bob Hope USO shows thought Loni Anderson was a consummate entertainer--how is anyone supposed to evaluate those positions when she cannot defend holding them? That isn't a question of intellectual curiosity, it's a question of intellectual honesty.

Look, it may be that if one wants to continue as a well-paid editor for national publications one is required, at times, to pretend one knows, appreciates, and has a deep affection for, the sort of Middle American stereotype one uses as a replacement for ever having to dine with those people on their home Surf n Turf. Far smarter people than I subscribe to all of the World's religions; but that doesn't make someone who says Creationism should be taught in public schools smart. Whether it's St. Reagan, Bush the Dumber, or Sarah the Could-Be Feminist, it makes them, not intellectually incurious, but publicly stupid, either because they really are that stupid, or because they pretend to be as a vote-harvesting ploy. Which is worse? Why should we accept any excuses?

I'm sorry, but, we know, y'know? There's no great mystery as to why Sarah Palin has come across so poorly whenever she's not reading a script. She's not that bright. She may be able to work a crossword puzzle, she may be blessed with more native intelligence than average, she may be able to ace the job interview, before you look at her Wonderlic scores.  But she's not running for weekend sports anchor.  We watch her with Katie Couric and we know. People who have real lives deal with that sort of question practically every day, and if they can't tell chicken liver from chicken shit they either die when their Ford Aspire spontaneously combusts or are crushed to death under mounds of magazines they bought from itinerant subscription salesmen.  We know. Nabokov couldn't speak extemporaneously, either, and no one asks about his intellectual curiosity. The excuses come out when it's Reagan, or Bush, or someone we agree with politically or protect with faux balance. And look where that's gotten us.

Wednesday, October 29

Haven't We Been Over This Before?

Walter Shapiro, "How John McCain ran against himself". October 29
All that would have been required to achieve electoral parity and a plausible road map to the White House would have been for the Republican nominee to have transformed himself into ... (Warning: Mind-bending content ahead) ... the John McCain of the 2000 primaries.

WOW, thanks for the warning, Walter. For a minute there it was like I was on another one of those Maverick-induced Magic Carpet rides, and everything went all Lava-lampy an' stuff. If I hadn't been prepared my mind might'a bent and stayed like that.

Maverick! All I can figure at this point is that they had really, really good doughnuts on the Press bus in '00. Eight years later, and four years after McCain knelt and kissed George W.'s ring, ten months into a presidential campaign remarkable--even among presidential campaigns--for its intelligence-insulting, content-free, listless meanderings, John McCain can still evoke the same sort of pastel reveries as the first girl who let you reach under her sweater. Haven't we been over this before? McCain's "maverick" credentials comprise his support for campaign finance reform, or "reform", rather famously called into question in this very campaign, and his taking on ("taking on"), in 2000, the Falwells and Robertsons (here, also famously, his opposition vanished, this time even before the campaign had gotten underway).

Oh, and the Bush Tax Cuts, which he opposed before wanting to make permanent. What's interesting in all this is the degree to which a Press corps which was consumed by the question of Al Gore's cradle-fed presidential asperations, which mused aloud about whether Hillary Clinton--alone among the twenty-seven declared candidates--wasn't "too ambitious" for the Office, swallowed this stuff whole, without ever asking about context. John McCain, campaign finance reformer, was the same John McCain whose Senate career almost ended with Charles Keating's bankroll up his fundament just two years earlier; the Religious Right establishment--which was already sinking, only to be artificially buoyed by eight years of Bush--he "bucked" in 2000 was already in the bag for his opponent. (That IOU, you may recall, was settled when the administration signed over the pink slip to the Justice Department.) This is the same Republican party which was widely imagined to have Culturally goose-stepped itself out of an election at the '92 Convention, and it was the same Year 2000 where the country enjoyed a budget surplus due to the reversal of incontinent tax-cutting. It was also the Republican party which had failed to nominate an avowed "Movement" "Conservative" for two cycles, and where even the beholden dullard George W. was being presented as something else. Which makes those seem, at least, like they could have been carefully crafted positions dating to 1996. Not that I'm saying John McCain, vintage 2000, could not possibly have been the only politician in America whose positions were the result of personal principles, absent any and all electoral calculation. I'm just sayin' that if John McCain ever really was a true Maverick I'm glad he wasn't killed in the long fall off that pedestal.
While alternative history is inherently speculative,

Some say "masturbatory".
a reasonable case can be made that McCain could have won the 2008 Republican nomination even if he had not pandered to Falwell and had not abandoned his fiscal conservatism to compete with Romney on taxes. The victory formula would have been built around McCain's biography, his unorthodox style, his unstinting support for the surge in Iraq and the general feeling that eight years earlier the GOP made a tragic mistake with Bush. In short, McCain could have come out of the GOP primaries prepared to run against Obama as a true maverick rather than a generic Republican railing against socialism

Again, assuming that John McCain 2008 is a vote-pandering election whore, where McCain 2000 was a dewy bride unaware she was about to be ravaged by racist push-polling in South Carolina. We don't. In fact, we confess that to us no one who's remained a Republican over the past three decades has a right to wear virginal white and expect the rest of us to keep a straight face. (It's amusing to see Noonan and Brooks suddenly scruple at a Palin when they kept their party allegiance during and after Pat Buchanan's Convention speech in '92. He was a big audience pleaser, too.) 

Let's recall that in 2005, still warm from that embrace of Bush, McCain surveyed the field and saw...Rudy Guiliani, the Mad Marxist of the GOP. To McCain's right were Bill Frist, who was bound to blow away in the first stiff breeze, and Sam Brownbeck, a religious wingnut who, as it turned out, couldn't even get religious wingnuts to vote for him. McCain steered right. You may, if you wish, believe that it's the first time he'd ever touched a tiller in his life. We don't. We think the idea that there's a "real" John McCain out there who, had he but followed his instincts, would now prove to be Just the Maverick We Need is a bunch of inherent monkey-spanking. And our opinion is one thing; the reality of a modern political campaign, where the first order of business is fund raising, is that he was forced to "move" "right" or get steamrollered. Run against Bush? The only Republican doing that in 2008 was Ron "Crazy Guy with the Lawn Chair and the .50 Caliber Muzzleloader" Paul.

Never mind that any flailing campaign exiting October would have been improved had the campaigner been prescient about its central themes two years previous; McCain's a Republican, he's run as a Republican, and the Republicans of the Goldwater era have no answer to tough economic times, white collar criminality, or international crises that cannot be solved by carpet bombing. He was still ahead in some polls before corporate socialism hit the headlines and Sarah Palin hit the networks. Had he run as the imaginary Buck Stopin' Faux Populist, he'd now be watching Mitt Romney get his balls crushed.

Which brings up the one bit of "alternative history" we think would have vastly improved the McCain campaign. It's the one where someone says, "You'll be seventy-two fucking years old, John. Go live off your wife's money." And he takes the advice.

Tuesday, October 28

So, I See You're Voting For 'ChemLawn'

I WAS raking leaves this weekend, and my neighbor was obsessively vacuuming her lawn, as usual--that's not an exaggeration--and we made a little friendly chitter-chatter at the property line, as you will, which generally includes her expression of concern for my mother, and my reply that my own memory isn't exactly sparkling, which is not news to me, but is now somewhat disconcerting seeing as how it's held up against the cold light of serious mental deterioration on a regular basis. And she mentioned that she was approaching the big Five-Oh, and that she and her husband had both noted a disturbing decrease in memory-related mental acuity, to the extent that her husband was now taking...that...stuff...

And so the two of us spent the next three minutes trapped in a sort of half-tense/half hysterical pre-dotage before I came up with Gingko biloba! I have to admit I felt the glory of triumph. Stuff like that is just a mite too disturbing for real laughs, at least at the time (I knew recounting it would provoke a snort fest in my Poor Wife, which it did); it's like an uncomfortable joke, where the laughter is supposed to be a release, but where the set-up was so over-elaborated that by the end you just felt sorry for everyone involved.

The other Neighbor News was that their daughter, lately licensed to drive, had announced she was joining the Young Democrats. This is apparently one of those grand passages in life which are now accompanied by a tee-shirt, for which she was said to be impatiently waiting. And this means nothing whatsoever until you set it in relief against Dad's Reagan/Bush '84 poster in the garage--framed, it is--and the memory that their Bush/Cheney Double Aught yard sign stayed in place through that horrible autumn and right on through the inauguration. In point of fact I don't remember whether they eventually removed it or it got swept away by a snow plow.  Dad reportedly did not take the news too well.

For comparison's sake, the BushCheney'04 sign went up late and came down early, and this year, nothin'. We're blessed, actually, that this year the signage begins in the next block, or Little Appalachia, as we like to call it, and does not include any of the MITCH signs which are roughly three times the size of the actual governor. Ever the over-compensator. Anyway, the only bit of political theatre we have to view out the picture window every dawn is Old Glory across the street. This spring it went from fixed-staff parade-waver model stuck into a metal holder on a mailbox post, to a Woodstock-cape sized deal on a fifteen foot metal pole, and which, like its predecessor, flies day and night, rain or shine, no lights, no black ribbon compensating for the inability to lower it to half-staff. Nothin'. It never fails that the people most likely to fly the thing are the ones least likely to give a shit about etiquette and respect.

Which I guess is our theme for the day; I just saw an electoral map with Indiana glowing in some odd color. We're a Tossup State. This is treated, in some quarters, particularly the ones where all the barking seems to be coming from, as some sort of sea change--last night, by my unofficial tally, was Day 214 in the Nightly Local News Hairdos Remind Us How Long It's Been Since Indiana Voted Democratic Festival and, really, you try livin' through that and maintaining your sanity--when it should, in a normal world, be treated as an early warning to the other 47 to Just Fucking Run Like Hell. Forty years of voting Republican might seem to some people like a measure of how "Red" the state is, but, if I may but point out, it's actually a measure of how fucking stupid the voters around here are. I'm sorry, really; I'd love to sound all cheery and upbeat an' shit, and Lord knows there's nobody in the country more eager than I to see Republicans Bite It, Big, and Keep On Biting It Every Day, Forever, but I have to be honest. The only time in my lifetime people in Indiana voted for a President who did not immediately turn around and rain shit upon them, steadily, and almost gleefully, is when the guy they voted for lost. Indiana's practically the only Solid Red state in the nation that sends in more in Federal tax dollars than it gets back. It sends reliable pro-Pentagon votes to Congress every two years, and since Reagan took office has seen every single one of its military installations closed and votes in, time and again, the anti-unionists who've solved that little problem by helping ship all the manufacturing jobs out of the country. We're the friggin' Madden Curse of states; y'know, it's just 11 electoral votes or something--I've lost count, but it drops every Census--so assuming Senator Obama doesn't really need 'em I think he should just pass. Maybe make a gift of 'em to McCain, if it comes to that.

Yeah, yeah, I know, it could all be breaking the other way, in the direction of the Increasingly Erratic Express and his aggressively ignorant small-town lunatic of a running mate.

McCain's program, so far as I can tell, is to keep doing the one thing he managed to do well: rile up the base. I'm not sure how that's supposed to translate into more votes, but, hey, it's his campaign. Socialism! It's got that fine, creepy-guy-with-the-overgrown-hedges-and-the-curtains-always-drawn vibe, the guy these people decided, for reasons which are still unclear, was the Gravitational Center of American Political Discourse, after which they managed to go 6-4 in Presidential elections, which convinced them they'd stumbled on some sort of eternal verity.  And the thing that's really remarkable is that McCain spent twenty-five years in Washington, at least half of them as anathema to his own party, and he still had no idea what the base was, which sorta underlines the point that they've been taking them for granted for three decades. Surely somebody somewhere, knowing the sort of cash he had at his disposal, could have sat him down in 2005 and performed the tricky "scrolling" maneuver for him while making him read a page from Little Green Footballs. "Are you honestly cynical enough about America to imagine that if you're required to appeal to these people just to win the nomination you'll do so? And still pretend America is worth governing?" 

And the funny thing about that is, it's difficult to believe, watching Councilwoman Palin's case of premature Norma Desmonditis--swear to god, every half-witted "celebrity" in this country is now convinced the ideal career arc is 1) achieving 15 minutes of fame; 2) the last ten minutes, when everything you touch turns to shit; and 3) your reprise as Hogan Knows Best--that this is what McCain's primary supporters thought they were getting in a candidate. They had every opportunity to vote for Sarah Palin in the primaries, even if she did look like Fred Dumbo Thompson. Ed Rollins said, over the weekend, that Palin "would be the most popular Republican when this thing's over". Here's hopin', Ed. Here's hopin'.

Which brings us back, in an odd way, to the neighbors. He's not a Palin religious wacko; more like a Libruls Want To Take Away My Guns and Macho Bluster As a Substitute for Learning Anything About World Affairs guy. And the guns, so far as I know, are for duck hunting, which he doesn't do much of. I have no idea what he thinks of Palin; I don't discuss politics, religion, or popular movies in polite society. But he's got that same aggressive intellectual sloth that's so common among a generation (or more) of Americans who decided, or were taught, that if the facts were against them then there was something wrong with the facts. And his wife told me that, when their daughter announced her new party affiliation he made her call her (paternal) grandfather and tell him, on the grounds, I take it, that you had to go back at least a generation to find a wingnut with any experience in talking to someone he disagrees with.

Monday, October 27

"Edumund Burke": Short For "I Had A College Crush On Ayn Rand And Now I'm Embarrassed To Admit It"

David Brooks, "Ceding the Center". October 26

There are two major political parties in America, but there are at least three major political tendencies. The first is orthodox liberalism, a belief in using government to maximize equality. The second is free-market conservatism, the belief in limiting government to maximize freedom.

But there is a third tendency, which floats between. It is for using limited but energetic government to enhance social mobility.
JEEZ Louise, will somebody give this guy a grant, already? Or a sinecure at a nice leafy private school where he can find a ready-made audience between the ages of 18 and 18-3/4 to impress with this shit?
This tendency began with Alexander Hamilton, who created a vibrant national economy so more people could rise and succeed. It matured with Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War Republicans, who created the Land Grant College Act and the Homestead Act to give people the tools to pursue their ambitions. It continued with Theodore Roosevelt, who busted the trusts to give more Americans a square deal.

Members of this tradition have one foot in the conservatism of Edmund Burke. They understand how little we know or can know and how much we should rely on tradition, prudence and habit. They have an awareness of sin, of the importance of traditional virtues and stable institutions. They understand that we are not free-floating individuals but are embedded in thick social organisms.

But members of this tradition also have a foot in the landscape of America, and share its optimism and its Lincolnian faith in personal transformation. Hamilton didn’t seek wealth for its own sake, but as a way to enhance the country’s greatness and serve the unique cause America represents in the world.

Members of this tradition are Americanized Burkeans, or to put it another way, progressive conservatives.
Or, to put it yet a third way, Full of It.

At this juncture we may well stop and remind ourselves that Brooks has worn his Milton Friedmania "conversion" to "conservatism" on his sleeve for so long it can be read in outline, like the ghost of a lost back pocket on an old pair of jeans. We might, while we're at it, comb the Brooks' oeuvre for further examples of what, to put it yet another way, might be described as The Wholly Illusory Noblesse Oblige Faction of Movement "Conservatism", last seen insisting on George W. Bush's "compassion", if you can remember that far back. But to save time, let's just estimate that it dates to, approximately, the moment it became clear that the second major financial market scandal-slash-meltdown perpetrated by the second two-term "conservative" administration in a row had wiped out John McCain's chances already slim chances.  Say, last month.

I mean, it's not that I don't recall the (now dim echoes of) Reaganaut "rising tide lifts all boats" routine. It's just that I also remember no one on Brooks' side feeling obligated to check the water level periodically. Maybe I'm wrong; god knows my digestion is too delicate for a steady diet of the man, but while the middle class sank into the lower over the past thirty years--as a result of his party's, and his ideology's, actions--I don't recall Brooks evincing concern over anything but its lawn care styles and chain restaurant offerings, and he apparently didn't care enough about either of those to actually get close enough to look. It seemed to be enough for these people that they were theoretically in favor of social mobility, which allowed them to stand by and watch as their devotion to Limited Government beat the shit out of their belief in Energetic Activity Supporting Economic Fairness. As long as Republicans were winning elections, dedication to social mobility was encompassed by the insistence that in the event any American who owned his own garage managed to concoct the next Hewlett-Packard he would not be overly bothered by a tax on capital gains.

I gotta say I chewed this thing over for two or three hours last night as it spooled in the background: to write about David Brooks invoking Edmund Burke yet again, or just give up reading him altogether and hope he goes away in the opening months of an Obama administration? Of the latter, the man's a hopeless liar, same as the rest of his ilk, same way it was before he was momentarily blinded on his way to Damascus. But then this business of simply apssuming an intellectual sheen via the dropping of names of dead guys no one's read in a century makes him overdue for the traditional, reliable, and prudent application of Tar and Feathers. If the appeals to Burke are about as convincing as the Reaganauts' Adam Smith neckwear used to be, the appropriation of Hamilton, whose dedication to a strong national government was anathema as recently as four weeks ago, and who formerly was admired, to the extent that he was, mostly because his congenital monarchism matched their own. To claim that Hamilton, who was shot to death at a time when there wasn't a single smokestack in the Americas, when a "corporation" was an entity created by a charter, whose primary purpose was the protection of the general population from its caprices, was some sort of 18th century Get Rich in Real Estate huckster is just laughable, or would be if it weren't so perfectly indicative of what these types have been reduced to.

Wait, I take that back. It 's still laughable.

Even more so, of course, is Brooks' idea that, because he's not quite as bat-shit crazy (in print) as some other members of his party, he represents the great middle way of American politics, or the ludicrous frame that one can inject some reductionist version of oneself into the election of 1800 and thereby claim one-third ownership in the foundation of American politics. As always it just sorta escapes the notice of these types that women, minorities, and even white males with insufficient land holdings need not apply; let alone anyone familiar with the principles of genetics, the kinetic theory of gasses, or the electric light. Then again, Hamilton was probably the most abolitionist of Founding Fathers, having viewed it at its worst on St. Croix, and the contribution of the Quakers before, during, and after the Revolution can hardly be minimized. Supposing we connect that with Tom Paine,with William Lloyd Garrison, with the Anti-Rent Riots, Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, the Grange, the Labor Movement, and Martin Luther King? Looks a bit more, well, mainstream than a handful of racist plutocrats in the 1950s who decided some 19th century British Parliamentarian opposed the fluoridation of water.

Friday, October 24


Once a year we salute the Madwoman of Brockton Manor for planting grapes everywhere. The rest of the year we curse her.

• So at 82 Alan Greenspan thinks he may have spotted a tiny flaw in Objectivism? What's up next, getting his Learner's Permit? Can we just put Mr. and Mrs. Greenspan on an ice floe somewhere and call the whole thing even?

• Oh, sorry, I didn't realize you were trying to nap: I think I'm the last person who could be accused of Obama worship or overreacting to the whole "Indiana is in Play!" routine, but like Oscar Levant, who knew Doris Day before she became a virgin, I've been enduring Indiana politics since before Dick Lugar was a moderate, and it's hard to deny there's something going on here. That something included 35,000 people turning out to see him on short notice yesterday. Asked to explain what that meant, veteran Channel 8 political reporter Jim Shella replied that it didn't mean anything unless they came out to vote.

• Is it just incipient Slate syndrome, or are the smart shoppers at The XX Factor trying to set Women's issues back fifty years?

"Whoever gets that shantung silk Valentino jacket secondhand, will not do it justice the way Sarah did in her convention speech." --Bonnie Goldstein

"Maybe Sarah Palin is the first one to own the sex appeal and use it as her weapon. Everytime you read about the crowds of men around her, they seem much less predator than prey, just awed, awed by her..." --Hanna Rosin

"I'm supposed to be doing real work, but can I get a show of hands from everybody who thinks looking good is a problem? Me neither; this jacket in particular I could really go for." --Melinda Henneberger

So then WaPo decides to treat readers to a live chat with Henneberger and
Nina Shen Rastogi, which Henneberger kicks off by saying, "My first reaction, too, was hey, I'm enjoying the fashion show—and if someone handed me a credit card and pointed me towards Neiman's, there's a zero percent chance I'd come back with a few durable things from Target."

Now, this is not just a reporter, a political reporter, but one who has in the past written about John Edward's real haircuts and Bill Clinton's fictional ones (as though they were real, natch). But she doesn't get the Palin story initially because she's groovin' on the looks. Later the reality kicks in:

"So I don't blame her for the clothes, but I do blame her for dividing us into elites and non-elites, real America and fake America. And yes, it is hypocritical to talk about "Wasilla Main Street values''—and then favor Escada and Valentino."

By the way, Questioner, your spokesperson for eliminating this horrid divisiveness is the woman who, the day before, had recounted the Parisian salesclerk's shock at her frivolous, euro-backed clothing purchase of a couple weeks back, the one she made to drown her sorrows over her stock portfolio.

I've got nothing against an interest in fashion, or NASCAR, or live-chats at WaPo; but, at minimum, I think we can expect any adult who decides to drink deep thereabouts to acknowledge that he or she has at least heard about the dangers of chronic over-bibbing. And fashion, rather famously, has to carry with it some realization that the whole thing is ultimately dependent upon bright shininess catching the eye of the dedicated serial consumer, if not the terminally superficial. Okay, so it's easy to denounce this when you're old and nobody wants to look at you anyway, but that doesn't explain how someone who thought John Edwards' haircuts were important enough to write about in 2007--and now insists that his sin was charging them to his campaign, which she didn't bother mentioning at the time--initially passes on Sarah Palin's considerably more egregious acts because that jacket induces keyboard drooling.

And look; it may well be that one's fashion sense ossifies along with the rest of him, but in absolute terms, well, you've gotta be fucking kiddin' me. I can't look at Sarah Palin without seeing Edith Prickley, except Edith dressed with élan and Palin looks like she's trying to one-up everybody else at church, or remind the fill-in weather reporter who the real star is.

• The best political columnist in America (caution, it's really Peggy Noonan):
Not a single poll has Mr. McCain ahead. The RealClearPolitics average of national polls as I write, rounded off, is Obama 50%, McCain 43%. Actually Mr. Obama has 50.1%, and if that is true and holds, it would make him the first Democratic presidential nominee since Jimmy Carter to break 50%. But I find myself thinking of what that 43% means. It's a big number, considering that this is the worst Republican year in generations. Amid two wars, a deep economic crisis, a fractured base, too much cynicism, and a campaign with the wind not at its back but head on in its face—with all of that working against Mr. McCain, 43% of the American people say, right now, in these polls, they are for him. And there are a significant number of undecideds. Four years ago about 122 million people voted. Forty-three percent of 122 million is 52 million people, more or less. A huge group, one too varied to generalize about because it includes flinty elderly Republicans from New England, home-schooling mothers in Ohio, libertarianish Republicans in Colorado, suburban patriots outside the big cities, and many others.

Fer cryin' fuckin' out loud, it's one thing to expect that even flat on their faces, in a ditch, inhaling 35º water which has run off from some chemically-overdosed suburban patriot lawn, Republicans would insist they're still a secret majority and offer to compromise with the rest of the country provided it's on their terms. But, y'know, when Jimmy Carter polled 41% in 1980--as a veritable Carter clone named John Anderson was pulling nearly 8%--the Noonans of the world announced the next day they'd Won a fucking Revolution. McCain has all but agreed to die in office and let his gun-totin' religious crackpot of a running mate take over, all for the sake of rallying his base. If he polls less than 50% it's a sea-change. If he polled 43 it would be a renunciation at least the equal of Carter's, if with less ideological fervor behind it. Either play by the same rules or get th' fuck out of the sandbox. Preferably the latter.

Wednesday, October 22

Dine With The Tories, But Shop With The Elitist Un-Americans

I THINK we've done a reasonably good job of ignoring Councilwoman Palin since her fifteen minutes ended; you didn't even hear a word outta me when she visited our very white neighbors to the North, Hamilton County, USA, last Friday, and stopped in the actual capital city of Indiana long enough to make a self-deprecating crack about her Couric interview to the guy from the ABC affiliate, after mentioning for the four-hundredth time that afternoon that her favorite movie was Hoosiers. Of course, that "self-deprecating" business describes the form of her comment ("one of my finest moments!") and not the intention; they don't do self-deprecation in the witch-expelling and nonsense-syllable circuit, and even Mike Huckabee, who's had long practice at it and is pretty good, could never shake that accompanying look which says, "Sure, I'm imperfect, but you're the one going to Hell," thus undermining the whole pitch. Mostly because that look is always fucking there. This is why you never hear, "Ladies and gentlemen, let's hear it for the man who puts the Levity in Leviticus..." or see anyone being billed as the Snake Handler's Answer to Woody Allen.

Anyhow, Palin's passé; all she has left now are people who think things actually get funnier the more times Saturday Night Live does them, but the concept of Sarah Palin, or the circumstances of her Elevation, are not, and this is why we mention this...
The Republican National Committee paid more than $150,000 for clothing, makeup and accessories in September that apparently went to Gov. Sarah Palin and her family, according to an article on

That included $9,447.71 to Macy’s, $789.72 to Barneys New York, $5,102.71 to Bloomingdales; $49,425.74 to Saks Fifth Avenue and $4,902.45 to Atelier.
In one heavyweight shopping trip in early September, $75,062.63 was spent at Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, a host city of the Republican National Convention.
The expenditures were listed on the R.N.C.’s monthly financial disclosure forms.

...while studiously avoiding saying anything along the lines of Huh, I Thought She Shopped At Glacier Bob's Muskox Fur and Duct Tape Couturier Pour Elle, or Seed Sacks Iz Us, Or Whut-Mart, like the rest of Real America. Rather, we'd like to remind Joe Six Pack, via IRS Publication 529:

Work Clothes and Uniforms

You can deduct the cost and upkeep of work clothes if the following two requirements are met:

•You must wear them as a condition of your 
employment, trade or business

•The clothes are not suitable for everyday wear.
It is not enough that you wear distinctive clothing.
The clothing must be specifically required by your
employer. Nor is it enough that that you do not, in fact,
wear your work clothes away from work. The clothing must
not be suitable for taking the place of your regular clothing.

So that, assuming there's some CPA somewhere who thinks Joe looks just fine in that bright orange golf shirt his entrepreneurial superior made him buy ten of, he can't even deduct the damn thing.  

As with all advice given in these parts, it's your own damn lookout if you're stupid enough to take it without checking with someone who knows what he's talking about. And having said that, we'd like to suggest the Palin family turn all that stuff back in to the RNC in a couple weeks, when it's no longer of any use, or be prepared to pay taxes on it, or secede from the Union, if they haven't already. Hey, it's their lookout; we just remember that they have a little trouble remembering to return other people's property, although maybe that's limited to taxpayer funds.

While We're At It, Let's Sink The Doughnut

SCOTT C. brings us another episode of The Little Boy Who Overcame Everything But Chronic Flatulence, Based On A True Story. Yesterday finds Jonah G. using the same pastry-based metaphor, on the very same day, as his preferred presidential candidate.  Ladies and Gentlemen: The Growing Pie.
"[Senator Obama is] more interested in controlling who gets your piece of pie than in growing the pie."


Millions of Americans...don't see the economy as a pie, whereby your slice can only get bigger if someone else's gets smaller.


My Poor Wife was at the dining room table, doing grades, when the McCain clip came on the "news" last night, and I mistook her reaction for evidence she'd gotten one of those Dove chocolates from the candy dish lodged in her windpipe. (Her entire family laughs like that, by the way; thank God she's the only one of 'em with a sense of humor).  She finally calmed down enough--I was in the same room by this time, having dashed in prepared to Heimlich her--to sputter, "Did he really just say what I think he just said? 'Grow a pie'? And she's an art teacher.

Jonah, of course, should be the first pundit in America to realize that pie only gets smaller.

Okay, to be clear about it, maybe they say this all the time. It's certainly redolent of the thieves' cant of the American boardroom, or the jargon of middle management catamites; maybe it's heiress-argot, trickled down. And I have no idea who said it first, the Doughy Pantload or Senator Queeg. Was it Bill Clinton who kept running around talking about "growing" the economy? At least he had growing up dirt-poor as an excuse.

Once I realized my darling was in no danger of choking I was reminded that these are the people who not only presume to tell you American education is failing, but who claim to hold the tools needed to fix it.

My second thought was, well, I remember the odd hour after high school had ended for the day spent combing the ugly green-and-puke-colored shag carpeting in my room for lost nuggets of hashish, so I can at least sympathize that these guys are out of bumper-sticker slogans, regardless of how much I've longed for the day.

But upon reflection, and with no intention of bothering to solve the central mystery of its origins, I think what's really at work here is the behind-the-scenes pie-knife fight for control of what will be left of the Republican party come November 5. It's the Dements versus the Aments. 

Tuesday, October 21

Moderate Republicans: The Real Real America

David Brooks, "Patio Man Revisited". October 20

Richard Cohen, "Party Like It's 1964". October 21

...the GOP, under Rove and his disciples in the McCain campaign, has not only driven out ethnic and racial minorities but a vast bloc of voters who, quite bluntly, want nothing to do with Sarah Palin. For moderates everywhere, she remains the single best reason to vote against McCain.


For all the talk of plumbers and investment bankers, populists and elitists, Patio Man is still at the epicenter of national politics. He is the quintessential suburban American, the service economy worker, the guy who wears khakis to work each day, with the security badge on the belt clip around his waist.

--Who Else?

EVEN with Life's minor marvels it can be one thing to believe it and quite another to actually feast your eyes on it.

Let's take, to use a randomly-selected example, local teevee news. Now, my local teevee news sucks. It has sucked for thirty-some years, and even at that it has managed quantifiable leaps of suckiness which were frankly shocking to the young adult of the 1970s who imagined, when all this sucking began, that it could get no worse. And I'm going to assume that your local news sucks, too, on the grounds that either your Market is smaller than Indianapolis, in which case it is most likely peopled with even denser, even less talented, and probably even-more-desperate-to-move-on-to-anywhere-else career teleprompter readers, or your Market is larger, with better readers and more teeth, and maybe individual theme music, but in that case you are the Model these lesser markets are based on, and that, really, cannot be good.

Now, we hate to keep bringing this up, but the airwaves belong to YOU, exclamation point, and they were sold out from under YOU by, three guesses, the Reagan administration, on the grounds that if there was a big profit in it for wealthy people it must be a really great idea. The astute Reader may have noticed a quick jump of a decade (whaddya tryin' to pull, Riley?), but not to worry: the "market" had, as its idolaters like to point out over and over and over, already done the mule work on its own, like magic; by the time Reagan was in position to sell your birthright, Capitalism, despite its New Deal fetters, had managed to bring you Happy Talk News, wherein the old-fashioned idea of a summation of the day's events as read by knowledgeable reporters was replaced by empty bullshit as sounded out phonetically on air by empty bullshitters. And this was followed, perhaps inevitably, by Barbara Walters, wherein the very concept of news was subjected to cruel mockery, and where, for that matter, cruel mockery didn't fare much better.

But even the sour-stomached long-time observer could only watch in wonder as rising gas prices and falling home values at the tail end of the Naughts meant the long-forgotten real world slapped the second generation of these talking coiffures into speaking about real news. The results, predictably, were what you'd expect if, near the end of his life, Elvis had suddenly been required to run an Army obstacle course. Not good, and not pretty. The truly entertaining thing, if you're big on schadenfreude, is watching people who've been conditioned to two facial responses, dour for murder, child abuse, and tax increases, peppy as a high-school cheerleader in her 16th birthday BMW for everything else, try to arrange themselves around a suddenly complex world where survival, not Survivor, was the Top Story.

I grant that some of this is a personal, or chemical reaction on my part; I wouldn't be caught dead shilling something unless a) I was paid some ghastly amount to do so, eliminating the requirement that I ever do so again, and b) I was as goddamned enthusiastic about it as I was paid to pretend to be. And here are, roughly, twenty-five people per night (it takes a team of three just to report the weather for ninety-minutes now, and that's assuming it's cloudless and mild) per channel who do so for a six-figure salary, or the potential for a six-figure salary, and recognition at the local bistro. Which right off the bat puts them on one side of an argument which we not only refuse to have in this country, but which their side tries its damnedest to avoid even acknowledging.

It hasn't just been limited to a simple matter of how to compose one's face, either. The locals haven't quite been able to completely shake the vague suspicion that they ought to be selling global financial market collapse as a swell entrepreneurial opportunity for the aspiring repo man or soup kitchen operator. The same week the Bush administration was pushing the Paulson plan as a Take It or Leave It and Die proposition, Channel 8 offered tips for the aspiring buyer of foreclosed mortgages (#3: Don't back over any widows or orphans on your way out of the driveway. Everybody's got a camera these days.).

So you'll simply have to forgive me if I don't believe Richard Cohen is unaware of this, or if I think David Brooks is too fucking callous to care, or that either of them really believes in, let alone imagines he speaks for, some sort of über-majority of the Mild Suburban Reaganite Mind. It's another argument which pretends there is no argument. It's the pretense that Middle America as painted by Norman Rockwell, Ronald Reagan, and cadres of television news producers cowering from right-wing hate mail for forty years is the real Middle America, and it's told here by a couple of guys who have no frickin' idea what it's really like, nor feel any compunction to learn, even as they write columns--and books!--explaining it to people who do. Richard Cohen is old enough to remember the Civil Rights movement, meaning he's old enough to remember Bull Connor's attack dogs ripping at children. Whether he chooses to remember is not our problem. David Brooks is at least old enough to remember Willie Horton, and "liberal" enough to have objected, it's said, at least, to his party's gay-bashing for votes. And they're both old enough to have earned paychecks for bashing Bill Clinton, and later paychecks for supporting the Iraq invasion and denouncing Irrational Bush Hatred.

So I suppose we might note the sort of good fortune each man is blessed with in that America agrees with him, only for less money. You make your own Luck, as the saying goes. But we're a little less convinced by this Sarah Palin, OMG! How Did These People Get Into The Republican Party? routine. Because, y'know, we actually walk the streets of Middle America, where they're hardly a surprise.  What we'd really like to know is: is it not time that these two, and every other impacted pundit harrying the national gums, were yanked out? Do they really have anyone left to lie to? We keep returning to Lenin's famous dictum about Capitalism selling him the rope it'd be hung with; we keep thinking that had he lived into the modern era of man-made fibers he would have added, "and they'll keep insisting the damn thing is silk when it's obviously cheap-ass polyester, right up until it strangles 'em."

Monday, October 20

Excrement Remains Buoyant

Tunku Varadarajan, "In Praise of Peggy Noonan." October 19

Bill Kristol, "Here the People Rule". October 20
After an exhaustive Google search (well, I'm an impatient man), I have yet to determine the drunk who called Jimmy Stewart a drunk.
Any hints?

map106, in comments

OKAY, here's where I think I slipped the rails: this Goldberg floater from last Wednesday, which began with the contention--is there any need to mention, with Goldberg, that the utterly indefensible was stated as if it were a commonplace observation about today's barometric reading?--that in 1964 Barry Goldwater was demonized, and unfairly, to boot, as a sower of bigotry and hatred, and which somehow managed, in the following paragraphs, to make that look like one of Jonah's sounder and more sober historical judgments. I went that very evening across and down the dark and dangerous avenues of enforced American diversity--it's her drivers I'm afraid of--looking for William Manchester's Truman-damning The Glory and the Dream. Four bookstore's worth, and, Readers, the Moon was at full! Then I hit two more and the local library branch in the light of the following day, still with no success, before the requirement of driving downtown to the main branch slapped me back into sensibility. I was doing this to try to prove--just to myself, in all likelihood--that Goldberg was embellishing some wingnut half-truth he'd learned at his mother's knee, something which would, reportedly, have required him to be supine at the time, and required her to talk with her mouth full. Like I imagined this was the long-sought final nail in his coffin or something.

And, y'know, I don't give a shit about whether Truman called Dewey a Nazi, or what Goldberg might imagine that has to do with today's Democrats, especially considering that the GOP has been trying to appropriate The Man From Missouri for years, based, as far as I can tell, on the fact that his popular biography is now sufficiently divorced from Reality that he's an honorary Republican.  I just flew off the tracks.  I thought it was remarkable that Goldberg had the inside poop on the 1948 election when he knew nothing about '64.  Dewey/Truman was before my day, but I began my formal schooling just twelve years later, in the heat of the Nixon/Kennedy race, and I grew up in a reliably Republican state (as you may have heard lately).  And yet all anybody ever told me about Truman's last campaign, besides the Trib photo, was how Ol' Give 'Em Hell whistlestopped his way across the country blaming Congress.  If he'd'a been goose-stepping and Nazi-saluting across the Plains, holding his index finger under his nose while doing his Chaplin impression, I suspect somebody would have mentioned it to me a little sooner.  

Anyway, despite what you might have heard from that Eliot character, it's Autumn which is the toughest season, at least on the cranky geezer who used to get by on looks alone. Tempus fucking  fugit, pal, and ask Bill Kristol to translate for you next time you're knockin' back some brews. There's something about the short'ning of the days, the unexpected slant of the early morning light, the clouds of one's own breath, which remind the aging warrior he'd better get rid of his porn stash before that upcoming series of strokes.

So, map, I wasn't laboring to be obscure; this time, anyway, I'd had obscurity thrust upon me, albeit with my cooperation, and what I said, or think I said, or tried to say, is that were Colin Powell famous for miming gunplay on the Silver Screen his reputation would now rest on his having called Jimmy Stewart an ugly expletive in front of a nation of Oscar-viewers, just as the real-life Powell, whose fame once rested on a combination of fictional accomplishments and the expert camouflaging of his real ones, cannot but be known today as the guy who publicly soiled himself, his career, and his country in furtherance of a foolish and wasteful mission directed by a pack of demented weasels. And then, in the grand tradition of sell-outs, fuck-ups, and captured high-level Luftwafe staff everywhere, he insisted the whole thing was someone else's fault. For which he was celebrated, as he continues to be, by the Liberals and Progressives at The Huffington Post.

We're old, and resigned; all we meant was, mutatis mutandis, you don't see Gary Busey or Jan-Michael Vincent discussing this year's Best Foreign Film nominations with Charlie Rose. To my knowledge, which is anecdotal at best--I gave up on the Oscars when Oliver! won Best Picture--no one ever called Jimmy Stewart a c*nt from the stage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. It was a fictional extrapolation for the purposes of making a point while being offensive. Just like Powell's UN speech.

While we're at it, someone ask 'em at HuffPo how Colin Powell is anything but Sarah Palin with a better speaking voice and 1/3 less bloodlust? Powell's attractiveness to the Right has always been as a sharpened stick to apply to the Librul Eye: the My Lai whitewasher and one-half of the diversity behind the Most Diverse Cabinet in History. Before the hullabaloo over Powell's endorsement--and Obama's deep appreciation for the "honor"--I had frankly been living with a hard bolus in the vicinity of my vitals, throbbing at me periodically that Disastrous Reality was leading Truth to make a comeback. This was not the sour digestion of the bitter old blogger who'd find himself without material in that event, but the street smarts of the experienced junky who knows America could never handle going Cold Turkey like that.

Perhaps you see my Problem; more likely you're living it, too, if without the violent mood swings. A massive Obama victory will prevent a McCain administration and send Palin back to America's Siberia, and it will, certainly not silence the Cornerites and the Red Staters, but perhaps induce some secret but undeniable prodigy of cancer in their collective bowel; and this is all to the good. But a narrow Obama victory would do the same thing, as well as tempering the glee of that species of HuffPundit who imagines the collapse of Movement "Conservatism" as the inevitable result of its collision with his own superior intellect, and whose dedication to the principles of Liberal Modernism incline him to prefer his pockets be picked and dentures swiped by Democratic politicians. Then, as if this weren't vertiginous enough for one electoral cycle, one comes upon the following sentences:
Peggy--and I trust she'll permit me to address her in this way, as I've known her for many years--is writing the prose of her life. She will be the first to admit that she erred occasionally in judgment in the early years of the Bush administration--but so did too many of us, as we gave an undeserving president (and administration) too many benefits of too many doubts. Now, however, she is writing with such transparent conscience that I believe that she captures, in her column, the American condition and the American voice.

This, by the way, is in praise of Friday's demi-denunciation of Sarah Palin, the same Sarah Palin she accidentally poor-mouthed over an open mike and then ran to retract clarify her feelings--largely her embarrassment at having said "bullshit" over the air--in a column which appeared the next day, or a full forty-eight hours ahead of schedule.  Then, as well as later, she allowed as how Councilwoman Palin had a certain je ne sais quois  that connected with the sort of people who don't know what that means, before deciding, last week, that maybe Palin was enough of an embarrassment to her party that it was safe to poor-mouth her in public this time.  That is, the woman who writes "the best op-ed column in America" not only takes six-weeks to finally decide that Sarah Palin's lip gloss is, indeed, all that separates her from mindless inbred mammalian violence, but it takes several changes of water in the meantime to get the stain out. And one has barely staunched the flow of blood from hitting the corner of the filing cabinet when he fell--Tunku Varadarajan, Oxon. is Clinical Professor of Business at NYU; we're afraid to ask what makes him Clinical--when Dr. William Kristol, Hahvahd, Ph.D., takes some of the 800-plus words America's Newspaper of Record grants him on a weekly basis, to spit out whatever it was he had to gargle after reading the same Noonanisms:
Now, the Pew poll I cited earlier also showed Barack Obama holding a 50 percent to 40 percent lead over John McCain in the race for the White House. You might think this data point poses a challenge to my encomium to the good sense of the American people.
It does. But it’s hard to blame the public for preferring Obama at this stage — given the understandable desire to kick the Republicans out of the White House, and given the failure of the McCain campaign to make its case effectively. And some number of the public may change their minds in the final two weeks of the campaign, and may decide McCain-Palin offers a better kind of change — perhaps enough to give McCain-Palin a victory.

William Kristol, born with a complete silver service for sixteen in his mouth--which evidence suggests resulted in hypoxia at that critical time--bravely stands shoulder to shoulder with The Little Guy, now that it seems clear that "Main Street" isn't rushing the gates and demanding atonement in blood, and specifically his, although he's keeping his Horace handy for when the whole thing blows over. As I said, America's in no condition to run into the Light, or even walk there without assistance. But there's no sense delaying having these ugly tumors excised and analyzed.

Saturday, October 18

Shit Still Floats

Nothing survives being thought of.

--Oscar Wilde

WHO Asked Ya? 1) Colin Powell. Okay, so this is easy; despite personal responsibility for sinking his country's military, tossing, in the process, several trillions of its then-valued currency into a bottomless pit, and lying it into a war--which if nothing else (and there was plenty else) violated the principles of the Doctrine which bore his name--all because his supposed sense of "loyalty" and "duty" involved making excuses for George W. Bush and Donald F. Rumsfeld, and then, after it predictably turned to shit, trying to blame everyone else, the fact remains that a) he's booked on the Sundays, and b) there's been actual space in actual newspapers devoted to his impending possible endorsement of Barack Obama, as though there's anything he could say now which might influence a sentient being.  In a just world the man would be speaking to us via satellite from a country with no extradition treaty with the US, or the civilized world. Or not at all. 2) Chris Buckley. Who can possibly care? Who is it who's supposed to care about the goings on at The National Review who doesn't already read The National Review? Who familiar with that sorry vegetable cart of over-ripe juveniles can even propose a suitable scale for measuring the wits of its nits? Who even knew, or cared, that he wrote for the thing? Well, the last brave Bush stenographer from the once-bustling pool at the Times, for one, and the inexplicably gainfully employed Kathleen Parker, for the other. With any luck, that's it.

In either case, attention is paid here to someone merely for being publicly identified as a Republican; were their "fame" the result of genial afternoon chat-show hosting or the ability to lip-sync and pelvis-thrust, they would be readily acknowledged as, respectively, a) the washed-up former C-lister most famous for getting drunk at the 1978 Oscars and calling Jimmy Stewart "a fucking cunt" on air, and b) Nancy Sinatra. And this is treated as news, not because endorsing Obama, or rejecting John McCain, is remarkable, but because Republicans aren't supposed to do that sort of thing. This, in turn, the reader is supposed to accept as a commonplace, as something he was supposed to have learned in kindergarten, as it were, and move on to the juicy details. As though the hum of Republicanism's dynamo was so powerful one could never imagine The Enlightened separating themselves from it.  As though, in a political season and climate screaming recognition of Republicanism as a failed, duplicitous, and, baldly criminal enterprise whose sorry stock of rabble-rousing catchphrases is now depleted, it could still be treated as such outside a psychiatric ward.  

This is the depth of our problem. There is, apparently, nothing Republicanism can do which would cause it to be publicly acknowledged in polite, mass-market society, as the scabrous den of thieves, pickpockets, cauponizers, and molesters of young boys it plainly is. The public trust has been sold for a few shekels, and not as an isolated incident, but repeatedly, and as an integral part of the operation directly traceable to its very highest levels (and hell, for that matter, not even hidden). The foundations of the republic, let alone its laws, its reputation, and its recourse to the grammar of ethical behavior, have been treated as wisps of smoke. The "news" should not be staring, slack-jawed and toothless, at the spectacle of a shelf-brand Republican coming to the only available solution which even approaches sanity; the news should be that there still exist, like pre-contact Stone Age tribesmen, or deep-sea creatures thought long extinct, people who willingly identify themselves as Republican, and who profess shock that one of their number has decided to crawl out of the wreckage and seek help.

Which brings us back to Ms Parker, whose employment by the Post of Washington we cannot begin to fathom without intimations of clandestine Polaroids stashed in a safe-deposit box or lawyer's safe. Just as millions of Americans who cannot be bothered to have their personal biases tested by harsh realities, or who choose despite all contrary evidence to imagine unchecked capitalism as a Panglossian Pax Romana have recently learned the extent to which expertise is pretended at the highest levels, so too do we have to wonder, now, that there is someone at one of the ranking newspapers in the country whose job is to increase, or at least consider, paid circulation, who nevertheless grants prime space to a woman whose single idea is a wrong one, and that one poorly expressed. It seems plainly obvious to us that the world cannot possibly care about Kathleen Parker's take on some internecine squabbling at a charity-operation Royalist magazine any more than it cares what she breakfasted on, or in which house. Opinions vary; we'd be happy to accept this as news if the Post felt that revelations of the sort of blind hatred, racism, and clinically-diagnostic psychopathology that spews from the place on a daily basis was also of interest to the general reader.

Thursday, October 16

Oh, You Still Here?

(BEFORE I forget, the Uverse DVR capsule description of Monday night's Daily Show said the guest was "columnist and former S.E.C. chairman Amity Shlaes."  And they say you can't teach a computer to write jokes!)

I tuned in last night just in time to see John McCain kick Barack Obama's ass. Something about how he "didn't care about a washed-up terrorist" but the connection "needed to be explained". Which, seeing as how the "connection" had already been explained about a thousand times, and seeing as how he was the one actually bringing the washed-up terrorist to the festivities, at least had the reassuring effect of demonstrating that Senator McCain has perfectly adapted to life on the other side of the Looking Glass.

Then I opened up the Usual Suspects this morning to find WaPo and Slate discussing whether McCain's "aggressive" and "hard-hitting" performance had been enough to turn his campaign around.

Please. The fact that the question was generally answered in the negative is merely evidence that these people are not so far gone as to require immediate transfer to a hospice. The fact that the question is being asked at all is the measure of how deep our real problems run.

And no, I'm not talking about anybody being in the tank for McCain; I'm not even talking, for now, about the fact that after eight years of The Emperor's Ever-Unchanging Wardrobe we can't call out a sorry, doddering pander or his aggressively ignorant running mate.

Instead, look at the script: 1) Last Showdown; 2) McCain hits Obama aggressively; 3) but Will It Be Enough?

To which we'd like to point out 1) the campaign's been going on for two years now. That's half a President's term of office. That's half a fucking ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It's, what? three or four new iPhones. We can't possibly expect people in this country to pay attention to anything that long, and since we can't, maybe it's time to eliminate Presidential "debates" altogether, and with it the notion that our elections ought to be decided in the same fashion--and by the same people--who judge Super Bowl commercials around the water cooler the following morning. If someone out there was actually waiting for the Third and Final Showdown to decide this race--of all fucking races--for him, he doesn't need encouragement from the Fourth Estate; he needs to have his voting privilege revoked. 2) McCain "hit" Obama on what, exactly? On Bill Fucking Ayers? On abortion? Forget the fact that he looked like your half-informed uncle after four beers doing so. In what alternative universe are these even presidential issues, and in it, as in this one, aren't they six months past their expiration date, or else a hopeless, and now impotent, reminder of the rabble-rousing that brought us Republican disaster after Republican disaster? John McCain's been in the Congress for twenty-five of the thirty-five years of single-issue reproductive fascism, and what's he ever done about it? Other than change his stance so he could pander to the Brownshirts whose "aggression" he now gives voice to? 3) Th' fuck is will it be enough? supposed to be? What sort of self-respecting journalist (sorry, I couldn't resist) would talk like that if he thought the mikes were off? McCain's toast. He's been toast for weeks, and Bad Economic News at the Worst Time is just the latest and most convenient excuse. Consider the ease with which our Free Press was convinced that Sarah Palin represented some entity known as The Real America. Compare with what The Real America tells pollsters it thinks about her qualifications for the job.

And consider, Good Reader, if you will, that the present autumnal coloration of our slow-motion national disaster (aka the "Reagan Revolution") began when idiotic Nader supporters declared that the impending doom which would be ushered in by placing in the Oval Office the only man in history to have actually induced Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in himself was what was required to make America sit up and take notice. Of course these people don't know the Real America any better than The Press or Councilwoman Palin do. The Hyperreal America, on the other hand--the one they do know, the one they frequently are--has responded to the Second Massive Financial Swindling of the Real America in a Generation by looking for new and more effective ways to keep the game afloat, and the mark's eye on the wrong hand.

Here's Slate's own Emily Yoffe, with apologies in advance for bottom trawling:
McCain scored some shots tonight. He made a strong point about Obama's wanting to "spread the wealth around" from Joe the Plumber, and I was surprised Obama didn't seem prepared for that. (And Rosa and Juliet, Joe said the business "makes" about $250,000 a year—we don't know if that's gross or net income, so we have no idea what his personal income would be. But in any case, I'm with Rachael in believing Joe's entitled keep most of it.) McCain was much better on the need to support the free-trade agreement with Colombia, which has been a strong U.S. ally. Obama's answer was weak and weasely. But none of this really makes any difference, because when you watch McCain for an extended period, there is something off about him. His angry facial tics, his strange shorthand, inside-Washington way of talking. Half the time, unless you already knew what he was talking about, you'd have no idea what he was talking about. There's a guy at my gym who's always muttering curses under his breath as he does his circuit, and I think of him as "Seething Man." McCain was Seething Man tonight, and Obama was "Reassuring Man," and people want reassurance now more than ever.

WHICH brings me back to yesterday, when, following Scott,  I started in on Jonah Goldberg's latest pathetic cry for help, not that it hadn't been done already, WO'C style.  The dedicated social archaeologist can always find another layer of inhabitation in Jonah's mind, though typically none yields anything but coprolites. There was studded among this piece , however, several chards of the cracked pottery from my particular area of interest, the Young Jonah Gets Drilled in U.S. History With Birch Society Flash Cards by his Sleezy Dam era, and I was working somewhat distractedly on it (sample:
DPL, 2008: "...the attempt to paint Goldwater as a hate-monger was idiotic and dishonorable."

BMG, 1964: "Every wife and mother, yes, every woman and girl, knows what I mean, knows what I'm talking about."

when I happened to open the WaPo for some reason, and found "How Palin Can Save The Mainstream Media" by Kathleen F. Parker, who as recently as, I think, right then was on Colbert running her "I'm an email bomb victim because I dared criticize Sarah Palin" routine into its second week. My brain simply shut down at that point as a self-preservation response.

Why, oh why, are these people given prime pieces of our public forum? We went through the bullshit Librul Media business in the Nixon administration--the fact that it was attached to the Nixon administration being enough reason for a society whose citizenry believes, in the main, that it is either one lucky two-digit number away from winning the wealth of Croesus, or about to be swept into the sky, naked, to some sort of Valhalla for people who love Jesus and keep their lawns nice, to have thereafter avoided it like the Plague--culminating in the "balance" which gave us George Eff Will commenting of Reagan's debate "victories" without revealing his, George Eff Will's, campaign position as a paid co-felon. "Conservative" commentators went from "outsiders" to insiders without an appreciable change in their affirmative action status, while people like Farmer Sam Donaldson and Texas Dan Rather were supposed to be speaking for the opposition. We are now exiting a generation-long cycle during which these "outsiders" not only became the "insiders", but did their goddamedest to defend remaining there by any sleezy, corrupt, anti-democratic, and criminal means at their disposal, and a few invented just for the purpose. In the meantime, what should not have come as a surprise to anyone paying even a slightly honest bit of attention, the whole thing turned to shit and left that Real America they used to claim to speak for holding the flaming bag. Why are they still here? Of what possible use are the scraping sounds produced as Kathleen Parker rearranges the two pieces of furniture that constitute her mental décor? And we're not even gonna bothering asking about Jonah. I'm not talking about stifling debate; it's just that for the people there now a stretch in Comment Jail is too lenient. And since they've already proven that the "conservative" position can be "articulated" by anyone you pick up off the street, assuming sufficient cupidity, let's do that.

Tuesday, October 14

The Reversal Of Relative Political Fortunes Does Not Suddenly Make You The Reality-Based Party

David Brooks, "Big Government Ahead". October 13

"KRUGMAN Wins Nobel Prize" was the headline, though not in the Times, which, online at least, was remarkably subdued about it. Maybe they don't like blowing their own horn, or maybe they're rightfully embarrassed that they let right-wing nitwits and the world's worst-ever ombudsman claw at him. Or maybe they just don't like him, I dunno. The dedicated sidewalk psychoanalyst has a lifetime of enjoyment ahead of him with the wreck of the USS Glorious Ronald Wilson Reagan Revolution, just as accident investigators are gonna find all sorts of curiosities among the flotsam. These people brought you Judith Miller, in case you've forgotten (and it's a measure of how utterly beyond the previous Worst Administration in History the Bush Crime Gang has gone when you consider that it's entirely understandable if you have forgotten). How many times, fer instance, is it necessary to read Gail Collins before you figure out she'd like to be a public intellectual like Bill Kristol, or a consummate prose stylist like Maureen Dowd? Left Blogtopia erupted over Kristol's Op-Ed sinecure, but, y'know, it's Krugman who got the Super Glue on the Keyboard treatment, not Kristol, the same way it's MoveOn that got publicly hammered by the "Democratic" Congress. Middle-aged fucking liberals in this country have been suffering from Reagan/Stockholm Syndrome for their entire adult lives; they can't be trusted.

Anyway, I know nothing about Economics, or rather, I know this: I saw one of its priests on the teevee this weekend explaining that it was called The Dismal Science because it has to look at unpleasant facts. Really. I think the segment ended before anyone could ask why it felt obligated to create some if the natural rate fell below a certain level. Anyhow, when I first saw that Krugman won the Nobel I looked up Milton Friedman, the father of Freedom. His was awarded in 1976, to which I could only reply that someone needs to explain to those Swedish refs that makeup calls are supposed to come during the same game, or at minimum, the same century.

(Speaking of the Gray Lady's Libs, we didn't have the energy yesterday to tackle Frank Rich's Sunday piece, which is another reason we thank our Explicitly Metaphorical Supreme Being there's Bob Somerby, who did it better and quicker than we'd have ever done. Yes, the McCain campaign is the one that's beyond the pale, excepting that Republicans destroyed the palings two generations ago. But the myth of Barack Obama as the wholly improbable African American candidate whose rise betokens a Novus Ordo Seclorum of post-racial harmony, excepting he might be assassinated--last seen gasping for breath as the Spring primary season advanced, and which Rich single-handedly tries to resuscitate--is just bollocks. And I'd have simply said it was bollocks, but Somerby digs up Rich mourning the passing of the Wholly Virtual Candidacy of Colin Powell back in 1995, and without noting the General's wholly improbable skin tone. The Gray Lady's Libs backed Colin Powell! for a couple of trendy weeks, probably just to break the monotony of sliming Bill Clinton three times in a row. Did something happen between 1995 and 2007 to re-preposterize an African-American candidacy? Or was the concept de-preposterized by Powell belonging to the anti-civil rights party, thereby validating him? Or have we simply gone too long with too many people who lie for a living? )

Which would bring us to David Brooks, except that between starting this piece last night and ending it, as it's now projected, sometime before the election, I ran into Roy running into David Frum's performance on Rachel Maddow's show.  David Frum was pleading for civility in politics, which gave me something of a new perspective: now that the Ghost Dance phase has reached its nadir, now that the Real Power behind those Gloriously Revolutionary Republican majorities is on view, in all its mis-matched finery and racist necktie-party glory, prissy little third-tier functionaries like Brooks and Frum want nothing to do with it. (It would, of course, be different if the plan were working.) Packing the ol' Ghost Shirt in mothballs isn't easy, and it must be that much tougher in light of the brief glimmer of mid-summer hope, not that McCain might win, but that Obama might lose, which was followed as if on cue by the bathos that is Sarah Palin.

So whaddya do when you find out you're not actually bulletproof, when the UFOs don't pick you up and the Messiah fails to show? When even doubling down, which never failed you before, just leaves you wandering around the stage muttering to yourself? Why, cue the organist, and gimme that olde tyme religion:
Obama will try to straddle the two camps — he seems to sympathize with both sides — but the liberals will win. Over the past decade, liberals have mounted a campaign against Robert Rubin-style economic policies, and they control the Congressional power centers. Even if he’s so inclined, it’s difficult for a president to overrule the committee chairmen of his own party. It is more difficult to do that when the president is a Washington novice and the chairmen are skilled political hands. It is most difficult when the president has no record of confronting his own party elders. It’s completely impossible when the economy is in a steep recession, and an air of economic crisis pervades the nation.

What we’re going to see, in short, is the Gingrich revolution in reverse and on steroids. There will be a big increase in spending and deficits. In normal times, moderates could have restrained the zeal on the left. In an economic crisis, not a chance. The over-reach is coming. The backlash is next.

I've been trying to come up with a name for this next phase, the one where "conservative" punditasters like Brooks get to pretend that nothing they've said for the past decade, from "Restoring Honor and Decency to the White House", through "Get Over It", "Irrational Bush Hatred", and "The Surge Is Working", right up to "Sarah Palin: Voice of the Working Stiff" ever crossed their lips. I'm reminded of the big launch party for Irrational Bush Hatred, when the likes of Rich Lowry and Chuck Krauthammer allowed as how, okay, maybe some people didn't care for Bill Clinton much, either, but it sure wasn't them. I'm reminded--every time I open one of his pieces--how Brooks said he needed to rethink Iraq, a year after it turned to shit, then never mentioned the process again until six or eight months later, when he was simply confirmed as Sadder But Wiser. (His acceptance of the Workingness of The Surge was instantaneous by comparison. Go figure, huh.) Maybe these guys should see Frank Rich for some tips.  David Brooks, restaurant critic, has a nice ring to it, I think.  

Monday, October 13

Breaking...Riley Finally Endorses Candidate!

Representative John Robert Lewis, Democrat of Georgia.

LET'S see if we can get one thing straight, even if it doesn't make a hair's difference in the long run: if we want to return decency to our campaigns, our debates, our daily lives, for that matter, we have to eliminate public stupidity. Not the sort of stupidity that fumbles to describe a half-understood public inanity like Barack Obama's dedication to the Qur'an before coming up with "He's a...a.....a Arab!" This sort of shit will be with us always, and I don't blame John McCain for leading a pack of hate-filled racist xenophobes. I blame him for being a Republican. The rest of it's just part of the package.

No, what I'm talking about isn't, so far as is known, directly traceable to one's mother's pre-natal diet of Lucky Strike Greens, Moon Pies, and Old Overholt, or one's own preference for mercury-laden fish slow-simmered in a battered aluminum frying pan. What I mean is the widespread demonstration that the nation's politicians, its scribes and headline fashioners, and a large percentage of its well-paid campaign functionaries cannot understand simple declarative sentences. Or, quite often, produce them in response.

Consider as the middle-aged man with a reasonable respect for the conventions of English sits down in front of the teevee news to learn that John Lewis, a man he regards as one of his country's heroes, has "compared John McCain to George Wallace." His semantic sense goes into overdrive. How so? By height? By volume? By their similar indifference to professional tailoring? By the partly-congruent repugnance of their spouses? What? And who th' fuck besides John Lewis even remembers George Wallace anymore? The answer to that one is, drum roll--John McCain, who demands an apology and declares the comparison "beyond the pale".

Two things here, while our mind is working quickly: one, the simple fact that John McCain is demanding an apology suggests to us, without checking, that Lewis said no such thing, which will be proven out. And two, what's outside our pale, if anything (and we are not so naive as to believe our politics have ever been gentle) has survived three decades of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, is Cindy McCain, a part-time political historian whose full-time job is "heiress", calling the Obama campaign "the dirtiest in American history" when it's not even the dirtiest one she's participated in, not until the Obama campaign manages to top push-polling about her husband's black love child. What's beyond the pale is a dim-bulb petty criminal parading around the campaign trail denouncing Obama for "palling around with terrorists".

Or that is, those things are beyond the pale of what's supportable either factually or rhetorically, as constructed by people who still care about such things.  And I didn't hear McCain rushing to apologize for them.

Just what th' hell are we supposed to imagine is Councilwoman Palin's role, exactly, if not shit stirrer? She stirred shit at the Convention, and she's stirred shit on the trail ever since, avoiding in the process any further embarrassing demonstrations of how utterly unqualified she is to be the industry's chosen representative on the Railroad Retirement Board. And so be it; if she's what the McCain campaign needed, so fucking be it. (Readers with long memories may recall her comparing herself to a lower mammal bred to latch onto anything and refuse to let go, which let to our last little national spasm from the Gee I Don't Understand English, Let's Make It Our Official Language brigades, which objected to her not being compared to a pig.) Palin represents nothing whatsoever beyond the Ill-Informed White Protestant with a Manufactured Sense of Personal Aggrievement. John Lewis represents an incredibly brave minority which fought murderous domestic fascists with ideals for a sword and its own craniums as a shield.

Lewis has every right to compare the tone of the McCain/Palin campaign to that of Wallace and all the other inciters of White violence in the name of collecting votes. Much of Wallace was an act, if you'd like to get right down to it, like all of Palin's appeal beyond her vaunted fearlessness in rooting out corruption.  (How's that one goin', by the way?  Was it insensitive of me to use "root" as a verb?) And unlike Wallace's case, the shit the McCain campaign's been stirring had long since settled to the bottom, at least officially. John Lewis has done us yet another service. He not only has the right to call things as he sees 'em, he's paid for that right many times over, the same way McCain paid for his military service. It's time to recognize the equivalence of that service. And it's time for McCain to either brush up on his English, or else to publicly acknowledge the reality of the party he belongs to, the same way his selection of the Councilwoman from Alaska acknowledged it tacitly.

Friday, October 10

Big poopy-headed Republicans betray David Brooks and their intellectual traditions, a one-note play in 735 acts and counting

David Brooks, "The Class War Before Palin". October 9

FIRST, I was about a month past my tenth birthday when The Beatles appeared on Sullivan, and like every other kid in American I resolved that night to grow my hair and learn to play guitar. As it turned out I wasn't very good at either (the difference is that today I still have a guitar! Boom! I'm here all week!). A year later I heard "Subterranean Homesick Blues" on the radio and decided there might be something more to this stuff, plus I now needed one o' them harmonica holder deals.

And here's my point: by the time I was old enough to drive, rawk  had devolved into Grand Funk Railroad shirtless hairtossing crapola, and by the time I was old enough to drive I could call bullshit. And I wasn't particularly smart then, and I'm not particularly smart now. Just bear that in mind as we strap on our goggles and follow David Brooks through yet another speleological crawl through the difference between his fantasy life and...other parts of his fantasy life.
"Modern conservatism began as a movement of dissident intellectuals. Richard Weaver wrote a book called, “Ideas Have Consequences.” Russell Kirk placed Edmund Burke in an American context. William F. Buckley famously said he’d rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard. But he didn’t believe those were the only two options. His entire life was a celebration of urbane values, sophistication and the rigorous and constant application of intellect.

Yes, in pursuit of, if not as a smokescreen for, the class and religious prejudices he'd had since age eight. Look, let's just face it: as a "movement" of "dissident intellectuals" we may charitably say this one went three-and-out. Buckley became famous for an undergraduate screed which blamed his 20th century professors for their insufficient dedication to to Bronze Age superstitions which had been thoroughly debunked, if anyone really cared, in the 19th. He then went on to write eight hundred more. Quote one from memory, please. He used his family's money to become a celebrated salonnière for out-of-work fascists, and he used High Church Latin cognates to become a low comedian. His meditations on race, e.g., have not exactly aged well, and the inheritors of that intellectual yellow rag of his are not exactly the sort of people I'd want defending my intellectual heritage.  I suppose opinions vary.  The other two are middling academics and fellow proponents of a sort of cultural-academic soixante-neuf enforcement of certain selective recollections of 3rd century A.D. Paulists, with light editing.  Would they even be remembered today if they weren't fetish objects for the American Right?
"Driven by a need to engage elite opinion, conservatives tried to build an intellectual counterestablishment with think tanks and magazines. They disdained the ideas of the liberal professoriate, but they did not disdain the idea of a cultivated mind.

Except when it came to voting.
"Ronald Reagan was no intellectual, but he had an earnest faith in ideas and he spent decades working through them. He was rooted in the Midwest, but he also loved Hollywood. And for a time, it seemed the Republican Party would be a broad coalition — small-town values with coastal reach.

Whoa. Y'see, Dave, this is the point in these things, every time, every last motherfucking time, where Mark Farner rips off his shirt and starts playing one of those four-note riffs that's supposed to pass for a guitar solo. You're forty-seven years old. You start in with a tenuous premise at best--that the Name Check Gang of "Conservative" "Intellectualism" produced works which, as a singular achievement in the history of Western Thought, managed to both preclude all disagreement and be roundly ignored by the great majority of academics, with the exception of those actively employed in discovering newer and better reasons why Exxon Mobil, its subsidiaries, and its top executives, should not pay taxes--and, inevitably, you have to tack your old dorm-room Ronald Reagan poster onto its shaky edifice. Give it th' fuck up. I doubt you had one, but even if you did your Foghat teeshirt no longer fits. Give it th' fuck up. Reagan was an affable-appearing dope, and a hired pitchman for the racist crypto-fascist Western lands plutocrats, not the genteel racist crypto-fascists of the National Review. You got took. You made a sophomoric mistake and, like far too many others of your peer group, you were rewarded handsomely provided you refused to grow up. Grow up. This crap is in tatters. Academic parlor revenge-taking on the New Deal turned out, remarkably, not to have ushered in the Second Coming of Edmund Burke, but the Second Helping of Boss Tweed. It frankly strains credulity to accept that you didn't realize this all the time; let's not make it worse by trying to convince us you can't see it even today.
"What had been a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole. The liberals had coastal condescension, so the conservatives developed their own anti-elitism, with mirror-image categories and mirror-image resentments, but with the same corrosive effect.

First of all, Brooks, you weren't shy about spewing this stuff yourself when you thought there was some profit in it. You were pushing the Irrational Bush Hatred line along with the rest of the shills; you slimed Gore and Kerry in their turns, not for their ideas but for their fashion mistakes; now we're supposed to believe you look on your party's anti-intellectual slide with a mixture of rue and befuddlement?

Second, and again, Ronald Reagan was not anti-liberal intellectualism. He was an anti-intellectual, and not of the bright sort. Saying "Darwinism is just a theory" is not anti-liberal; it's just stupid. Yours is the party that celebrated Reagan's celebration of polluters--other than cows and trees--before it denied global climate change. The influence of Christian fundamentalism was greater during the Reagan era than it was in the twelve years after, leading up to George W. Bush. Let's just knock off the pretense that you've been frog-boiled on this one.
"This year could have changed things. The G.O.P. had three urbane presidential candidates. But the class-warfare clichés took control. Rudy Giuliani disdained cosmopolitans at the Republican convention. Mitt Romney gave a speech attacking “eastern elites.” (Mitt Romney!) John McCain picked Sarah Palin.

C'mon, really. Is this supposed to be remarkable in the party that embraced the Real Folks, brush-clearin' cowpoke from Phillips Academy? Did you actually follow the campaign, Dave? Romney changed his political persona to such an extent that we ought to have demanded DNA testing to prove he was the same Mitt Romney who'd been governor of Massachusetts. Giuliani fudged what he could, but his "librul" record in New Yawk was so well established in the "conservative" mind that his campaign figured they couldn't get away with denying everything. You might recall that campaign lasting almost to the moment the first votes were counted. The only thing odd about McCain choosing Palin is...Sarah Palin. It's certainly right in line with the "all my previous comments are up for sale" approach he's taken since 2004.
"Palin is smart, politically skilled, courageous and likable. Her convention and debate performances were impressive. But no American politician plays the class-warfare card as constantly as Palin. Nobody so relentlessly divides the world between the “normal Joe Sixpack American” and the coastal elite.

Because, for one, nobody else has so little to work with. You know what, Brooks? I take it all back. I think somebody bet you a week's pay you wouldn't write a column saying Palin was smart and her debate performance was impressive, and you took it. Which, really, sorta encapsulates the whole "conservative" experience, now that I think about it.