Tuesday, February 23

When You Can't Tell One End Of A Shovel From The Other, Digging Yourself Out Is Problematic At Best

ITEM: Indiana Governor Mitch "I'm Small On The Inside, Too" Daniels travels to Washington, D.C. to put the Ass in National Governors' Association, picks up an award ("Best Miniaturization, Scale Model, or Simulacrum") like, I'm guessing, every other governor in attendance, and tells Dan Balz, who writes for some local rag which has appropriated the name of the Washington Post in its absence that he's "leaving the door open" for a 2012 run, but just because so many people asked him to do so, or crack a window, for godssake, not because he really wants to.

This, of course, set off the usual festival of slack-jawed repetition which for some reason still goes by the name of "news", and I'd already braced for it when the locals came on. And sure enough, it was the top story, and surer enough, it was treated as though the fact that five people were talking about it made it louder, which made it more emphatic, thus truthier, even though by this time Daniels had issued a coy little clarification, as though he'd just been minding his own business when Dan Balz stopped by and asked him an innocent question.

But the interesting thing was, Channel 8 tosses it, as they do all "important" political "news", to Jim Shella. I always try to get the political sound and fury from Shella, not because he's The Dean of Statehouse Reporters, but because he's the most incompetent liar. And I'm expecting a rerun of last week's Festival of Appreciation for Evan Bayh, Courageous Political Maverick, because, after all, this is Indiana, where, if you're famous enough to get your name in an out-of-state paper, or appear on th' teevee, you've got a sinecure for life; Claude Akins packed 'em in at mall openings, that guy Rupert from Survival (yes, I know) is just a Libertarian Party endorsement away from being the next mayor of Indianapolis, and whenever Axl Rose or David Lee Roth is ready there's six figures waiting for a weekend entertainment reporter, sobriety and pants optional.

Instead, Shella runs clips of Daniels repeatedly insisting he wouldn't be a candidate for, won't be a candidate for, and has no interest in being a candidate for President, and a particularly humor-packed one from his last gubernatorial race (with prop RV in the background; think he's ridden in one since?) where he announces that this will positively be his last campaign, like, forever, promise, promise, hope t'die, because the only thing he's interested in is completing the fabulous makeover he's given the Hoosier State, before he returns, like Cincinnatus, to the plowin'.

And I can't really believe my eyes; I'm wondering if last week's check from the GOP bounced or sumthin. Then they come back for the lite banter and portentous exit comment segment, and Shella says something like--I was a bit in shock, so I didn't catch it exactly--"a lot of us really believed him when he made those promises."

And I swear to God there was a little catch in his voice. My choice here was to bust out laughing or fall down and bang my head, and I chose A. Y'know, there're probably people in this state whose distaste for Daniels exceeds mine, but I'm guessing all of them have either been directly screwed by one or more of his actions (individually, not the class-action screwing we've all enjoyed), or know him personally. But fer chrissakes, holding the man to his word? What th' hell's wrong with you? How thoroughly has this frankly incredible belief in his honesty colored the coverage he's received, which involved, oh, the total fabrication of his record? I don't believe a word that's ever come out of his tiny mouth, yet I think these things are totally expected, and should be accorded the same free pass we give Diet Coke and Christianity and everyone else who fills our every conscious moment with shit not even the person saying it believes, and I'm not Dean of anything. Daniels has been running for President since, I'm guessing, the moment he realized he couldn't run for Napoleon, certainly since he realized, at the end of his first Legislative session, how little effort is required to gull people, and doubly so since Sarah Palin stole his thunder (and risks, in the "fiscal" "conservative" view, unleashing hordes of insufficiently-deodorized day laborers on the political process, where they might eventually put down their flags and guns long enough to realize who's really been fuckin' 'em over).

And now, perhaps even more amazing--or breathtakingly dishonest--than a political reporter claiming he believed Mitch Daniels'--or any politician's, for that matter--renouncement of political ambition, is an Indiana political insider pretending it hasn't occurred to him what running a national campaign while accompanied by Cheri "Paco, If You Don't Put Some Goddam Tequila In The Next One You're Gonna Be Back Out Trimming Bushes" Daniels gazing lovingly up down at you would entail. Hell, yes, Daniels is running for President. Hell yes, he'd rather be a kingmaker. Because he knows that's the best he'll be able to do. Daniels is running for Chief of Staff. (Maybe Veep, but Imperial Gatekeeper is much more his style than even a Cheneyesque #2.) Running for President might be the best way to lay a claim; certainly it would be the best way to increase his slush fund before he was "forced" to "live on" a government check for another four years.

ITEM: Jesus, the Balz piece does it again:
Early in his tenure as governor, Daniels angered conservatives when he proposed raising taxes to help balance the state budget. Since then, however, he has become a favorite of fiscal hawks for the way he has run his state. Though conservative on social issues, Daniels has not made them a focal point of his political agenda.

Sigh. The goddam "one year surtax" again. Either we are going to accept every instance of revenue-enhancin' weasel words as genuine, or we oppose them in every instance, Dan. Daniels did not ever propose to raise taxes. He proposed a surtax to reduce the state's deficit, or "deficit", and this act of political courage lasted exactly fourteen hours thirty-six minutes, when the screaming from his own party abated just enough for him to recant. Once the reverb had died down someone with some actual budgetary expertise explained to him that the "deficit" he'd campaigned on was a matter of paper, and that by shifting accounts around and laying off the remainder on local governments he could claim to've averted a budget Crisis without really doing anything.

People keep bringing this up, but none of them ever looks at how that money could be so vital to balancing the budget one minute, and then gone, forgotten, and unneeded the next. It's also noteworthy that despite five years of his leadership resulting in an exponentially worse budgetary crisis, that political courage hasn't returned. We're now slicing schools to the marrow instead.

As for him supposed being "socially conservative but not insistent about it", well, bosh. Daniels is a Straussian elitist. He's contemptuous of the religious nuts he shares a party with, but he finds their devotion to order, duty, and slave wages useful. It's true he's helped keep the religious crackpots in the Legislature in check, but that's not quite the accomplishment you Beltway types imagine; Indiana's been fairly reticent about passing the sort of valid-until-the-first-court-challenge social legislation Kansas spends its time on. And just into Mitch's first term the real religious nuts mounted challenges to sitting Republican legislators in safe Republican districts, and won a few. So it's five parts political calculation, three parts contempt, and two parts watchin' your own ass.

No national political writer can really imagine that Daniels is going to waltz through the "social" "conservatives" of his party nationally, not if he also imagines that Mitch will really be running to win, not running as a hired gun to keep the financial bosses in the game. He'll make whatever concessions to his "beliefs" he finds prudent and necessary, Dan. Trust us.

ITEM: We continue to heart Charles Pierce, just in case you were wondering:
Does it make me a bad American to admit that I'm a little sick and tired at this point of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team and its win over a Soviet team that, as the years go by, looks more and more like a bunch of people who no longer were that enthusiastic about their jobs or the State that employed them?

All I know, Charlie, is that is doesn't make you alone.
[Sunday] in its infinite wisdom, the NBC mother network gave us another retrospective on the 1980 Lake Placid miracle in the middle of which Al Michaels--who, at this point, seems firmly to believe that he landed on Omaha Beach or something 30 years ago--said, "It seemed like we went from burning flags to waving them."…

The only people I remember burning American flags in 1980 were the Iranians, whom I am fairly sure Michaels did not have in mind. The country was somewhat dispirited and the inspired fakery of the Reagan Revolution was just a bit over the horizon, which I am fairly sure Michaels does have in mind. Dragooning that admittedly marvelous game into the service of reactionary politics has been subtext of every anniversary piece done on the 1980 team ever since.

I saw a piece of that interview, and snapped it off when Michaels said something about it "feeling like a victory in the Cold War"; I'm not sure how I lasted that long, unless I couldn't find the remote. And this was the third goddam misty-eyed retrospective I'd seen in eighteen hours. Enough, already. It's a game, it's history, and half the fucking import of the thing depends on this Cold War malarky, which, even if it were relevant to something other than the interior of the worst sort of jingoist skulls, and Al Michaels' subsequent career, would be a sword cutting in two directions.

I'm no hockey expert. I remember tuning in The Miracle sometime late in the 2nd, and the Commies looked to me like a beaten crew. It happens. If it hadn't, would we have Healthcare, and an Equal Rights Amendment, and all be singing the Internationale now? I thought the really remarkable thing was the US comeback win over Finland, but then, I'm not a real fan and I miss some of the intricacies, like how it serves as a surrogate battle over opposing economic systems. The Blue Line's represents the M1, right?

ITEM: I've mentioned on any number of occasions that the stupid gotcha! tricks of the Press are determined more by the requirements of the script than heartfelt political partisanship, which requires a heart, for starters: Jerry Ford Doesn't Know Poland Is Communist and George H.M.S. Bush Incompetently Vomits On Kiichi being two. So thanks for the reminder that "Al Haig tried to take over the government" belongs up there. Wasn't sure anybody who tried to fob that shit off was still alive.

ITEM: Okay, okay, so Ice Dancing doesn't even qualify as the broad side of the barn, but look: Musical Theatre sensibilities, Regional Musical Theatre gesticulations, and an utter tone-deafness to cultural sensitivities even after they're fucking pointed out to you--part and parcel of an utter tone-deafness to anything which occurred in the 20th century and wasn't absorbed by Regional Musical Theatre, apparently--is one thing, and the expected one at that. But you, no doubt after months of intense executive sessions, hit on Folk Dance as a "theme"--compare, for example, the theme of Alpine Skiing, which was "go faster than everyone else until you get to the bottom"--and you allow Cancan?

This stuff is a harbinger, folks, and it's not pretty. It's four times as incompetent as it was twenty years ago--not even I expect that--and look where that got us. The announcerpods at Monday's two-man bobsled kept reminding us it was "the fastest course in the world", apparently having forgotten about how it sped one guy to his Reward. Oh, well, maybe the Who will rescue the Closing Ceremonies.


D. Sidhe said...

Daniels has been running for President since, I'm guessing, the moment he realized he couldn't run for Napoleon

That's beautiful. Another one of those I'm going to steal and feel guilty about stealing.

Kathy said...

"...announcerpods at Monday's two-man bobsled ... reminding us it was "the fastest course in the world", apparently having forgotten about how it sped one guy to his Reward"

Oh, no no no! I believe they were *reminding* viewers of the tragedy, and hinting it might happen again, LIVE! if the viewers are lucky.

Grace Nearing said...

Wow, pairs figure skaing and ice dancing seem to have become kama-sutra-on-ice, what with all the crotch-to-face moves and dangerous dry humping (dangerous because, well, those blades are sharp).

The shuffleboard-on-ice stuff is okay because Danish women and Chinese men yell funny.

Everything else seems to be more X-Games than Olympics, but with better lighting and less Mountain Dew.

PS: My governor, Chris Christie (NJ-300 pounds at least) could crush your governor like a bug.

drip said...

I would love to see that fat asshat try to catch Mitch Daniels in a steel cage death match. Like the luge course, Christie is a medical emergency waiting to happen.