Wednesday, May 11

In All Seriousness

WE'RE all abuzz, locally, with the artificial excitement generated by the impending public display of Indiana First Lady Cheri "The B. Traven of Hoosier Political Wives" Daniels, who will be speaking at tomorrow night's state Republican Spring Pig-Out. This, of course, signals something-or-other about the Not-Candidacy of her first and third husbands, Mitch Daniels, apparently, at least to people who give a shit.

[Leave us note, here, that we'd be happy to leave Cheri-with-an-i Daniels alone. We're thrilled to death by reticent political spouses, except it's always the unsuccessful ones we find out about. God knows the country would be better off today if Laura, not Barbara Bush ran the George W. Bush household. If Cheri wants to stay home and collect interesting bottles, we're all for her. Unfortunately, neither this, not that bulging envelope of terrorist talcum that materialized at their house in 2001 kept Her Man Mitch from wrecking the national economy, nor from returning to Indiana to test his theories on the role serfdom plays in building other people's character. It is difficult to tell, exactly, how much of Ms Daniels' disinclination to do much of anything political wives generally take part in--the Star article fluffing her upcoming speech was forced to list "Attending the State Fair" as one of her major accomplishments--I'm not exaggerating--is due to the fact that the standard Stepford model of the political wife, which employs her in reading to children, battling tumors, or beautifying things, is pretty much anathema to Mitch Daniels' "system", and how much due to her own proclivities. She was, after all, generally acknowledged around town as the driving force behind the Daniels' refusal to move into our dump of a Governor's Mansion, or that neighborhood, though this did not stop her from supervising the redecorating provided by eager donors. I'm happy to take a wait-and-see attitude here. Wait. You'll see.]

Thing is, we really have to wonder what th' fuck is wrong with people. It's evidently in Hoosier's DNA to go apey over anything which suggests someone outside the state could locate it on a map: before this the big political buzz was Evan Bayh on Short List for VP, and before that, Erik Estrada Comes to Muncie. Cheri Daniels De-cocoons should not be attracting the attention of national media, unless any of them erroneously reported her dead a few years back.

Take Chris Cillizza. Please. Could the Washington Post do something to improve his output? Like fire him? Or at least keep his annoying, teacher's-atttention-seeking, rat-chattering nerd persona out of videos for the sake of what's left of journalism's reputation? For chrissakes, on Sunday he uses Cheri's appearance as a lead-in to how a Daniels candidacy will "improve the seriousness" of the Republican Presidential field--he proves this by quoting two out-of-work Republicans--then Monday commits to video the incredibly lazy Beltway Insider "fact" that Daniels "has balanced the budget for four straight years without raising taxes", a decent-sounding record until someone points out that it depends on, at the very least, accepting idiosyncratic definitions of "balanced" "four" "without" "raising" and "taxes". And we probably should add "ignoring the Federal stimulus money which Daniels opposed but took anyway".

Look, let's say this again: after engineering the largest wrong-way U-turn in American budget history while at OMB, Mitch Daniels came to Indiana to run for Governor, determined to massage his deplorable track record by "solving" Indiana's budget "deficit". But Indiana didn't have a deficit.

Our forefathers were wise enough men that the Indiana General Assembly once met only every other year. In 1970 the legislature authorized itself to meet annually; disco, mullets, and the second term of Richard M. Nixon soon followed. Since even incompetent politicians are, yet, well, politicians our assembled citizen legislators decided to pass a state budget only in odd-numbered, i.e. non-election years.

So when Mitch Daniels took office in 2005 the governing documents of the current state budget were in the twilight of a two-year run. Team Daniels immediately announced that the state was $200 M in the red; this number, like many another Hoosier, would see its waistline balloon, to as much as $800 M, before generally settling at a nice round half-billion.

To the extent that any of this was true, then, what it represented was the difference between funding decisions and revenue assumptions dating to 2003, when the citizen legislators and their pig-farming and mall franchisee constituencies were not yet anticipating the full disaster of Daniels' OMB stint, and the hindsight-applied reality. There had always been a gentleman's agreement that such shortfalls were addressed in the next budget session. It's not as if Indiana is renowned for its profligate spending. People do not move here from Massachusetts because they find Romneycare insufficient. But Team Daniels saw an excellent opportunity for demagoguery.

And--please remain seated and extinguish all smoking materials!--the "balanced" budgets of the last couple years have required ignoring the billions the state owed the Feds. But I guess ignoring all this is a small price to pay if we get a "serious" Republican presidential primary out of the deal.

I'm not sure which is more egregious--Daniels' reputation as a budget hawk, or Newt Gingrich's reputation as a scholar. Matt Bai, your Kool-aid's ready:
The thing you have to understand about Newt is that he is, by training and temperament, an avid historian, and he is as true a believer as you will ever find in the concept of destiny.

Yeah, he's the foremost proponent of the Weems-Bennett School. Interesting how a True Believer in Destiny would have as his entire oeuvre history according to shit he made up. It's like Marx having a sideline in salesmanship seminars.
One of Newt’s heroes, the French general and statesman Charles de Gaulle, embodies just this kind of romantic narrative, having spent 12 years out of power before returning to lead his country. So does Ronald Reagan, who traveled the country after losing his bid for the Republican nomination in 1976, then came roaring back to win it all four years later.

Okay, I want to make this clear: stenography is a fine calling. But 1) in 2011 no one who can be described as informed, knowledgable, or competent in English can possibly believe anything Newt Gingrich says without checking. Anything. 2) Some of this doesn't even require that much. Reagan lost in '76, but returned to prevail in 1980? Funny, but I seem to've noticed, oh, everywhere people mentioning how the last runner-up, or Deserving Guy, gets the Republican nomination the next time. After Reagan it's Bush, then Dole, then it skips Pat Buchanan, for some reason, anoints Bush the Dumber, then McCain, then Romney? You literally cannot open the internets without seeing someone mention this. And hell, Nixon's a much bigger comeback kid than Ronald "My Friends Set Me Up For Life So I Could Run As The Eternal Crackpot" Reagan. Nixon lost the Presidency and then the Governorship of California. Why didn't Newt choose him? How do you single out Reagan in that crowd?

But, de Gaulle? I'm not an historian, but unless I miss my guess France is a parliamentary democracy with an elected President, or Pampador. De Gaulle made his bones by being a pain in the ass, no small accomplishment in France at the time. He was a young Colonel and a tanker. He was hep to what that Guderian cat was layin' down in that Bavaria. He actually won a battle, which put him in the 99% percentile of French officers right there. He was a sort of British agent. His opposition to (inevitable) surrender caused the ad-hoc government to fall, then he refused to support Le Vieux Pétain, picked up his goat and skedaddled to Britain, where he was a sort of Churchill, and don't get me started, via the wireless back to the people who were actually Occupied, if you catch my drift. My memory's a little fuzzy as to how he became a General. But, like the Americans, the French passed out political office to their war heroes, and de Gaulle was the closest they had. Then he lost an election, and a few years later he won one. I've never heard anybody in the non-French speaking world treat this like a template of stick-to-itiveness. His political career was rather self-obviously Gallic, perhaps to make up for most of his war record being rather self-obviously spent in Britain, plotting to regain France's colonial possessions after someone else won them back. He is the architect of the wildly successful post-war French policy in Indochina.

And whatever else you wanna say about De Gaulle--and there's is plenty else to say about De Gaulle--he was at one point the elected leader of France, lost office, and then regained it. The only national election Newt Gingrich ever won--or is ever going to win--involved counting straws.


Jack Crow said...

Brilliant. Literally brilliant.

R. Porrofatto said...

Mr. Gingrich considers his own following on Twitter and Facebook to be an emergent movement, too — although it’s not clear exactly what strand of Republicanism he represents.

It helps to hear this in the voice of John Cleese. Also, strain of Republicanism instead of strand is more apropos, as in a form of virus, like the plague.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Take Chris Cillizza. Please. Could the Washington Post do something to improve his output? Like fire him? Or at least keep his annoying, teacher's-atttention-seeking, rat-chattering nerd persona out of videos for the sake of what's left of journalism's reputation?

He's their Politico. The Graham family cannot survive by scamming the government alone, Mr. D. Riley.

P.S. Yeah, they probably could. But everyone knows they're only being extra greedy for the good of the rest of us.

Raslebol said...

DeGaulle was OK. He was a great man with a great large nose about which every Frenchman can be proud, and he wrote French and spoke it in a way that your or I could understand after three years studying it in high school, when we couldn't read a French menu or a French newspaper. Read DeGaulle's memoirs if you ever want to learn that language, or listen to his speeches if you ever want to understand it spoken.

What Newt is on about is that DeGaulle was France for a while, when nobody else had the balls to be, the way Newt imagines himself to be America. And DeGaulle sulked for years waiting for the French to to wake up and admit that they needed him, the same way that Newt would have sulked and waited for America to wake up and admit they needed Newt, if there hadn't been a nickel to be made on the side.

Charles DeGaulle was one of the big boys. When France finally gave up and called him he gave Algeria back to the Algerians, fired the fascist military and put them on trial, and built a country around himself out of nothing but a bunch of Frogs and 472 varieties of cheese. He quit NATO and kicked the Americans out in 1966, and midgets all over the western world have been bitching about it ever since. Newt couldn't carry DeGaulle's dick in a wheelbarrow.

Besides which, has anyone else ever noticed that Newt Gingrich looks like a fetus? Very strange-looking man, that Newt.

Weird Dave said...

"Attending the State Fair"

Oh, please. It was a milking contest.

77south said...

I am surprised that of all the frenchmen Newt could have chosen to publicly admire, he didn't choose Napoleon. I suspect the only reason this wasn't the case was the heroic intervention of a company or two of spin doctors and publicists, who argued that the 'delusions of grandeur' and 'bald faced empire building greed' while perfectly suited to his base, might not be enough to grab the swing voters.