Thursday, February 14

The Autotune Party

John Dickerson, "What Mitt Romney Can Teach Marco Rubio". February 13

OH, first: Shorter Maggie Haberman: "Republican consultants generally agree that Mark Rubio's Phony Salesman in the Headlights routine won't be remembered for all eternity."

Maybe it's just the ever-sunny optimist in me, but I have a vague and happy thoughtbubble, the size of a child's balloon, that the Middle Way "movement" in this country, the whole anti-partisanship, undecided voter mindset, is turning away, not from the Republican party, which even it has had to recognize for some time now as the source of the problems it was complaining about, but from the Beltway insider view of the problem. Which, if I may summarize, is that there aren't enough John McCains in the Congress.

Maybe it is just me, but when I do watch the Sundays, instead of letting Piece do the heavy lifting for me, or when (as he did) I happen to run into Morning Joe politischmoozing Cokie Fucking Roberts and Michael Fucking Steele, I feel less inclined to nickname all the guests Fuckwad than I do to marvel at the slow-motion disintegration going on. Like you, I have no idea why it's taken so long. I just, somehow, have the sense that the put-upon Middle of the country, that portion of it which isn't certifiable, has begun to recognize the con. And that even the courtly Press has begun to recognize that as a problem.

Okay, while I'm thinking about it: last time I jumped off from a John Dickerson piece he somehow got the notion that I write preambles, rather than ambles, and mistook my utter lack of any sort of compass, magnetic, personal, or moral, for a personal disagreement. He was very nice about it, and I suggested, in response, that a grown man should know better than to scratch every mosquito bite until it bleeds. My manners, I know; I'm stuck with 'em at this point. Leave us save everyone's time but yours, Reader, and note that the above isn't a comment about John Dickerson's column, or John Dickerson generally, or as a concept. It's about David Fucking Gregory.

Meanwhile, our point is that there's no rehabilitating Marco Rubio, not outside the Beltway. Not because he can't control his thirst, not because he thinks autobiography is a fiction genre, but because he's an obvious carnival talker *.
What's worse for your political ambitions, being labeled a wimp by Newsweek or a savior by Time? Marco Rubio, the freshman senator from Florida, has been stuck with the savior label and it has several disadvantages.

None of which matter, because, really, Time. It's like wondering what his political future is now that he's lost the endorsement of Crocheting Monthly.
After Rubio delivered the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address, commentators said he had simply mouthed standard GOP talking points.

Probably because that's what he did.
As Jonathan Martin pointed out, Rubio's speech—thick with references to his humble origins and common touch—was designed to send the signal that he was the polar opposite of Mitt Romney.

Hard to believe someone at Politico caught wind of that.
The story of Rubio, his ambitions, and how they play out is about more than just the fortunes of one charismatic Republican.

It's also his first foray into magic realism.
Rubio is one of the architects of the Republican future. Like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Rep. Paul Ryan, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie,

Really? Because, apart from Governor Christie's rather remarkable architectural feat of shape-shifting something that size when his own constituency suddenly needed a strong central government--okay, maybe that's more like "hydraulic engineering"--I'd as soon hire the firm of Moe, Larry, and Curly. Hell, Moe, Larry, and Curly Joe DeRita.
Every day Rubio is taking soundings about what the GOP will allow and what the larger electorate will allow. The risks he takes and the reactions they provoke from his fellow-travelers will tell us something about where the party is headed.

So will a functioning sense of smell.

Look, don't get me wrong; I've lived through the political popularity of Ronald Reagan and Mitch Daniels, and at least three resurrections of Richard Nixon. I know anything's possible. I also know that Marco Rubio can take all the soundings he wants, train his crew 18 hours a day, and buy the best admiral's hat he can find, and his boat will still be on the rocks, and the scuppers overflow'd, and the only functioning lifeboat will already contain the Koch brothers, Rush Limbaugh, and two or three anti-abortion activists waving Bushmasters. I look forward to his finessing that for the next three years.
Still, the criticism of Rubio’s State of the Union response asks too much too soon. The GOP is not ready to announce a sweeping new direction, (it may never be ready) and Rubio isn't in a position to launch a thorough rebranding right now anyway. Even if he was, 10 minutes after the State of the Union would be the wrong time to do it. Still, if Rubio is going to add new energy to the GOP, he'll have to find a venue where he can make a much more compelling case for the party's signature principle: the promise and glory of smaller government.

First, right, it "may" never be ready. On the plus side, it is perfectly placed in case the 19th century returns.

Second, can't we just say it? The Republican party is frickin' insane, to the point that Insanity is the party's signature principle. The current Republican message isn't "smaller government" (and perhaps the party would be better off if they'd been called on that little fiction thirty years ago); it's "feces-hurling psychosis". The proper venue for that message is "Post-war apocalyptic hellscape." Marco Rubio's not ready for his closeup, but his party ain't ready for even small adjustments, and small adjustments ain't gonna get the job done.
Whoever the transformational figure is, he or she is going to have to build a bridge between the old and the new. That requires at least two tasks: challenging orthodoxy and giving special voice to it. If you can sing the song of American exceptionalism and free enterprise in a way that pleases your party base, then you can push the envelope on immigration without fear of being called a RINO or consorting with Karl Rove.

Really, if the threat of being seen consorting with Karl Rove has to be avoided at all costs, winning elections is the least of the GOP's problems. And if "getting right on immigration" is the key to winning national elections then let's all just give up.
The party was going up against Obama. The script was pre-written. Plus, Rubio is already clashing with conservatives over his immigration reform plans. To the extent he has other provocative ideas (and he may not), it doesn't make sense to create more tumult while you're trying to make rocky progress on immigration.

It's interesting how this is imagined to be the Republicans' "problem" with Hispanic voters. Figure out a way to seem only half as bigoted and hateful, sprinkle on a little eau de bootstrap, and hello White House.
Rubio's case wasn't that nearly savior-worthy. It affirmed the bounties of the free market, but he spent most of the time explaining why Obama's big government was bad. An amazing story about the wonders that would flow from smaller government would be more appealing and persuasive. Bromides about unleashing sectors and removing regulations are tired and threadbare.

Yeah, except there aren't any. The wonders of small government, "right to work", and indifferent regulatory environments are on display throughout the south. Republican programs and prescriptions aren't untried; they're failures. This country has been vacillating between Reaganomics and Reaganomics Lite for thirty-five years now; if they're so magical why are we still having this conversation? If the great swath of red-meat Republicans are going to be motivated by Neo-Whiggism why isn't Romney President?

C'mon, Marco Rubio doesn't lead his party. I doubt anyone does, and I sincerely question if anyone can as presently constituted. Marco Rubio is somebody's idea of what a Republican Presidential candidate should look like in 2016. Nothing more. God knows weaker candidates have managed to get nominated, and win. But if Rubio has to cross a minefield just to get the Republican rank-and-file to go along with the idea that undocumented persons are yet persons then it's reasonable to ask what, besides money, could possibly motivate him. And what, besides someone's idea of "electability", possibly recommends him? Sure, sure, there are a hundred reasons why he gave a lackluster performance the other night auditioning for the role of the Great Off-White Hope. ** Most of them involve the fact that his message lacks luster. Or honesty. Or coherence. Best wishes constructing one that does in the next two years, and not being hounded off the stage in the first Republican debate. (If any.)

Meanwhile, y'know, yes. It's petty, and juvenile, and beneath our dignity to note that Boy Wonder, v. 3.0, fell as flat Tuesday night as did Paul Ryan and Bobby Jindal before him. Because it's no sin to be thirsty. Just to read from a teleprompter.


* "Barker" is not the correct term. Not among carnival folk. Believe me, I married one.

**Swiped, shamelessly, from Big Hank53.


Calming Influence said...

When Mrs. Influence was an undergraduate she worked as a teacher's aid in a 3rd grade classroom. There was one boy in the class, who I'll call "Bobby" to protect the innocent (because if "Bobby" grew up to be the person we all figured he'd grow up to be, they may need some protectin'). Bobby was kind of a typical school ground bully, leaving a path of pain and suffering in his wake every recess, and yet wiley enough to rarely be caught in the act of perpetrating his numerous and varied crimes. Anyway, one day Bobby got careless. My wife and the teacher were talking near a small group of kids when Bobby ran up and, completely unprovoked, punched one of the kids pretty hard right in the back of the head. After a moment of shock, the tearful victim turned and wailed at the teacher: "Bobby just hit me in the HEAD!!!" And without a moment's hesitation, Bobby fell back on the defense that that had worked for him in the past: "I did NOT!!! He's a BIG FAT LIAR!!!" The remarkable thing, my wife said afterwards, was that Bobby was really pretty angry that they wouldn't believe him, even after they pointed out that they had been standing right there and had witnessed the whole thing.

For some reason that story often pops into my head when reading about the latest efforts of the Republican party to redefine itself.

BigHank53 said...

You're quite welcome, Mr. Riley. Besides, I wouldn't want you waste any shame on my account.

Fred Fnord said...

You should really cut Rubio a little slack. After all, he had some competition for attention last night, and was therefore trying to stake out a position midway between a mainstream Republican on one side and Lunatic McGoldStandard on the other. (Okay, okay, a mainstream Republican circa 1970s).

Or, to put it another way, he is trying to articulate positions which are measureay to the right of those of President Obama, and yet still sound sane to an electorate that is slowly stirring into wakefulness and realizing that that beeping sound is a smoke alarm and hey where are my pants. And there is not a lot of daylight between Obama's position and the rightward edge of sanity, where there is any at all, and any pilot, even the best, would be daunted by the task of flying a paper airplane, much less an elephant, through such a keyhole as that.

"Vive la différence." And while I'm at it, "plus ça change."

R. Porrofatto said...

The GOP wants desperately to keep fucking the country but it's already gone way beyond electile dysfunction to full-blown impotence, do they're just flapping in the breeze now. Karl Rove -- played by Ed Begley, Sr. in my head -- will keep trying to inject monkey glands into the conservative body politic but even el niño del día Rubio barely evokes a quiver from the old flacidos. So we get filibusters, blockage, and sequestration as fucking policy, because that's all they can get up on a national level. On the bright side, the microorganisms growing in statehouse petri dishes are infecting local governments with a dose of something itchy, so maybe it will become a plague by 2016.
/awful metaphor

Fiddlin Bill said...

Aside from the goofy water thing (perfectly spotlighted by Colbert), it struck me that Rubio was saying his catechism to the GOP powers that be, that is, selling himself to the Party, and nothing at all more.

Anonymous said...

Rubio whining about "big government" is hilarious, given that the only jobs he's had since he got his JD in '99 have all been in politics.

On the other hand, maybe that's a good argument: "gubmint is bad, because it employs empty suits like me!" ;)

Kathy said...

Long Ago in the Olden Days, people began to wise up to the sickening corruption and greed of the catholic church... and abandoning said church.

In response, the catholic church straightened up their act, got rid of the corruption, the sexual vice and political shenanigans... Oh, wait! No they didn't.

They started the Inquisition! They burned witches!

So that's probably what we have coming from the repug party.

Cliff said...

he'll have to find a venue where he can make a much more compelling case for... the promise and glory of smaller government.

Even back in my Swampland reading days, I knew reading Dickerson was a complete waste of time. He's one of the reasons I stopped reading Slate altogether.

I mean Jesus Fucking Christ. First off, did he miss the GOP primaries, which featured Perry and Paul arguing over who would destroy the most government agencies?

Second off, you can do whatever dance you like but "Let the orphans starve and while you're at it fuck all the Mexicans" is not a winning platform.

I can kind of understand why the Republicans won't let themselves see it. But how many fumes does Dickerson have to be sucking out of David Brooks' ass to render himself blind?

prairie curmudgeon said...

When Rubio has to state the GOP is not the party of the rich, they are the party of the rich. If they are up on symbolism, their only hope, for our interests, to reach first base is to kick the Koch Brothers squarely in the nuts and make Scalia eat Citizens United via ass entry. But why, when they can keep "winning" by having the government rain out the game before the first pitch? While explaining gubment does not control the weather. Rubio's address was merely the head feint of the winners posing as the whining losers while they fuck us all over a barrel.

Anonymous said...

Added to my Riley collection of one-liners: "On the plus side, it is perfectly placed in case the 19th century returns."

Rubio isn't the face of the Republican Party. Lindsay Graham is.
If not him, then his jowly has-been of a BFF.

Some choice.