Wednesday, September 5, 2012



Morning Jolt
. . . with Jim Geraghty

September 5, 2012
1. With 'Wrong Track' Numbers at a Historic High, Democrats Pledge, 'Forward, Not Back!'

What is with all the shouting? It is as if every speaker at the Democratic convention was told, right before taking the stage, "Yeah, the whole audio system just stopped working a minute ago. You're going to have to yell your entire speech so they can hear you in the nosebleed seats."

Cory Booker, Ted Strickland . . . by this rate, Obama will be introduced by Hulk Hogan.

Strickland: "Barack Obama is an economic patriot!" Jonah Goldberg, call your office.

Kal Penn, John Leguizamo, Tony Shalhoub . . . Boy, the Democrats can bring in the celebrities by the boatload. Not sure it does them that much good, however . . .

There's this sense that because of the lousy economy, the Obama campaign and Democrats in general have no choice but to run an extremely negative campaign where they spend all of their time wielding rhetorical flame-throwers at Romney and leaving scorched earth throughout the country. But first, there's always a choice. If they really had an idea of what went wrong in Obama's first years, if they really knew how to fix it, and they really had a good sense of how to get better results, they could always talk about that. But they don't, so that's never really seriously discussed.

No, you get the sense that this approach is deeply satisfying to their souls. One of the things that I marvel at is the notion that anybody could really hate Mitt Romney. He hasn't done all that much. (To some Republicans, that's the problem!) Oh, sure, you can oppose him, disagree with him, distrust him or be wary of him. But hate him? Really? Genuine, frothing-at-the-mouth, detesting him? Come on, he's Dudley Do-Right.

But the Democrats, from the elites to the grassroots, have managed to summon the appropriate rage and direct it as needed. From the opening remarks to James Clyburn to Ted Strickland to Deval Patrick to Martin O'Malley, all of the Democrats spoke as if the country was on the verge of a great, epoch-defining change, that if Mitt Romney -- Mitt Romney! -- were to take the oath of office, the American experiment would come to an end. I suppose if you've gotten quite comfortable with public-sector pay and pensions, the "free" benefits of Obamacare, the money tossed around by stimulus bills and earmarks, and if you have grown wealthy from an elaborate and complicated system of ensuring government remains friendly to your business, perhaps it does seem like the world is ending.

To give credit where it is due, Julian Castro did come up with one pretty good line: "Mitt Romney's a good guy. . . . He just has no idea how good he's had it." It does feel like there's now a paint-by-numbers formula for giving a speech that garners media raves: My parents/grandparents/great-uncle Iggy came from humble beginnings. They struggled to give me a better life. Here is my focus-group-tested anecdote of my childhood. From this humorous event, my elderly, or preferably deceased relative/mentor figure, who will be played by Morgan Freeman in the movie, told me this valuable lesson: Only in America can you find opportunities like this. Only in America can you find opportunities like the ones I, and millions of other Americans, enjoyed! These opportunities are endangered by the policies of our opponent. But they are strengthened by the policies of our nominee! And I will not give up upon this majestic dream of a better future that is America! I will not give up and neither will you! We will do this together! Si se puede! Thank you! God bless America!

Thank goodness the "eat better and exercise more" portion of Michelle Obama's video made it into televised prime time.

I actually thought Michelle Obama had a really good speech, probably as good a case as can be made for Obama under these circumstances. Of course, it barely touched on policy, and was full of personal anecdotes, like Obama's old car with a hole in the floor, and his coffee table retrieved from a dumpster, and how the president helps his daughters navigate the social circles of grade school. Barack Obama might be a completely nice guy (the tactics of his campaign, and his rhetorical evasiveness and thin-skinned temperament count as counter-evidence) but as a famous chair salesman said, "We don't have to be mental masochists," voting for somebody we don't really want just because they seem like nice guys.
2. The Party of Ted Kennedy, Now and Forever

Perhaps there's no better, or more symbolic choice, for the Democrats to honor on the first night of the convention than former Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

Here is what appears to be one of the defining differences between Republicans and Democrats: Republicans think the fact that Ted Kennedy killed a woman, or at the very least put her in circumstances that led to her drowning and took no action to save her or even report her death, is unforgivable and colors every action thereafter; Democrats feel like this is some obscure family tragedy where Kennedy is almost as much a victim as she is and everyone should just avert their eyes and hush up about it because it was a long time ago.

Guy Benson: "Dems: Romney killed a woman! (False). Dems: We love this guy who actually killed a woman! (True)."

Erick Erickson: "Democrats tonight: 'FORWARD!! IN REVERSE!! OFF THE BRIDGE!! Let's get William Kennedy Smith to do a live shot. Of liquor.'"

Andrea Chapman: "Apparently the right 'NOT to be raped' or the right 'NOT to drown' aren't protected by @TheDemocrats."

La Jolla Princess: "So the DNC really gets into gear lionizing the involuntary manslaughter hero of Massachusetts. That's just about right."

MitreBox: "The DNC cares about women, that can swim."

John McCormick: "Shouldn't Democrats have to choose between the 'war on women' theme and adoring a man who killed a woman?"

To quote a Dennis Miller classic, "Ted Kennedy is the distilled essence of the Democratic party. Operative word there being 'distilled.'"

And now, just a few molecules of sympathy for Kennedy; to be born into that family, and have such enormous expectations thrust upon you, surrounded by so much tragedy and so many enablers willing to indulge, forgive, and cover up your worst acts and impulses, seems like a formula for personal corruption. It's easy for us to exclaim in disgust, fury, and incredulousness at the perceived Kennedy attitude that the rules don't apply to them. We react that way because almost all of us spent our lives being told that the rules applied to us. Imagine being told, from your earliest memories, that the rules didn't apply to you and then seeing everyone -- family members, family friends, party officials, elected officials, members of the media -- all of them jump through hoops to reinforce the notion that you were special, that the rules didn't apply to you.

Now check out this paragraph from Michael Kelly's legendary profile of Ted Kennedy in GQ:

Biographers first note obvious public drunkenness in the terrible aftermath of Bobby's murder. In April 1969, flying back from a congressional trip to inspect the living conditions of poor Indians in Alaska, a hard-drinking Kennedy pelted aides and reporters with pillows, ranged up and down the aisles chanting "Es-ki-mo power" and rambled incoherently about Bobby's assassination, saying, "They're going to shoot my ass off the way they shot Bobby . . . "

You may loathe Ted Kennedy, but I'll bet you wouldn't have traded lives with him, either.
3. The Minaj Mirage

o, if you're not familiar with the rap/hip-hop star Nicki Minaj, how do I describe her? She is . . . extremely explicit and vulgar, extremely sexual in her image, yet never the same carefully constructed image twice and pretty original. She'll sing whole choruses in fake British accents. She's not a creature of New York or Hollywood as much as she's a creature of Mars. When Lady Gaga begins to look fairly staid and predictable, you can switch over to Minaj.
So, is there significance that in a new rap lyric, Minaj appears to sorta, kinda, profanely endorse Mitt Romney?

If Nicki Minaj thought she'd send the political world and the blogosphere into an incredulous swoon with her profane "endorsement" of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, well, she was right.

Bloggers and politicos have been swooning for hours today and they're still no closer to determining whether Minaj is really for Mitt, or whether it's just another ironic stunt by one of her performing alter egos.

All those four-letter words in her "endorsement" would suggest the latter. And the clean-cut, clean-mouthed Mitt Romney, who's more a "Golly!" guy than an expletive-deleted guy, is no doubt wondering who the heck Nicki Minaj is. . . .

The best response had to be from The Wall Street Journal's Lyneka Little.

"[I]n the same rap, Minaj also mentions hanging out with zombies, so it's hard to say exactly what it all means," she points out.

Ya think?

I dunno, have you hung around an Occupy rally lately?

Naturally, a zillion calls went out to Minaj and her publicists asking, in less polite terms, are you serious? So far, no response, and she did not enlighten via her Twitter account. But here's the number Romney and his campaign might want to know: She has 14.3 million followers. Presidential elections have been won by less. Way less.

I wondered whether this was worth more than a moment's thought, and thankfully EM Zanotti was here to sort it all out for me and better express those half-formed thoughts at the back of my head:

Is she serious? No, probably not. No more than she was serious about being taken with a cold during that MTV awards show appearance where she showed up wearing what appeared to be a bedroom full of stuffed animals pierced by carefully honed shards of glass.

What she is really trying to do, though, is what makes her "endorsement" meaningful. Nicki is trying to shock. As Talib Kweli so eruditely put it on his LiveJournal, "I doubt Nicki seriously supports Romney. Her lyrics ain't political. She just wants y'all to talk about her & she winning cuz it's working!"

Get that Republicans? It's finally become so obvious to Madonna's army of heritage outrage-transactors that the real way to get attention in the press today isn't to do a striptease dressed as a nun or dress in raw meat. The way to get people talking is to claim you're voting Republican. It's outrageous! It's different! It preys on the delicate sensibilities of the liberals prone to meltdown at the mere mention of Mitt Romney, causing them to lather up faster than a Parents Television Council president watching a Game of Thrones marathon on mute.

America, Obama supporters are the new Culture War lunatics. And Nicki Minaj is playing them like she would a Kid Robot action set.

Considering how people are still talking about Clint Eastwood, maybe this is the truth: The last thing that a celebrity can do to genuinely shock people is endorse a Republican.

Hey, finally Mitt Romney has locked up the support of the Super Bass of the party.

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