Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Republican 2012 Presidential campaign takes shape, national press corps continues to deteriorate

The political pundits are happy now that the 2012 Presidential race in recognizably underway. Now they can start obsessing constantly over every real and imagined verbal slip and speculating over every pointless poll on the race. Sex stories and horse-race speculation on political campaigns is what our Pod Pundits live for. And, if they had to choose, they would give up the horserace stories and just stay with sex stories new and old.

Monday night, Republican Presidential candidates Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, and Rick "don't look at my dog that way" Santorum debated in New Hampsire, competing with each other to be the best advocate for austerity economics (for most people), huge tax cuts for the wealthy, and opponents of access to health insurance for the non-wealthy. Beth Reinhard gives a good Beltway Village standard horserace summary in the lede to her story, Romney and Bachmann Lap the Field National Journal 06/14/2011:

Mitt Romney easily survived his first debate of the 2012 primary with barely a nick to his early front-runner status.

Tarred as a flip-flopping phony during his 2008 White House bid, Romney looked at ease during the two-hour live forum, and none of his lesser-known rivals made him squirm. Eager to make pleasing first impressions on a national audience, they all passed when handed opportunities to attack Romney.
She continues, "reporting" that Romney posted a picture on Twitter just before the debate in which he appeared "in an open-collared shirt and tie" and that the image "rang true." True to what, one can only guess, since in her third paragraph she has yet to mention a policy issue the seven candidates may have discussed. During the debate, "Romney came off as relaxed and self-assured." Lovely. We don't yet know in her piece if the relaxation and self-assurance was exercised in the advocacy of legalized goat sacrifices or whatever. But his Twitter image "rang true"!

No, democracy can't survive with a press corps this dysfunctional. The National Journal is considered an important Washington insider sort of publication.


Finally, in paragraph four, we hear vaguely about some issues that were somehow discussed:

Romney was pointed in his criticism of President Obama and gracious to his rivals, saying any of them would make a better chief executive than the current occupant of the White House. He stood by his withering criticism of the federal bailout of the Michigan-based auto industry in the state where he was born and where his father was governor. He easily found opportunities to talk about his experience in the private sector and to lash out at the GOP’s favorite whipping post, the federal deficit.
Despite her dubious status among the savants of the Village, Bachmann was judged to have come in second in last night's horse-race. Reinhard reports Bachmann's contribution this way:

Neither should Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman whose bid faces deep skepticism from the political establishment.

What the only woman on stage lacked in height she made up for with enthusiasm, declaring in front of her rivals that she had filed the official paperwork as a presidential candidate on Monday. She seized openings and one-upped her more slow-footed and less self-assured rivals. While they all want to repeal Obama's health care plan, Bachmann declared, "I will not rest until I repeal 'Obamacare.' "
Also, Bachmann performance was "sparkly."

Reinhard's reporting is unremarkable except as an example of Village laziness and superficiality. An issue is mentioned here and there among the horse-race reporting and theater criticism. But the closest thing to anything specific on what they are saying they would do as President, the closest she comes is saying they would all repeal "Obamacare," a term she doesn't explain further.

Cain showed his "oratorical skills"; Santorum "decided to toot his own horn rather than rail against Romney’s inconsistencies"; Gingrich " undermined his own effort to come across as a fresh candidate brimming with new ideas" - because he referred to having been active during the Reagan Administration, which by some arcane Village logic means he can't be "fresh" and "brimming with new ideas"; Pawlenty "has grown more confident" but is "still honing his debate chops," which presumably means oratorical talent and not karate chops aimed at his rivals. And, in Village reporting at its finest most typical:

Perhaps his best line of the night was one he's used frequently before in candidate forums. Asked about the "separation of church and state," he said the U.S. Constitution was "designed to protect people of faith from government, not government from people of faith."
Because, in the Village imagination, the Real Americans don't understand any of that church-and-state stuff the boring lawyers talk about.

The best moment for Cain, the only candidate who has never served in public office, was when he gleefully proclaimed at the start of the debate, "I am not a politician."
Because, gosh, that's an original line. (NOT)

As I've written here repeatedly, including just yesterday, I don't have much use for a hardline rightwinger like Ron "Papa Doc" Paul, even if he manages to get out a sentence now and then that sounds sensibly critical of our current wars. But don't expect the Villagers to notice that he's a hardline rightwinger. No, to them he's odd because he's not a serious horse-race contender and because he uses strange and funny words like "monetary policy." Seriously. Reinhard seems to think that's about like some obscure technical term from organic chemistry or something:

Ron Paul, the Texas congressman who has run for president before, did little to shake his image as a fringe candidate by talking too fast and dropping obscure subjects like "Keynesian bubble" and "monetary policy" into the conversation.
It's a sad reflection of how badly broken both our political culture and our "quality" national press is, that discussion of "Keynesian" actions and "monetary policy" four years into the most serious prolonged economic slump since the great depression are considered "obscure subjects."

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