FISH WRAP: WEEK ENDING 11/18/12

by E.C. Fish on November 19, 2012

 “What happened? Why did we suck? How can we not suck in the future?”
— Henchman 24

ISSUE OF THE WEEK: IS THE AGE OF DOUCHEBAG ENDING?: As this column has long recognized, sometimes one can learn more about a society by watching the commercial breaks than by watching the news. Once upon a time, in the late 2000s, the Infiniti luxury auto company ran a commercial around the holidays that showed a man stopping by the side of the road to roll a snowball down a hill towards the valley below. The snowball, having grown to impossible-save-for-CGI proportions as the man drove into the valley, then smacked into some treetops and disintegrated into a rather lovely sunlit snowfall, to the delight of the villagers below. It was a charming if somewhat cheesy spot that I must have fast-forwarded past on the DVR hundreds of times.

I took little notice of it until the bleak winter of 2010, when the campaign was revised to better suit the then-dawning Age of the Douchebag. In this new iteration, our supposed protagonist starts his morning being pelted by snowballs thrown by the doucheling children of his douchebag neighbor (a BMW driver, though whether this is an indication of an actual social schism out there in McMansionland or mere corporate smack talk isn’t entirely clear) and now rolls the snowball down the hill to destroy his neighbor’s vehicle and steal his parking space. No namby-pamby collectivist frolic in the falling snow for this guy — for the Year of the Tea Party, to better fit in with such snarky and cynical contemporary ad icons as the E*Trade Baby Douchebag and the general celebration of the virtue of selfishness, what had been a sentimental holiday card of a promo was turned into a fetid little tale of a sad, petty, and destructive mano a mano between a couple of pathetic, over-privileged, suburban man-children. Let’s hear it for the guy who gets his by violent means — like a boss, dude.

This year, Infiniti is running both ads, with a slight preference to (at least on MSNBC) the holiday snowball one where everyone goes “Ahhhh!” Could the Age of the Douchebag be coming to an end?

LATE ELECTION WRAP-UPS: If  nothing else, we should, after this last election, take it as a truism that state-level secretaries of state and other election officials should only appear on the news when they’re announcing election returns or being frog-marched by US federal marshals. Ohio Sec. of State John Husted, Colorado Sec. of State Scott Gessler, Florida Sec. of State Ken Detzner, and especially Arizona Sec. of State Ken Bennett, among others, have been in the news for months — before the election by promoting and implementing specifically targeted voter-suppression efforts against minority voters, and after for doing a specifically targeted piss-poor job collecting and counting the votes of same — for behaviors that, in a better world than this, would warrant a good frog-march. Arizona is a particular mess, with well over 100,000 provisional and absentee ballots — many in Hispanic areas — yet to be counted, and results in both US House and US Senate races still in question as of late this week. This election has made the need for competent, impartial election administration abundantly clear. Whether we get it or not depends on how seriously we take the right to vote versus states’ rights to incompetence, partisanship, and cracker-ass racial redlining.

CONVENTIONAL STUPIDITY: The week at large seemed to be devoted to a national reconnaissance of what seems to be an altered post-election cultural terrain. Predictably, there was a certain amount of falling off cliffs and down sinkholes involved, most amusingly by nepotism benefactor, NBC News mascot, and would-be Jesus of Conventional Wisdom Luke Russert, who showed himself to be both a chip off the ol’ block and a complete embarrassment in a question to Nancy Pelosi at her announcement that she would once again be running for House minority leader. Asking whether Pelosi’s decision stifles younger members of her caucus, in a “some say . . .” question that is a shining example of that weaselly journalistic form, Russert managed to offend Pelosi, the assembled female members of her caucus, his fellow media representatives, and a large portion of his audience.

Some notes to Luke: Reporters should be very careful not to make the news themselves. “Ageism” means “discrimination based on age,” and your question was soaking in it. Maybe questions based on “-isms” aren’t really appropriate to an event wherein a groundbreaking female member of Congress announces that she wants to lead the most diverse House Democratic Caucus in history. Maybe you should have a nice long talk with your Uncle Chucky. Maybe he’ll buy you a hot dog.

KGO: A Keen Grasp of the Obvious Award goes to The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, who on Fox News Sunday last week said, “It won’t kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires . . . It really won’t, I don’t think. I don’t really understand why Republicans don’t take Obama’s offer . . . Really? The Republican Party is going to fall on its sword to defend a bunch of millionaires, half of whom voted Democratic and half of whom live in Hollywood and are hostile?” Kristol’s statement was the first volley in what proved to be a salvo from Republican commentators and officials who questioned policy points that, up until now, have been carved in stone and the subject of unbreakable double-secret pinkie swears in the conservative community. Mr. Kristol’s statement is particularly worthy of both note and the coveted KGO because Kristol has been almost completely wrong about everything in almost every public statement he has made since joining the commentariat. Way to go, Bill.

MEANWHILE, IN THE LOSING TEAM’S LOCKER ROOM . . . : Throwing the need for deep and immediate reconsideration of Republican politics and policy into sharp relief, defeated Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his would-be veep Paul Ryan weighed in this week on what went wrong with their plans for national conquest. Ryan, in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, blamed the loss on “record-breaking turnout in the urban areas, for the most part.” You know — the urban areas. Where those people live. Romney, meanwhile, in a conference call with his top donors that he either didn’t know or didn’t care was being attended and recorded by members of the press, blamed the loss on “gifts” that he said President Obama had given or promised blacks, Hispanics, women, and the young, implying that they had been bribed somehow and that their votes were entirely transactional and thus illegitimate. Damn shame the voter suppression didn’t work. He apologized forthrightly to these top donors for losing, presumably because his defeat prevented them from receiving the wish list of corporatist priorities (lower taxes, less regulation, and the other perks that come with having a puppet regime in the White House) that they’d invested in fair and square.

Neither seemed to have the slightest notion that their obvious naked contempt for their fellow citizens, shown both by these statements and their entire campaign, could have had anything to with it.

NO KGO FOR JINDAL: Such realizations were left to their fellow Republicans, several of whom scrambled to steer clear of Romney’s statements like the gobbets of flying poo they were. Most forceful in his denunciation was former Romney campaign surrogate and incoming chair of the Republican Governors Association Bobby Jindal (R-LA), who urged his fellow Republicans to “quit being the stupid party” and to stop the divide-and-conquer approach that has marked — and marred — Republican politics for the last number of election cycles. Still, no Keen Grasp of the Obvious Award for Jindal. KGO standards for elected officials are a great deal higher than for journalists, and not only does Jindal have an extensive public record of stupidity and divisiveness all his own, but the  actual policy priorities he continues to endorse indicate that his conversion to fairness and inclusivity extends only as far as his rhetoric. As a supposed front-runner for the presidential nomination, his act of attempted party patricide is just another example of the kind of cheap political gesture he’s speaking against.

Having spent the last several years reveling in bad faith, cynicism, and prevarication, why exactly do these people expect us to believe that they’re being sincere now?

McCAIN’S REVENGE!: Bringing that question into stark relief was a collection of Republican old dogs up to their old tricks, engaging in some good old-fashioned scandal-mongering over the Benghazi attacks. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the last Republican presidential candidate to have his ass handed to him by Obama, staged a press conference Wednesday to announce his opposition to President Obama’s expected nomination of UN Ambassador Susan Rice as secretary of state due to her comments after the attack, which he alleged were part of a cover-up of administration misdeeds. He was joined by his long-time fart-catcher Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) in calling for a Watergate-style “select committee” to besmirch the Obama administration, take up precious legislative time that would be better spent on the economy, and distract attention from his party’s obvious shortcomings; this was followed by a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing wherein accusations of treason and threats of impeachment were delivered by such right-wing dunderheads as Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN).

It is emblematic of this effort that McCain’s press conference on the need to get answers on Benghazi prevented him from attending a Senate briefing on the subject, which contained some of those very answers. McCain’s statements, like so many allegations of scandal made by his fellow partisans, are rooted firmly in the fetid muck of the conservative yellow press, and by my lights represent a particularly cheap and despicable attempt to exploit the deaths of four Americans abroad for political gain.

THE FISCAL BLUFF: When you are watching the news over the course of the next few weeks, something to keep in mind is that there are very few days left in the lame-duck session, far too few to negotiate and pass the kind of grand bargain that is being touted as the only possible solution to the oncoming “fiscal cliff.” The best that can be hoped for at this point is a quick-and-dirty solution that doesn’t include any ransom paid to congressional Republicans, a Kabuki theater non-solution that kicks the specifics down the road to the next congressional session, or the slowly dawning realization that the so-called fiscal cliff is a bit of scare-mongering designed to needlessly force issues that can be addressed — retroactively, even — by the next Congress without this session having to accomplish anything at all. No smart money seems to be currently attracted to that last proposition, but time is a-wasting.

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E. C. Fish is the editor and publisher of The Spleen.

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