FISH WRAP: WEEK ENDING 6/17/12

by E.C. Fish on June 18, 2012

WRAP THEM RASCALS: According to a sort of basically screwed-up American cultural calendar that also thinks it marks the start of summer (it’s spring for another three days yet, folks), Memorial Day weekend marked the unofficial kickoff of the 2012 campaign season. Like its declaration of summer, this strikes me as a bit premature, for my purposes at least.

Things are weird this year. Post-Citizens United peek-a-boo campaign funding — along with an unprecedentedly low level of basic respect for most social and political institutions, and an opposition that has rejected any rule it can’t exploit for political gain along with the basic tenets of good faith — has resulted in an atmosphere of cynicism so extreme that it can even curl the tightly kinked follicles of your humble correspondent. The process of getting my head around this election cycle has been neither easy nor kind, and my approach to that process has led me into an unproductive spiral of unfinished “think pieces” that have bored even me.

Still, when the going gets strange, the strange don’t change. As such, I’ve decided that rather than allow myself to sink into the primordial ooze of this campaign season, I’ll take things as they come, dog-paddling like hell to keep my head sufficiently above the muck that I may bring you a weekly recap of what’s happening, what isn’t, and why. Maybe we can eventually figure some of this out together.

WHY WE’RE DUMB, PART 4,327: I saw an MSNBC promo this week for our old friend NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd that snapped one part of the equation nicely into place: Those looking for useful information to inform their choices this election season need to dig much deeper than cable news. I’m not sure when the promo came out (and I’ve never in my life put so much effort into trying to re-watch an advertisement), so I’m not sure it counts as this week’s news, but blatant admissions of hackery are always relevant.

“Politics,” says Chuckie, “is a game,” and goes on to describe the outcome of the game as important before reiterating that it is indeed a game. And not to take anything away from those giants of political reporting and commentary who started out as sports writers (including the sainted Thompson), but it bloody well isn’t, and treating it as such can have such a devastating effect on the outcome as to make those who think it is genuinely dangerous. By treating politics as a game, Todd and his ilk start out with the assumption that both teams are equal — hello, false equivalence — and fill the air, Internet, and press with a multitude of stories written on the formula, “X alleges Y. How will this affect Z’s chances in the upcoming election?” These stories, in turn, crowd out other stories — for instance, “X has an extensive record of saying things like Y that are demonstrably untrue, but obviously doesn’t care if he thinks lying can get him elected” — that might actually give the audience (that is, our citizens) a factual basis for decision making.

LOOK OUT, HERE THEY GO: Despite the hoary post-Memorial-Day cliché and the the fact that early June was hardly bereft of political developments, a much better day to mark as the beginning of this year’s presidential campaign season would be this past Thursday, when both President Obama and former governor Mitt Romney gave speeches on the economy in what’s left of the state of Ohio. The president, appearing before a crowd at a Cleveland community college, used much of his speech to present the election as a choice between two competing visions of economic policy. Romney, who rearranged his schedule to beat Obama to the podium in an attempt at “pre-buttal” (and let’s stop using that word right now, okay?), used his address in front of a group in Cincinnati to try to prove the president wrong.

No, implied Romney with his every word, this is not a choice between two competing visions of the economy, but a choice between a vision of the economy and a blinkered adherence to an ideological framework. Though the president’s speech offered little in the way of new economic proposals, it was nonetheless a thoughtful and honest attempt to present an overall view of an economic policy that would address current conditions. Romney’s, on the other hand, represented nothing but the umpteenth repetition of the one-size-fits-all Republican dogma of lower taxes, less regulation, and government-as-enemy that members of his party have been running on since the late ’70s, regardless of conditions in the real economy. The one explicit policy position that Romney has actually taken is his support of “the Ryan budget,” which represents nothing so much as the legislative equivalent of the equation in the old New Yorker cartoon, whose central premise reads, “Then, a miracle occurs.”

And of course, this being Romney, his speech wasn’t a thoughtful and honest anything. “Mr. Romney’s campaign rests on a foundation of short, utterly false sound bites,” said the New York Times in an editorial the day after the speeches, and Steve Benen — who has made a cottage industry of tracking Romney’s misstatements in his weekly (and highly recommended) MaddowBlog feature “Chronicling Mitt’s Mendacity” — found no fewer than four genuine whoppers (out of a total of 22, for what, it must be said, was a light week).

VOTE DOUCHEBAG 2012: Another highlight of the president’s Cleveland speech was the sight of a Romney campaign bus circling the arena and honking its horn. Along with the May 31, 2012, shout-down of Obama campaign director David Axelrod in Boston, this seems to bring up the further possibility that our choice in this election is between a campaign for President of the United States and one for Prep School Class President. Romney apologists were quick to describe the incident as a mere prank — like, you know, pulling people over on the highway while impersonating a Michigan state trooper or assaulting a nonconformist classmate with a pair of scissors.

RUBIO FOR VEEP (OH PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE): Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) — who has been touted as a possible Romney running mate by people who don’t understand that his status as a Cuban-American will do absolutely nothing to help Romney’s chances with Latino voters — managed to blow even the slim advantage of a Spanish surname on Wednesday by endorsing Florida governor Rick Scott’s effort to purge suspect voters from the rolls. The majority of the voters on Scott’s list came under suspicion due to their — wait for it — Spanish surnames.

Rubio’s chances were further diminished on Friday when President Obama announced an executive action that rendered Rubio’s “DREAM Act Lite” (an amnesty-free version of the DREAM Act, tailored to appeal to Latinos without pissing off the yahoos) completely superfluous.

IMPURE MICHIGAN: The state of Michigan, meanwhile, further cemented its reputation as our nation’s new test lab for fascist governance (replacing Texas) with the announcement that the Republican majority in the Michigan House of Representatives was indefinitely barring State Rep. Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield) from speaking on the House floor for using the word “vagina” in a debate on Michigan’s proposed abortion bill. In response, Representative Brown, who has a vagina, pointed out that the word appears in the bill itself several times.

“What she said was offensive,” said State Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville). “I don’t even want to say it in front of a woman.” That is to say, in front of a person with a vagina. Representative Callton went on to say that he wouldn’t use the word in mixed company, presumably because some of the people in that company would have vaginas.

One wonders how Representative Brown would have fared had she used the sort of cutesy euphemism that men like Represenative Callton and his colleagues use to refer to female anatomy on those few occasions that they talk about it at all. Come to think of it, though, guys like that talk about pussy a lot. They just don’t talk about women much.

This is all quite hilarious. The fact remains, though, that a duly elected representative in a state that has been dismissing local and county governments wholesale under its “fiscal martial law” policies has been silenced by the immature, squeamish whims of its legislative leadership. There is also the fact that what is happening in Michigan represents a grave threat to small-d democracy in this country. And neither one of those things is the least bit funny.

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

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ten96Mom June 18, 2012 at 4:45 pm

“Pre-buttal”…. I believe this is actually a porn term used in cinematic circles. Love the fact that you found a way to use it in such an important expose on the ridiculousness of our current political “games”. Excellent job, as per usual Mr. Fish.

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