Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Twisting round to make me think you’re straight down the line

14 08 2012

Let’s play pundit!

C’mon, it’s easy: Just take a stray thought (either your own or one you overheard standing in line for coffee or maybe from that always-wise taxi-driver) and expand it into a Theory of Everything, alternate wrinkling your brow with raising your eyebrows, slip in a cliche or two to assure your audience that you’re not straying too far from the reservation [see what I did there?]—and don’t forget at some point to say, “Look, . . .” And if you can, work in a hand gesture to emphasize your insights; it also helps to sell your sincerity.

Here we go:

“I think one angle which has been neglected is the question of comfort. Mitt Romney is a famously disciplined man, so is it any surprise that he would choose another man with a reputation for discipline? Ryan has, rightly or wrongly, the reputation of a man willing to do the heavy-lifting on arcane budget matters and to make the tough decisions. He’s also known for his punishing workout routine.

“Ryan also knows how to stay on message—a terrifically important factor to the machine that is the Romney campaign. Romney has to know that his running mate will reinforce his message, not step all over it, or, as President Obama once said about Joe Biden, ‘get out over his skis’.

“Romney could have chosen someone who contrasted with his image, someone like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Christie’s blunt talk would have served him well in the traditional attack-dog role assigned to vice presidents, and I think not a few journalists following the campaign would look forward to the jousts between the let-‘er-rip vice-presidential candidates.

“But it is precisely that let’s-wing-it approach to politics which likely put Romney off Christie. And, let’s face it, that Christie is overweight could be seen by Romney as evidence for a general laxity. Could you see these two men sitting down together—well, not over a beer [ha ha!]—to shoot the breeze? You can just see Romney cringe as Christie lets loose with a few choice words.

“Tim Pawlenty, I don’t think, was ever a serious contender. He ran a terrible campaign and quit far too quickly. I think Romney appreciates ambition and boldness, and Pawlently is conspicuously lacking in both.

“I have to say, I’m a bit mystified why he didn’t choose Rob Portman. Ohio is crucial to victory in November, and having Portman on the ticket might have made all the difference. Maybe a chemistry thing.

“Speaking of chemistry, could anyone really see Bobby Jindal running alongside Mitt Romney? Sure, a fine family man, but he’s been shrinking ever since his disastrous Scarecrow-sounding response to the president’s State of the Union speech. And Louisiana, hm, Romney is definitely not a laissez-les-bons-temps rouler kind of guy.

“And the women, well, the women I’m sorry to say were probably never considered due to the Palin factor. Nikki Haley is a first-term governor, as is Susan Martinez in New Mexico, and Kelly Ayotte has been in the Senate for less than two years. These women might be serious contenders in 2016, but putting one of these women on the ticket would draw comparisons the Romney campaign would prefer to avoid.

“It’s also not clear how comfortable Romney is with women. He has four, excuse me, five sons, worked in private equity—a very male, and, I should point out, a very white field—and as an elder in the Mormon Church hasn’t had a lot of exposure to women in powerful positions. Sure, his lieutenant governor in Massachusetts was a woman, but how much interaction has he had with women as equals?

“I mean, look at this campaign staff. It’s all men—all white men. Look, I’m not saying he wouldn’t have chosen a Hispanic candidate if that person was head and shoulders above everyone else, but Romney is clearly most comfortable with people most like himself.

“Paul Ryan is a lot like Mitt Romney. Intense, ambitious, disciplined. A religious man, a family man, and hey, with a nice head of hair [ha ha!] There may be a downside to having someone who seems to reinforce some of Romney’s more robotic tendencies than to soften them, but Ryan’s sincerity likely resonates with Romney’s own straight-arrow demeanor and, who knows, his earnestness may come across as endearing to undecided voters.

“None of this is to discount the policy implications of the pick, of course, or whether any of this will pan out in November, but I do think this pick tells us something about Romney and what kind of people he would surround himself if he does win the presidency.”

~~~

See how easy that was? Plausible, sober, and completely without recourse to any research whatsoever! I have no idea who his closest advisers are, and I know for a fact that there are some women high up in his campaign, but why bother with the labors of an internet search when I can just pull this stuff out of my navel? (Or, to be honest, from a shoot-the-shit conversation with T.)

Now, I did run a search for his campaign staff before I wrote the piece and found a handy sheet documenting his various staffers and advisers, but I didn’t look at it until just now. Whaddya know, there are a number of women in key positions (chief of staff to the exec director Kelli Harrison, deputy campaign manager Kelly Packer Gage, senior adviser Beth Myers, among others)—but hey, why let a few facts get in the way of punditry?

Besides, a really good pundit knows how to spin away inconvenient truths, noting that “it is well-known that his closest adviser is Bob White, and let’s not forget his campaign manager, Matt Rhoades, who’s been with Romney since the ’08 campaign. It’s not that women don’t have a role, but, with the exception of Myers, they’re all more organizational than strategic.”

Again, I have no idea if any of that is true. If I were a real political reporter and not just a Sabbath gasbag I would talk to people in and around the campaign, closely observe the candidate when he’s with his staff to see who he consults, see who’s quoted in the newspaper and who gives interviews, and then and only then, and based on a general background knowledge of what is expected roles of various staffers and advisers in any campaign, would I venture any suggestions as to the possible meanings of the Ryan pick.

But that’s too much like real work, and the evidence might get in the way of my narrative—and as a pundit, you should never let anything get in the way of your narrative.

That’s how the pros do it.

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4 responses

15 08 2012
dmf

indeed, and sadly this is also what often passes for critical thinking amongst the masses of consumers of punditry, we have expanded the chattering class to include the commenting class and the numbers game rules the pit of the gossip-world, who needs facts, context, or time/space for reflection/correction when it feels so good to just make shit up, project ourselves all over everything, and be liked for it…

15 08 2012
dmf

also even those among more self-aware pundits like TNC are falling prey to the need to come up with pithy one-liners/formulas/analogies for what is happening in our complex and emerging events, may in part be a trap of the forms we are using to communicate in world where the “long” form of reporting taxes the nerves of the consumer.

15 08 2012
absurdbeats

I sometimes wonder what I would have been like had I decided to stick with journalism. I definitely had a thing for opinion pieces; would I have ended up like Tom Friedman?

Yikes, I know, but it is so so so tempting when one has a platform to think that the platform itself makes you wise—because hey, why else would you have gotten that prime space on the editorial page? And if I can speak confidently on x, then why not on y, z, and oranges?

I have to check this tendency of mine in the classroom, try to remember that the point of teaching is (duh) to teach, not to show off how much I (think) I know. Most of the time I remember, some of the time, I don’t. I hate it when that happens.

As for TNC, I still think he’s pretty good at what he does, largely because almost all of the time he deals thoughtfully with pushback. It’s funny, at those times he seems almost relieved, as if to say, ‘oh, that’s right, I don’t have to have an answer to everything’.

Having to have an answer to everything is a powerful temptation.

16 08 2012
dmf

when TNC sticks to reporting he is a champ at connecting people to things they may not of known/experienced, when he does his version of ASullivan and or turns to analogies not so much…

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