Circus Maximus MMXVI: Do ya like it like that?

9 03 2016

Five and a-half years ago I worried about the color of the sky in Sarah Palin’s world; half a year ago I suggested that Trump would only triumph* were he to keep on keepin’ on banging his own weird can.

So, two things: One, Ezra Klein is among the latest commentators to note that “he lies constantly and fluently about what his policies actually are.” Klein thinks this is a problem, and it is—just not for Trump.

It doesn’t matter that he lies or that he lies about his lies.

And. . . I don’t really know how one counters that.

*Well, okay, not really: I did say that he’d ultimately lose.

~~~

Of course, one reason that lies don’t matter, is that all too often truth = agreement and lies = disagreement.

May I give you New Hampshire State Rep. Susan DeLemus (R):

“I believe Donald. I am telling you, he says what I am thinking,” DeLemus said during a CNN focus group of Trump supporters that aired Thursday morning.

“We’ve got people in positions of power who I know for a fact are liars, liars,” she continued. “My president comes on the TV and he lies to me. I know he is lying. He lies all the time.”

Now, the Honorable Representative DeLemus is inarguably a nutter, but she’s saying plainly what others will only politely (or not so politely) suggest.

~~~

What this (not so politely) suggests, then, is that attacking a liar for lying will do little to peel support away from him.

So he has to be attacked from another angle. Senators Cruz and Rubio have done a bit of this, going after Trump for his business failures, which does seem to get to His Greatness. I’d guess dismissing him or openly mocking him would also rattle his bones.

The real question, however, is whether a rattled Donald is a Donald who loses support or, as some tiny bit of me still believes might happen, flips the table and flounces away.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: Keep on keeping on

6 08 2015

Sorry I haven’t been around much: a combination of delayed after-effects of an antibiotic and a tough week at work has left me in tatters.

But: tonight is the GOPpers first [set of] debate[s], and I wanted to get in a quick hit about Trump before this thing is over:

I think he’d do best not to behave.

There are rules for debates, formal and informal, and while he may be forced to follow the formal rules (whatever they are), there’s likely nothing the moderators can do if he decides to spin off dispatch after dispatch from his own, alternate, universe.

Half a decade ago I considered the possibility of a Sarah Palin run for the presidency, and wondered “how do you fight against someone concerned only with her own creation of the truth?” As I embedded a clip from an old NewsRadio episode (which you can view here; the crucial bit begins around 9:20) as an example of how someone willing to crash through the most basic expectations of argument will beat the person who abides by those expectations.

As I noted then

You can deal with a reality-manipulator, because the manipulator has to have some sense of that reality before she warps it to her own ends. And even that Bush staffer who sniffed to the NYTimes reporter about those stuck in the ‘reality-based community’ and the ability of the Bush admin to create its own reality nonetheless still gestured to reality. They did, in their own baleful way, seek to create new facts on the ground.

[. . .]

So how does someone avoid the physics of politics, the inevitable grinding down and peeling back and failure associated with all political action? You don’t accept that there are any rules, any downs on the other side of up, any nulls to one’s hypotheses; there is only the rabbit pulled out of the hat and the declaration that this is, indeed, magic. And that magic is real.

A Trump who tries to whittle himself down to fit into the role of the “serious candidate” is a Trump who whittles himself down into nothing at all.

No, for Trump to triumph he should keep doin’ that Trump thing.

Won’t help him win the nomination, of course, but it might keep him in the game a while longer.

 





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Run run run run run

1 09 2012

Of all of the lies Paul Ryan has told recently, this is the one he walks back:

“I had a two hour and fifty-something” marathon, Ryan said last week an interview. “I hurt a disc in my back, so I don’t run marathons anymore.”

But the Ryan campaign confirmed to Runner’s World that he has only run one marathon, the 1990 Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota, which he finished in just over 4 hours.

“The race was more than 20 years ago, but my brother Tobin—who ran Boston last year—reminds me that he is the owner of the fastest marathon in the family and has never himself ran a sub-three,” Ryan said in a prepared statement. “If I were to do any rounding, it would certainly be to four hours, not three. He gave me a good ribbing over this at dinner tonight.”

Fannnnntastic.

Source: Alana Horowitz, Huffington Post





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: You can’t make this shit up

28 08 2012

This is among the many, many, many reasons why you cannot be too cynical when it comes to America presidential elections, courtesy of Greg Sargent:

Get this: The Romney campaign’s position is now that the Obama camp should pull its ads when fact checkers call them out as false — but that Romney and his advisers should feel no such constraint. This is not an exaggeration. This is really the Romney campaign’s position.

As Buzzfeed reports this morning, top Romney advisers say their most effective ads are the ones attacking Obama over welfare, and that they will not allow their widespread denunciation by fact checkers as false slow down their campaign one little bit:

“Our most effective ad is our welfare ad,” a top television advertising strategist for Romney, Ashley O’Connor, said at a forum Tuesday hosted by ABCNews and Yahoo! News. “It’s new information.”… The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” awarded Romney’s ad “four Pinocchios,” a measure Romney pollster Neil Newhouse dismissed. “Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers,” he said.

That’s a very interesting admission. But it gets better. Reading this brought to mind Romney’s own remarks about fact-checking and political advertising not long ago. Needless to say, he has a different standard for the Obama campaign:

“You know, in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad,” Romney said on the radio. “They were embarrassed. Today, they just blast ahead. You know, the various fact checkers look at some of these charges in the Obama ads and they say that they’re wrong, and inaccurate, and yet he just keeps on running them.”

The upshot is that Romney doesn’t have an intellectual objection to fact checking’s limitations in a general sense, at least when it’s applied to the Obama campaign. In that case, fact checking is a legitmate exercise Obama should heed. But at the same time, the Romney campaign explicitly says it doesn’t see it as legitimate or constraining when it’s applied to him.

The only rule in electoral campaigns is What Works.

Yes, there are laws, but breaking these laws almost always lead merely to fines, rarely to jail sentences, and almost never to overturning the election results. Campaigns will break laws if it works, and will decline to break the law if they think it won’t work.

To repeat, the prime directive of elections—which can be restated as Do Anything to Win—matters more than the law.

Given that, and given that lying in campaign ads is both not illegal and often works, this isn’t even a tough call: If a candidate thinks lies will work better than the truth, then lies it is.

h/t: Brad DeLong





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Lies lies lies lies

6 08 2012

I don’t care if Harry Reid lied.

And yes, I do believe he’s lying, if not about the conversation with a Bain adviser per se, then in propagating information which he likely knows isn’t true. Either way, I don’t care.

I should, though, shouldn’t I? Why let the political scientist in me rule over the citizen? After all, I don’t like lying in politics, and would prefer a clean and vigorous fight about policy and purpose over a cage match in which (metaphorically) gouging out one’s opponents eyes is considered the surest path to victory.

Also, I would like a pony.

Anyway, I let my analyst lead on a discussion at TNC’s place, repeating there what I have stated multiple times here: In electoral campaigns, all that matters is winning, and anything you do which helps you win is good, and anything you do which makes it more difficult to win is bad.

That’s it, that’s the full morality of electoral politics: Winning and everything associated with winning is good, losing and everything associated with losing is bad.

I and those who argued along similar lines got some pushback, with TNC saying he “didn’t really believe this” and others arguing that Democrats need to hold the line against demagoguery. One side held to the view that this is how electoral politics is (You run for President with the politics you have, not the politics you wish you had, as commenter WCBound put it) and the other that this is not how politics should be.

Along with the other amoralists, I took the hard line on this matter, defending lies and racism and swift-boating; in doing so we took the view of the analyst, or even of a campaign insider. Those who took the other side were standing on the ground of citizenship and, in terms of going after the lies, good journalism. Each side was right; neither side budged.

I as a citizen like to feel good about who I’m voting for, and thus am grateful that I have been able to pull the lever for two as-good-as-they-come politicians, Paul Wellstone and Russ Feingold. These men held to their principles—ran on their principles—and won election and re-election. Their integrity was the core of their campaigns, and had Feingold* tried to slide away from it, it’s not at all clear such sliding would have helped him in his losing bid for a third senatorial term.

(*Wellstone, of course, was killed in a plane crash while campaigning, and the man who stepped in to fill his candidacy, former Vice President Walter Mondale, another decent chap, lost to Norm Coleman.)

All that said, I’ll vote for the SOB who advocates for what I see as good policies over the decent candidate with horrible policies every time. Every damned time.

It would be great if more campaigns were built around integrity. It would be great if more journalists would press candidates on their views and their tactics. It would be great if the electorate rewarded clean campaigns and punished those who, by any standards other than those of electoral campaigning, “fought dirty”.

It would also be great if I got a pony.





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: Logic and lies

6 07 2012

Mitt Romney is an odd man.

Okay, yeah, not a fresh observation, but I’m not talking about his odd sense of humor (pretending a waitress played grab-ass with you? really?) or his awkwardness carrying on back-and-forth conversations with the ordinary folk, or even his gosh-gee-gollyisms. (As someone with a fondness for retroisms, I kinda like this, especially because I think it’s completely sincere.)

No, I’m talking about the split in his personality between the logical man and the one with his pants on fire.

Sullivan and ThinkProgress have done bang-up jobs tracing Mitt’s every last doubling-back on his own words and records, as well as the campaign’s enthusiastic uninterest in the truth—unexceptional tactics in the winning-is-the-only-thing presidential campaign—but I haven’t seen as much about Romney’s rigidity regarding rules.

Did you watch any of the GOPper primary debates? Neither did I, but I did watch chunky excerpts of them, and it was clear that Mitt could be thrown off his game by someone else breaking what he saw as the rules. There were the peevish “I’m talking/I didn’t interrupt you, don’t interrupt me” moments, and the attempt to counter the more outrageous charges thrown his way by insisting “that’s just not true!”

Terribly effective, that.

Or consider his response to the disbelief that he would strap a beloved family pet to the roof of a car for a long trip to Canada: he noted there was no room in the car and hey, he built a windshield, so what was the problem? Perfectly logical, he did nothing wrong, so there was no more need for any further discussion of the terror inflicted on poor Seamus.

More substantively, consider his responses to queries about his taxes and his grudging tardiness in releasing the tax form. Some of that grudging may be for a good reason—he’s made very good use of his tax attorneys, and I’d guess that someone in his campaign must be aware of the optics—but he seems genuinely put out that anyone would question him about the way he worked over the tax code. I pay every dollar I owe and not one penny more, he’s said, which, while likely technically true, is rather beside the point. In Romney’s eyes, however, submitting to the rules, even rules which one’s accountants have stretched to the screaming point, is all that matters, and anyone who’d suggest otherwise is simply small-minded or out to get him.

Similarly, it is perfectly legal to open overseas bank accounts, provided, again, one follows the rules on these matters—and I would be very surprised if Mitt Romney didn’t follow the rules. But, dude, you’ve been running for president of The Goddamningnest Best Country in the History of the Universe for the past five or six years, and it didn’t occur to you in the meantime to bring all of your dollars back to The Goddamningnest Best Country in the History of the Universe, lest it appear that your patriotism stops at the bottom line?

I mean, shit, I’m not much for nationalism nor am I bothered in general by foreign bank accounts, but even I think the president shouldn’t be dividing his monies among nations. This reaction may not be logical, but I’d bet it’s not rare.

Sure, one could say that because Romney is such a stand-up guy, he thinks following rules ought to be enough, but given his penchant for lying about Obama, I think we can safely forego the “stand-up-guy” bit.

Still, it appears that he does believe that when he follows the rules, that ought to be enough—and when it is not, he does not know how to act.

It’s unclear how much campaigns matter—events beyond the candidates’ control nonetheless tend to control presidential elections—but assuming they matter at least a little, Mitt’s adherence to the rules could get him in trouble with an opponent who writes his own rules.





Gotta have money

17 04 2012

I lied. I’m sorry.

I said I was going to put up a new post soon, and while I did compose any number of posts in my head, the words never made the trip from me noggin to the page.

It’s money’s fault.

Last year, as I mentioned once or twenty times, was a rough one for me, financially. I don’t particularly want to get into the details, but things got. . . bad.

Things are better now, which is why I’m able to write this (I find it much easier to write about bad things when using the past tense). Still, there are certain hangovers and shit left to deal with.

(Said shit won’t be discussed until after it’s been dealt with: past tense, remember.)

Anyway, one non-tangential thing to deal with was taxes. Given how low my income was last year, and thus how high the chances were that I would get back rather than pay, it shouldn’t have been a big deal to have taken care of them earlier.

I did not. I finished my taxes two and a-half hours ago. I’m getting money back.

So what does all of this have to do with me being a liar? (Oh, stop with the obvious joke about filing taxes.)Because while my brain and chest were filled with all of this built-up stress about money, I couldn’t quite find the levers with which to release the words from me noggin.

Given the hangover and shit (which I have been evading, ignoring, and otherwise repressing) and the attendant anxiety, it might still be a bit before I can free my mind.

One dread down, two to go.





Not touching ground at all

6 11 2010

Sarah Palin in 2012?

Oh no, no. No no no.

Some commentators think that a Sarah Palin candidacy would guarantee an Obama win, which, given her current low approval ratings, is not an unreasonable conclusion.

But ohp, there’s that word: unreasonable.

Sarah Palin is not much concerned with reason. Evidence, experience, coherence—no thank you. So how do you fight against someone concerned only with her own creation of the truth?

Did you ever watch the show, NewsRadio? In one episode, Joe and Lisa co-host a news program, and Joe responds to Lisa’s wonky queries with a stream of bullshit. I finally managed to track down the episode (it’s ‘The Fiftieth Episode’, the one in which Bill is sent to a psych ward, thus necessitating the fill-in hosts of Joe and Lisa), and to view the clip, skip ahead to around 9:20 or so:

This exchange has stayed with me ever since I first watched it. How do you counter such cheerful lies?

Hence the half-guv dilemma: How do you counter such chipper mendacity?

As is evident from my previous posts, I’m unsurprised by manipulation and trickery in politics, and in fact am critical of the Dems for their flusterment in the face of such flim-flammery. Fight! Fight! Fight! I say.

But. But the legislative manueverings of the GOP, while accompanied by all variety of obfuscation, was nonetheless grounded in the practical reality of Congressional procedure. Senators could filibuster and hold and delay and deny because the rules allowed them to do so; reps could attach earmarks or poison pills or call for vote after vote because, again, the rules allowed them to do so. They may have used and abused the rules, but they did not question the reality of those rules.

But the reality star who is able to conjure death panels out of thin air? How do you counter someone who ignores the laws of gravity?

You can deal with a reality-manipulator, because the manipulator has to have some sense of that reality before she warps it to her own ends. And even that Bush staffer who sniffed to the NYTimes reporter about those stuck in the ‘reality-based community’ and the ability of the Bush admin to create its own reality nonetheless still gestured to reality. They did, in their own baleful way, seek to create new facts on the ground.

But La Palin? What are facts and who cares about the ground?

The Bushers did not succeed in their quest to reshape reality: there were no roses in Iraq and a heckuva job was done to and not on behalf of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. The Photoshop of the first six years failed, and Rove et. al. lost control of the negatives.

So how does someone avoid the physics of politics, the inevitable grinding down and peeling back and failure associated with all political action? You don’t accept that there are any rules, any downs on the other side of up, any nulls to one’s hypotheses; there is only the rabbit pulled out of the hat and the declaration that this is, indeed, magic. And that magic is real.

Does Sarah Palin really believe all she says? Does it matter? She is constructing her own universe and has little use for those of us (left, right, and otherwise) who, however disgruntled with this one, nonetheless understand that this is where we live. We don’t matter in the Palinverse, have no mass or weight or anything which would identify us as real; we are figments in her imagination.

Given her low approval ratings, I’d like to think that this means most voters share my distrust of Palin. I’d like to think that most of us, when asked, ‘Who you gonna believe (gosh darn it!), me or your lyin’ eyes?’, will respond, Uh, my eyes are just fine, thankyouverymuch.

That may be, in fact, the only way to deal with a serial fantasist—to disengage, to walk away.

But if she is the candidate, Obama can’t simply walk away, he will have to engage her. Maybe it would be enough to play to the refs—us—and point out that 2 + 2 does not equal oranges.

But if there are enough of us who think 2 + 2 should equal oranges?

I’d rather not find out.