Why Dowd Gets The Big Money

So, you have a column in the New York Times. It is, as is often said, the most valuable piece of editorial real estate in all of journalism. When you pick up a phone, people talk to you. So here’s what you do with the almost unfathomable amount of access and influence.

You call Donald Trump and stenograph his self-praise.

That’s how it’s done in the big leagues, kid.

Last Chance: CNN And The Trump Debate Decision

By and large, I agree with Slate’s Jim Newell about Donald Trump’s decision to skip the debate. I don’t actually see it impacting the polls too much. People who have decided “Yeah, I really think that Donald Trump should be the President of the United States” have different ideas about qualifications than you and I, and sticking it that stuck-up blond will, at worst, do little to shake their resolve. The only question is if this vocal and poll-driven support translates into action, to votes and to caucusing. So if he ends up winning Iowa this will look like a masterstroke of political will, and if he loses he’ll look like a dope, but they will be ex-post facto narratives.

empty-debate-podiums

To me, the important thing is that Trump invited the other networks to stream his “counter-programming”, a nauseatingly insincere “fundraiser for wounded veterans”, which attempts to give a patina of respectability to his petulance. It seems likely that his act can get higher ratings than the debate, if just because people will want to see how much he attacks Fox and Megyn Kelley, because people are attracted to his style(which is bizarre: his shtick sounds exactly like a peculiarly dimwitted third grader who just learned how to swear).

It’s CNN, and MSNBC, and any of the business spinoffs, that interest me, if they decide to show it. Let’s stipulate a few things.

  1. No one really thinks of CNN as journalism anymore. They do some good work, and their reach is impressive, especially during breaking news, but it is buried under speculative and sensationalistic fluff.
  2. The Republican debates have been seal-barking absurdities, completely disconnected from reality, and highlighted by the two young Hispanic hopes arguing about how the other one doesn’t hate Mexicans enough.
  3. Tonight’s debate won’t change that.

And yet, it seems to me to be important that nobody cover Trump’s event. In doing so, the networks will abdicate any pretense they have about politics being something that matters, something that impacts people’s lives. As bad as the debates are, they are necessary for people to get a glimpse at the candidates, how they are when taken off guard, their personalities, their strengths, and especially their weaknesses. Debates are usually scripted and easily veer into sideshow, but are still an important part of the process.

To say that “Trump is rewriting the rules!” is true, but it is impossible to argue for the better. Sending cameras to this self-serving egoshow only further undermines the disconnect between POLITICS! as a show and the real politics that can make lives better or worse for the hundreds of millions who aren’t on TV and in the club. It is saying that the only thing which matters is the spectacle, the human torso imping his knife-mouthed way across the screen.

Ratings are important, and advertising dollars keep the lights on. Sticking it to Fox would be fun for CNN and MSNBC, and it is always fun to see Fox get swallowed by the beast it created. At some point though, a decision has to be made on whether the commitment to democracy means something, and as over-the-top as this sounds, gleefully ignoring even the most surface-level demonstration of the electoral process so that a megalomaniacal billionaire can do his witless routine demonstrates that commitment means nothing.

Last State of the Union: LiveBlog!

7:51. Getting ready for President Obama’s last State of the Union. This should be a good one, even if it doesn’t have the mic-dropping moment of last year’s, which, in retrospect, was a signal that this wasn’t going to be a lameduck session.

Pictured: mic drop

Updates to follow in this space! Probably!

7:55. You know what would be neat? If Obama won the Powerball tomorrow.

7:56. This is from earlier, but there is no better way to draw a distinction between the GOP and the Dems than this passage.

As is the tradition, the two parties are inviting guests to highlight political points, with Michelle Obama, the first lady, leaving an empty seat in her box in recognition of victims of gun violence, and Speaker Paul D. Ryan inviting two members of an order of Roman Catholic nuns challenging the Affordable Care Act.

The thousands of gun violence, deaths a year vs the right to deny nurses condoms. Also: Kim Davis.

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David Brooks Still Refuses To Get It

So, reading David Brooks when he is critical of the GOP is sometimes like watching a movie trailer for a bad comedy. You’re nodding along, laughing, things are going great, the narrator is saying something like “They were a perfect match, and had planned the perfect life, until…” and you hear the cheesy record scratch. Then there is, I don’t know, some kind of obnoxious kid or mean aunt or something. Maybe a really big rambunctions dog who raps. It’s not important. The important thing is that you are suddenly reminded that what you were vaguely enjoying is actually terrible.

That can sum up Brooks’s latest column about what an unbearable load Ted Cruz is. He starts with a story I had never heard, about how Cruz went to the Supreme Court to try to keep someone in jail for 16 years for stealing a calculator (he should have gotten a max of two, apparently)*. It is a perfect illustration of his unbending brutality and lack of anything relatable to human compassion. There’s even a few really good lines, like when he speaks of Cruz’s always-apocolyptic rhetoric, saying “As is the wont of inauthentic speakers, everythings is described as a maximalist existential threat.”

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How The West Was Won: The Oregon Militia Didn’t Build That

The militia- which even a cursory glance could tell you is not a well-regulated one- occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge has been called many things. Attention hungry springs to mind (I admit they are well-orchestrated). A “clear case of white privilege” is another (to point out that if they were black or Muslim they’d be dead was as immediately axiomatic as it is correct). To a very select few they are heroes, but even to the GOP candidates they are misled, though their cause- militating, literally, against overwhelming federal power- is a correct one.

It’s the proximate cause that I think is underlooked in all the coverage. There are a number of underlying causes, the most prominent of which is the victimization complex of well-armed white guys who want to “take back the country” that never actually belonged to them. The psychology here is really is of course the big deal, the sharp end of something wild and dangerous howling through the country. But we also need to really look at their stated cause, which is both dismissed and under-remarked on.

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What Donald Trump’s Bonedumb Ad Shows Reveals About GOP Foreign Policy

So, Donald Trump has finally released his first campaign ad, and it has some pretty interesting parts, showing not just how dishonest his campaign is (which is a given) nor just how divorced from reality is the entire Republican foreign policy debate (also a given, but maybe less so), but how the GOP has constructed an entire alternate reality in which they can’t help but live.

The interesting part isn’t that, when you Google his ad, the first few pages are media coverage of it, showing how much his campaign and the liberal media conspiracy feed off each other. Nor is it the nakedly racist xenophobia sounds like open mic night at the Bunkersville Patriots Lodge (though that matters). It isn’t even that the ad promises to shut off Muslim immigration until “we figure out what’s going on”, which might be the first time a campaign pleaded that we give it a few minutes to think, ok? It isn’t even that the swarms of Mexicans crossing the border are actually Morrocans.

(Speaking to NBC, his loathsome campaign manager  Corey Lewandowski clarified: “No shit, it’s not the Mexican border but that’s what our country is going to look like. This was 1,000 percent on purpose.” It’s an interesting argument, really. This isn’t what our country looks like, but it is what it is going to look like unless we build something we don’t currently have. One could ask why it doesn’t look like it now, then, but that would be churl.)

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