The Phony Campaign — 2015-05-24 Update

[phony baloney]

Our PredictWise lineup remains unchanged this week, and Jeb maintains his healthy phony lead on the field:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Jeb Bush" phony 1,050,000 -410,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 401,000 +19,000
"Rand Paul" phony 384,000 +222,000
"Marco Rubio" phony 106,000 -2,000
"Scott Walker" phony 102,000 +7,000
"Martin O'Malley" phony 99,200 -540,800
"Elizabeth Warren" phony 85,800 -4,200

But what are the phony stories behind those numbers?

  • The application to US Presidential politics is indirect, but I got a chuckle reading the incoherent leftist rant at Salon by one Andrew O'Hehir: "London as neoliberal theme park: The Platform 9 ¾ economy and the Tories’ shocking victory". In case you hadn't heard, you clueless Muggle, this is a reference to the London terminus of the Hogwarts Express at King's Cross station, from the Harry Potter books; it recently was granted a permanent home at the non-fictional station. O'Hehir is having none of it:

    Nothing quite so blatantly sums up the victory of neoliberalism in 21st-century London, and that city’s relentless commodification of every aspect of its literary and historical legacy, like Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross. If anything, the vulgarity and banality of Platform 9 ¾ are too blatant; it’s a crack in the façade that demonstrates how thoroughly London has become Londonland, a nearly convincing scavenger-hunt simulation of itself, chock-full of royal bones and references to Dan Brown novels. To enter Westminster Abbey – which is still nominally a house of worship for the Anglican Communion, rather than a historical theme park – now costs 44 pounds for a family of four, or about $68. (The Catholic Church has abundant problems, but it still has some pride; a few days later we visited Notre Dame in Paris, for free.)

    Andrew is pretty peeved not just about the Tory win, but also free-market capitalism in general, and just about everything he sees reminds him of the neoliberal menace. The American connection?

    Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush may yearn for smoochy photo-ops with Cameron in order to engage white America’s kneejerk Anglophilia, or because they swoon for his plummy Oxonian accent and long to meet his deep-pockets pals in the City of London. But if Cameron were American … well, it’s a useless thought experiment, because aristocratic, London-bred dudes like him – directly descended from the profoundly mediocre King William IV and distantly related to the current queen – are quintessentially not American. At any rate, Cameron is far too bland, far too internationalist and far too free of Jesus to be a viable Republican in any state south of New Hampshire, or in any era since about 1988.

    Nothing personal about Cameron, but I'm pretty sure he wouldn't be viable in New Hampshire either. (It's just a rumor that we keep electing Maggie Hassan because low-information voters confuse her with Maggie Thatcher.)

  • At MSNBC, Joe Scarborough mused on the hypothetical fate of a hypothetical Hillary campaign aide who might hypothetically suggest Hill take unscripted questions from the press:

    “That would be the aide’s last morning working for Hillary Clinton,” Scarborough said. “Have prepared text, have your phony town hall meetings with phony people and lobbyists. … They don’t have to talk to the press for a year.”

    For example…

  • Hillary visited our fair state and… immediately forgot where she was.

    Hillary Clinton misstated her location at a campaign event today in New Hampshire. Instead of saying New Hampshire, the presidential candidate said, "Here in Washington."

    Senile? Or, given that she was speaking at Smuttynose Brewery, surrounded by beer, perhaps just drunk?

    In any case, if she can't avoid making silly flubs in prepared remarks, it should be little surprise that she's desperately afraid of taking unscripted queries.

  • This week at least, Hillary's say-anything-to-win strategy translates into the tactic of sounding like a left-wing demagogue without actually taking any specific left-wing positions. Reporting from Smuttynose:

    On Friday in New Hampshire, Clinton spoke with a passionate, progressive voice, pounding away at Republicans for “jumping on the bandwagon” to kill the Export-Import Bank, whose authorization in Congress is set to expire June 30. It was a safe call, to say the least: House Democrats support the bank. Moderate Democrats such as Sen. Chuck Schumer support the bank. A liberal like Sen. Elizabeth Warren? She’s pro-bank, too.

    “It is wrong that Republicans in Congress are now trying to cut off this vital lifeline for American small businesses,” said Clinton, at the SmuttyNose Brewery in Hampton. Republicans, she said, would threaten the livelihoods of American workers rather than “stand up to the Tea Party and talk radio. It’s wrong, it’s embarrassing.”

    Hillary's claim that Ex-Im benefits small business is utter bullshit, unsupported by facts. (More, if you need it, here.) It speaks to the gullible dimwittedness of the reporter who detected a "passionate, progressive voice" raised in defense of that creaky New Deal-era monument to corrupt crony capitalism. (The reporter is slightly redeemed for noticing that this was an utterly "safe" position for Hillary to take.)

Last Modified 2015-05-24 9:33 PM EDT
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The Phony Campaign — 2015-05-17 Update

[phony baloney]

When it comes to picking which white male Democrat is less unlikely to become the next president, the Predictwise guys seem to have a difficult time choosing between Martin O'Malley and Joe Biden.

But this week, it's O'Malley, with Biden dropping off our 2% probability screen. So:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Jeb Bush" phony 1,460,000 +693,000
"Martin O'Malley" phony 640,000 -
"Hillary Clinton" phony 382,000 -8,000
"Rand Paul" phony 162,000 -8,000
"Marco Rubio" phony 108,000 +3,000
"Scott Walker" phony 95,000 -3,800
"Elizabeth Warren" phony 90,000 +14,800

  • At least part of Jeb Bush's uptick in phony hit counts is no doubt due to his mis-response to Megan Kelly's “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the [2003 Iraq] invasion?" This has caused tedious replays of that debate, with the usual suspects dusting off old assertions about what "we" did know then.

    Knowing what we know now, I personally would have advised Franz Ferdinand to have had a little better security in Sarajevo; I would have recommended that Hoover veto Smoot-Hawley; that internment of Japanese-Americans was kind of a bad call; as was the decision to launch Challenger; we shoulda let Lee Harvey Oswald rot in Minsk; and …

    Well you get the point. The only thing phonier than Jeb's answer to the question was the question itself.

    On the other hand, now that the standard has been set, I eagerly await: "Mrs. Clinton, knowing what we know now, would you have married Bill?"

    Not holding my breath on that, though. Because the media's double standard in posing gotcha questions is pretty phony too.

  • NPR—yes, frickin' NPR—wrote perhaps the funniest campaign story this week, compiling "The 13 Questions Hillary Clinton Has Answered From The Press" since announcing her candidacy weeks ago. Sample:

    NBC's Kristen Welker caught up with Clinton outside her very first campaign stop at an Iowa coffee shop:

    "You lost Iowa in 2008. How do you win this time? What's your strategy?" Welker asked.

    Clinton's reply, as she walked toward an open van door: "I'm having a great time. Can't look forward any more than I am."

  • Politico reports on its polling of "insiders" in both parties. This gem:

    Seven in 10 Republicans said Clinton spends too little time campaigning. “But when she does, she is so horrible, dull, scripted and phony that the Hillary juggernaut should create plans to build a soundproof Rose Garden in Brooklyn,” said a Granite Stater.

    Disclaimer: That wasn't me.

  • Howie Carr writes in the Boston Herald: "Now even Barack agrees Elizabeth Warren is phony":

    For once I agree with Barack Obama — he’s calling out the fake Indian as a liar, and who knows more about speaking with a forked tongue than Mr. If-You-Like-Your-Doctor-You-Can-Keep-Your-Doctor?

    In case you haven’t been following the inside-the-Beltway inside baseball, the moonbats have convened a circular firing squad over this Pacific Rim trade legislation that’s before the U.S. Senate.

    Granny rips President Soetoro, he blasts back, the pajama boy senator from Ohio accuses Moochelle’s better half of sexism, the president of NOW seconds those remarks, Obama’s flack says the senator should apologize …

    This is like the old Iran-Iraq War. Isn’t there some way they can all lose?

  • We haven't had a lot about Marco Rubio here, but this story about his relationship with his wife Jeannette covers a period when their premarital relationship was on the rocks:

    "I went clubbing, and I liked it," he wrote in his memoir, An American Son.

    One night he ended up at a South Beach club that pumped foam into a room of sweaty, writhing dancers. "I looked down at my shoes. They were perfectly white," Rubio recounted. "The foam had somehow bleached the color out of my cheap and obviously fake leather shoes. … I left the club and found the nearest pay phone."

    Feeling like a phony, he called Jeanette, then a cab. They married three years later. Her extrovert husband jumped on stage with the wedding band, 200 people watching, and sang Sinatra's My Way.

    "Senator Rubio, knowing what we know now, would you have gone clubbing in fake leather shoes?"

  • Finally, your tweets of the week, first from Hillary:

    And Rand Paul's response:

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A Letter About Pamela Geller

[A letter I sent to my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, links added to text.]

To the Editor:

I was disappointed in Robert Azzi's May 10 op-ed column, in which he discusses the recent attempt by two wannabe mass-murderers, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, to shoot up "The First Annual Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest", an event organized by Pamela Geller of the "American Freedom Defense Initiative" (AFDI), held earlier this month in Garland, Texas. Simpson and Soofi were thwarted by the fortunate intervention of an off-duty traffic cop; things could have easily gone much worse.

Azzi's slant is obvious: the terrorists are unnamed, and perfunctorily written off as Muslims who "felt compelled to try and use violence to stop the AFDI event."

Geller and her cohorts, on the other hand, get a fusillade of invective, personal insult, and innuendo: "fanatics", "bigots", "conspiracy theorist", "provocateur", who "spewed hatred", "incited", and "provoked". (And also "extremely well-compensated"; I am at a loss as to why that's relevant.)

I don't know that much about Pamela Geller, and definitely lack the insights into her motivations that Azzi and the people he quotes claim to have; perhaps she really is the personification of Satanic evil that Azzi paints. People I trust find her shrill and obnoxious. But I've seen far more hatred directed at Geller than I've seen go the other way. Her main offense seems to be her steadfast refusal to submit to terroristic threats, at considerable personal risk.

Geller herself described her motivation for the event beforehand: “They’re just cartoons. We’re holding this exhibit and cartoon contest to show how insane the world has become — with people in the free world tiptoeing in terror around supremacist thugs who actually commit murder over cartoons. If we can’t stand up for the freedom of speech, we will lose it — and with it, free society.”

It's possible, but difficult, to argue with that. It's so much easier to concentrate on Geller's alleged character flaws!

In short, Azzi's column is yet another example of what has been called "victim-blaming and victim-shaming". He would like to point the finger at Geller for her "intellectually unsustainable provocation". We are invited to imagine that her would-be murderers would never have harmed a fly if not for her brazen blasphemy.

Refuting that view is the plain fact that recent homicidal fanaticism has not only been triggered by artistic expression: it's equally likely to be "provoked" by daring to frequent a kosher deli in Paris; being too close to the finish line of the Boston Marathon; presence at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center at Fort Hood. It's extremely likely that if Simpson and Soofi hadn't shown up in Garland, they would have made the news days or weeks later with a possibly much more deadly effort aimed at a different target. Azzi wants to obfuscate that with misdirected and irrelevant attacks; we shouldn't be misled.

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The Phony Campaign — 2015-05-10 Update

[phony baloney]

We say buh-bye to Martin O'Malley (again) this week, as the PredictWise guys have dropped his presidential probability under our arbitrary threshold of 2%. Joe Biden is still hanging in there, though:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Jeb Bush" phony 767,000 +7,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 390,000 -29,000
"Rand Paul" phony 170,000 -9,000
"Joe Biden" phony 137,000 -5,000
"Marco Rubio" phony 105,000 -8,000
"Scott Walker" phony 98,800 -10,200
"Elizabeth Warren" phony 75,200 -4,000

Announcing their candidacies this week were Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Magic Mike Huckabee. The oddsmakers behind PredictWise's probabilities remained apparently unshaken by this news.

(Aside: At EconLog, Scott Sumner points to evidence that betting markets did a far more accurate job of predicting the outcome of this week's British elections than did the pundits and pollsters. That's why we use them here.)

  • A truly fascinating mindset is revealed by Rory Campbell at the Guardian, attempting to reconcile Hillary Clinton's populist topple-the-one-percenters campaign message with her schmoozing of billionaires and (mere) multi-millionaires for campaign cash. Never mind her bemoaning of Super PACs while near simultaneously endorsing "Priorities USA", a Super PAC backing her. A San Jose State University professor of politics is quoted:

    “It’s the reality of these times. You have to play dirty to get there and clean up. Clinton is a pragmatic politician and wants to win. There will be criticism but I think people are realistic.”

    All indications this was said totally in earnest, with no laugh track. Expect to see variations on this theme for the next 547 days or so…

  • In other news, the Republican National Committee dug out a 2003 radio interview with Hillary, where she assured listeners that she was "adamantly against illegal immigrants", bemoaning the view from her limo of "loads of people waiting to get picked up to get yard work, and construction work, and domestic work".

    As with other issues, she's now singing a different tune. Nothing new here: she will say and do whatever she thinks necessary to get elected. The MSM will yawn, and so will many voters.

  • Ruben Navarrette's recent column shows just how shallow and stupid "respected" political journalists can get. Case in point is Mark Halperin's recent interview with Ted Cruz. It started off OK …

    But then Halperin made it personal, and the interview careened into a ditch. He told Cruz that people are curious about his "identity." Then, the host asked a series of questions intended to establish his guest's Hispanic bona fides. What kind of Cuban food did Cruz like to eat growing up? And what sort of Cuban music does Cruz listen to even now?

    I've known Ted for more than a decade and I could tell he was uncomfortable. But he played along, listing various kinds of Cuban food and saying that his musical taste veers more toward country.

    I kept waiting for Halperin to ask Cruz to play the conga drums like Desi Arnaz while dancing salsa and sipping cafe con leche -- all to prove the Republican is really Cuban.

    In (slight) defense, Halperin can be perceptive, as when he called President Obama a "dick" on MSNBC. (He apolgoized nearly immediately for his unthinking honesty, however.)

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Insights du Jour - 2015-05-08

Some things I've found on-target recently…

  • Would the Bill of Rights ever pass today? Find out the sobering answer in Charles C.W. Cooke's NR article, "Why the Bill of Rights Would Never Pass Today".

    If it sometimes feels as if the Bill of Rights is the only thing standing between the little guy and majoritarian tyranny, that’s possibly because it is. Americans may be freer than most, but it is often thanks to Supreme Court decisions and not to public opinion that America remains an outlier. It is because judges have stepped in that it is legal to burn the American flag in protest; that the Westboro Baptist Church may stage its execrable funeral demonstrations without fear of tort liability; that seditious speech may not be punished by the government; that disgusting videos may not be banned; that conservative Christians have been spared the indignities of the Obama administration’s contraception mandate; that collections of citizens may engage in political criticism; that parents caring for their children may not be forced by the state to join a union; that the residents of Washington, D.C., Chicago, and other “blue” cities may buy and own handguns for their protection; that the government is prohibited from searching cell phones without a warrant; and so on and so forth. Looking around the country — and examining the attitudes that prevail in Washington, D.C., on our college campuses, and in our hopelessly excitable media — can we honestly conclude that three-fourths of We the People would vote today to so restrain ourselves? We are living on borrowed wisdom.

    It is sobering, and not in a good way, to realize that way too many citizens no longer respect neither the Constitution/BofR nor the principles that drove its composers. Example number one in my book: the recently-proposed constitutional amendment that would have restricted freedom of speech in the name of "democratic self-government and political equality".

    One of my state's own senators, Jeanne Shaheen, was an eager co-sponsor of this travesty. (Hillary Clinton, unsurprisingly, is also a fan of gutting the First Amendment.)

    And on Election Day 2014, the voters—the voters in the freakin' "Live Free or Die" statekept Shaheen in office, instead of returning her to Madbury.

  • In related news: you may have noticed that, gosh, for some reason, we've been hearing a lot about "hate speech". Sometimes assuming that it is (or should be) something other than a subset of "free speech". Bruce McQuain points out this 2011 article from Jacob Mchangama in the Hoover Institution's Policy Review. Which makes the point: the notion of "hate speech" is fairly recent, and …

    […] the introduction of hate-speech prohibitions into international law was championed in its heyday by the Soviet Union and allies. Their motive was readily apparent. The communist countries sought to exploit such laws to limit free speech.

    To quote Walter Sobchak:

    … but I can't say I'm surprised. The commies were famed for figuring out ways to make the expansion of state power at the expense of liberty seem palatable and even desireable to fellow-travelling dimwits. It's dispiriting that some concepts like "hate speech" live on after their cynical inventors have been discredited.

  • Pun Salad coined the term "Barackrobatics" for President Obama's recurring rhetorical devices, which often served as a flashing warning light of an imminent clash with truth and/or reality. At Reason, A. Barton Hinkle notes a couple more:

    • "There are those who say…" (invariably things that nobody has said):

      For instance, he has observed that “there are those who say we cannot invest in science.” Those people are wrong, by the way: “Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment and our quality of life than it has ever been before.”

      It also has been his observation that “there are those who say high-speed rail is a fantasy.” They’re wrong, too: “Its success around the world says otherwise.”

      And he has noticed “there are those who say the plans in (my) budget are too ambitious”—but . . . well, you know.

    • And it's fair to say that Obama might be overusing "it's fair to say":

      Two years ago, he allowed that it was fair to say the rollout of Obamacare “has been rough so far.” At the same time, “it’s fair to say that . . . we would not have rolled out something knowing very well that it wasn’t going to work.” And that also makes sense when you think about it, because as he pointed out on another occasion, it’s also “fair to say that all governments think they’re doing what’s right, and don’t like criticism.”

      Last summer, the president decided it was “fair to say that the U.S.-New Zealand relationship has never been stronger.” This must have come as a stinging rebuke to all those who have been talking trash about the U.S.-New Zealand relationship.

    Good ear, Hinkle.

  • And Will Antonin demonstrates that you can even fit an insight into a tweet:

    A more expanded version is available from Nick Gillespie, writing at The Daily Beast: "Trigger Warning: College Kids Are Human Veal"

    Every time we seem to have reached peak insanity when it comes to the intellectually constipated and socially stultifying atmosphere on today’s college campuses, some new story manages to reveal vast new and untapped reservoirs of ridiculousness. In a world of trigger warnings, microaggressions, and official apologies featuring misgendered pronouns that start a whole new round of accusations, wonders never cease.

    Readest thou the thing in its entirety.

Last Modified 2015-05-15 9:13 AM EDT
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The Phony Campaign — 2015-05-03 Update

[phony baloney]

The geniuses at PredictWise have judged Martin O'Malley with a 2% shot of being our next president, which is good enough to welcome him back to our phony table. And he slides into a comfortable third place, behind Jeb and Hillary:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Jeb Bush" phony 760,000 -219,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 419,000 -25,000
"Martin O'Malley" phony 304,000 ---
"Rand Paul" phony 179,000 -16,000
"Joe Biden" phony 142,000 -2,000
"Marco Rubio" phony 113,000 -10,000
"Scott Walker" phony 109,000 -3,000
"Elizabeth Warren" phony 79,200 -3,800

Not in the PredictWise table at all: Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Bernie Sanders.

  • Kevin D. Williamson reminds us what Elizabeth Warren's inflamed Wall-Street-vs.-Main-Street rhetoric boils down to: getting into bed with lobbyists, dispensing billions of dollars worth of favors to those with the right political connections.

    And, if you are paying attention, you should expect that from Senator Warren, too. She is not what she pretends to be.

    For another data point, see her support for the Export-Import Bank.

  • Okay, Ted Cruz doesn't show up in our table (yet?), but Mickey Kaus's analysis of his shifty position on immigration is worth a read for those who think he's above all the phoniness. In 2013 he proposed a "middle ground" amendment to the "Gang of Eight" immigration bill that would grant amnesty and work permits to illegals but no "path to citizenship".

    But now Cruz claims his amendment was designed to fail, a parliamentary trick to demonstrate that advocates were only interested in eventual citizenship for illegals.

    But as near as anyone can tell, that's not something Cruz was saying back in 2013. Mickey speculates:

    The really annoying thing about Cruz is the air he gives that he’s so smart, he’s figured it all out and everyone else hasn’t. He gave that impression to the NYT in 2013. His team gives that impression […] now. But if you combine those two impressions you’re left with the sense that Cruz is hiding the ball, trying to please everyone at the expense of clarity, like any standard pol.

    I like Cruz, but I try to avoid the illusion that he walks on water.

  • As stated, Mike Huckabee is not on PredictWise's radar at all. But Allahpundit observes that he's making moves to announce on Tuesday, and notices some … differences between 2016 and his previous candidacy in his announcement video:

    What’s missing from this vid, though? It’s got plenty to offer the blue-collar Republicans whom Huckabee’s targeting — promises of wage growth, a solemn vow to protect America’s unsustainable entitlements, and a little saber-rattling at ISIS and other jihadi menaces. But … not a word about gay marriage, abortion, or religious liberty. The furthest he goes is noting that he’ll “lead with moral clarity” and that comes as a lead in to foreign policy.

    I thought Huckabee was a nice, decent guy back in 2008, but (like many conservatives and nearly all libertarians) thought he would have made a disastrous president. Seems to have his phoniness credentials down pat, though.

  • What? No Hillary this week? Fear not:

    You know Hillary Clinton’s voice, right? I mean, you know it. It’s just so loud and annoying. Or maybe it's like a nagging wife. Or inauthentic—that phony Southern accent! Those flat Midwestern vowels! Whatever it is, her voice is burned into your brain.

    But that's just the lead paragraph of "Why Do So Many People Hate the Sound of Hillary Clinton's Voice?" at The New Republic, a purportedly science-based look at the speaking styles of various candidates. (There are sciencey graphs with "percentiles" and "Hz" on the axes, so that's not as implausible as it could be.)

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The Phony Campaign — 2015-04-26 Update

[phony baloney]

The skin-in-the-game bettors at PredictWise once again judge that Joltin' Joe Biden has a 3% shot of being our next president, over our arbitrary inclusion threshold of 2%. So…

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Jeb Bush" phony 979,000 -991,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 444,000 -67,000
"Rand Paul" phony 195,000 -32,000
"Joe Biden" phony 144,000 -
"Marco Rubio" phony 123,000 -37,000
"Scott Walker" phony 112,000 -2,000
"Elizabeth Warren" phony 83,000 -12,500

Still MIA: Ted Cruz (hovering around 1%). Carly Fiorina, who I understand is about to announce, has yet to appear in PredictWise's candidate list.

  • I don't understand why Hillary remains in such a consistent second-place to Jeb. Remarking on her phoniness seems to be a default topic for pundits, something to write about when you can't think of anything else. All within the past week:

    Gee. It's almost as if this sort of thing is becoming too easy.

  • Jack Shafer offers Hillary campaign advice, dropping this howler:

    Above all, you must be sincere, because if there is one thing the press can’t tolerate, it’s a phony.

    It's hard to believe, but I don't think he's kidding.

    Jack Shafer can be insightful, but here demonstrates a remarkable obliviousness. The press loves phonies. If it didn't—I think I've said this before—both Clintons would be, at best, mini-mall lawyers in Little Rock. (Making the generous assumption they would have avoided disbarment. Or jail.)

  • Here's something else I've said before: for the Clintons, dishonesty is the default setting. A New York Times reporter provided yet another confirming anecdote this week, reporting on Chappaqua meetings between Bill Clinton and offcials of KazAtomProm, the Russian uranium firm.

    “When I first contacted the Clinton Foundation, they denied any such meeting ever took place. And when we told them we have already talked to the head, who not only told us all about the meeting but actually has a picture of him and Bill at the home, that he proudly displays on his office wall, they then acknowledge the meeting had taken place.”

    "We apologize for lying. In our defense, we thought we could get away with it."

  • Brendan O'Neil notes Hillary's 2016 marketing strategy: to campaign "as a woman". Patronizing? Sure.

    But of course, that’s the card Hillary herself is playing. She uses the Twitter hashtag #GrandmothersKnowBest (one wonders if that will be printed on the side of the missiles she fires at errant states that dare to piss off Madam President). And her launch video was all about gender. Primarily featuring women – and of course containing a nod to gay marriage, for it is political suicide for any public official to fail to genuflect cravenly before this most orthodox of modern orthodoxies – her video is an identity-fest. It says nothing of policy – bar supporting families and being nice to working people – and instead tick-boxes all identities, especially gender ones. Young woman? Check. Ethnic woman? Check. Old woman? Check. Mexicans? Check. Gays? Check, check, check. Left-leaning observers are falling over themselves to pat Granny Hillary on the back for what one describes as her ‘shift in tone from 2008 to 2016’, where she will now be ‘running as a woman’. In 2008, she ran as a politician; in 2016, she will run as a woman. How, precisely, is this ‘shift in tone’ from defining a female candidate by her politics to defining her by her gender a positive thing?

    It's not, of course. But if your policies are tired rehashes of stale progressivism, and your record of accomplishment is worse than spotty, what are you gonna do? Market your chromosomes, that's what. Just ask the current occupant of the Oval Office for advice on that.

  • Once you read Jonah Goldberg's observation about GOP candidates' proclivity for “reading your stage direction”, you start to notice it everywhere. Jeb Bush

    “I have to show my heart,” [Bush] said. “I have to talk about my life experience.”

    Or as his dad put it in Exeter in 1992: "Message: I care."

  • An amusing bit of phoniness was spotted this week by Mickey Kaus:

    On Sunday, Bob Scheiffer asked Marco Rubio if as president he’d sign his own “Gang of 8″ immigration bill. Rubio ducked, saying “That’s a hypothetical.” Yes, it is! A germane and highly informative hypothetical, which he should be able to answer. It’s his damn bill. He tried to foist it on us. Why won’t he tell us if he’d sign it? And if Rubio’s so keen on letting Republican primary voters know he’s learned his lesson, why isn’t the answer he gives simply “No, I wouldn’t sign it today”?


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The Phony Campaign — 2015-04-19 Update

[phony baloney]

Last week's O'Malley/Biden boomlet at Predictwise fizzled out this week, as their Oval Office Occupancy probabilities have dropped to 1.5% and 1.1%, respectively. So, by our arbitrary cutoff of 2%, they're outta here:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Jeb Bush" phony 1,970,000 +1,195,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 511,000 +125,000
"Rand Paul" phony 227,000 +29,000
"Marco Rubio" phony 160,000 +76,300
"Scott Walker" phony 114,000 +5,000
"Elizabeth Warren" phony 95,500 +18,700

And what of Ted Cruz? He was tantalizingly close to inclusion last week at 1.8%. But as I type, his odds have gone back to the are-you-kidding level: 0.9%. Ted's poor impressions of characters from his favorite episodes of The Simpsons may have contributed to this fade.

But when it comes to phoniness, everyone's a sure thing:

  • On Monday, Hillary went to a Chipotle in Maumee, Ohio. The media picked up this momentous story and ran with it. She eats! At Vox, Matthew Yglesias called it "the dumbest media frenzy of 2016 (so far)". That did not stop him from writing about it, though.

  • Hillary's phoniness got talked about a lot this week. Michael Walsh was especially acerbic in "The Sham Candidacy of Hillary Clinton — and What It Means for the Republic".

    Let us please stipulate that in a rational world, a woman like Hillary Rodham Clinton would have absolutely no chance of being nominated for, much less elected, president of the United States. She has achieved nothing, accomplished nothing (unless you count the four dead Americans at Benghazi, for which she will ultimately be held responsible); she is an exremely [sic] poor public speaker, full of annoying verbal and physical tics; she is legendarily dishonest; she is a hard-core Alinskyite; and in general a wretched human being. By rights, she should be laughed off the stage, the same way the smart set laughed at Lurleen Wallace, who succeeded her husband George Wallace, the racist Democrat, as governor of Alabama back in 1967. She has no natural political constituency, except the manufactured “women’s vote,” and no rationale for her candidacy except that it’s “time” for a woman president, just as it was “time” for a part-black African, part-Arab, half-white, paternally cultural Muslim to pass for a traditional African-American Christian and be elected president in 2008.

  • At Power Line, Paul Mirengoff discussed Hillary's Wednesday lie that all her grandparents were immigrants. (This took approximately 40 seconds to be debunked: only one of her grandparents was born outside the US.)

    Why did Clinton lie about her grandparents? Perhaps because she wanted to show an authentic connection to the American experience.

    Unfortunately for Clinton, the more desperately she seeks to demonstrate authenticity, the more inauthentic she looks.

    As I said a few months back: With Hillary, as with her husband, dishonesty is the default setting.

  • The great Charles Krauthammer worked the topic into an entire column: "Hillary’s Authentic Inauthenticity". This is about as sympathetic as conservatives will get on the issue:

    She doesn’t just get media coverage; she gets meta-coverage. The staging is so obvious that actual events disappear. The story is their symbolism — campaign as semiotics.

    This quality of purposeful abstractness makes everything sound and seem contrived. It’s not really her fault. True, she’s got enough genuine inauthenticity to go around — decades of positioning, framing, parsing, dodging — but the perception is compounded by the obvious staginess of the gigantic political apparatus that surrounds her and directs her movements.

  • Face it: when it comes to phoniness, we could be all-Hillary all the time here. Let's force ourselves away. Jeb Bush was in our fair state this week, and…

    On a New Hampshire radio show Friday morning, Bush acknowledged that campaigning requires a person to reveal "vulnerabilities" and "get outside your comfort zone," two ways of proving that a candidacy is "not all staged in some kind of phony way."

    … demonstrating that Jeb failed to take Jonah Goldberg's advice from a few months back: stop reading your stage directions.

Last Modified 2015-04-20 4:28 AM EDT
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Money is Evil, Unless You're Sending It To UNH (2015 version)

Last year, the University Near Here offered a program called the "Future Leaders Institute". Subtitle: "A Summer Camp for Ambitious High-School Students." Pun Salad was unsympathetic.

But despite the scorn and derision, they are doing it again this year. Their description is slightly altered this year, and I've tweaked my 2014 comments appropriately. Otherwise, it's a rerun.

What will our Ambitious Future Leader High-School Students be doing at camp? Whittling? Canoeing? Learning how to recognise different types of trees from quite a long way away?

Nah. The camp's theme is "Money, Greed, Corruption." (Week One covers "Money, Greed and Society". The optional Week Two's topics: "Money, Politics and Government".) It doesn't sound like the Future Leaders will be learning any useful wilderness skills, or having much fun at all. The curriculum will be set up by faculty members of the Paul College of Business and Economics… no, sorry, I'm kidding. It will be run by R. Scott Smith, Professor of Classics, and Nick Smith, Professor of Philosophy, both of UNH's College of Liberal Arts (COLA).

Let's take a look at the program description, commenting as we go:

We tend to have mixed feelings about money and how it influences us.

What they actually mean to say: different people hold wildly different opinions about it.

Ayn Rand once described money as the "root of all good."

She did! Or rather, one of her Atlas Shrugged good guys, Francisco d’Anconia, did. His speech is reproduced here. (Recommended reading.)

Karl Marx (echoing a host of ancient thinkers) thought money was closer to the "root of all evil."

Despite the "quotes", I'm pretty sure Marx didn't say that, but it's true that he was no fan. Last year, the source of the quotation was correctly identified as 1 Timothy 6:10, where love of money (not money itself) is identified as the "root of all evil".

[1 Timothy, by the way, is also well-known for being the epistle where Apostle Paul advocated that women shut up and know their place and advised slaves to be respectful to their masters. Bible-thumpers pick and choose which parts of the book to thump.]

In any case: you see where we're going with this: it's gonna be Rand vs. Marx and a "host of ancient thinkers." Good luck, Ayn.

Money provides a near universal common denominator that allows people on opposite sides of the world to exchange things of value with great efficiency.

Stipulated. Not even Francisco d’Anconia would disagree. But:

Money motivates us, for better or worse, to do things we would not otherwise do.

Confused drivel. All incentives, including economic ones, can lead us to make different choices than we would otherwise. That is the definition of "motivate". But the paycheck is not the goal, it's not in the driver's seat; it's what the paycheck allows us to do. (Quoting Francisco: "[Money] will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires.")

Your desires may be wise or foolish, noble or base. Don't blame (or bless) "money" for your own choices and values.

Business leaders often see making money as their primary goal, but this objective often conflicts with and sometimes overrides all other principles.

Pay attention, aspiring academic writers: If, in a single sentence, you use "often" twice and "sometimes" once, nobody can prove you wrong.

No doubt: businessmen are guilty of attempting to run their businesses more profitably than a couple of COLA profs think they should. It's difficult to work up any outrage, or even concern, about that at all.

Although we live in a democracy where citizens' votes are supposed to count equally, we know that money influences politics at many levels.

A brave stand against (unnamed) corrupt politicians! Hey, I won't defend them. Although I'd wager far more politicians are corrupted by their love of coercive state power than by love of money. Good luck getting a couple of Liberal Arts profs to even recognize that, let alone preach against it.

Can one be a good person, honest, loyal and caring while attempting to maximize profits and win elections in a money-hungry world?

Yes. Thanks for asking.

But ask the question without adding the superfluous phrase "in a money-hungry world." People that blame a "money-hungry world" for their own poor life choices are irresponsible losers.

Or are ethical principles naive in a world where money and power are so entwined?

The answer here is "No". Again, thanks for asking.

Here's one bit I left out. From up at the top of the page:

Cost: one week: $900 two weeks: $1,600.

Yes, they are charging money to tell the kiddos how awful money is. (Is this irony? I can never tell.)

I'll close with the final paragraph of Francisco's speech, linked above:

Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and guns–or dollars. Take your choice–there is no other–and your time is running out.

I'd put the whole thing on the Ambitious Future Leaders High-School Students' required reading list. In fact, I'd be happy to give a dramatic reading of it for the AFLHSS this summer. And to show what a money-loving greedy selfish bastard I am: I would do it for free.

Last Modified 2015-04-17 6:19 AM EDT
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The Phony Campaign — 2015-04-12 Update

[phony baloney]

It looks as if Hillary is officially getting into the race today. The official response among people betting actual money on the outcome was… to wager a little more heavily on some other Democrat to win. Martin O'Malley (as I type) is given a 2.3% chance of becoming our next president, and Joe Biden is coming in at 2.0%. So by our (arbitrary) standards (2% or above), we welcome them both to the phony standings:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
"Jeb Bush" phony 775,000 +12,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 386,000 +4,000
"Rand Paul" phony 198,000 +46,000
"Joe Biden" phony 145,000 ---
"Scott Walker" phony 109,000 -6,000
"Martin O'Malley" phony 92,100 ---
"Marco Rubio" phony 83,700 -1,400
"Elizabeth Warren" phony 76,800 -4,800

On the Ted Cruz watch? PredictWise says his odds are improving! From 1.5% last week to… a solid 1.8% this week! Hang in there, Ted!

  • Even though The New Republic is kind of a bad joke these days, I am obligated to mention a recent article by Elspeth Reeve appearing there: "Hillary Clinton Needs to Be More Fake". Really? Well, here's the argument, I think: Hillary was "real" back when Bill was running for president. And, while some people found it appealing, most were turned off. Ms. Reeve concludes:

    To become more “authentic,” Hillary must become even more fake, set us at ease by playing to all the dumb tropes of the popular portrait of the everywoman—one who is devoted to slopwave food (premium juice, premium oatmeal, kale slurry) but is a little embarrassed about it. A wacky career gal who is unlucky in ... something. Clinton should consider tripping publicly, perhaps while eating yogurt. Then laugh really loud, but not inauthentically loud. The only thing worse than being fake in politics is being real.

    Perceptive commentary or barely coherent drivel? You make the call!

    The blurb at the end claims Elspeth Reeve is a senior editor at The New Republic. And she couldn't get away with lying about that, could she?

  • Also welcoming Hillary's Official Announcement was Ian Tuttle at National Review: "Hillary Clinton’s Truman Show Campaign".

    For decades, Hillary Clinton has had her entire life scripted. She has existed in a world insulated by handlers and managers and “her people,” all of whom are employed for the overarching purpose of mediating her engagement with the calamitous world “out there.” Yet every time the bubble is pricked, and we no longer have to see Hillary Clinton through limousine glass darkly, we rediscover her vices — her obsessive secretiveness, her arrogance, her shrewish treatment even of those closest to her — and the unmistakable fact that she is simply not equipped to deal with the world unmediated.

    As you would expect a right-wing troglodyte to say: Ian Tuttle is on-target here. I wonder if low-info voters will catch on?

  • We couldn't let this NYT report go by: "Jeb Bush Listed Himself as ‘Hispanic’ on Voter Form".

    The NYT (somewhat surprisingly) compares this to Elizabeth Warren's self-identification as Native American. But that misrepresentation (as Ian Tuttle notes) helped Warren gain traction on academia's slippery promotion slope; there doesn't seem to have been any obvious benefit for Jeb to fib to the voter-registration officials. So does it imply anything? At Power Line, Paul Mirengoff speculates that it was a Freudian slip. David Frum is quoted:

    Both Jeb Bush and Barack Obama are men who have openly and publicly struggled with their ambivalence about their family inheritance. Both responded by leaving the place of their youth to create new identities for themselves: Barack Obama, as an organizer in the poor African-American neighborhoods of Chicago; Jeb Bush in Mexico, Venezuela, and at last in Cuban-influenced Miami. Both are men who have talked a great deal about the feeling of being “between two worlds”: Obama, in his famous autobiography; Bush, in his speeches. Both chose wives who would more deeply connect them to their new chosen identity. Both derived from their new identity a sharp critique of their nation as it is. Both have built their campaign for president upon a deep commitment to fundamental transformation of their nation into what they believe it should be.

    (I have duplicated the emphasis that Mirengoff added to Frum's words.)

    At National Review, Mark Krikorian believes that this was Jeb's way of "subscribing to the tribalism that … has replaced color-blindness and assimilationism". Maybe. I like his further point:

    But rather than pick on Señor Arbusto (sorry!), it’s more productive to use the incident as a teachable moment (ugh!). Jeb’s fakery suggests why we should abolish government racial and ethnic categories, building a wall of separation, as it were, between race and state, as we do between church and state. No one would think of asking your religion on a voter-registration form or job application — in fact, it’s illegal. So should it be for other attributes that are irrelevant to the content of your character — hair color, say, or handedness or what country your grandparents came from.

    Mr Krikorian and Pun Salad have been in agreement on this for years.

  • Another must-read for students of political phoniness this week: Dartmouth's own Brendan Nyhan in the NYT explains "How Scott Walker Has Escaped the ‘Inauthentic’ Label So Far" Among the insights, after summarizing the recent history of (successful and unsuccessful) political phoniness:

    It also helps that Governor Walker is likely to become a better political performer than Mr. Romney or Mr. Kerry ever were. Candidates who seem too programmed appear to fall in the uncanny valley between politicians and regular people, which reminds the news media that all candidates are artificial and sets off a search for (often dubious) evidence of their inauthenticity. By contrast, more skilled performers like George W. Bush or Fred Thompson can attempt wholesale reinventions and face less scrutiny.

    I will only quibble that "skilled performer" Fred Thompson's 2008 campaign went pretty much nowhere.

  • At Hot Air, the headline of Allahpundit's article about Rand Paul's South Carolina campaign is chuckle-worthy: "Anti-war candidate gives speech in front of big-ass warship"

    At Reason, Nick Gillespie used the occasion and the theatrics to ask: "Has Rand Paul Turned Into a Neocon Hawk?". (Spoiler: no, not really.)

Last Modified 2015-04-15 5:45 AM EDT
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