The Phony Campaign

2008-07-20 Update

After a reality-sundering week at the number two position, Obama's back on top:

Query StringHit CountChange Since
"Barack Obama" phony668,000+10,000
"John McCain" phony606,000-106,000
"Bob Barr" phony11,400+200

We're pretty much laying off Obama today, though. Those who can't get along without a summary of Barackrobatics can check out James Lewis at the American Thinker for your weekly dose: Barack's Disgraceful Global Phony-Ops.

In other phony news:

  • Bob Barr doesn't get a lot of phony love on the web, but a gentleman named "Thirsty McWormwood" tries to correct that at the American Spectator.

    No politician in recent history has flip-flopped as spectacularly as Barr has done while at the same time managing to avoid the charges of hypocrisy, rank cynicism, or spinelessness that such transformations inevitably bring with them.

    Mr. McWormwood runs down five guidelines for other politicians who want to flip-flop with as little attention for it as Barr has received. He missed number six though: run as a Libertarian Party candidate; you'll find nobody really cares about your consistency, or anything else, really, other than your ability to be a spoiler for one of the major party's candidates.

  • Jonathan Chait rose to a sort of prominence back in 2003 when he opened a New Republic column with "I hate President George W. Bush. There, I said it."

    Amazingly, he's apparently paid to, at least occasionally, lay bare his quirky gut-reactions to politicians. Pretty good gig, when thousands of bloggers do that nearly every day, for free.

    In any case, his latest article is the latest example:

    Yes, people put far too much stock in the candidates' personalities. (I'd vote for an obnoxious, pampered phony who shared my beliefs over a charming war hero who didn't.) But personality isn't completely meaningless, either. A president sets the tone for our public discourse, and McCain is pretty easy to take. His demagoguery comes with an awkward forced smile, which doesn't make it more forgivable but does make it less irritating.

    So McCain has hit Chait's sweet spot of "unforgivable, but less irritating." McCain's sloganeers should take notes. What of his substantive views?

    As for his substantive views, they do (now) closely resemble Bush's. Yet the upside to a candidate who changes his philosophical orientation as often as McCain is that he could always switch back. While I certainly wouldn't recommend that anybody go so far as to vote for him on that basis, it still offers some grounds for hope. The Bush presidency is like being married to a sociopath. A McCain presidency would be more like being married to a drug addict--however badly he behaves, he could always sober up.

    I've never been married to a sociopath or a drug addict, so I'll defer to Chait's expertise there. But what does it say about modern liberalism when one of the closest metaphors they can think of for a presidency is that of marriage?

    Chait's bottom line: McCain's a phony, but not an obnoxious and pampered one, and the phoniness means he could totally betray the people who voted for him. So, hey, not bad!

  • Over at Time, James Poniewozik writes loosely on the infamous recent New Yorker cover and the difficulty in coming up with good political jokes. Hey, he asks, what about folks like John Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and (!) Keith Olbermann?

    These commentators are so effective (and more popular, among some audiences, than the straight media they've supplanted) precisely because they spray seltzer in the face of the official, inoffensive, phony public discourse. Unlike many politicians, they say what they think; unlike much of the media, they trust their audience's intelligence. That we should rely so heavily on them to do so is the biggest joke in American public life. I wish I could laugh.

    Poor glum Jamie P! Pun Salad translates his "they trust their audience's intelligence" as "they know their audience's political viewpoints, and carefully tailor their presentations so as to not seriously challenge them." You know, kind of like Time magazine.

  • For a real chuckle, the Google will also take you to a pamphlet issued by the "Internationalist Group". (Which I suspect may be more accurately called either "Three Guys Who Meet in Steve's Mom's Basement" or "Some Frat Boys Who Know Enough Left Wing Jargon to be Freelance Agents Provocateurs")

    Imperialist war can only be defeated with class war. Talk of “majorities” peacefully persuading the (ruling-class) “minority” to withdraw from Iraq by “demonstrating” that the majority is a majority, is a deception that serves the ruling class by promoting illusions in bourgeois “democracy.” So what if the capitalists and war supporters are a minority? It hasn’t stopped them before. This minority rules through the capitalist state apparatus: it has the police, the prisons, the courts and the armed forces at its disposal, as well as the capitalist media as a platform for “opinion makers.” This minority makes war to keep its heel on the necks of oppressed and exploited millions. Nothing but smashing the capitalist system will put an end to imperialist war. The “Progressive Democrats,” Greens and the phony socialists are opponents of workers revolution. Unity with them means endless war.

    The real fun is reading the Internationalists inveighing against a host of "opportunist Leftist groups", including the "League for the Revolutionary Party", the "Northeast Federation of Anarcho-Communists", the "AL (Animal Liberation) collective", and the "ex-Trotskyist Spartacist League". These guys hate themselves much more than they hate capitalism. Which is, I suppose, kind of a good thing.

  • Our regular readers will want to know that our word "Barackrobatics" is still being beaten like a Gotham City thug in Google Hits by "Obamafuscation", 947 to 3.

Last Modified 2014-12-01 10:55 AM EDT

Mamma Mia!

[Amazon Link] [3.5
stars] [IMDb Link]

I've been waiting impatiently for The Dark Knight ever since the closing credits of Batman Begins. I desperately want to see The Dark Knight before inadvertant web surfing reveals plot spoilers. So, naturally, at my first opportunity on this premiere weekend, Mrs. Salad and I went to see … Mamma Mia!

Long story.

Plot: Sophie's getting married, and she wants to invite her dad to her wedding. Complication: she doesn't know who that is. So she steals her Mom's diary covering the period of her conception, and narrows the field down to three candidates, and, unbeknownst to Mom, invites all three.

That sounds like a recipe for laff-filled wacky mayhem, and it is, but wait! There's more: (a) it all happens on a romantic Greek isle; (b) Mom is played by Meryl Streep; (c) the potential dads are played by Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgård; (d) Mom's buddies show up, and they are played by Julie Walters and Christine Baranski; (e) everyone and anyone can break into a big-production ABBA song at any time.

ABBA, for you youngsters, was a pop group with music so fluffy and bland and bouncy, it made the Carpenters look like the Sex Pistols.

Now, most of these people have no musical or dancing talent any greater than you might catch at the Hackmatack Playhouse in Berwick, Maine, on any summer weekend. But that's not bad, because (like the Hackmatack), everyone's very enthusiastic and clearly having a blast. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to get roped into the fun.

I checked out the audience in our crowded theatre. I think women outnumbered men about 4-to-1. And, for the first time in perhaps decades, I may have been younger than the average attendee. It's probably a pretty good date movie, but it's an even safer bet if you take your Mom.

Last Modified 2012-10-11 4:07 PM EDT

Experimental Results


This week's test of the Sunday Basic Cable Movie Actor Theory:

  • 12:30AM on TNT: Space Cowboys (Clint Eastwood)
  • 3:00PM on USA: Bad Boys II (Will Smith)
  • 8:00PM on FX: Batman Begins (Morgan Freeman)

And yea verily the theory stands unrefuted for the past 22 weeks.