Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Quick NH thoughts

First casualty of NH: Not Joe-mentum Lieberman, as popularly surmised, but Joe Trippi, the wizard of the failed Dean revolution. Trippi resigned late afternoon, after Dean brought in Gore-man Ron Neel. History may well look back on Trippi kindly, seeing his Dean campaign as the "prime mover" of a new method of campaigning. But the Dean campaign has failed because politics is still about winning over the disengaged, which Trippi, caught in the blogforamerica echo chamber, failed in winning over.

Most pathetic performance of the night: Joe Lieberman on "Hardball". Matthews hammered away at the Bush Administration's credibility, but Mr. Integrity kept sticking up for the prevaricating Bushies, then pathetically tried to spin his single-digit fifth place finish as a "virtual tie for third". Time to hang 'em up, Joe.

Mr. Electable? TNR doesn't think Kerry's got a good jaw. We'll see. I find him tiresome to listen to, and his Boston Brahmin/Skulls pedigree doesn't help his message, but he's a cautious mainstream Democrat who looks and sounds presidential. Given Bush's vulnerabilities, that may be enough.

The new "electability" calculus. Everyone assumes electability appears in a vacuum, but why should it? Let's factor in Bush's strength in order to come up with a preferred candidate, shall we?

- Bush unbeatable, go with Dean (think Goldwater 1964 to realign the party and energize the base).
- Bush strong, go with Clark (potential for grabbing the most voters, but also potential for self-detonation.)
- Bush even, go with Edwards (best campaigner with safe, broad appeal.)
- Bush weak, go with Kerry (safe guy who won't self-destruct and will grab all the Gore votes.)

Stop yelling buddy. Clark needs to tone down on his stump speeches. His handlers are still not making a case for his candidacy beyond "last month I was the anti-Dean, this month I'll be the anti-Kerry." This "Family Values" angle he's got working on may work, but I'd try every answer in tomorrow's debate to (1) experience as a general running his squad; (2) his tax plan; or (3) his opposition to the war.

Cable TV pundits. Absolutely clueless, as always. I should block MSNBC from my cable system. However, there might be room for Ron Reagan, Jr. to step into politics.

Feb. 3. Win or fold time for the pretenders except for Dean, who's aiming at Michigan and Washington four days later. Kerry will have to fight "guerilla" operations by the other candidates hoping to steal some primaries and stall his momentum. None of the following is remotely correct, by the way:

Realistic scenario: Wins Missouri, which press declares to be the main contest. 1st in Arizona, NM, competitive everywhere. Retains front-runner status.
Poor-case scenario: Stumbles during the week after intense press scrutiny, only wins one contest next week and finishes third in OK and SC. Press declares Kerry a wounded frontrunner.

Best-case scenario: Good week means a strong showing in Arizona and NM, and Kerry's stumbles help insure a Michigan and Washington victory, making him a viable contender again.
Realistic scenario: Places 2nd or 3rd in the Southwest, 4th in the southern states, 2nd to Kerry in Washington and Michigan and drops out after March 7.

Best-case: Strong debate performance, better press coverage, Native American support and good ads help Clark take OK, ND, NM. Finishes a strong second in AZ, SC, and MO, and becomes annointed as the anti-Kerry as Dean endorses him.
Realistic: Takes OK, has a smattering of 2nd place finishes, so his campaign survives, but just barely.

Best-case: Strong debate performance helps Edwards take not only SC, but OK. Finishes a strong second in the Southwest, and buyer's remorse on Kerry makes Edwards everyone's favorite alternative. Gets momentum by winning Feb. 10 primaries in neighboring Virginia and TN.
Realistic: Wins SC, 2nd in OK and MO, and continues to limp along, short on cash but in position in case Kerry stumbles.

You're never wrong betting against the pundits. So I imagine one or more of these guys survive Feb. 3 to take on Kerry.

More Deaniacs like this please.

Short Oscar thoughts

Good: CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS nod, Johnny Depp!, multiple props to MASTER & COMMANDER, surprise showing for CITY OF GOD, Johnny Depp!


Awful: SHITBISCUIT robbing COLD MOUNTAIN for best picture.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Hastily Composed Random Thoughts

* I've been pulling for Dean to rebound some in NH, mainly because I think he's been unfairly beaten up by the media (aka "so-called liberal media") and partially because I'd like to see him stay alive in this campaign. The biggest reason, though, is I'd hate to see his campaign derail on the basis of one speech that's been blown way out of proportion. How many times do we have to see that concession speech (which I found funny the first twelve times I saw it) before the talking heads can figure that THE MAN'S NOT ANGRY! The guy's just excited. Yeah, so he shouldn't have done it, but that doesn't make the guy fucking Gen. Jack D. Ripper.

* Dean = Worthy of respect. Deaniacs = Annoying as fuck. [Added! link to good Saletan article discussing the Deaniac echo chamber.] First, I have some good friends who are bl...Deaniacs. Seriously, most Dean supporters are probably perfectly reasonable. And they're right to be scornful of the media attacks on Dean, which has only added to Dean's "authentic" maverick appeal and their own alienation from the "Establishment." But a bunch of the more nutty variety have taken over political discourse in the middle-left blogosphere, exasperating the non-True Believers. As Eric Alterman notes, anybody who disses their godhead, however legitimately, is villified as a sell-out or "in league with Kerry, or a right-wing stooge. Included among this company are The New Republic, The Post editorial page, the terrific blogger Josh Marshall, etc. The way these guys go on, these wingnuts really deserve no more intellectual respect than "Freepers" on the right. And their unblinking cultish devotion to their Great Leader makes supporting Dean a tough proposition, even if he ends being the anti-Kerry. Hardcore Deaniacs: Case No. 102,883 demonstrating the boomerang effect of militant activism. Too bad, because there's much to admire about Dean, though I'd never support him because I'm an unapologetic pragmatist.

* Clinton astutely observed that Democrats want to fall in love [with their nominee] while the Republicans just fall in line. And it wouldn't work any other way, really, given how differently liberals and conservatives generally approach the world. But perhaps out of desperation (coupled with a disastrously-conceived compacted primary season that does a disservice to primary voters), Democrats are falling in line with the resolutely unlovable John Kerry, who's poised to take NH in a cakewalk. I still think a Clark/Edwards or Edwards/Clark ticket is preferable (electability-wise) to Al Gore redux, but seeing Bush's ever wobbly poll standing, it might be better to field the safest candidate available. John Kerry, the insurance salesman of presidential contenders, is the guy you fall in line with. And at the end of the day, if Kerry survives, why not? As much as it resembles sports, politics is about power, and power comes from winning. It's strange to me that so many are invested in certain candidates as if they're favorite sports teams. Seems to me being a fanboy is exactly the wrong approach to go about following politics and voting. What are your goals and who has the best chance of actualizing some of these goals, shouldn't that be the question?

* Is there a right-wing conspiracy to derail Wes Clark, presumably the candidate Bush fears most? Those ridiculous gotcha questions directed at him (while Kerry got softballs) during last week's debate *sponsored by the Fox News Channel* hints at something strangely nefarious. Clark can seem completely at ease talking domestic policy in certain settings (the town hall, radio call-in shows) while stammering his way through other forums, like last week's debate. It would've been nice if he boned up a little bit and learned to change the question as Edwards had done so smoothly. If he falters, he'd have to blame (1) the decision to not campaign in Iowa; (2) the uninspired debate performance. He's got a famously quick learning curve, but he hasn't found the right *tone* to strike as of yet.

* Admission that eliminates my viability as a bachelor: Yes, I'm a fucking geek. I watch about eight hours of TV a week now, and they're almost all pundit shows ("Hardball" especially), C-Span, or The World Series of Poker re-runs on ESPN. When you think about it, is there anything more pathetic than a poseur pundit?

* PLAYTIME (restored). As I suspected, I hadn't actually seen PLAYTIME. And you haven't actually seen Tati's satire of modern design culture gone amok unless you saw it in glorious 70 mm. A singular fusion of performance art, architecture, and interior design, PLAYTIME's clockwork setpieces and multi-eye-point compositions remain unparalleled in cinema. A knockout.