I hope it isn’t too embarrassing to admit this, but since I’ve started working for a policy magazine, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of how difficult good policymaking — i.e., politics, law-making, what goes on in capitol buildings — really is. (Even bad policymaking isn’t exactly a cakewalk.) I also understand better how so much of our political rhetoric works against good policy — the idea that “career politicians” are the problem, that term limits are the solution, to name but two. I will grant you that politics ain’t exactly eye surgery, but when was the last time you asked for less expertise in any service provider? “I don’t want a career mechanic working on my car; let’s let this guy with no experience open the hood and see what’s what,” said no sane person ever.
Again, I grant you that the idea of citizen lawmakers, who come together in session to consider the needs of the republic, then disperse back into their roles as farmers and insurance salesmen and high-school math teachers, is an attractive one, and not without merit. I only ask that those farmers and insurance salesmen and teachers be the best goddamn policymakers that we can find, and in this day and age, that means they’re pretty much policymakers, period. Governing is complicated. It’s not the 18th century anymore. There are 320 million people in this country, millions of them in each state (for the most part). You can’t get together, discuss solutions to the sheep on the commons problem and then ride your horse home anymore. People who believe this can still be done either live in very small or low-population states, mostly in the west, or they’re Hoosiers. Although they’re listed as a hybrid on this map, Indiana has every-other-year “short” and “long” sessions that meet for only a few weeks or months at a time. Coming from Ohio’s capital city, it was a shock.
Michigan has term limits, and when you talk to the permanent residents of Lansing — lobbyists and the stewards of the zillion-and-one nonprofit organizations that advocate for pretty much everything — they talk about the teaching-and-learning that must go on when every election cycle brings in a sizable freshman class who need to be brought up to speed on so, so much. Most of them have some political experience, so they’re not totally ignorant, but no one knows everything, and most are stepping into a wider arena than they previously occupied. So they have to learn, for example, how we fund mass transit in the state, who the players are, what’s needed, what needs upgrading, what the stakes are for the people who depend on it, and because it’s mass transit, what needs to be coordinated with Washington, and, and… It gets tiring. Repeat for education, health care, roads and bridges, agriculture, etc. It gets really tiring.
A running theme in our discussions here is the War on Taxes, the Let’s Drown Government in the Bathtub movement, the general, from-the-right idea that the best government is not only that which governs least, but that which barely exists. I don’t think of myself as anything more radical than a left-leaning moderate, and I’ve come to believe that idea is a big part of why our politics seems so broken. We have contempt for the people who practice it. Every cycle, we throw in a new bunch of not-career-politicians, and then wonder why they haven’t performed a miracle with less revenue in their allotted time.
Face it: It takes real dedication, or true masochism, to stay in politics for very long these days. So I was intrigued by the argument John Scalzi makes in this piece, which one of you sharp commenters already linked to, but let’s let the non-comments-reading readers see it. After explaining his philosophy of service to self and others, he gets to it:
I think that Clinton has shown amply over the years that, whatever personal ambitions or her willingness to cash a check for speaking fees (and as an ambitious person who occasionally speaks for money, I don’t see either as inherently a problem), time and again she’s put herself in service. Not with 100% success and not without flaws even when successful, but there are none of us perfect, and the end result of her putting herself back into the arena again and again is that much of that service has had an impact. Her ambition and service are not just about her and what it gets her. She’s done much, and at a high level, for others.
But Hillary Clinton is — is what, exactly? A criminal? Corrupt? Dishonest? Evil? Terrible? Awful? A bitch? Satan in a pantsuit ensemble? As I’ve noted before, a quarter century of entirely outsized investigations into her life and actions have come up with nothing criminal or found corruption that rises to indictable levels. As for the rest of it, whatever Clinton’s own personal characteristics, she also had the misfortune of stepping into the political spotlight concurrent to the GOP wholesale adopting the Gingrich playbook of demonizing the opposition. She’s has an entire political party and its media apparatus spending two full decades telling the world she’s a bitch, and evil, and a criminal. It’s still happening; the Republican National Convention resounded with the words lock her up, lock her up, lock her up. And yet she is still here. She is still in service. Now, you can see that as ego or delusion or the inability to take a hint. I see it as an unwillingness to yield the floor to those whose political playbook is simply “demonize your opponent,” with the rest to be figured out later.
He’s right about the two full decades thing, although it was a little longer. She was the one who coined the phrase “vast right-wing conspiracy,” and it turns out? She was right. Richard Mellon Scaife did fund the American Spectator’s campaign to dig up dirt on Bill Clinton. Fox News does have a memo of the day that lays out political talking points. Anyone who doesn’t notice this isn’t paying attention.
And after being examined like an ant under a magnifying glass for almost a quarter-century, what do they have on her? Not bloody much. And she’s still working. She could have retired years ago, and she hasn’t. Honestly, to still be in the game at this point? She’s either the world’s biggest masochist, or in it because she wants to make a difference.
By this point, she’s experienced. Give her that, if nothing else. She’s spent her career working as a lawyer in a state capitol, a political spouse, a U.S. Senator, a cabinet secretary, a nonprofit foundation executive – a well-rounded resume that’s allowed her to see the sausage-making from farm to table. And for much of that time, her every move has been examined, by people who despise her. Despise her. As bad as the abuse heaped on Barack Obama has been the last eight years, it’s been maybe worse for Hillary Clinton. This piece is humorous, but every charge on it has been made, in all seriousness, by the people who hate her. Last night I stuck a toe in right-wing Twitter. The voice! The boring stuff! OMG, can you imagine four years of this? (Well, yes I can. Ask anyone who lived through the Bush administrations.)
The election is still months away, and a lot — a lot — can happen in that time. But if she prevails, I will feel all my complicated feelings about her, but one thing I’ll be certain of is that she’s no dilettante. She is competent. She’ll make mistakes, as we all do, but after all this time, the fact she’s still in the game says something important about her.
Open thread for convention chatter again. The links I could post are already outdated, so nothing from me right now. I had a little string gathered on the men’s-rights people swooning over “alpha” Donald Trump, but it makes me sad to look at it, and in the end, I’m afraid it wouldn’t even make a bird’s nest. So let’s let that go.
And have a great weekend. Heat’s broken here. Hope it has where you are, too.
The sushi was delicious, if you’re wondering. This particular bar/restaurant has a “takeover Tuesday” every week, when guest chefs come in and do something new and different. It’s a cool idea, imperfectly executed, in that the regular kitchen staff and the waitstaff just take the night off. So it’s not just a new menu, it’s new servers and, well, anarchy of a sort. The place was full when I arrived, angling for seating for four. There were no rules about sections or seating, just take whatever you can grab. A six-top arrived five minutes after me and had their eyes on the same table.
(Guess who was sitting at the table, which could have comfortably accommodated five? One guy, working on a laptop, drinking a beer. I tried to displace him through my thought beams.)
Readers, I had to bigfoot the six-top, and readers, I felt bad about it. But when there are no rules, you make up your own.
This new dining culture in Detroit is simultaneously wonderful and baffling. The food is so much better than it was when we arrived, it hardly bears mentioning. But as we saw about a million times on “Top Chef,” just because you can put a great meal on the table doesn’t mean you know how to run a restaurant, and that lesson is harder to learn. Lots of the new places don’t take reservations and many don’t have phones. Nothing like making your way to the hot new place and discovering there’s a 90-minute wait. I have a young friend who sets aside Friday as date night with his girlfriend, and I rely on him for intel on whether I can even get near a hot new place. Lately we find them when they’re only lukewarm; we were delighted to get immediate seating at one farm-to-table something-or-other a few months ago, and the food was quite good. A week later we heard it was on its last legs and would likely close within a month. (It remains open.)
But that sushi was great. Had a pancake something-or-other, and a noodle thingie, and some rolls, and some sashimi, and some vegetable tempura. That’s the other thing about the new dining scene — there are robust vegetarian and vegan options everywhere, and while I’m neither, it’s nice to have someone paying attention to the vegetables, because they’re damn tasty. I recall my last meal at a local chain that’s often recommended by people who live in the ‘burbs. “Sooooo good!” they enthuse. It isn’t, but it has a lot of locations, it’s Italian, and we happened to be in one of their neighborhoods when we were hungry and it was open. I didn’t want a pasta pile or cheese explosion, so I ordered something from the heart-healthy, light menu, a lentil or bean thing I thought might include tomatoes and some Mediterranean seasonings. Utterly devoid of any seasonings, much less Mediterranean ones, it tasted like the gruel they serve on a hospital cardiac ward, dished up by Nurse Ratched. I put down my fork after a few bites and declared I would never, ever spend another dollar in this shithole, or any other of their other locations, and I haven’t, and I won’t.
I can put up with a lot of hipster bullshit when I remember the old alternative.
So! Bill’s speech last night! I didn’t last through it, but I heard the opening, and as he got into the groove, I could tell the old dog still had it. His voice is diminished, his body is diminished, but it’s going to take a lot more to put him down, and he’s a long way from down. So Rachel got her knickers in a twist because he said he “met a girl?” Oh, girl, please. And here I thought you had a sense of humor, or at least perspective. Whatever.
Tonight is POTUS, of course. By the time you read this, he’ll be on Marine One or Limo One or maybe kicking it in his jammies in a nice Philly hotel suite. So tell me how it went, ’cause I won’t see these comments until Thursday morning. As I write this, Gabby Giffords has just given her speech, and oh my. That woman.
So I’m settling in for the rest of it. Have some bloggage:
Jill Stein is just awful.
Tonight’s non-convention activity: Reading more Susan Faludi, and trying to decide whether we should refinance the house. Woo, adulting! Have a great Thursday, all.
Oh, you guys. My lovely, lovely readers. Where would this stupid blog be without you? Monday night was a late night for me, if “late” means “feeling sweaty and unwilling to sit in front of a screen for another 45 minutes to an hour.” I’d tell you I watched the convention, but I didn’t watch much of it. Sue me. I edited a cover letter for a friend and read a little in “In the Darkroom,” Susan Faludi’s great memoir about investigating her estranged father, who had gender-reassignment surgery late in life.
(Alex, this is going to you when I’m done. Not because you have a particular interest in trans issues, but because her dad is Hungarian, and much of the narrative takes place in Budapest.)
So I missed the FLOTUS speech, but after reading the raves today, I looked it up and watched it over my lunch hour today. Outstanding. Talk about someone who slays all day. Beyonce has nothing on FLOTUS (and I suspect she knows this; I suspect, if FLOTUS decided to try a little career in pop music next year, Bey would retire or maybe take a job as one of her backup dancers).
I promise I’ll watch more tonight, but I’m attending a sushi pop-up Tuesday night and may not be into it tonight, either. Truth be told, I generally find following it on Twitter more entertaining and time-efficient. And of course, you guys are invaluable.
So I’m going to post this on Tuesday afternoon, and I’ll see you again in 36 hours or so. With a sushi review! Maybe.
I discovered the “Keepin’ it 1600” podcast over the weekend, and that may be my second-favorite way to enjoy the conventions. This is produced by Jon Favreau and Dan Pfeiffer, former Obama aides who now do their own thing and enjoy the freedom of doing a podcast full of laughter and casual profanity. Like lots of podcasts, it’s way too long — lookin’ at you, Marc Maron — even while you enjoy every minute of it. But I have been chuckling over one passage all day, which I’ll try to paraphrase: “I voted for the first time in the election of 1994, and if you’d told me then that I would still be having to see Newt Gingrich speaking at conventions 22 years later, I’d never have believed you.”
Any other podcast recommends? They make me feel guilty, because I’ve found they generally require a more focused attention than regular old music-on-the-radio, but I can rarely devote an hour or more to them. And I’m out of the radio habit. But I want to be open-minded. So throw ’em out there.
Quick bloggage before I book out of here:
Does anyone care about Milo Yiannopoulos? I don’t, but I guess he’s someone who begs for attention, so here ya go.
Speaking of profanity, but the funny stuff, the case for Hillary, by “Hillary.”
I know you’ll keep me posted on what I need to watch tomorrow. For now, post away here.
After the week we had, it was nice to have a nice, boring weekend, where it was too hot to do much but chores around the house, the usual errands, a little shopping and the neighborhood block party. I brought Mark Bittman’s corn salad, which I recommend if you have a little mint growing in the yard, and who doesn’t? I hope your neighbors like it. I sat quietly (heat; 90 degrees) and looked around, trying to imagine who’s voting for Trump.
That’s what the events of last week did to me.
Later, we chatted with one of our closer-in neighbors, who told us a lively story about the time in 2004 she was cited for putting up a Kerry sign more than 30 days before the election. A neighbor — a neighbor who had an enormous sign in his own yard reading I SUPPORT PRESIDENT BUSH AND OUR TROOPS — complained. The police explained that his wasn’t political. She had an identical sign made reading I SUPPORT SENATOR KERRY AND OUR TROOPS, and then the ACLU was called. The sign ordinance was challenged and pitched, as they all are. Why do dunderheaded city councils allow these things to go through? If the first amendment protects any kind of speech, it’s political speech. This happened in Fort Wayne, too. City councils aren’t always the most forward-thinking governmental bodies.
Which reminds me, I was watching a Facebook thread about the local rules about putting out trash and garbage, and whether it’s OK for others to go through it, in search of treasure. The discussion was divided between the pro-picker community and those who found the idea simply reprehensible, and didn’t see why they should have to alter their behavior one little bit — such as, putting out trash close to the predictable pickup time — to keep bums and scrappers out of it. One argued forcefully for an ordinance banning the practice. I don’t need to tell you that in other forums, he’s a loud voice for Getting Government Out of Our Lives.
This is what the events of last week did to me.
And now a new week awaits. More heat ahead, slightly less oppressive, but not much. I may have to double down on swimming workouts until it passes. Here’s what was waiting for me on Friday:
The duck paddled around all the lanes as the lap swimmers did their thing. She was eating the bugs in the gutter. That’s Tim, the old coach/lifeguard. When he’s gone and I’m old, I’ll remember he taught me how to do the butterfly.
I don’t know how he’s voting. When he remarked on the sparse numbers at the workout Friday, I said maybe everyone was crouched, fearful, in their homes, after listening to Der Fuhrer the night before. No one smiled.
I guess they were feeing the strain, too.
So much to link to and comment on, really too much. Events are moving so quickly, why try to keep up. But I thought this piece summed things up nicely:
We noted four years ago the dysfunction of the Republican Party, arguing that its obstructionism, anti-intellectualism, and attacks on American institutions were making responsible governance impossible. The rise of Trump completes the script, confirming our thesis in explicit fashion.
Consider, as a sign of the party’s decadence, how quickly Bob Corker, a card-carrying member of the Republican Party elite — the center-right chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — caved in to this horribly miscast party standard-bearer. Trump’s campaign has been filled with statements whose ignorance and bombast have appalled the establishment. Then a ballyhooed foreign policy speech in late April was widely panned by experts across the foreign policy spectrum. (“A very odd mishmash”; “strident rhetoric [that] masked a lack of depth.”) Corker’s response? He praised “the broadness, the vision” of the speech.
Sigh. Bring on the Dems, and let’s see how their show goes.
I’m bloody to the elbows from all this red meat that was thrown around a few hours ago. Let’s discuss.
I think every writer who wants to make a living at it says, at some point, “I’ll write labels that say, ‘Aim sprayer away from face,’ as long as I’m making a living as a writer.” And in our heart of hearts, we all fret we might end up like Meredith McIver.
This is the ghostwriter who fouled up the Melania Trump speech, or at least, she is the one who fell on her sword for it, only to be rescued by None Other, if her statement is to be believed.
There’s no shame in any job, and ghostwriting can be a lucrative line of work, requiring its own kind of writing skill. It’s not easy to write in the voice of another. And god knows, people who have to channel Jack Welch or Bill Gates or Donald Trump deserve every penny they earn.
But McIver isn’t a co-author on “The Art of the Deal” or the sorts of books that get mentioned in a famous person’s obituary; rather, she worked on the ones that might charitably be lumped into the phrase “…as well as other titles.”
She’s co-author on “Trump: How to Get Rich” and “Trump: Think Like a Billionaire,” as well as other titles. These are books so slight they’re sold in “pocket editions” with built-in bookmarks with a little silver dollar sign dangling at the end. Because these are the sorts of books you want to keep handy, I guess, like the Bible or a Moleskine or the Tao Te Ching. In case you forget how to think like a billionaire. Let’s read the customer reviews:
The first half of the book gives some very common sense advice that can basically be summed up by; keep and open mind, stay positive, and be persistent in achieving your goals/dreams. The second half of the book was lousy. It was just name dropping and telling us whether or not he loves or hates the person
Poor Meredith. Sixty-five years old, forced to commit public seppuku under the Trump letterhead. Melania read her some passages written by Michelle Obama, Meredith took notes and drafted the speech in such a way that it took phrase after phrase and reproduced them intact? I’ve been taking notes all my life, and this woman’s transcription skills are far beyond mine.
Sorry. I’ve got the RNC playing in the background, and Ted Cruz is getting lustily booed – he’s not endorsing the nominee, ha ha. God, this week is so weird. Now, the Trump children. The boys look like extras from a party scene in “Wall Street,” and Ivanka, all of 35, has the youthful polish of a woman five years older.
I’m glad to be living through this era, in equal measure which how much I’m appalled by it.
But when the choices include a man who apparently cannot understand seventh-grade levels of humor and irony, what can you expect? Ben Carson sounds like the people who used to call me when I hosted talk radio, worrying that naming a minor league baseball team the Fort Wayne Wizards would bring down the wrath of God.
Oh, I need to go to bed. There is only so much Ted Cruz one can handle.
The news the past few weeks has been so weird I’m starting to get vertigo. Last night I drank a fair amount of wine — not stumbling drunk, just one of those sip-sip-sip for several hours deals — and the last thing I watched was Melania’s speech. It was pretty much what I expected, and I headed off to bed more worried about Screamin’ Rudy than the lady with the exquisite highlights. Then I woke up at 5 a.m., turned on the iPad for the overnight headlines, and: whoa.
I was giving her the benefit of the doubt at the first scan of headlines. I feel like I have a little expertise in this area (ahem) and I’m pretty generous in my judgment, compared to some. I’ve seen plagiarism accusations made over very thin evidence — five words, eight words, not even a full sentence. But as soon as I saw the texts and saw the video, I was astounded. But now, 24 hours or so after it dropped, this already feels like old news. Because day two is in progress as we speak, and Roger Ailes is packing his bags at Fox.
Roger Ailes. Well, he only managed to have a career until he was 76. I’m sure scores of women are out there, remembering his jowls quivering while he said stuff like, “If you want to play with the big boys, you have to lay with the big boys,” in one memorable phrase. Some surely believed him. Imagine sex with Roger Ailes. Ew. Ew. EWWWW.
Wheels are turning. As I’m sure today’s reading will be overcome by events, let’s post it anyway. Some of it was already in comments, but not every reader here reads the comments:
Josh Marshall at TPM, making some important points about the dangerous territory we’ve entered:
It goes without saying that it is a highly dangerous development when one presidential nominee and his supporters make into a rallying cry that the opposing candidate should be imprisoned. This is not Russia. This is not some rickety Latin American Republic from half a century ago. This is America. For all our failings and foibles this is not a path we’ve ever gone down.
This is not a disagreement about a matter of law: it is a demand for vengeance and punishment, one rooted in the pathologies of the current Trumpite right and inevitably to some extent about the fact that Clinton is a woman. If you have a chance rewatch the speeches by Rudy Giuliani or even more ret. Gen Michael Flynn. These are not normal convention speeches. It is only a small skip and a jump to the state legislator in West Virginia who demanded Clinton by executed by hanging on the National Mall. In such a climate, don’t fool yourself: worse can happen.
Marshall’s been killing it the last few days, btw.
James Fallows on why the speech screwup matters. Many good points.
Finally, because we can always use one of these, a dog picture:
J.C. and Sammy blew through town last night, and lo there was drinking and snacking and yes, another tri-tip. I was going to take the day off, but here it is 7:30 a.m. and I’m wondering how much weirder this day can get, now that Mrs. Trump’s handlers have been caught red-handed stealing the words of Mrs. Obama. I’m not speechless, but I prefer the words of Neil Steinberg, whose comment was, “This abyss really has no bottom, does it?”
No, it doesn’t. Meanwhile, here’s a story I scrambled up yesterday, about Cleveland and a Michigan entrepreneur who is making bank on current paranoia with a product seemingly designed for crazy times — a $299 bulletproof vest.
Talk amongst yourselves. I feel like the roller coaster has left the station, we can feel the clack-clack-clack through the floor, but what’s at the top of the hill? No one knows.