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Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Afternoon Roundup – The Man of No Expectations



THE EGO HAS LANDED

The long-awaited Gingrich resurgence has come and yet it’s all too likely that the resurgence will give way to the inevitability of Romney. So far every surge has been followed by a prolonged teardown. With Bachmann it was the messianic arrival of Perry and nitpicking over her attacks on his vaccine policy. With Perry it was immigration and a troublingly mixed debate performance. With Cain it was a combination of bad answers and sexual misconduct allegations. Gingrich’s turn is coming now.

Gingrich isn’t quite the last man standing. The Anti-Romney camp can always default to Perry, if he didn’t keep giving them reasons why he shouldn’t. And they probably will. Unlike Romney and Perry, Bachmann and Santorum have the right policies, but she isn’t likely to get a second look and he hasn’t even gotten a first. Perry still has enough money and presidential factors to get a second look and a third. The Gingrich teardown is already beginning, will it succeed? Once the media jumps in, probably. Newt has survived one teardown already at the start of the campaign, but whether he can make another comeback is debatable.

So far the “Id” candidates who said what they thought, Cain and Perry, are in trouble. The “Id” is associated with honesty and boldness. With going forward and damning the consequences. Cain, who was the most “Id” candidate in the race is suffering from “Id” charges, accusations that he speaks without thinking and does immoral things.

Gingrich, next up, is the “Superego” candidate, a polished thinker who knows his facts and challenges the narrative rather than scrambling for a safe answer. It’s one of the factors that brought around voters. The old Gingrich was a warrior and the new Gingrich has given every sign that he is still a warrior and eager to fight the battles with the left. Gingrich also suffers from the “Superego” criticisms of being remote, unfeeling and unfriendly. There’s something of Churchill about him, but he has never properly managed to cultivate Churchill’s bonhomie that would defuse many of his negatives. Churchill understood how to defuse the abrasiveness of his policies and opinions with humor and wit, Gingrich isn’t quite there yet.

But the accusations against Gingrich are that he is an “Id” disguised as a “Superego”, impulsive and changeable, despite his serious demeanor and intellectual depths.

The return of Perry, a candidate who has gotten into nearly as much trouble with his mouth as Cain, is almost certain and yet as problematic. Perry, like virtually everyone in the race not named Mitt suffers from being unprepared to play this game in a public forum. Perry and Cain may seem more unprepared than most, but Gingrich and Bachmann didn’t work nearly enough on their image. Bachmann’s surface polish helped her get ahead, but it lacked dimension and depth. Gingrich defused some of the hostility by focusing on the real enemy, instead of the anklebiting antics of the frontrunners, but he’ll have to do better than that.

Why did so many of the leading candidates enter the race so poorly prepared? Part of the answer may lie with the turn in Obama’s fortunes. 2016 was supposed to be the big show, but when the image of an unelectable Obama became set, candidates who would have otherwise waited for 2016 scrambled to get into the race. Perry was the most obvious last minute candidate, but he isn’t alone.

The one man who is prepared, who gives the impression of having prepared all his life for this is Romney. And that gives him a commanding presence that he doesn’t really deserve. His task is to wade through the populism of the early primaries and stay in the game long enough to cement his inevitable status. But it’s debatable if he will even need to do that. The field has been winnowed down by debates and expectations before the voters of New Hampshire have had their say. Primaries were supposed to shine a fierce lens on the contenders, but in the age of YouTube and obsessive coverage from outlets such as Politico, pervasive polling and meme insertion, the scrutiny is nationwide and pervasive.

Romney is still the survivor because he is the man of no expectations. No one expects much of him except to swim his way forward. No one ponders his sincerity or looks through his record much. He is the man that no one really wants, but the one that much of the party feels doomed to settle down with. No one really wants Romney, even his supporters don’t seem to muster the enthusiasm for him, and he knows that and doesn’t care.

Romney is non-ideological, post-ideological, non and post everything. The issues don’t matter much to him, the job does. He wants the job because he wants a promotion. He was governor, now he wants to be president. Why? Because it’s a step up. In a passionate race filled with unexpected candidates, Romney is both passionless and shallow, he has been practicing for this and is perfectly qualified to go through the routines to get to the top post. If conservatives were hoping for Ronald Reagan, they are more likely to end up with George H.W. Bush.


A BULLET OR TWO BETWEEN FRIENDS

 Had a participant in a Tea Party rally fired a bullet or two at the White House, there would already be two book deals, a movie of the week and a national monument at the spot. But when a participant in Occupy DC does the dirty deed, it’s just one of those uncomfortable silences that develops when the media encounters something that doesn’t fit the narrative.

There was a time not so long ago when it was still possible to turn on the news and get news, not all the time and not unbiased, but there would be news. Now there is only the hum and drone of the narrative, alternately solemn and cheerful voices explaining events in the world in relation to the narrative.

News is a means of transmitting dogma. Events are ways to convey the truth of the elite’s beliefs. Actual news does have to be reported, but when it runs counter to the narrative, the moment is as uncomfortable as an environmentalist doing an oil commercial. He’ll do it but on his own terms.

The narrative is that the right is violent and dangers and must be rejected and controlled. The left is progressive and even its violence is the result of naïve idealism, not homicidal hate. These narratives are so deeply embedded in the 21st century liberal that contradictions are brushed away.

So a member of Occupy DC took a shot at the White House. He was probably a secret right winger infiltrating the movement. And if he wasn’t, well what’s a few bullets between friends?



THATCHER

I haven’t seen the movie, but the trailer makes me think of Oliver Stone’s Nixon. Even the rhythm seems the same. Stone’s Nixon was sympathetic to him in some ways, much the same ways that I suspect that the Thatcher biopic will be, the template of flawed greatness, personal demons turned into political power and then descending into hubris and regret is an old one.

Thatcher’s story has an additional layer for the modern filmmaker because she is a woman, and it becomes all too easy to dismiss her as a leader by giving her the old empowerment treatment. The real story of Thatcher can’t and won’t be told, because it is less her story, than it is the story of the United Kingdom in a certain place and time, and the story of Europe and the West.

Thatcher was the leader that the UK needed, but the story of why it needed her is much more important. The same is true for Reagan. The story of Reagan is not the story of his life, it's the story of an America which had fallen to malaise and leftist social engineering and drew on an older paradigm for a temporary resurgence. This was also the case with England during the second World War.

Men and women like these emerge in response to a response to a national decline. The filmmakers are unable to acknowledge the decline or address it, and they resort instead to psychoanalyzing their targets, treating them as bundles of neurosis whose ascendance needs to be explained solely in terms of their personal qualities, rather than the national ones. And so the forest is missed for the trees.


RESTORATION WEEKEND

As a final personal footnote, I am currently at the David Horowitz Freedom Center's Restoration Weekend and I have had the privilege of hearing Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes and other talented men who have led the way in fighting the Jihad speak. It is and has been an incredible experience. For those at the event, I will be on a panel on Sunday which should be on your schedule.

I won't be posting a compendium of links for technical reasons, but I will return to it next week.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

"He wants the job because he wants a promotion. He was governor, now he wants to be president. Why? Because it’s a step up."

I don't completely agree. He wants it for his father.

Anonymous said...

What do you make of Gingrich's relationship with Grover Norquist?

Anonymous said...

Not even a mention of Ron Paul and yet you speak of Bachmann and Santorum. Why is that?

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Why would I mention Ron Paul in a discussion of conservative republican candidates?

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