Token Dissonance

Black & gay, young & conservative. A Southern gentleman writes about life and politics after Yale


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Wars of the Magnolias

Update: This post was adapted by The Daily Caller. You can find that article here.

“The bias of the mainstream media is toward sensationalism, conflict, and laziness.” –Jon Stewart

Courtesy of a softer world

The media will pretend to be fair and reasonable if we pretend to believe them.

Back in early May, the infamous ink-butcher George R. R. Martin submitted to an interview with Davie Itzkoff at The New York Times. There had been a public uproar over a rape scene in a recent episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Many in the fandom wanted desperately to know why such a compelling story as that of the characters of Westeros needed to be written in the free-flowing blood of continual atrocities. This (abridged) exchange followed:

Q. Some critics of the books have said that even if such scenes are meant to illustrate that the world of Westeros is often a dark and depraved place, there is an overreliance on these moments over the course of the novels, and at a certain point they are no longer shocking and become titillating. How do you respond to this criticism?

A. […]The atrocities in “A Song of Ice and Fire,” sexual and otherwise, pale in comparison to what can be found in any good history book.As for the criticism that some of the scenes of sexual violence are titillating, to me that says more about these critics than about my books. Maybe they found certain scenes titillating. Most of my readers, I suspect, read them as intended.

Alas, this post is not about the fictional intrigues of Westeros, but rather the real pathologies of the American politico-media complex. The setting is Mississippi, where a close and combative U.S. Senate primary had once been a test of rival philosophies of the Republican vision of government. Is the occupant of that contested seat supposed to bring home the bacon, see: incumbent Thad Cochran, or abide by Mississippi voters’ desire to limit government and promote economic freedom, see: challenger Chris McDaniel?

But that was before the media discovered its latest dark and depraved place for political titillation: the contemptible violation of Rose Cochran’s privacy by a plot of deranged hacks who happen to support McDaniel.

McDaniel and his campaign have denied any involvement in the crime. Given the predictability of the subsequent firestorm, it hardly strains credulity that any statewide candidate with sufficient intellectual acuity to be executed in Florida would have never sanctioned such hapless grotesquerie. More the point, no charges have been filed or suggested against McDaniel. Of course, police are investigating all conceivable possibilities, whatever their actual merits, but reasonable people don’t usually jump to conclusions because a cop won’t “clear” anybody publicly before an investigation is concluded.

If we opt not to be vapid, the lack of any compelling evidence against McDaniel in the Cochran scandal is much less incriminating, newsworthy, or even interesting than former Senate Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) trying to name a courthouse he had built with $100 million of his constituents’ money after Thad Cochran (whom Lott endorsed for a seventh six-year term) instead of one of Mississippi’s first black lawyers. If Morning Joe Scarborough (R-Latte) and other Very Serious People in the media were less vapid, they might even note that Cochran, who was first elected when my parents were toddlers, has had more government structures named after him than any other sitting member of Congress.  (By the way, I’m no expert in congressional naming etiquette, but isn’t getting your name put on multiple courthouses a tad greedy?) What a thoughtful use of our generously earmarked tax dollars!

At this point, even moderately responsible reporters might call into question Thad Cochran’s purported devotion to fiscal conservatism. The more inquisitive might additionally question Cochran’s interest in the people he was elected to serve. After all, the senior Senator spent half as much time in Mississippi as fellow Sen. Roger Wicker, yet used $35 million more taxpayer dollars doing it. How’s that for getting less for more?

If, despite all these more relevant or insightful topics, we feel compelled to dwell on the Cochran scandal, the media might at least wonder aloud—between all the inane musing about McDaniel’s invisible knavery—about Sen. Cochran. It is curious, after all, that the Senator has benefited immensely from exploiting a crime against his wife and is now avoiding the media.

Many of the insinuations against McDaniel, like from Morning Joe Scarborough (R-Latte), follow along the lines of this phrasing from Christian Science Monitor:

“Though no one publicly suggested McDaniel was behind the video, Mr. Kelly is a strong McDaniel supporter and there are pictures on social media of him and McDaniel together. In the early hours after the story broke, the McDaniel campaign also gave conflicting signals about how much it knew about the video and when.”

Or this one from MSNBC:

“Then things got worse: three more people were arrested on Thursday in connection with the break-in, including a state tea party leader with longstanding ties to McDaniel and an activist who had, according to The Clarion-Ledger, regularly co-hosted a radio show with McDaniel.

A lone blogger was bad enough, but suddenly law enforcement authorities were alleging a conspiracy that included prominent conservatives who knew McDaniel personally.”

It is certainly noteworthy that associates or supporters of McDaniel’s have been arrested for a serious crime. That fact is hardly any excuse, however, for implying without evidence that McDaniel must have been involved in something simply because his supporters were.

For perspective, Cochran’s close aide Kay Webber hosted at least two Democratic fundraisers  in her house in 2006 and 2008, when Republicans were skewered at the polls. Given that Cochran has long employed and traveled with Ms. Webber (on taxpayer dime) while also living in her house, where Democrats schemed to retake Congress and the presidency from the Party that Webber works for, there is an arguably stronger link between Cochran and Barack Obama’s Democratic Party than anyone has shown between McDaniel and the crime against Mrs. Cochran. If we’re casting aspersions on candidates because of their supporters, surely this story will break into a major scandal any day now.

I won’t hold my breath.

Perhaps at some point, somebody might remember that this U.S. Senate contest involves meaningfully distinct candidates with agendas and priorities that will influence national politics. But of course, that would involve substantively engaging the two candidates on their merits, and the punditocracy has little interest in such encumbrances as balanced reporting. Especially not when the narrative of every the day is embarrassing conservatives.

We shouldn’t be surprised; the internecine wrangling of a restlessly acephalous Republican Party is primarily old news in the Acela Corridor by now. Depending on your view, the “civil war” is over, and the media-preferred Establishment won—or else the fiscal conservative assimilation of the Establishment is more or less accomplished—and, anyway, how many different ways can lazy media hype the same “GOP implosion” storyline while doggedly eliding the philosophical merits of any candidate?

If we must take anything from this saga as conservatives—beyond, “Don’t be stupid”—it is a simple truth we’ve known all along: the media disdains and undermines conservatives, and it’s useless to whine about it.  I don’t know how the Mississippi race will end, but going forward, conservatives had better build and maintain a more functional outreach strategy than pleading or waiting idly for fairness from biased elites who have no interest in truly engaging the project of economic liberty and limited government. Among other things, that’s how we lose.


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Right Quick: The Crazies

You hear a lot these days about the “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” types who would vote for the Republican Party if only it got its act together. MSNBC-friendly Republicans like Colin Powell and Joe Scarborough have each done their part to help sustain this narrative at times. To be sure, there are a number of social positions the GOP generally represents that are rightfully anathema to this crowd, and I understand that. What’s rather interesting, however, is the degree to which the Trojan Horse of “right-wing extremism” has come to extend to the very fiscal responsibility that would-be conservatives profess to want.

Republicans don’t all agree on the optimal way forward on fiscal issues any more than do the Democrats. But whatever the media hype to the contrary, we should all be able to agree that, say, continually raising the debt ceiling without substantial budgetary reform is less than ideal. To this effect, you GOP-leery fiscal conservatives, Jonah Goldberg has written you a letter:

“So, Bob, as a “fiscal conservative,” what was so outrageous about trying to cut pork — Fisheries in Alaska! Massive subsidies for Amtrak! — from the Sandy disaster-relief bill? What was so nuts about looking for offsets to pay for it?”

Even if you think the House mishandled the Sandy bill, their objections seem not unreasonable, and they did offer another, less pork-laden bill. But as that fight is over, let’s move on to the “moderates”:

“Well, let’s talk about Eisenhower, your kind of Republican. Did you know that in his famous farewell address he warned about the debt? “We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage,” he said. “We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.”

Bob, we are that insolvent phantom, you feckless, gormless clod. The year Eisenhower delivered that speech, U.S. debt was roughly half our GDP. But that was when we were still paying off WWII (not to mention things like the Marshall Plan), and the defense budget constituted more than half the U.S. budget (today it’s a fifth and falling). Now, the debt is bigger than our GDP. Gross Domestic Product is barely $15 trillion. The national debt is over $16 trillion and climbing — fast. The country isn’t going broke, Bob, it is broke.

When George W. Bush added nearly $5 trillion in national debt in two terms you were scandalized. When Obama added more than that in one term, you yawned. When, in 2006, then-senator Obama condemned Bush’s failure of leadership and vowed to vote against raising the debt ceiling, you thought him a statesman. Obama, who wants to borrow trillions more, now admits that was purely a “political vote.”

Yet when Republicans actually have the courage of Obama’s own convictions, you condemn them.”

This, of course, brings us to the crux of our spending problem of which liberals loathe to speak—entitlements:

“Anyone who calls himself a fiscal conservative understands we have a spending problem. Do the math. A two-earner couple who retired in 2011 after making $89,000 per year will have paid about $114,000 into Medicare over their lifetimes but will receive $355,000. When will it dawn on you that Obama doesn’t think we have a spending problem? I ask because when he said “we don’t have a spending problem,” it seemed to have no effect on you.

And yet you still think Paul Ryan’s budget was “extreme.” Do you know when it balanced the budget? 2040. What’s a non-extreme date to balance the budget, Bob? 2113?”

Until and unless Democrats get serious about transformative spending cuts, my fiscally conservative friend, the GOP is the only game in town for deficit reduction. I’m not saying the Party is perfect by any means, but a few rotten apples don’t change the fact that we, as a movement, are committed to the fiscal reforms that will move our country toward the right track. And every step of the way, the Left fights us tooth and nail. Remember that the next time somebody howls about “extremists.”