26 October 2012

Romney as Bullshitter; And All the Rest of Them as Bullshitters; OK, and Some Tall Tales From The King Bullshitter Hisself

I voted this morning.

How did I vote?

Lyndon Johnson was asked that question in 1964. His answer: “I split my ticket. I always split my ticket.”

Me? I split my ticket. I always split my ticket.

I adhere to a political party over broad principles as they are held by the Democratic Party in West Virginia. I do not have a slavish devotion to “my party.”

It is statistically improbable that one party will have the most qualified candidate in each race in an 11 page ballot such as the one I used today.

I’m a big fan of early voting. It is a way that we have honestly expanded the franchise. (I look forward to Oce Smith’s Times-West Virginian column this Sunday. Two weekends before an election is his time for his semi-annual encomium about the right to vote.)

Some awfully “big news” this week is that President Obama gave an interview to Rolling Stone magazine. In that interview, he referred to Gov. Romney as a “bullshitter.” The news and talking heads are full of oh-my-goshes, fainting and harrumphing.

Look – Romney is a bullshitter.

Obama is a bullshitter.

Biden is a bullshitter. More entertaining than Romney or Obama, too.

Ryan is a bullshitter, although he is harder to follow than the other three.

All of the Senate candidates are bullshitter’s. Some of them are more accomplished than others, but they’re all bullshitters.

City Council candidates – bullshitter’s.

Hell, at times I’m a bullshitter.

(I wonder if there’s a 12 step group: “Hi, I’m Roger. I’m a bullshitter.”  “Hi, Roger.”   “It’s been 20 min. since I have spouted bullshit.”)

The naked truth – unalloyed by the base metal of bullshit – is brittle and toxic to a campaign.

Take jobs. That’s a big national issue, and huge in West Virginia. New EPA rules have led to a big slump in the coal mining industry.

All of the bullshitters swear that the other guy hates jobs (for some unexplained and idiotic reason) and wants to eliminate jobs (ditto) and he/she loves jobs and has a way to guarantee that there will be lots and lots of jobs for good wages to boot.

Jobs this, jobs that, all bullshit.

The truth is, we can eliminate the corporate income tax, the capital gain tax, OSHA, the minimum wage, and every other “impediment” to jobs; or we can throw tax dollars into a “stimulus”, raise the minimum wage and wave a chicken over our head, but none of that’s going to create one damn job.

Employers have to decide that it is economically advantageous to add jobs to businesses, and then they have to do it in the real world. Or, sole proprietors and small business organizations need to decide that they have goods or services for which there is a market and then take the risk of hiring people to fill the market need.

Government action may alter economic advantage. It must be some business entity which takes the action to create the job.

We have a lot more bullshit about Obama personally. Obama is not a very popular guy in West Virginia. Recall that in the 2012 primary election, an unknown convict from Arkansas got 40% of the vote in the Democratic primary, and 20% of the Democrats who voted left that part of the ballot blank.

So the theme we’re seeing in every Republican and some Democratic ads is that “My opponent is a bosom buddy of Obama.” It doesn’t have to be logical and certainly doesn’t have to be true, they just want it to be believed until the evening of 6 November.

Neither Gov. Tomblin nor Sen. Manchin attended the Democratic National Convention. That was an unheard-of rejection of the national ticket. Last week, Sen. Manchin was quoted in the press as saying he really doesn’t like either presidential candidate.

At least in national races, maybe the connection to Obama makes a little bit of sense. In state races, it’s gotten a little bizarre.

There is a hard race for attorney general in West Virginia. The incumbent is Darrell McGraw, a former Supreme Court Justice. Darrell is a shameless self- promoter and some of his PR devices – at public expense – border on the weird. His Republican opponent is Patrick Morrissey who the label says is the second coming of truth, justice and the American way.

Somehow, Morrissey figures that McGraw is Obama’s best bud even though there’s not one damn thing that Darrell can do to help, hurt, affect or even amuse Obama. No, I’ll take back the amuse – some of that PR stuff is genuinely goofy. Our attorney general’s office is not the one which armed Mexican drug cartels. That’s a national attorney general thing. 

And we look forward to Mr. Morrissey picking more anti-Obama ads out of his carpet bag. (See note below.)

Mr. Morrissey has a vague, passing connection to West Virginia. He is the long time partner in huge law firms around Washington DC. No doubt, he’s qualified for that work. I really haven’t a clue what his qualifications are for attorney general.

Okay, I have to say the same thing about Darrell McGraw.

This is the first election in a long time where I’m not inside any campaign. That’s okay with me – I have to confess that I’m a little jaded at this point. At the Supreme Court the other day, I was asked a question which required a quick bit of self-description. I came up with “conservative cynic.”

So as a conservative cynic, here are a few more views of 2012 in West Virginia.

The Governor’s race is a rematch between Earl Ray Tomblin and Republican Bill Maloney.

Earl Ray is the incumbent Democrat who has been in government for more than 30 years. He’s done a decent job. The Democratic Party has dominated government offices in West Virginia about 65/35 for 70 years. As the comfortable majority party, the Democrats can afford to be centrist. Oh, we do have our fringe (more comments below), but by and by, the West Virginia Democratic Party is remarkably Clintonesque in economic and social policy.

(Remember Clinton? That’s the guy who left us with the national budget surplus which two presidents and several congresses have been spending and borrowing on like drunken sailors. I’m willing to let slide quite a few blow jobs if it means avoiding $15 trillion in debt.)

Most Republican incumbents who are in office are from Republican “safe” areas and they, too, are fairly comfortable as centrists. As such, the majority of people in state government West Virginia can talk together, reason together, maintain dignity and act responsibly.

Statewide, the Republicans do not act centrist as a rule. They act as if the fringe is their base.

Mr. Maloney has never been elected to anything. He is a self-made millionaire mining engineer. I have met him, and he seems to be a very intelligent and thoroughly decent fellow. It also seems that he’s surrounded by refugees from the Unification Church and the Addams family. At his campaign events, there is a coterie of clean-cut (carpetbagger) ideologues and a cheering section of every disaffected voice from both parties. There are so many axes getting ground you track iron filings out of the room.

I hope that Mr. Maloney’s understandable ambition has not dulled his sense of discomfort on the road.

The United States Senate race is a worry. I’m a little invested in this one. Joe Manchin is my friend. I’ve always supported him. His Republican opponent, John Raese, is someone I find unpalatable. My opinion would be suspect if Mr. Raese were not embracing the fantasy fringe so hard that the choice is a no-brainer.

The last I heard, Mr. Raese’s family lives in Florida and he maintains a qualifying residence in West Virginia. I will say that he has better campaign advisers this time than he did two years ago. While he says a lot of idiotic fringe stuff, so far he stayed away from the bizarre and squirrelly stuff such as orbiting 1000 mythical lasers for $1.85 apiece.

The first district Congressional race is a tragedy.  My friend Alan Mollohan was a 28 year incumbent who was defeated in the primary two years ago. My personal view (and I’ve told him) is that so much of his work was on national issues such as the House Ethics Committee that was invisible to the folks back home. A moderately popular State Sen. screwed him in the primary with a campaign of particularly caustic bullshit. A Republican, David McKinley, then the beat the guy who knocked Alan out.

So now, we have a Republican incumbent. He, too, is a crusader against Obama. Just look at the cleverly timed (and publicly paid) mailings we have received in the past year.

Members of, Congress have a “franking privilege,” which lets them use the United States Postal Service for free. Also, they have things printed out of their publicly paid office budget.

The franking rules provide blackout periods prior to elections. Mr. McKinley has published really nice mailers just before the beginning of the blackout periods before both primary and general election this.

They are wonders of the pro bullshitter.  They’re printed on card stock in full color, multi-page, and if they were commercially printed and mailed by Jane Candidate, she’d spend about $2 each. There are about 600,000 citizens in the district. So maybe Mr. McKinley has mailed out 100,000 or so of his mailers in each of two batches.  That’s campaigning with tax dollars to the tune of $400,000.

Oh, Mr. McKinley’s mailers don’t say one damned thing.  Yay, me.  Boo, Obama.  Rah, rah, rah.  Total - you guessed it - bullshit.

His Democratic opponent could be weaker, but I don’t know how. She seems to be a pleasant person. She is an avid Obama enthusiast. She is also one of the architects of a really, really dumb political campaign of one year ago aimed at derailing Gov. Tomblin’s candidacy. In that, they took strong gratuitous shots against Sen. Manchin at a time when he wasn’t even on the ballot. No doubt, the intentions were ideologically pure of heart. Politically, it was a belly laugh.

One of the minor races is that for state Agriculture Commissioner. I really am not sure what the Agriculture Commissioner does. Commissions agriculture, I guess. The Constitution says clearly that it needs to be someone whose occupation is that of farming. The Democratic candidate is a former state senator who is not a farmer. That’s a little bit of chutzpah.

All in all, I fear that my jaded attitude may be some kind of sought after reaction. I wonder to what extent behavioral scientists are looking long-term for political campaigns. If people quit thinking and quit caring, will our once-glorious nation take a walk into Seldon-plan hell?

Just thinkin’.
Note about carpetbaggers: Carpetbagger is a term given to foreigners who come into an area with the idea of taking over. The term comes from the American Reconstruction. Union administrators would set up offices in the South bringing their clothing and effects with them in their carpet bags.

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