Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Advice Columnists

My suggested headline for this week's column was apparently was too cryptic. And this is pre-Palin, too.

East Valley Tribune, Aug. 31, 2008

Alan Wolfe, in The New Republic, noticed that even the most partisan conservative hack occasionally feels compelled to give oh-so-sincere-sounding advice to Democrats. Like we’re supposed to take advice from Karl Rove or Robert Robb seriously.

The sick part is that because we’re Democrats, we feel compelled to listen, even though we know that conservative pundits all play for the opposing team and have the same regard for the public welfare as do casino owners for their patrons’ wallets.

Wolfe noted that the reverse rarely happens; liberal pundits don’t offer this faux-sincere advice to Republicans. As Wolfe wrote, “Republicans are rarely offered advice because there is not much to advise them on. Republicans do not need to be told whether to take the high road or the low because they always take the low road. They do not ponder whether brutal campaign tactics will affect their ability to govern, since they care so little about government.”

So I have a plea for these advice-dispensing conservative pundits. If you want to play this game, then tell us the secret of how your nominee keeps changing his positions solely to get elected and still gets celebrated by the media as “authentic” and a “straight talker?” Now that would be useful advice.

I talked last week with a Republican friend who considers the Bush administration a complete disaster, who still can’t understand what we’re doing in Iraq (and why we can’t agree to leave if that’s what the Iraqis want), but who still supports McCain. He’s not entirely happy with McCain’s negative campaign, but still supports him because he somehow “knows” that McCain “just can’t believe” the stuff he’s saying these days.

How does McCain simultaneously convince people that he’s a straight talker and that he doesn’t really believe what he’s saying? That’s the advice we Democrats really want, but do the conservatives tell us that one? Of course not.

The candidate of “straight talk” has changed a multitude of his positions to align himself with GOP orthodoxy (the foreign policy neocons, the religious right theocons, and the cut-my-taxes moneycons) to get the nomination, but he’s still a man of principle even if the actual principle is saying absolutely anything to get elected? Whether it’s overturning Roe v. Wade, tax cuts, “enhanced interrogation,” negotiating with Syria, lobbying reform, global warming, closing Guantanamo, Social Security, or the rest of a list that’s now up to 75 reversals, the “original Maverick” has flipped to the duly orthodox position. As Bush’s popularity declined, McCain’s support of Bush has increased; it’s like McCain decided that his support of the incumbent President should mirror the number of Americans who think the country is on the wrong track.

Quick quiz: What’s John McCain’s position on immigration? Remember, to get the GOP nomination, he announced that he wouldn’t vote for his own bill. But once the GOP nomination is confirmed, does he change his position back? Either way, it’s straight talk, my friends, straight talk! We’re supposed to be reassured, because McCain’s not selling his soul, merely renting it.

The conservative pundits (plus loads of liberals, too) also have plenty of advice for Obama that boils down to being less gosh-darn eloquent. Stop giving such good speeches that connect with people and remind them of the best parts of being an American!

This advice is interesting, because basically what they’re telling Obama is that he speaks too well. He’s too articulate. The bottom line: Obama has a problem, he’s just too great a communicator.

This is odd advice from people who revered Ronald Reagan’s speaking abilities, who called him the “Great Communicator.” Reagan had a knack for touching people with words, and that used to be a good thing to these same people. If Obama’s eloquence and charisma is a problem, what’s left of Gipper worship?

So conservative columnists, if you really long to write an advice column for Democrats, forget the advice about being less like Reagan. Give us the real secret, how McCain gets away with it his “straight talking” hypocrisy. Please?

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