April 4, 2012 · 1 Comments
By Marie Burns:
At about midnight, I turned to today’s New York Times Opinion page to see how the regular columnists and contributors would enlighten and inform us today. I should probably tell you that what follows is not parody. I am not turning in my April Fool’s column a few days late. America’s paper of record really publishes this stuff.
Maureen Dowd has interrupted her latest run of irrelevancies – “Is Elvis a Mormon?” “Manlashes, Mascara and Mantyhose” – to write on a topical subject. Well, topical last week: a week after the fact, she is just now getting around to mocking the broccoli argument. She hasn’t anything to say that she couldn’t have borrowed (and probably did borrow) from prominent bloggers, though some of her snarky descriptions of the justices are classically Dowdy: “Inexplicably mute 20 years after he lied his way onto the court, Clarence Thomas didn’t ask a single question during oral arguments for one of the biggest cases in the court’s history.”
The blurb for Tom Friedman’s column promises not one but two recycled opinions on the Middle East. No link; I couldn’t be bothered to open the page to see which opinions Friedman was repurposing today. Was one of them where he says he doesn’t know what will happen in Libya but he’s worried? Was the other where he says he doesn’t know what will happen in Egypt but he’s worried? Feel free to use the comments facility below to enlighten me.
Bill Keller, who writes only one column every two weeks, usually also writes a follow-up blogpost. Here’s the recipe: Step 1. Keller writes a column. Step 2: Readers comment on the column. Step 3. Keller writes a post telling the readers they’re wrong or dismissing them outright. Yesterday he responded to criticisms of his column opposing hate crimes legislation: “Really? I’d love for someone to send me some credible evidence of that.” “I’ll ignore the readers who think….”
The food guy, Mark Bittman, says pink slime is bad stuff.
Then there’s Ross Douthat. In today’s “Campaign Stops,” Douthat writes about “The Virtues of the Super PAC.” Really. He hails Rick Santorum’s and Newt Gingrich’s billionaire sugar daddies as “two heroes of participatory democracy, two champions of the ordinary voter.” I know; you are sure I’ve invented these quotes. But no. I swear they were there at midnight. True, Douthat’s argument is so flawed, it is at first hard to imagine that anyone – even Douthat – would make it. Here’s Douthat’s thinking: since the party favorite collected huge piles of cash from a phalanx of the usual suspects, then the ability of a couple of crackpot candidates – Santorum and Gingrich, in this case – to each attract a “super-rich crankocrat” meant that “Instead of having the Republican nomination decided by millions of voters nationwide, it would have been decided by the voters in just three states – and, of course, by Romney’s sturdy donor base.”
What could possibly be wrong with that? Here’s a thought: maybe big money should not decide who gets on the ballot and who gets to saturate the airwaves with the slickest, sleaziest ads. Rich donors who stand to directly benefit from their support of a candidate – through laws, administrative directives and foreign policies that favor their interests – should not be the group who sets the limits on the electorate’s choices. There is a reason that most state parties require candidates to collect a significant number of signatures to get on the ballot. Today that qualifying hoop is usually pro forma (though it wasn’t in the Virginia GOP primary). The idea is that a candidate must have some popular support before s/he can add her name to the slate. Why? To minimize the number of crackpots (see Santorum, Gingrich) on the ballot and to make the election a serious exercise in democracy rather than a sideshow dominated by crazy people (see also Cain, Trump, Bachmann).
It never occurs to Douthat that Romney’s dominance of the money mill is what is fundamentally wrong with the system. Whether it’s special interests (Romney backers) or unique interests (obnoxious billionaire Santorum and Gingrich backers) who choose the candidates, the GOP primary system is a mockery of the democratic process. Having said that, it is also probably fair to say, based on information gleaned from certain polling results, that rank-and-file Republican voters would not have done a better job of selecting a candidate. But whatever yahoo they chose, s/he would be one who was beholden to the voters, not to a small base of rich donors. Perhaps some crazed populist would have been the nominee – someone who, like GOP voters, insists Barack Obama is a Kenyan (or Keynesian – Tea Partiers use the terms interchangeably) Muslim socialist. Instead, President Obama will face a candidate who will insist he is a socialist and won’t argue with voters who claim he is a Kenyan-born Muslim.
Douthat could have made a credible argument that the GOP would be better off to choose its nominee the old-fashioned way – in backroom deals among the party bosses. The nominee they chose most likely would not have been Mitt Romney, a suspect Republican who was once registered as an independent and voted in Democratic primaries. The pols might have picked Jeb Bush or Mitch Daniels or Rick Perry. Sure, those guys are all just as bad as – or worse than – Romney, but that’s all they’ve got. I suspect the reason Douthat likes the fat cats is that he belongs to a party which is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the interests of the super-rich. Brain-damaged by the clamps that restrict him to a narrow mindset, Douthat’s pro-billionaire position is consistent with core Republican ideology.
Still, when you read Douthat’s post, or any of today’s New York Times columns and posts, you no longer wonder why intelligent readers sometimes confuse “The Onion”’s satirical stories with major media news and opinion.
Marie Burns blogs at RealityChex.com