Posted on | January 22, 2012 | 34 Comments
Thirteen-year-old editorial assistant Jefferson McCain staffs
The National Affairs Desk, 8:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012
ROCK HILL, S.C.
Jimmie Bise Jr. was on the phone when I turned off the exit from I-77 North and hooked a left toward the McDonald’s. We were discussing the finer points of blogger ethics, and the importance of disclosing one’s biases in regard to such controversial topics as a contested Republican presidential primary campaign.
Of course, Jimmie was in a fine mood, ready to fire up a cigarette and recline on his pillow to enjoy the post-coital glow, smiling contentedly about having had his way with the breathless sweat-soaked hussy whose name prior to Saturday was “Inevitability,” but whom Newt Gingrich now calls My Sweet Bitch.
That metaphor might be a bit too vividly kinky for some readers, but my point is that Jimmie had openly declared his support for Newt Gingrich and was thus entitled to an honest day in the Gloat Zone.
So Jimmie and I were discussing this when I pulled into the parking lot of McDonald’s and I told him, “No one can ever doubt the objectivity of the Future U.S. Ambassador to Vanuatu.”
Just then, I glanced up and beheld the frightening sight of a human scarecrow staggering toward my rented Toyota. She was wearing a cheap coat and gestured her solicitation of assistance, but I waved her away, annoyed by this aged burnt-out meth whore’s attempted intrusion. Jimmie and I were laughing about the failure of Romney’s well-funded campaign strategists to recognize my obvious aptitude for diplomacy as I switched off the car.
“Hang on a second, Jimmie,” I said, instructing my 13-year-old son Jefferson to grab my computer bag. Then I started to continue my phone conversation as I got out of the car, but suddenly the phone went dead — dead battery. I sent Jefferson inside to plug in the phone while he set up the laptop, the packing and unpacking of my computer having been his main task as my assistant on this eight-day Carolina campaign road-trip.
From the back seat of the Toyota I grabbed the Sunday edition of The (Columbia, S.C.) State with its banner front-page headline:
I fired up a Marlboro as I scanned the paper, leaning up against the car, and then I looked around to see what had become of the destitute female vagabond who had earlier approached me with her begging gestures. She was nowhere in sight, so I walked around to the front of the McDonald’s, in which direction she had wandered off after I’d waved her away. But she wasn’t there, either.
Had I seen a ghost, some sort of spectral phantom? This possibility bothered me, and the idea crossed my mind that this woman who seemed so haggard with age was probably younger than me. You’ve seen those before-and-after photos showing the ravages of methamphetamine addiction? She was definitely “after.”
Perhaps five or ten years earlier she had been genuinely attractive, but then she got onto the meth and started hooking up with any exploitative scum willing to help her feed her habit and . . .
Well, a hard life like that isn’t exactly “bad luck,” but rather the predictable consequence of bad choices, and it occurred to me that this pathetic woman – prematurely old and compelled to helpless beggary by her habit — might be a fitting symbol of Mitt Romney’s squandered momentum:
Just after the polls closed Saturday in South Carolina, Hogan Gidley was talking to reporters inside Mark Clark Hall at the Citadel, where Rick Santorum was holding his campaign’s Primary Night celebration. Mitt Romney “was going to be 3 and 0 until three days ago,” said Gidley, communications director for Santorum’s campaign, adding that the results of the past two days — including the belated news that Santorum, not Romney, was the winner of the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses — had “blown a hole in [Romney's] inevitability.”
Newt Gingrich’s victory Saturday took away what was always Romney’s strongest argument: That the former Massachusetts governor’s well-funded campaign machinery made him the odds-on favorite in the Republican field, capable of clinching the nomination early in the primary process, thus uniting the party for the battle to defeat President Obama. The perception of Romney’s inevitability — as the “It’s His Turn” candidate whom GOP voters have so often chosen as their presidential nominee — helped him pile up a huge fundraising advantage over his rivals. Inevitability also helped Romney garner endorsements from eminent pundits like Ann Coulter and popular politicians like South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. Despite his relatively moderate record, Romney was endorsed by the conservative editors of National Review, who last month mocked Gingrich with a cover story illustrated by a cartoon depicting the former Georgia congressman as a ludicrous space alien.
All of Romney’s advantages evidently counted for naught when Palmetto State voters went to the polls Saturday, where they delivered a shattering blow to any thought that the “inevitable” Romney might lock up the nomination early. . . .
That’s from my special Sunday column for The American Spectator, which I filed before we left Charleston this afternoon, and which I obviously hope you’ll read. Jefferson and I stopped here at the McDonald’s in Rock Hill, the last chance to score some cheap food and free WiFi before crossing into North Carolina, because I wanted to have a South Carolina dateline on my final post of this epic eight-day journey funded by your contributions to the Shoe Leather Fund.
Ah, yes. Like the shambling she-hobo who suddenly loomed into sight near the rented Toyota in the parking lot, and who then just as suddenly disappeared, I find my habits compel me to a mendicant existence only slightly more respectable than being a meth whore.
A freelance journalism junkie trying to match the travel budgets of major news organization by begging alms online? My resemblance to that shabby old hooker was enough to make my conscience ache as I thought to myself, “There but for the grace of God go I.”
Well: The impliied fee-for-service contract involved in this madcap experiment with reader-supported political reporting isn’t quite so degrading as whatever sordid acts lead a meth-head to ruin, although the ironic coincidences sometimes overwhelm my ability to rationalize them away.
Shortly after I sat down at laptop here at McDonald’s, the cellphone rang. “Are you all right?” my wife asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine, why?”
Then she explained that she’d just gone online to check the bank balance and found an unexplained discrepancy between the ledger balance and the available balance. This was startling news, but I figured it was somehow related to the car-rental agency attaching a $200 deposit from the debit card with which I’d gotten the Toyota.
Yet it could not be denied that, for the moment, I was quite nearly as destitute as that burnt-out meth whore in the parking lot. At least I had the Toyota with three-quarters of a tank of gas. But Jefferson and I are still more than 400 miles from home, and we’ll need at least one more fill-up to make it to the hills of Western Maryland.
And then what? How the hell am I going to make it to Florida? I’ve got press credentials for Thursday’s CNN debate in Jacksonville, but unless there is some kind of miracle between now and then, there’s no way I’ll be able to buy a plane ticket. Only the most frantic rattling of the tip jar can make it happen.
Like a burnt-out meth whore, I can’t claim victimhood, because my own decisions and choices have put me in this desperate situation, which is what I meant by “ironic coincidences.”
You see, billionaire Foster Friess has endorsed Rick Santorum and contributed to a “super PAC” in support of Santorum’s presidential candidacy, and if the name “Foster Friess” doesn’t ring a bell for longtime readers of this blog, it certaeinly should. It was Friess who contributed $3 million to bankroll Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller.
A mere one percent of $3 million would be $30,000.
But me? “Not Good Enough for BlogCon,” IYKWIMAITYD.
It would be wrong, however, to let such grim memories mar the conclusion of this South Carolina sojourn. Merely to have made it this far along the 2012 campaign trail is a wonderful accomplishment, one that provokes amazement from some of the profession peers I encounter. And just the fact that I keep showing up — at debates, at town-hall meetings, at campaign rallies — is something that evokes expressions of disbelief from some of those whose travel is of the all-expenses-paid variety. “Do you really do all this on PayPal contributions? Readers really pay your way?”
Absolutely, and what’s wrong with that? Am I not, in some sense, like the discount merchant you sometimes see on late-night TV ads?
“Come on down to Crazy Stacy’s Discount Journalism Warehouse Outlet! We cut costs to rock bottom and eliminate the middleman! Reporting so cheap, prices so low, everybody says I’m crazy — and they may be right!”
So I keep showing up out there, in the Media Filing Centers at debates and other campaign-trail locations, rubbing elbows with everybody from David Brooks to David Frum, and they shake their heads in disbelief when they learn that this wild and farflung enterprise is funded by contributions that come in denominations of $10, $20, $50, with the occasional $100 for good measure.
No other journalist on the campaign trail has ever done this, because nobody else is crazy enough to try it,. And so when these Fear and Loathing moments occur — when I’m flat broke and wondering how I’ll ever possibly make it to the next destination — I say a little prayer of gratitude for the opportunity to push it all the way to the edge as a Road Man for the Lords of Karma.
This has been one hell of a ride, and I have faith that loyal readers will respond to the familiar phrase of the Five Most Important Words in the English Language: Hit the freaking tip jar!
It’s a long way to Vanuatu, and my ambassadorship is about as “inevitable” as anything else in this strange and savage campaign.
- Jan. 22: What Does This Sentence Mean?
- Jan. 21: SOUTH CAROLINA PRIMARY RESULTS: Newt Gingrich Stops Mitt Romney’s ‘Inevitability’; Rick Santorum Places Third
- Jan. 21: South Carolina Primary Day: Before My Saturday Afternoon Nap in Charleston
- Jan. 21: Iowa Republican Party Finally Admits That Rick Santorum Won Jan. 3 Caucuses
- Jan. 21: Rick Santorum Crashes Blog Bash, Impresses Conservative New Media
- Jan. 20: Will Folks: Now His Sacred Honor Compels Him to Gay-Bait … Me?
- Jan. 20: Deadline Hell in South Carolina
- Jan. 19: Some Things Never Change
- Jan. 19: Is There a Real ‘Elizabeth Reichert’?
- Jan. 19: Perry Campaign Post Mortem: Doomed From the Start
- Jan. 19: Fear & Loathing: Breakfast of Champions UPDATE: Rick Santorum Wins Iowa; Perry Will Quit and Endorse Gingrich
- Jan. 18: Newt Gingrich Mysteriously Cancels Press Conference at S.C. State Capitol
- Jan. 17: Who the Hell Does Newt Think He Is?
- Jan. 17: Is Fox News the Problem?
- Jan. 16: SOUTH CAROLINA GOP DEBATE
- Jan. 16: South Carolina Pre-Debate Thread UPDATE: New Rick Santorum TV Ad in S.C. Hits Romney as ‘Just Like Obama’
- Jan. 16: How Low Will They Go? This Low.
- Jan. 16: A Fitting Finale to the Huntsman Flop
- Jan. 16: My Son, the C-SPAN Star
- Jan. 15: Good-Bye, Governor Asterisk
- Jan. 15: VisitMyrtleBeach.com
- Jan. 15: Santorum in S.C. Says Obama Views America as a ‘Mistake,’ Divides Nation
- Jan. 15: Greetings From Myrtle Beach
- Jan. 14: Romney Leads by 21 Points in S.C.?