The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

On the Seavey-Rittelmeyer Affair

Posted on | October 23, 2010 | 27 Comments

“[H]er often brutal-sounding philosophy really is, when you dig through the layers, a brutal philosophy, genuinely aimed at hurting people, which has spillover effects in practice in everyday life, as one perhaps should have anticipated, but who thinks people are being serious when they praise cruelty, especially if people are about 5’4″ and look like harmless librarians?”
Todd Seavey, Oct. 18, 2010

Earlier this week, the entire blogosphere enjoyed a laugh at the expense of Todd Seavey or Helen Rittlemeyer, depending on who you thought got the worst of that infamous episode when Seavey decided that a C-SPAN panel discussion hosted by Jonah Goldberg provided the perfect occasion to disparage his ex-girlfriend.

As I consider the Amazing Miss Rittelmeyer a friend, and have only the slightest acquaintance with Seavey, I naturally think that Seavey might as well have poured gasoline on himself and struck a match, so complete was his self-immolation.

But he actually self-immolated before he even met her, I think. He posted an online personal ad so pompous as to make Jackie Mackie Paisley Passey seem modest by comparison.

Don’t ever do this, people. In the era of Craigslist and such, I understand that the “Lonely Hearts” stigma of personal ads has been eroded, but don’t do it. Join the French Foreign Legion or a convent or throw yourself off a bridge, but don’t ever post a personal ad. Or answer one.

It’s creepy and/or desperate and/or delusional.

If you are single and have trouble meeting people in real life, who are you going to meet via a personal ad, except other people who have trouble meeting people in real life?

And what kind of people have trouble meeting people in real life? Losers, that’s who.

Here’s where the delusional part comes in: These are losers trying to convince themselves (and other people) that they’re not actually losers. They suffer from the delusion that they’re undiscovered winners.

All the losing they’ve done? Just a streak of bad luck. People (that is to say, people who actually know them) don’t recognize their true wonderfulness (or so the losers tell themselves) and therefore they figure they’ll have better luck impressing complete strangers who don’t know what total losers they actually are.

And that’s when they place a personal ad.

Now, granted, Todd Seavey’s “ad” was actually a joke. Or half-joking. He begins by saying, “With any luck, I’ll find myself in a steady relationship any day now, and this ad won’t be necessary . . .”

Hmmmm. So he’s not in a “steady relationship,” but wants to be in one.


Desperate enough to advertise to the world his availability. Never been married, and well into his thirties.

He’s past his “sell-by” date, you see. Been by himself so long that he’s set in his loser ways, with all kind of quirks and intolerant pet peeves, etc. He is no long malleable, not someone in whom a woman can see potential, but rather a finished product and evidently not the sort of product for which there is much demand.

Consider how he begins his personal ad with an extended rant against the irrationality of women. He is a “reasonable, level-headed, mild-mannered person” who, through some strange fluke of fate, keeps ending up with women who are flaky, moody and otherwise irrational.

This should raise the question, “Is it them, or is it him?”

Attention, Todd Seavey: All women are irrational.

Or at least they seem so to men. My own dear wife is reasonable, level-headed and mild-mannered. Except when she’s not, and then she can be as loony as a fruitcake. She gets weepy sad, or screaming mad or — the very worst — she gets frosty cold.

Cheerful and easygoing most of the time, she has a furious temper that I try not to provoke, because she’s got a kitchen drawer full of knives, and I’ve got to sleep sometimes.

All of which is to say, she’s a woman. And a very good woman, too.

Given that she loves me, despite my numerous faults (except when she hates my guts, of course), I consider myself blessed to have her, and accept her just as she is. God help us, I think we’re a match — as we darned well ought to be, considering we’ve been married nearly 22 years and have six kids.

Women are irrational, they have needs and desires that cannot be reduced to syllogisms and, foremost among these needs is the need to be possessed in a way best summarized in four immortal words of cinematic passion: “Me, Tarzan. You, Jane.”

And you, Todd Seavey, can’t do the Tarzan thing. Or, as one expert in such subjects put it:

First, Seavey, let me be frank: You have no game. Zero. Nada. I can tell. Your gamelessness oozes from every pore.

Roissy says many other things, generally unflattering to Miss Rittelmeyer, but what he describes as “gamelessless” pretty much sums up the non-Tarzan problem here. Chicks dig guys with at least a hint of what might be called animal passion. And based on your own self-description, you lack it.

Especially, I would call attention to your adamant insistence that you never, ever, want to be a father.

Totally non-Tarzan. Such hostility to fatherhood is so unnatural as to be creepy. And it is certainly not attractive.

What, then, shall we say of Helen Rittlemeyer, Girl Genius? Her previous greatest claim to fame was as namesake of Rittelmeyer’s Iron Law of Blogging: “The road to success is paved with cheesecake.” The most awful thing about Seavey’s C-SPAN rant was not his implicit accusation that Miss Rittelmeyer had dated half the young fellows in the conservative intelligentsia, but rather the revelation that she had dated him.

Come to think of it, however, this could actually work to Miss Rittelmeyer’s advantage. She has now been exposed as willing to date middle-aged libertarian Beta males. Every geek and nebbish who’s ever read Atlas Shrugged is now fantasizing about playing Francisco d’Anconia to her Dagny Taggart, IYKWIMAITYD.

Next time she shows up at a gathering of right-leaning intellectuals, she’ll be like Scarlett at the Twelve Oaks barbecue, surrounded by would-be swains begging for the honor of bringing her a fresh vodka-and-cranberry.

And as for the Tarzan-and-Jane stuff, well, there are reasons to believe that Todd Seavey’s jealousies weren’t completely unfounded. While I can’t divulge my sources, at least one of Miss Rittelmeyer’s gentleman admirers says those nerdy librarian glasses are merely a disguise. The details need not be repeated here, but in general may be summarized in four words: “Fiery volcano of passion.”

Helen Rittelmeyer, Untamed She-Beast of the Right

Some music appropriate to the occasion:

UPDATE: Vivian Darkbloom sees this as Seavey attempting to “win the break-up,” the result of which is that Seavey “simply looked like a typical Washington D.C. douchebag.” Except that Seavey lives in New York, of course.

What came through in Seavey’s performance was a lack of manful stoicism. His wounded feelings were apparent, but rather than “stiff upper lip, Old Chap,” he expressed it in a passive-aggressive manner. Definitely not Tarzan.

It is entirely manful to say, “Hey, that two-timing girl done me wrong and broke my heart” — a sentiment that has made many men millionaires in Nashville. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do that, and he did it the wrong way.

UPDATE II: To look away from the romantic trainwreck for a moment, the whole book discussion panel (sponsored by my friends at the Young America’s Foundation) is online at the C-SPAN Web site and is worth watching — and discussing.

Some observers of the panel have noted the dreadfully earnest “Hey, Conservatives Are Cool, Too” tone. Seavey makes an argument for punk-rock subculture as a testament to American exceptionalism, while Rittelmeyer talks about the experience of being a conservative on campus.

And here is the vast gulf that separates me from such people: I was not a conservative in college. Nor was I ever a “young conservative,” and thus I avoided the whole rigamarole of internships and fellowships that have defined the young adulthood of nearly all Professional Conservative Intellectuals in recent decades.

It is to be recalled that in the early 1980s — while I was still a long-haired dopehead undergraduate rock-and-roller — Jack Abramoff, Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist constituted a “triumverate” of leadership in the College Republicans. Such early allegiances, like Old School fraternity ties among the youthful members of the conservative phalanx, have a way of defining Who’s Who on the Right in such a manner as to encourage a species of groupthink.

From inside the echo chamber of Young Conservatism, Inc., it is impossible for most of these people — who have identified as “conservative” ever since they had any consciousness of political ideology — to understand the psychological motives of their liberal adversaries.

Nor can the agents of Young Conservatism, Inc., easily conceive innovative methods of persuading the uncommitted — those who have not yet taken sides in the War of Ideas — to join them in the battle against the Left.

This is, as I have elsewhere argued, a problem of organizational dynamics within the conservative movement. To dissent from the standard playbook theory on Here’s How We Win is to discredit those whose claim to leadership rests on their mastery of that theory.

Many have lately noted that Karl Rove is making elitist noises (e.g., Tea Party people are “not sophisticated”) without noting that this is a matter of professional self-interest. Rove’s career is based on his being the “Architect,” the man who knows how to bring about the Permanent Republican Majority, and if someone else says, “Hey, Karl’s wrong, let’s do something different,” then Karl’s status as a recognized political expert is undermined.

People who begin ascending the organizational ziggurat of Conservatism, Inc., at an early age are prejudiced toward certain explanations for the success or failure of the enterprise. Whenever Republicans have the political upper hand (as was most recently true 2002-05), the ascendancy is celebrated as a vindication of conservative ideas. And whenever Republicans are getting their asses kicked (e.g., 2006-08), the finger-pointing ensues in conformance with Dougherty’s Law:

At the end of the day, the arguments all seem to boil down to something similar: If it were more like me, the Republican Party would be better off. It’s failing because it’s like you.

Intellectuals being intellectuals, the greatest reward is always for those who offer the Big Picture analysis– the trend, the narrative, the unified-field theory — that explains it all. The problem is that these strategic conceptualizations are always authored by recognized experts who, more often than not, were part of the problem for which they now promise to provide the cure.

Do we really want to listen to Michael Gerson‘s prescriptions for conservative success? Or do we want to understand recent political history with the guidance of David Brooks, whose notions of “National Greatness” did so much to fuel Bush-era GOP hubris?

The organizational dynamics of Conservatism, Inc., give prominence to such voices for the same reason that the GOP presidential nomination so often goes to the It’s His Turn candidate. These problems are systemic and persistent, and unless action is taken to correct the underlying problem — that is to say, the structural flaws of Conservatism, Inc. — any victories achieved by the movement will be short-lived.


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