The Other McCain

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

Journalists or Clairvoyants?

Posted on | March 12, 2011 | 3 Comments

On Friday, Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen of Politico published one of those Smartest Guy in the Room analytical pieces that always annoy the crap out of me, and ought to annoy everyone else, too. It amounts to Vandehei and Allen playing GOP strategists:

The Republican Party is undergoing a messy but unmistakable 20-month transformation from fanatically anti-Obama to fanatically anti-spending, providing top party officials a new and intriguing playbook for recapturing the White House in 2012. . . .
If a presidential candidate could harness the smaller-government conservatism, temper it enough to avoid a blatant overreach and articulate a vision for a prosperous future for the country, it’s not hard to imagine swing voters finding such a person appealing.

You see what they did there? It is now March 2011, but VandeHei and Harris  have their crystal ball so finely tuned that it tells them (contingent on a bunch stuff that follows an “if”) what kind of candidate and what kind of message swing voters will find appealing in November 2012.

Somebody get me those guys’ phone number. Next time I go to Vegas, I’ll just call them up and ask, “Red or black?” before I walk into the casino and —  magic! — make my fortune at the roulette table.

Go read the whole damned thing, which includes some obligatory bashing of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin — “flamboyant and controversial figures”! “bombastic voices”! — with blind quotes from “one top [Republican] aide” and a “senior administration official,” etc.

Hmmm. I wonder what you’d find if you looked back to March 2009, to see if Vandehei and Harris foretold the massive Republican victory of November 2010?

Because I’ve got $10 that says they didn’t have a fucking clue. Just to hedge my bet, let’s peek:

March 17, 2009: “Even when Obama went before the cameras to express outrage at the AIG bonuses, he seemed to nod to the contrived nature of it. The aide said that the White House is not as focused on ‘the immediate sound bite about AIG’ as it is on ‘the fact that everything we do demonstrates … that he’s on the side of the American people [and] that he’s fighting for them.
‘They believe it wholeheartedly — poll numbers show that,’ the aide said, accurately describing the data. . . . ‘His entire presidency is about being on the side of the American people. ‘”

March 21, 2009: “So far, the president has not alienated the business community — and, in some cases, has found ways to win over executives who had been skeptical at best.”

March 30, 2009: “He was caught flat-footed by the AIG bonus uproar, but since then Obama has presented himself as skeptical of a government-only solution and tired of business-as-usual on Wall Street. The White House used a well-choreographed rollout to dominate the news-cycle the past 24 hours with his tough love approach – and present Obama as a fair-minded centrist when it comes to bailouts.”

So in March 2009 there wasn’t the slightest foreshadowing that Obama’s disastrous economic policies would cost Democrats a net loss of 63 seats in November 2010, yet here we’ve got the same writers trying to tell us which candidate and which message the GOP needs to win over swing voters in November 2012? I know some of you guys hate Dave Weigel, but I’m quoting him anyway:

In March 1983, unemployment was 10.3 percent, Ronald Reagan looked like a possible loser in the next year’s election, and Democrats were talking about the deficit-exploding combination of his tax cuts and spending. In November 1984 unemployment was 7.2 percent, Walter Mondale was promising to cut the deficit by raising taxes, and Ronald Reagan was beating him in 49 states.

Elections are about a lot of things no reporter can predict, not even the Smartest Guys in the Room.


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