Dear Reader (including those of you who are C-Packing, a practice that will be banned in the first term of a Santorum administration!),
I was only there for a little while yesterday. I did a little panel thing that was . . . well, we can talk about that later.
Having been to quite a few of these things, I can tell you that while enthusiasm to be there was high (it really is the ComicCon for right-wing political junkies), enthusiasm about things in general was pretty low. I didn’t see a single Romney sticker or button in the place. The Romney folks respond that that’s because Newt and Santorum had people working the place pressing stickers on anybody they could. Fair enough. But it tells you something that the Romney people didn’t feel like it was worth doing the same thing. It also tells you something that no Romney supporters thought to take up the slack on their own.
That may change in the next day or two, but what I don’t think will change is the general attitude toward this field. Romney isn’t winning sufficient numbers of the GOP base. It’s really that simple. Whether they’re right or wrong in their animus toward Romney is almost immaterial at this point. The simple fact is the attitude is real, and I don’t think it’s going away. And that is a huge problem (see my column today for more).
Diane Sawyer’s Priorities
I’ve been meaning to write about this in last week’s G-File, but since last week’s G-File fell into an ontological and existential lacuna, I couldn’t.
Do you remember the ABC New Hampshire GOP debate? It was the one where Diane Sawyer seemed to be hopped up on Robitussin and model-airplane glue. She and her colleagues asked what seemed to be an endless stream of questions about what (in Sawyer’s words) “real viewers” really care (viewers obviously being the most important and relevant entities in our democratic republic) about gay marriage, gay rights, gay birth control, and other vital issues of gay gayness.
After George Stephanopoulos tried to hold a seminar on the constitutional issues emanating from Griswold v. Connecticut, Sawyer tried to get real:
I want to turn now, if I can, from the constitutional and elevated here to something closer to home and to maybe families sitting in their living rooms across this country. Yahoo sends us questions, as you know. We have them from real viewers. And I’d like to post one because it is about gay marriage. But, at the level, I would really love to be able to ask you what you would say personally sitting in your living rooms to the people who ask questions like this.
Sawyer then read a question from one viewer:
“Given that you oppose gay marriage, what do you want gay people to do who want to form loving, committed, long-term relationships? What is your solution?”
Now, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably seen a lot of people, and not just conservatives, mock Sawyer & Co. for all this. But what I haven’t seen is anyone criticize her for her subsequent interview with the most important opponent of gay marriage in America: The president of the United States. Less than three weeks after the GOP debate, she interviewed Obama and the subject never even came up — and he’s the guy, more than anyone else in America, who is currently responsible for keeping gay marriage at bay.
And yet the subject didn’t even come up! Instead Sawyer fawned over the president, celebrated his latest military victory, and let him reassure “real viewers” how much he wanted to be reelected.
Yes, we all know he was always lying when he said he opposed gay marriage. And we also know that his position has been “evolving.” Heck it’s been mutating. The president of the United States now officially refuses to defend the constitutionality of a law his administration enforces. Last night he raised roughly $1.4 million from a gay married couple in Chicago.
Obviously, I have my theories about what Obama’s real positions are and how he reconciles them with his public actions. But it’s not my job to ask him about all of this. Nor do I find it the most interesting or important issue facing us today. But do you know who does?
Diane “The Real Viewers C’est Moi” Sawyer!
The point here isn’t simply to highlight for the millionth time the reality of media bias. It’s to note how issues like homosexuality now only have one purpose when it comes to political reporting: Make conservatives look weird. In all of these debates gay marriage and similar issues are not brought out to elicit a serious argument or elucidate a meaningful principle. The whole point is to get Republicans to look sex obsessed, “homophobic,” or mean.
If the substance of the issue mattered, you’d think Diane Sawyer would ask the one guy running for president with any control over the issue to explain himself. Heck, you’d think she’d ask the one guy whose position on these matters is an incoherent mess to clarify his views. But no. Asking Obama about these things would only hurt Obama. And that’s not why she’s in this business.
One Year Later
It was a year ago today that my brother died.
A couple weeks after the funeral, I wrote in the G-File:
Unique is a misunderstood word. Pedants like to say there’s no such thing as “very unique.” I don’t think that’s true. For instance, we say that each snowflake is unique. That’s true. No two snowflakes are alike. But that doesn’t mean that pretty much all snowflakes aren’t very similar. But, imagine if you found a snowflake that was ten feet in diameter and hot to the touch, I think it’d be fair to say it was very unique. Meanwhile, each normal snowflake has its own contours, its own one-in-a-billion-trillion characteristics, that will never be found again.
Families are similarly unique. Each has its own cultural contours and configurations. The uniqueness might be hard to discern from the outside and it certainly might seem trivial to the casual observer. Just as one platoon of Marines might look like another to a civilian or one business might seem indistinguishable from the one next door. But, we all know the reality is different. Every meaningful institution has a culture all its own. Every family has its inside jokes, its peculiar way of doing things, its habits and mores developed around a specific shared experience.
One of the things that keeps slugging me in the face is the fact that the cultural memory of our little family has been dealt a terrible blow. Sure, my mom’s around, but sons have a different memory of family life than parents. And Josh’s recall for such things was always not only better than mine, but different than mine as well. I remembered things he’d forgotten and vice versa. In what seems like the blink of an eye, whole volumes of institutional memory have simply vanished. And that is a terribly lonely thought, that no amount of company and condolence can ease or erase.
Alas, that’s still true. I can feel so much of my life fading away like a photograph left too long in the sun, so many memories like a name forever on the tip of my tongue. Punch lines to stories are forgotten, making trying to remember the stories they hang on too painful to bother.
I don’t quote poetry much because I don’t know a lot of poetry, and it always seems fake to me when people go hunting for poems to fit the occasion. But, particularly since my wife’s sister Paulie died last month, I keep remembering when, in my junior year of high school, we read John Donne’s “No Man is an Island”:
No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
I remember my English teacher saying that she didn’t find the “argument” of the poem all that persuasive. And I also remember responding that I did, though perhaps not entirely in the way that Donne did. At the time, I argued that the world and the universe is an infinite mystery and we’re all – in the most catholic sense – trying to figure it out. The loss of anyone is the loss of a perspective, a necessarily unique perspective, on that mystery. Everyone is a clue to the riddle, everyone is on the team trying to solve the puzzle.
I don’t know if that made too much sense then, or now. But it felt right to me for a long time.
It doesn’t anymore. The poem’s meaning has more significance for me now, but in a different way. We each live in our own world. I don’t mean this as a matter of solipsism. There are other people in our world: our families, our friends, the people we know, care for, or admire. We’re part of little solar systems or galaxies, our own gravitational pulls and pushes worked out to a passable harmony through trial and error – sometimes lots of error. It’s not heliocentric in any hard Newtonian way, because everything’s moving simultaneously. New bodies come and, alas, they go. And when one body is yanked out of the balance, everyone’s trajectory changes. When my father died, it felt like I was a moon that had lost its earth.
It’s an extended metaphor I’m not sure is worth extending much further. But the point is that my old view of Donne’s poem was horribly romantic. There is no real connection between me and a total stranger half-way around the world. He is an abstraction to me and I to him. That doesn’t mean he is – or should be – nothing to me. Abstractions are not nothing. They are extremely important, or at least they can be.
The people in your life, however, are not abstractions. And their loss does diminish you, not least because your life cannot be squeezed into you alone. A lot of your life is on other servers and hard drives, as it were. When you lose those you love, you literally lose a part of yourself and a piece of all the things you hold dear.
In this very real sense, when the bell tolled for Josh – and when it tolled for Paulie, too – it tolled for me.
Various & Sundry
A vital post on the implausibility of the Star Wars Death Star trash compactor.
Ten common misconceptions debunked [BROKEN LINK].
Mmmmm Door mice.
Twelve ways for Liam Neeson to kill you.
I’ve done a lot of new media stuff in the last week or so. Here’s my appearance on Uncommon Knowledge.
Here’s my “debate” with Matt Welch on whether Libertarians are part of the conservative movement. Answer: They are. (I like Matt a lot, but I don’t think he made much of a case that they’re not.)
Here’s a podcast interview with me about the subject.
Here’s a state policy network video, in which I appear.
I appeared on a panel yesterday at CPAC and eventually that video will be available somewhere. It all went fine, I suppose. Cal Thomas, flung the red meat to the crowd as only he can. I’m sure I’m just being a little thin-skinned, but I was a little put out that I wasn’t asked to speak on my own this year. You might recall, last year I was named the Conservative Journalist of the Year by CPAC, but because of my brother’s accident, I couldn’t receive the award (Rich graciously accepted in my absence). I assumed they’d at least ask me to deliver this year’s award as is the custom. But they went a different way. I’m positive no offense was intended, and it’s entirely possible I’m just being dyspeptic for, I hope, obvious reasons.
Anyway, in much cheerier news, the cover – art by NR’s own Roman Genn! – for my forthcoming book, The Tyranny of Clichés, is up over at the Amazon page, though the product description isn’t yet. Still, the idea that that should stop you from pre-ordering it now strikes me as one of the most preposterous contentions in the history of mankind.