Making the click-through worthwhile: Hillary Clinton offers her most audacious and erroneous excuse for her defeat in 2016 yet, why any successful effort to change the course of government requires wonks and writers, and the Republican party of Virginia offers a reward for embarrassing photos of the state attorney general.
Hillary Clinton’s Epically Bogus Excuse for 2016
Ashe Schow wonders about what excuses for the 2016 election Sherrod Brown could offer in the future. Hillary Clinton — apparently not interested in running in 2020 — decided to invent a dark conspiracy of racism to explain her loss:
I was the first person who ran for president without the protection of the Voting Rights Act, and I will tell you, it makes a really big difference. And it doesn’t just make a difference in Alabama and Georgia; it made a difference in Wisconsin, where the best studies that have been done said somewhere between 40 [thousand] and 80,000 people were turned away from the polls because of the color of their skin, because of their age, because of whatever excuse could be made up to stop a fellow American citizen from voting.
The Washington Post Fact-Checker team basically breaks out the separate keys held by separate operators, verifies the launch codes, and nukes her alternate history:
There’s an important debate to be had over voter ID laws and their effect on turnout, considering how rare voter fraud cases are in the United States and the risk of disenfranchisement. We’re looking at something different here. Clinton made a series of specific claims that were way off-base.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in 2013 had no bearing on Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin-Madison study she relied on for her 40,000 estimate says its findings from two counties should not be extrapolated to form statewide conclusions. Her spokesman did not cite any study for the 80,000 estimate. Voter registration in Georgia did not decline from 2012 to 2016.
Wrong on multiple levels, seriously misleading, and worth a cumulative Four Pinocchios.
How different from this is Donald Trump’s claim, “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally”? If the mainstream media could offer some belated acknowledgement that the 2016 campaign was between two dishonest, egomaniacal narcissists prone to rewriting history to please their egos, it would be appreciated.
Government Is Not Supposed to Be Exciting or Entertaining
During one of our endless ongoing controversies about conservatism and its direction in past years, someone wrote that William F. Buckley Jr. created the modern conservative movement as a literary movement: the gateway drug was often reading National Review, and people became active members of the movement by writing for NR or other publications. Yes, Buckley had a busy schedule of speeches, debates, and radio interviews and hosted the television show Firing Line. But this was a movement fueled by the written word. The Black-Eyed Peas’s will.i.am once used the term “baton-able” media, meaning forms of communication that can easily be handed from one person to another like a baton, and newspaper columns, magazines, and books are much more easily passed from person to person than a verbal argument displayed on radio or television.
Labeling our current era “illiterate” is an exaggeration, but our discourse is more focused on sight and sound than text, most often through broadcast and cable television and increasingly videos streamed over the Internet. Social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram involves bite-sized servings of text, often with an illustration. The president can often set the day’s news agenda with a Tweet, and Mediaite will let us know and replay every outrageous things said by every talking head on cable-news television. Podcasts are booming, and talk radio still reaches millions. The old print format hasn’t died off — thank God! — and you’re reading these words on a screen, unless you decided to print them out.
But the process of governance is heavily based on the written word. Laws come from bills and amendments. Some might argue that the real power of government comes in the form of written regulations. The laws get challenged and overturned by legal briefs and court decisions. Governance is usually a process that includes minimal visual excitement. (Mario Cuomo once said, “You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose.”) There are occasional flourishes of pageantry — the balloon drop at a political convention, the swearing in at a presidential inauguration, the State of the Union address, presidential debates, state funerals — but by and large, when you see laws being made, it’s a series of people talking and then watching the vote numbers add up in that old-fashioned font on C-SPAN.
And there’s a reason we joke about the boredom of C-SPAN or your local cable provider offering coverage of your city council meeting. There’s nothing inherently exciting about how government works. It’s not supposed to be entertaining. You might even argue that if the process of government is dramatic and exciting and high-stakes, then something has gone terribly wrong.
While raving about a recent succinct argument about the size of government from Representative Dan Crenshaw of Texas — maybe the best communicator to come along on the GOP side in a long time — on yesterday’s Three Martini Lunch podcast, I noted that he may benefit from an “only Nixon could go to China” aspect of his personal story and personality. Because of his eyepatch, almost the first thing that anyone learns about him is his wartime heroism and inspiring recovery from serious injuries. People lean in to hear him instinctively and he commands attention almost effortlessly. For obvious reasons, no one doubts Crenshaw’s toughness or sincerity. He doesn’t need to shout, pound the table, or turn up the dudgeon to the highest setting.
Shouting, pounding the table, and frothing at the mouth in high dudgeon can be very entertaining — and one way to build an audience is to be entertaining. If you have an idea or a message, but no one hears it, it has no impact. Those who have managed to attract an audience fear losing it by growing boring or repetitive. Communicating that idea requires charisma and stirring some sort of emotion in the audience — fear, anger, inspiration, joy, hope. (Thinking about the tone of this newsletter, is incredulity an emotion? Befuddled amusement? Gleeful cynicism?)
Governance is homework. It often involves math. The devil is in the details, and any government system, even the most important and universally appreciated, has myriad details. The Department of Veterans Affairs Board of Veterans’ Appeals handles about 50,000 cases per year and has a backlog of 425,000 cases pending. It takes an average of seven years to resolve an appeal. A new Stanford study found that numerous efforts at quality control in the process have had little to no impact, and that a BVA quality control program that reviewed random cases to look for errors led to no discernable improvement: “The caseload makes it difficult to guarantee no errors, but intensive review by an elite set of attorneys to correct errors had little effect.”
It’s one thing to say, “I support our veterans!” It’s another thing to take 377,000 employees, 2,800 on-staff doctors, $273 billion in funding, 1,243 health care facilities, including 170 VA Medical Centers and 1,063 outpatient sites, a crisis hotline and make sure 9 million veterans get the best care in a timely fashion. It’s not exciting or dramatic or make for good segments on radio or television. It’s difficult to talk about the details of the challenges in the VA system for long stretches without boring a portion of the general audience. But it’s important.
Earlier this week I wrote, “I may think conservatism’s ‘governing wing’ is getting undervalued and less attention than the ‘entertainment wing,’ but that doesn’t mean that the conservative movement doesn’t need an entertainment wing in the modern political and media environment.” The governing wing is the policy wonks who continually study problems and what programs and approaches actually work in topics ranging from veterans’ care to foreign policy to education to health care to entitlement programs and budgeting to immigration. When these people aren’t working in government, they’re usually working in think tanks. There’s a lot of scoffing about “eggheads” and “Conservatism, Inc.”, but as President Trump learned, if you don’t have a small army of like-minded souls eager to come work in your administration, you end up with a lot of staffing challenges. The permanent bureaucracy sure isn’t going to move quickly to enact your agenda.
You need the people who have done the homework to turn your ideas into reality.
If You Went to School with Mark Herring, and Need Some Quick Cash . . .
The Republican party of Virginia offers $1,000 for anyone who can produce “a verified copy of a picture of [state attorney general] Mark Herring in blackface or verifiable contact information for Herring’s Sigma Chi fraternity brothers from Herring’s time as an undergraduate.”
I’ve heard the rumors, and if they’re true, the image is not as easily explained or excused as Herring made it sound in his description. But at this point, they’re just rumors. My suspicion is that the only people who would have the photo after all these years are the men who were in the photo — and that for obvious reasons, it would require more than $1,000 to get them to publicly display an image that portrays themselves in such a scandalous and disgraceful situation.
ADDENDUM: McClatchy news service tells the Daily Caller that it stands by its reporting that Michael Cohen visited Prague during 2016, as alleged in the Steele dossier, even though the former Trump attorney disputed the claim in sworn congressional testimony last week. That was one of my modern “unsolved mysteries” from early February.