Monday, August 02, 2004

Lileks Gets His Panties In A Bunch

Mr. Lileks specializes in "daily bleats," prolonged online skewerings of conventional left-wing politics. He's quite often insightful and usually funny. Sometimes, though, he's just a pompous, crotchety jerk. Like last Thursday, when he posted this:
Let me be the first to say this about Kerry’s speech: I liked it better in the original French. This of course is a predictable twist on the remark about Buchanan’s stemwinder in ’92, famously described by some wag as sounding better in the original German.
The "wag," for those interested, was Molly Ivins, and her joke has the advantage, which Lileks' does not, of being (mostly) true. Or perhaps he thinks it's unreasonable to suggest that phrases like "cultural war" sound less clumsy when pronounced "Kulturkampf."

In any case, Lileks' remark is a launching pad for decrying the influence of Michael Moore in the Democratic party. I share with him, as readers of this blog will know, a profound distaste for Mr. Moore. Unlike Buchanan in 1992, however, Mr. Moore did not speak at the Democratic convention in 2004. So what, may I ask, is the point of using a joke at Kerry's expense---if his subject is actually the analogy between Moore and Buchanan? Could it be, shock and horror, that the point is to pass off a bit of cheap innuendo, take a swipe at Kerry, and give a back-hand to Molly Ivins, whose name Lileks is surely aware of but doesn't have the grace to mention?

Actually, there probably is a point besides all of the above; namely, Lileks must have come up with that line several months ago and lazily decided to insert it at the first opportunity. So Ivins' joke also has the advantage over Lileks' of not being stale, and of having been applied to a speech after it had been given.

Lileks could have left it at stupid-joke-plus-lament over Moore's influence among Democrats, and that would have been fine. Instead, he's determined to prove (through inference and induction, naturally) that the Dems are collectively guilty and therefore reprehensible for embracing Moore, whereas Buchanan never really reflected what the Republicans thought. The evidence? Moore got a box seat next to Jimmy Carter, while Lileks remebers this from a Republican delegate in 1992: "'This isn’t my party,' he said. 'Okay maybe he has a point here, or another point there, but that speech – that's not my party." Obviously I concede that it's shameful for Carter to invite Moore to sit with him, and that it's a good thing that Lileks met a delegate who disapproved of Buchanan.

Now can we put the one-anecdote-proves-a-trend methodology to rest once and for all? If not, James, you and I can play the "I found a single stupid comment which proves that X party thinks Y" all day. Do you doubt that I'd match you one for one with paranoid crackpot assertions among the Republicans? I'll see your Bush-is-Hitler and raise you a Kerry-is-Osama's-man.

Perhaps we should be scientific. We, you and I together, can devise a battery of outrageous, unsupportable assertions that hard-core partisans of each party (you know, the sort that become convention delegates) might assent to, and compare and contrast differing levels of support for the various remarks. Then we'll know for sure which party is more inclined towards the crazy rhetoric of their own wing-nut factions. Or we can scrap the whole enterprise. You decide.

But in any event, spare me this sort of piffle:
What makes a greater impact – getting some old flinty cranks in Vermont to pull the lever for you, or putting out a movie in every multiplex that practically accuses Bush of supplying box cutters to the 9/11 hijackers?...[snip]...If Moore introduced Kerry and gave a typical speech – “The Republicans have hate for breakfast!” – how many delegates would later lament that their party had become something they no longer recognized? Don’t know. Just asking.
To be honest, I have no idea which makes a greater impact. If we're going to figure out the answer, though, we should start by getting right the state that Buchanan carried (as if Vermonters would ever have voted for Pitchfork Pat). And maybe, next, we should acknowledge the fact that the Buchanan movement was not confined to "some old flinty cranks in Vermont [sic---it was New Fucking Hampshire, alright?]." Finally, we might want to give a thought to restricting our denunciations of Michael Moore to things he actually did say and imply, Bush "handing out box cutters to the 9/11 hijackers" not being one of them (though I guess Lileks is content to hide behind the weasel modification "practically accuses").

Moving along, Lileks wonders what Democratic delegates would have thought of Michael Moore giving a speech introducing John Kerry. It's an interesting counterfactual, and by "interesting" I mean "worthless," because the Kerry campaign will not allow Michael Moore to get within a few hundred feet of their candidate. Lileks can confirm for us that one Republican delegate felt that his "party had become something [he] no longer recognized" after the Buchanan speech, which is one more than the number of Democratic delegates I can confirm would say the same thing in the alternate universe in which Kerry is introduced by Moore. So hats off to you on that count, James.

Lileks might recall, however, that Wesley Clark's inability to distance himself from Michael Moore's endorsement led in part to the implosion of his candidacy in the Democratic primaries, and that since Democrats vote in Democratic primaries (yes?), it might be fair to say that Moore does not speak for the entire Democratic party. I'll bet I can find one anti-Moore Democratic delegate to match Lileks' total number of confirmed anti-Buchanan Republican delegates, and there might perhaps even be another, somewhere, to exceed it.


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