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Friday, January 13, 2012

And the Presidential Campaign Goes Straight to Stupid...

I watched Newt Gingrich's movie on Mitt Romney last night. When Mitt Romney Came to Town may be a stinging indictment of Romney's slash-and-burn style of capitalism, but it's not a very good movie. It's more of an attack ad than a documentary, filled with clich├ęd negative ad tropes -- slow motion clips, ominous and growly square wave tones, etc. No Oscar buzz here.

Still, the message is pretty clear and pretty accurate; when Romney claims to be a "job creator," he's not being 100% honest. But this is Newt Gingrich, which means there has to be at least one completely insane note in the movie. When I saw that Steve Benen wrote about "oblique xenophobic slights" in the movie, I'd expected to see jobs moving to China or undocumented workers stealing American jobs.

What I saw instead was Mittens speaking French.

And apparently Team Newt thinks that speaking French is a horrible, horrible thing. Because I woke up this morning, turned on the news, and saw this:


Hating the French seems like a fad of rightwing nutjobbery of a certain vintage -- say, 2001. It doesn't seem to be a big thing today. Newt's hot button issue is a little less hot and a little more dusty than he seems to believe. Still, the ad was cut for South Carolina -- a state with a much larger Tea Party influence than the previous primaries -- so maybe someone, somewhere will be completely outraged at Mittens' francophonic talents.

But really, are we here already? Are we at the point where all the other issues have been completely exhausted and we have to dig up stupid crap to be critical of? The fact that Newt's ad brings up John Kerry's windsurfing forces us to compare it to idiot issues of the past -- and, I hope, makes us all wonder how these idiot issues ever became issues in the first place.

Part of the reason is that the presidential campaign is too long by far. Do we really need an entire year to make up our minds? I don't think so. Idiot issues prove that we run out of reasons to change our votes long before we even get a chance to vote.

I'm going to go ahead and cut Newt some slack, though. The primary in South Carolina is a much shorter campaign than the national one. So, if you want to get your gratuitous, stupid, intolerant, lowest-common-denominator attacks in, you're not going to want to waste a lot of time. Mitt knows how to do something you probably don't -- and that's terrible. For some reason.

And it's not just the candidates who go running to these idiot issues, it's the media as well. I remember John Kerry making a huge campaign "gaffe" by ordering a philly cheeseteak with swiss cheese instead of Cheez Whiz. Why this matters at all is beyond me. It's not like it proved his trade policy wouldn't work -- it was something that just didn't matter at all. Besides, as a Wisconsinite I feel a duty to break the bad news to Philadelphians: Cheez Whiz is a crime. It's awful. Stop doing that or face human rights abuse charges at The Hague.

Can we get some debate of the issues here? Please? Or are we going to more or less instantly go straight to the stupid? Because I'd rather we didn't.

But I know we will.


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