mardi 27 septembre 2011

OOH, Shiny!

During the last few weeks, as we've watched first Michele Bachmann anointed by the Washington punditocracy as Palin-with-a-brain, and then watch them fall in (and quickly out of) love with yet another dimwitted Texas governor in cowboy boots, it's struck me just how much this presidential race on the GOP side really IS, as Jon Stewart so accurately said last week, a race for the mayoralty of Pundittown.

It's not that the press falling in love with someone else every five minutes is anything new; we saw it in 2004 when Howard Dean made the cover of Newsweek when he was surging, and once it looked like he could actually win the thing, they covered a a rally he held after the Iowa caucuses in which he was trying to lift the spirits of his dispirited campaign workers and conveniently turned the volume down on the crowd noise to make him look like a madman. We certainly saw in in 2008, where the choice of a wife of a former president with whom their relationship was already tumultuous, and a black freshman Senator, for the Democratic nomination, had them so confounded they didn't know what to do. We also saw it when the guy they've been in love with for years, John McCain, selected an attractive bubblebrain to be the potential backup to a septuagenarian cancer survivor.

But this year the fickleness of the punditocracy has reached the point of ridiculousness, because whom they love can turn on a dime, and often on a daily basis. And this year, for some reason, they're like teenaged boys with a double standard -- they love their chosen one until he puts out (i.e. declares candidacy) and then suddenly the one they pursued for so long doesn't look so good anymre. As long as Rick Perry wasn't running, he was the Coveted One. Then after he declared, the press covered his cammpaign with the fervor of a fifteen-year-old who's still huffing the euphoria of those first few nights in the back seat of a car...until Perry offered up the equivalent of a fart during sex, and then suddenly the Pursued and Won One became just another failed candidate.

So now, as has happened before whenever the punditocracy gets restless, their attention turns to New Jersey's governor, Chris Christie, which is striking only because they seem to have skipped over the logical next choice for their affections, Herman Cain, who trounced all others in the Florida straw poll last weekend. After all, if Michele Bachmann became Chuck Todd's next choice for the presidency after winning the Iowa straw poll, who shouldn't Herman Cain get some lovin' after even MORE decisively winning Florida's straw poll? Gee, I wonder why....

So off they go, chubby-chasing Chris Christie. What they forget is that as recently as June, Christie's approval rating in the state where we actually have to deal with him was just 43%:
Respondents objected to a variety of Christie’s policies, with 65% opposing his cuts in education spending, 58% opposing his removal of a surcharge on the state’s highest earners, and 51% opposing the cancellation of a planned tunnel to New York.

Christie’s favorability rating is now at 43%, while teachers, whom he tussled with on benefits and pay, are at 76%. “Teachers I know got laid off because of him,” said one respondent. “He’s not in favor of the average working person.” That view seemed pervasive: 68% believed Christie stands with the business community, while just 22% said he sides with “ordinary New Jerseyans.”

Now he's up at 54%, which these days is a perfectly fine rating, but still means that almost half the state doesn't like what he's doing. The Star-Ledger may think that Christie's tough stands with the unions accounts for his popularity, but as a denizen of New Jersey, I can tell you that the improvement in his ratings can be attributed to just six words, uttered as Hurricane Irene was approaching our coastline: "Get the hell off the beach." There isn't a person in this state who didn't applaud him for cutting right to the chase. He also gained respect from even those of us who disagree with him when he had the guts to call someone who was asking about protection from sharia law "crazy." These are Christie-the-regular-guy at his best. The problem is that the flip side of Christie-the-regular-guy is Christie-the-bully and Christie-the-hothead. Everyone seems to have forgotten that while he did a great job before and after the hurricane, he kind of HAD to, since he was off on vacation during last winter's blizzard.

Like George W. Bush, this is a guy who charges full speed ahead, certain of the correctness of every move he makes, every word that comes out of his mouth. But it's one thing to tell people who think it'd be fun to stand in the pounding surf during the hurricane not to be assholes. It's quite another when someone with a complete lack of internal word filter is handling delicate discussions with, oh, say, Pakistan.

There is video after video after video of Chris Christie saying he's not ready ot be persident. We agree. But the siren song of GOP apparatchiks who embraced the Teabag Monster and now are completely unable to control it, and the flowers-and-candy being offered by a smitten Washington punditocracy, may be impossible for him to resist. So I suspect he will run, and he'll have a joyful few first dates, until he farts. Then they'll find another girl about whom to fantasize.

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