Romney’s Latest Scandal: Twittergate? (July 24, 2012)

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During the 2008 Presidential race, then-candidate Obama showed his competitors how to leverage the Internet and a variety of social media platforms to reinvigorate the notion of a grassroots campaign for the 21st Century. It was largely upon the shoulders of individuals who reposted and retweeted his messages that the POTUS was carried to victory – by small donors who contributed their last $100, those who believed that the nation could ill-afford another four years of Republican top-down cynicism disguised as patriotism, morally and fiscally bankrupting the nation. Don’t like continued tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy during a time of war? Then the terrorists win!

It is a savvy marketing template that ensuing candidates from both parties have sought to emulate, with varying levels of success. Former Maverick John McCain captured the public imagination however momentarily with his selection of social media darling Sarah Palin as his running mate, unfortunately learning the hard way that stupidity is no more appealing in the digital age, but we can never take that moment of cultural zeitgeist away from the Republican ticket. All credit goes to the Obama team for forcing all walks of political dinosaur into accepting new media as part of the deal. It does not matter if one appreciates the value of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the like. They are modern campaign tools that one must utilize in order to compete. We can never turn back the clock.

And as social media strategy becomes synonymous with campaign activity, reports of potential misuse become a common feature of the news cycle. For example, this morning Yahoo News ran a story via Mashable: “Mitt Romney Sees Sudden Unexplained Spike in Twitter Followers.” At first glance this appears to be an unlikely tale of crashing bore Romney enjoying unexpected appeal in the Twitterverse. Could it be that dull messaging is somehow inverted when permitted only 140 characters?

Ah but no. To delve deeper into writer Alex Fitzpatrick’s story is to uncover a common feature of new Republicanism: if you can’t engender love the old-fashioned way through sound policy and dynamic personality, just go out and buy it. After Romney’s Twitter feed gained a plethora of new followers over the weekend – 23,926 on Friday, 93,054 on Saturday and 25,432 on Sunday – Zach Green of 140elect.com, a blog which monitors Twitter trends relative to the presidential election, couldn’t help but notice per the Mashable piece that, “analysis indicates that Romney hasn’t seen a noticeable uptick in other metrics, such as mentions, which would suggest Romney was getting these followers organically.”

In other words, there are no more people interacting with he of the slick hair on Twitter than before. Well then, what’s the dilly yo? Do we really believe that nearly 150,000 individuals suddenly couldn’t resist the bon mots of the Romneybot on a weekend when campaign activity was suspended? Sometimes the easiest answer is the right one. For whatever reason, the campaign bought the followers, in a wrongheaded, simplistic attempt to make Mittens appear beloved. As the Mashable piece highlights:

“Zac Moffatt, the Romney campaign’s digital director, has denied buying Twitter followers. Moffatt has in the past stressed that his strategy revolves around targeted engagement and not simply accumulating massive numbers of new followers. Buying fake followers doesn’t mesh well with that approach (plus, follower totals mean very little for politicians if real voters aren’t interacting with the message being sent).”

So the Romney campaign has flip-flopped on a previously stated position? The hell you say! Now granted this is not the type of scandal for which a Congressional investigation must be called. It is merely another example of how very out of touch Team Romney is with reality. Did they think no one would notice this latest shell game? Hide your tax returns! Change your tune on health care reform! Buy some Twitter followers! But all the money in the world can’t make you a real, relatable homo sapiens Mittens. The human touch can’t be purchased.

Post-Op Political Musings (June 10, 2011)

A little over two years ago, I began my life on this blog as “Becky Boop,” anonymous, citified political commentator known for her thoughts on the peaks and valleys of the Obama agenda and slice of life pieces on day to day existence in a big metropolis.

I came out from behind my pen name in an effort to be as real a writer as I am a person. The death of a close friend, a long bout with unemployment, an impending divorce and surgery this past Tuesday for Stage 2 cervical cancer left me with a sudden desire to stop hiding behind a pseudonym. All in all, I feel I am better for it. Becky Boop may have been a lot of fun, but she was certainly no reflection of “me.”

However as I go over some of my posts from the last six months or so, I have a hankering for some of Becky Boop’s former silliness, the journalistic joie de vivre that seemed to come so naturally to my alter ego. I have gotten pretty far away from aiming my torpedo at the cultural and political movers and shakers who depend on bloggers and the media to state the obvious, to shout with definitive clarity that the Emperor, is in fact, walking around naked.

I spent a large part of the week in post-op convalescence, and since it is the summer and most of the network’s regularly scheduled programming is on break, I made CNN my constant companion. Even in a haze of discomfort and drugs, it was hard not to notice that this was a pretty fucking strange week, politically speaking.

  • Rep. Anthony Weiner – It is my privilege to report that today, June 10, 2011 is the first in many that Mr. Weiner’s name has been absent from the front page ofThe New York Times. While I find the congressman to be an epic, tasteless pig and a truly unworthy husband, folks, there’s nothing illegal about lying to your wife and the press. I am hoping that his absence from the headlines and Weiner’s refusal to resign means we are reaching the end of this sad, if titillating spectacle. I do not think Rep. Weiner should heed panicked Democratic calls to vacate his post, any more than I believed it wise when Governor Eliot Spitzer called it quits after the Ashley Dupre scandal. Is there anyone living in the State of New York who believes David Paterson was an upgrade? Weiner was voted in to do a job, and only his constituents have the right to decide his ultimate political fate.
  • Hillary Clinton – Former First Lady, Presidential candidate, Secretary of State, and future head of the World Bank? Yes! The fact that this story materialized so fast, and was just as quickly quashed by the State Department, leads me to believe that it’s probably true. Nobody expected Clinton to stay on for two terms as the nation’s top ambassador, and since she can’t launch another Presidential bid until the 2016 elections, why the hell not?
  • Newt Gingrinch – Yesterday was certainly a busy news day. Blink and you may have missed Gingrinch’s nascent presidential campaign imploding in a huge way, losing his campaign manager, spokesman and senior strategist before disembarking from an ill-timed Greek cruise taken with third wife Callista. From the outset, The Ging struggled to stay on message with the official Republican party platform (frankly, one of the few good qualities he had going for him), labeling Paul Ryan’s Medicare voucher plan a piece of “right wing social engineering.” Rather than play the game and work the media rounds until he had done successful establishment penance, Gingrinch said “eff it” and jetted off to work on his tan. John McCain, take note of a real maverick. While Newt technically remains in the hunt, it’s going to be tough to mount a credible campaign with no donors or staff. I for one will miss him.
  • Sarah Palin – Will we EVER be rid of this woman? For those who believe she is going to give up her various soap box perches and millions in speaker fees to re-enter the icky world of public service, a place where people tend to be held accountable for their ignorance (though certainly not always), I have a bridge to sell you. However, this week the focus was not on Candidate Sarah, but former Alaskan Governor Palin. After a nearly three year delay that no one has adequately explained, thousands of pages of emails sent in the first two years of her term were made public. There doesn’t seem to be anything as exciting as Palin’s version of Paul Revere’s ride in there. The story is in what’s missing. According to a report from Yahoo, the emails “have been heavily redacted, while 2,275 pages are being withheld for reasons including executive privilege.” Whatcha hiding Sarah?

Let’s Everybody Calm Down (January 11, 2011)


The image above is certainly incendiary isn’t it? The nation is aflutter, once again, over an unconscionable act of violence that took place over the weekend. On an otherwise lovely Saturday in the parking lot of a Tuscon, Arizona strip mall, a lone gunman, 22 year-old Jared Loughner opened fire on a crowd of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’s constituents, killing six, including a 9 year-old girl born on 9/11/2001. 14 others were wounded, including Ms. Giffords, who suffered a gunshot directly to the brain.

It is a source of comfort to learn from the lawmaker’s medical team that the representative, famous for her accessible “Congress on Your Corner” events, is alert and able to breathe on her own. No one can say what the long-term brings for Giffords and her family. It is all just speculation at this point, but we can be certain that her recovery from the trauma will be extensive and arduous.

In much the same way after the terrible events of 9/11 took place, there is the temptation to panic. There is a real debate taking place regarding how much access to public officials is too much. Where is the line between serving the people and protecting oneself from them? Once again, a familiar feeling that our culture is spinning out of control has led to some reactionary, emotional responses from people who sit at all points on the political spectrum.

Allow me to say upfront and with absolute clarity that I am no fan of former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin. I disagree with her on everything from women’s issues, to climate change, government regulation of private sector business, and yes, gun control. I think her words are often chosen for effect and shock value, designed to burnish her rising star rather than reflect a deliberate consideration of practical policy. She is a narcissist who often fails to consider the impact of her actions. Just ask former Presidential campaign staffers for Senator John McCain. In the words of the immortal Miley Cyrus, Palin just “can’t be tamed.”

That said, it is an awfully long leap in logic to tack any of the blame for Saturday’s tragedy on Sarah Palin. The crosshairs map (above) which features gun sights over various congressional districts throughout America held by Democrats, including Rep. Giffords’ constituency, is at the center of the controversy. The Sarah Palin Action Committee used the crosshairs map to target seats during the 2010 elections, elections I might add, that are long since over.

There is certainly a place for discussion about the political tone in Washington, which seems to ratchet up with ever-increasing vitriol, and may certainly provide that last push for a person hovering on the edge of mental stability. However the answer to rhetorical extremism from the right is not an equal dose from the left. I have read the words of serious writers, some of them publishing on this very forum, who have called for legal consequences for Palin. However to build a case, there must be demonstrable cause and effect. As far as I am aware, there has yet to be a solid line drawn between the crosshairs map and the gut wrenching actions of Jared Loughner. I may not like Ms. Palin but I can grant that she is no advocate for child murder.

Instead of the Left pointing its finger at the Right for irresponsible language (though it is an issue worth discussing), I find myself leaning toward the prospective of New York Times columnist Gail Collins. In an essay published yesterday and titled “A Right to Bear Glocks?” Collins highlights Arizona’s permissive attitude toward the carry and concealment of semiautomatic weapons as one of the culprits in this tragedy.

She writes convincingly, “you do not hear much about the fact that Jared Loughner came to Giffords’s sweet gathering with a semiautomatic weapon that he was able to buy legally because the law restricting their sale expired in 2004 and Congress did not have the guts to face up to the National Rifle Association and extend it.”

Collins adds, “If Loughner had gone to the Safeway carrying a regular pistol, the kind most Americans think of when they think of the right to bear arms, Giffords would probably still have been shot…But we might not have lost a federal judge, a 76-year-old church volunteer, two elderly women, Giffords’s 30-year-old constituent services director and a 9-year-old girl who had recently been elected to the student council at her school and went to the event because she wanted to see how democracy worked.”

We know what the hardcore members of the NRA will say. Guns don’t kill people. It’s people who do that. Fine, but there is just no reason I can think of to have a person carrying around a weapon that can spray bullets and kill numerous souls in an instant.

Politics and violence have been around since men first decided to anoint themselves into leadership positions over one another. Premature death is part of the risk of entering the political arena. But Caesar was looking out for poison and daggers, not uzis.

 

Dancing with the Stars Gets Palined (November 18, 2010)

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I am simultaneously awed and repulsed by former Alaskan Governor and 2008 GOP Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s sway on the voting public. The former emotion is influenced by the undeniable statistics that underpin Palin’s track record. Six of the 11 total Senate candidates that Palin backed in this month’s mid-term elections won their seats. And of the five that didn’t emerge victorious, two of them, former Nevada assemblywoman Sharron Angle and Alaskan attorney Joe Miller, were defeated by a hair despite being two of the most dangerous candidates on any ballot anywhere.

Those who dismiss the real power of Palin do so at their own peril, no matter how vile I find the woman. I was quite sure in late 2008, after Barack Obama handed John McCain a resounding defeat that crossed party lines, that Sarah Palin would retreat to the Alaskan wilderness she calls home, living out the rest of her life as a political afterthought, a wacky footnote in Presidential election history.

But while Palin may not be able to recall books or magazines that she reads, the woman is a publicity machine virtuoso. Somehow, by freeing herself of the shackles of her elected office, a move many of us never saw coming, she has grown only more politically powerful. She’s like a Gremlin that someone fed after midnight. The woman is everywhere: Fox News, reality TV, candidate meet and greets. She also seems to genuinely hold together a close knit family, raising a special needs child and servicing her backwoods hottie of a husband, Todd. She somehow appears to get more attractive with every public appearance, like a rifle-toting Dorian Gray. It’s challenging at times not to admire the lady. As something of a multi-tasking wunderkind myself, I must begrudgingly hand it to another.

However, that does not mean I like her personally. I absolutely abhor her politics and just about everything she stands for: pro-life, pro-guns, anti-regulation, and many times, anti-sense period. She is equal parts fascinating and nauseating. As a card carrying liberal who worships CNN and avoids Fox and other GOP media arms, it has up until recently, been fairly easy to limit face time with Sarah Palin.

But then ABC announced its cast for Dancing with the Stars Season 11 and I knew my luck was about to end. Bristol Palin, Sarah’s 19 year-old daughter and a successful “teen activist (cough)” was chosen as one of the “celebrity dancers (double cough).” What were the odds that Sarah Palin, a nearly unparalleled media whore, would pass up the opportunity to support her offspring on TV’s #1 show?

I must admit, at first I sort of clapped my hands together with glee. What a train wreck this would be! Bristol was going to suck! And initially, I was not disappointed. Witness the mid-October routine in which Bristol and her partner Mark Ballas donned gorilla suits to dance the jive accompanied byThe Monkees theme song. Horrifying. Deservedly so, the teenager found herself at the bottom of the leader board and on her way to elimination.

Not so fast…

I realized to my horror, and all too belatedly, that Sarah Palin’s continuous presence in the audience, and inside the packaged clips that precede each choreographed dance routine, might be something of a motivator for the show’s audience, which skews older and Republican. As a contestant’s final standings comprise an amalgam of judge’s scores and democratic viewer votes (dammit!), week after week, the teenager has escaped certain death.

As the show lurches toward next week’s finale, the bodies of far better dancers whom Bristol has knocked off lie in its wake: Audrina Patridge, the talented, if vacant former star of MTV’s The Hills, Rick Fox, the sexy and suave retired L.A. Laker, and just this past Tuesday, the most shocking defeat of all. R&B singer and actress Brandy was eliminated despite receiving a perfect score of 30 for her engaging Argentine Tango.

What the hell gives?

Although violence is never the answer, I find myself sympatico with viewer Steven Cowan from Vermont, Wisconsin, a man so incensed with Bristol’s triumph over Brandy that he shot his television. New York Times’ columnist Gail Collins writes this morning:

“According to a police report posted on The Smoking Gun Web site, Cowan became so upset by the political implications of Bristol Palin’s continuing victories on “Dancing With the Stars” that he shot the family television, precipitating a 15-hour standoff with local police. The complaint notes that Cowan did not think that Bristol ‘was a good dancer.'”

Although I did little more than launch my remote across the living room on Tuesday night, I sympathize with Cowan’s rage. We have come to begrudgingly accept Palin’s influence in the political arena, but please Tea Partiers, leave the integrity of Dancing with the Stars untouched.

Too late I guess. At this point, it seems inevitable that Bristol Palin will walk off with the coveted Mirrorball trophy next week. Our only hope of salvation is the mobilization of the Jennifer Grey/Dirty Dancing/ Ferris Bueller lobby. Get out the vote! The future of reality TV is at stake! Maybe the pending miscarriage of justice will spur Democrats more than minor issues like war, tax reform, health care and the economy were able to on November 2.

God bless America.

Racism in South Carolina? How Original! (June 5, 2010)

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Talk about the ultimate backfire. When Palmetto State Republican gubernatorial candidate John M. “Jake” Knotts Jr., called GOP frontrunner Nikki Haley, a converted Christian of Sikh Indian descent, a “raghead” this week, he made the young lawmaker a household name. Heretofore, she had only been known as the slutty would-be replacement for the current tramp in the Governor’s mansion, Mark Sanford. Haley was well on her way to doing herself in, having faced two separate allegations, within the span ten days, of having sexual relations with GOP operatives. But leave it to an old, fat, racist white man to breathe new life into Haley’s candidacy.

I have to admit that I never bothered to search for an image of Haley, until Knotts hurled his antiquated and culturally ignorant epithet. I read a column in the New York Times by the incandescent Gail Collins this week that addressed the infidelity accusations dogging Haley’s campaign, and upon coming across her name for the first time, I assumed she was simply another hypocritical, greedy member of the far right, which tends as we know, to be WASP-y in its makeup. No thanks. It wasn’t until news spread that Knotts had not only insulted Haley’s cultural heritage, but managed to rope President Obama into a racist slam at the same time, that I wanted to know more about this woman.

And if I am discovering interest in Haley, it is not a far conjectural leap to assume that voters in South Carolina are doing the same. The rumored adulterer and mother of two has suddenly been rendered sympathetic by the shocking ignorance of a challenging member of the ruling class. In a political climate that is very anti-establishment at the moment, Knotts could not have made a more damaging faux pas, leaving aside what it says about his tolerance and character. All of the sudden, the clout of Republican heavyweight Sarah Palin is thrown behind Haley’s candidacy, in the form of recorded robo-calls. Whatever one might think of Palin, there is no denying her star power, particularly in the Red States. I doubt Knotts can count on any important party support, except perhaps from the ghost of late South Carolina Senator and fellow ideological crackpot, Strom Thurmond.

Which brings me to another point. I thought conventional wisdom had it that in order for the Republican party to compete in the ever more diverse landscape of American politics, they were going to have to break with the past, be more inclusive? Wasn’t the point of hiring bumbling jackass Michael Steele as chairman of the RNC (the gift to the Democrats that keeps on giving), to put a face on that effort? Well you can place as many visages of color in leadership positions as you want, Republicans, but as long as you have wingnuts like Knotts, and media personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly doing your talking for you, it’s going to be hard to convince people that you are other than the party of discrimination. In a nation that becomes more multi-ethnic by the year, intolerance is dangerous and unsustainable.

One can only assume, despite Knotts’s predictable, insincere apology for his comments, that his candidacy is all but over. Thank goodness for that. I believe an additional boost to Haley’s run will stem from her measured, savvy response to the controversy. She was quoted as saying: “What the race in 2010 will prove is the goodness of the people of South Carolina, that there [are] fewer people of the Jake Knotts [ilk] and that there are a lot more good, educated people [who] want their voice heard in government.”

I can only hope that other members of the new Republican movement are sincere in their desire to expand their membership base, and are not just cynically chasing votes. Because even those of us are who lean far left have much to gain in finding a worthy adversary with new ideas and attitudes. Clearly however, the old guard of the GOP has not looked a calendar lately. It’s 2010, not 1959 fellas.