Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bullshitting with James Carville

Why do Dems need to make shit up? Via Atrios, I saw this post from McJoan at Daily Kos:
"So apparently the 50-state strategy was all James Carville's idea, and Howard Dean messed it up."

It then quotes from an article about Carville dissing Dean, saying he should be replaced. McJoan then went on to criticize Carville with pointed questions under the assumption that Carville couldn’t possibly answer them. And that lead into a speculation about how Carville might be working on Rahm Emanuel’s behalf. Towards the end, we read: “But I guess state legislatures and governors' seats don't matter in James Carville's or Rahm Emanuel's world.”

But why? Why assume that Carville was talking out of his ass? And why pretend as if he was claiming the 50-state strategy as his own? And why assume that Carville or Emanuel don’t understand this, rather than that they’re just trying to screw Dean? Because none of this addresses Carville’s actual complaints against Dean, or what he was trying to do. He wasn’t claiming the 50-state strategy, nor was he criticizing it. If you read the article, he just says that Dean didn’t go far enough. That he wimped-out without a good reason and wouldn’t borrow extra money to win more seats.

And maybe he’s right or maybe he’s full of shit. I don’t know. For me, the odd thing isn’t Carville’s criticism, but why he’s doing it. Even if his criticism is valid, it seems like an odd time to do it, and sounds more like a powerplay than a straight-up criticism. That Carville and his buds want a piece of this Democratic power action and want Dean out of the way to do it. Or at a minimum, they just don’t like Dean and want him out of the way. And it’s even possible that Dean had already expressed that he was keeping Carville out of the loop, and that Carville was taking the initiative by dissing Dean publicly; so that it would appear that any bitterness between them was due to Dean’s hurt feelings at Carville’s attacks.

Or whatever. Who knows? I can invent new reasons all day and they’ll all sound good. But what does this have to do with the 50-state strategy at all? Why assume that Carville has a real criticism? Because regardless of whether Dean screwed up, Carville’s timing is clearly suspicious and should be the entire focus of the issue.

Disproving the Obvious

And even if Carville’s criticism of Dean is wrong, McJoan does nothing to clarify it. Nor is there even a hint at the idea that Carville might be right. Or any interest in uncovering it. Instead, we get a fact-free attack on Carville filled with much empty speculation about him doing this on Emanuel’s behalf. As if Chuck Schumer’s opinion somehow proves Carville wrong.

In fact, much of the post is a defense of the strategy that Carville says Dean didn’t go far enough in. It seems as if Carville’s maneuvering is so cryptic to McJoan that a strawman had to be inserted into the equation to make sense of things. And so most of the post was baseless speculation that McJoan clearly knew to be irrelevant, even if it was true.

And this reminds me too much of the typical liberal strategy against Republicans: That even when we know that they’re bullshitting us, we still take their criticism at face value and try to debate them on the merits. It’s like someone who knows a magician isn’t really using magic, but then loudly proclaims to the crowd that magic is impossible and explains why rabbits can’t appear in hats. I mean, if you already know they’re bullshitting you, then you can just work from that point forward. And the longer you waste explaining obvious bullshit, the easier it is for your opponent to continue spewing more.

Wile E. Carville

As I’ve admitted before, I have a soft spot for Carville. And shit, if I had to choose between Carville or Dean as my political consultant, I’d have to go with Carville. He’s a tricky-ass bastard who really knows how to stick it to the other side. But regarding his attack on Dean, I really can’t defend that at all. Even if he’s got some reason for doing it, I’d have to disagree and think he’s making a strategic error. He should have held back and waited for Dean to do something stupid enough to use as ammunition. But I suspect that this was partly done to remove the obvious glow Dean got from the election, so I guess perhaps that couldn’t wait.

But whether or not he should be doing it, he’s doing it well. The political reporters he fed coffee and rolls to reported what he said, and now the McJoans are falling into his trap by futilely trying to refute something that Carville was intentionally vague about. It’s no longer about Dean’s obvious victory. It’s now a matter of debate between Dean’s supporters and his detractors. And Dean’s detractors have more immediate power than his supporters, and that clearly plays into Carville’s strategy. And all he had to do is feed coffee and rolls to some reporters while dishing some juicy dirt.

But no matter what, he’s got his reasons for doing it and trying to mind-read him on this is a fairly futile task. The best option is to quickly laugh at him for his powerplay strategy (which is the extent of Atrios’ coverage of it), and moving on.

Again, if someone’s obviously bullshitting, the worst thing you can do is to take their criticism seriously. Because it does play into Carville’s hands, by making it seem necessary to defend him. And if a defense was necessary, McJoan didn’t give one. So rather than muddy down with Senator Schumer’s opinions and whatnot, a bit of quick mockery would have done far better. And unfortunately, a good guy to have on your side for that kind of thing happens to be James Carville. Damn.

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