As one of the grouchier members of the overpopulated Blogger Corps, I do find a bit of useless humor in the national media’s rush to add one more Scrabble letter to the 2016 presidential roster. Russell Baker, the New York Times former columnist, and a keen one at that, described such folly as the “great mentioning game”, which seasonably dealt with the eternal question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
The roster of the mentionables was nearly filled out when Ted Cruz stormed the field with the fury of Morgan’s raiders, stomping over the whimpering bodies of other wannabes like Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin (the crazy aunt in the attic) and – who knew? – John Kasich. Another Buckeye, Rob Portman, once nibbled at the idea, with kind credentials from the Columbus Dispatch, but he fell back to the practice squad with his endorsement of gay marriage, a no-no on what his side religiously considers as its indispensable power base.
As we all have known since many pundits cast Hillary Clinton as the smartest money to be the next president long before she restyled her hair, all of the attention must be limited to those dancing angels in the Tea Party since it dumped the GOP overboard in the Potomac and the creeks of Texas.
New Republic magazine guaranteed itself of being a pace-setter for the pundits’ three-year itch by asking its readers: Will Elizabeth Warren challenge Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2016? Well, will she? Doesn’t really matter, folks, because the magazine’s delicious question will send off a lot of Potomacati in tears, feverishly wondering why they didn’t think of it first. But they will be back with further grooming. I mean, Warren vs. Clinton? You could retire after that one.
And when Kasich supported an expansion of Medicaid, there was a frenzy of national reports declaring him to be John the Bold by defying right-wing orthodoxy that controls the national party. So moved that a garden variety Republican had shot out of the bubble, even Paul Krugman bought into it. It was the kind of story in which people could be impressed that the conservative governor had reinvented not only himself but also a new day for the party itself.
Salon ‘s Joan Walsh was less impressed and emailed Kasich’s overworked spokesperson Rob Nichols to interview the guv. He triumphantly emailed back: “Everyone on earth wants to talk to him”. She said she would be patient.
“He hasn’t replied,” she wrote in defeat. Maybe it was because she wanted to mention that while expanding Medicaid – the Christian thing to do, he explained – he also supported reductions in food stamps to more than 130,000 people.
“Kasich made the decision after his Medicaid move and it was entirely seen as a sop to the right to make up for it. It didn’t work; Tea Partyers are still blasting him,” Walsh wrote, complaining that the New York Times and other media road warriors “made Kasich a hero.”
Kasich for president? Put a a fat asterisk next to the name.
The other morning I passed by a TV set in which Cokie Roberts was saying in her prim George Will voice, “Fifty-one percent of the American people…” I didn’t wait for the rest of it, but I figured that if she mentioned anything minimally interesting about one candidate or another, we’d all know about it in the Land of Punditry before midnight.