Sunday, January 6, 2008

Media Training for Paul and Thompson

paul.jpg thompson.jpg dole.jpeg

After the pre-New Hampshire debates yesterday, I wasn’t left thinking Hillary Clinton looked bad — her fleeting minute of controlled anger was far less creepy than the perpetual smoldering hostility McCain exudes (as in his remark about flip-flopping Romney being “the candidate of change,” which was delivered in such a menacing tone that I didn’t get the relatively benign joke at the time — it sounded more like McCain was threatening to neuter Romney or something). Nonetheless, since, last I knew, Obama was on top in New Hampshire Dem polls and McCain on top in New Hampshire GOP polls, I may well end up rooting for McCain in the general election come November.

And he might be the only Republican — Ron Paul excepted — with enough crossover/moderate appeal to combat Obama’s own broad appeal in the general election. At the same time, for all his apostasy, McCain can convcingly appeal to the pro-life, hawk, and budget-cutting GOP factions in a way no other lone GOP candidate does (about a year ago during a discussion at a New York Young Republicans Club meeting, I picked him as the best bet to unite Republicans but had since grown to hope that Paul, Thompson, or Giuliani could get the job done, too).

If it ends up being McCain vs. Clinton — the two of them having been friendly in the past — they can commiserate about having run against primary rivals who blathered about change last night. If it ends up being McCain vs. Obama, it will be interesting to see if McCain’s personal animosity toward Obama, caused by the latter’s failure to follow through on some of their joint legislative plans, manifests itself in a counterproductive, hostile-seeming way.

In the meantime…

If all those libertarians who were supposed to move to New Hampshire under the so-called “Free State Project” a few years ago have arrived there in sufficient numbers to make Ron Paul the GOP victor there, I’ll be thrilled.

If he should fare poorly there, though, I blame myself. Or rather, I can’t help thinking that I could have given Paul some media training, or that someone should have. He says all the right things — libertarian things — but he has a tendency to say technical things that only economists, libertarians, and Paul supporters understand and to say them with as much gusto as if he just said something that the other 90% of the crowd could follow. Where a more mundane politician might say simple, concrete things like “I want a safe democracy and a prosperous economy so that families can work and thrive,” Paul says things like “You see how the prices go up if we monetize debt and that causes instability!” What? Huh? (I’m paraphrasing, just barely.) Principled, passionate, yet not exactly pithy sometimes — and I just hope New Hampshire will forgive him for it and help save the republic.

I’ve seen video about traders on the floor of the stock exchange cheering for Paul when he criticizes government spending and Ben Bernanke, but different audiences demand different rhetoric.

Then there’s Thompson (who, for anyone understandably confused about who my “second choice” is, would have been #2 for me after Paul — based purely on his positions — had he not dithered about entering the race and then proven hopelessly boring and uninspiring when he did enter, elevating Giuliani to the #2 slot philosophically but perhaps Romney or McCain to the #2 slot for purely strategic reasons if Giuliani proves unable to bring the GOP coalition together). Someone tell Fred that one of the most important principles of public speaking (a principle I made up just now, but it’s crucial nonetheless) is that you have to make the causal connections between the things you mention as clear as if you’re talking about a cat who stole a biscuit and dropped it in a lake, dammit. You can’t say things like (I’m paraphrasing again, just barely), “Immigration is seen through an issue of security with regard to the American people having considered the way we ID the whole problem with the” blah blah blah.

If George W. Bush is enough to make one miss the rhetorical skill of George H.W. Bush, Thompson is enough to make one pine for the electrifying speeches of Bob Dole. It’s all very frustrating.

Then again: the Founders actually believed that great oratorical skill was a bad thing in a president, since it made him more likely to become a demagogue (that thought consoled me when W. became president and decided to avoid press conferences). We aren’t electing Henry V, we’re electing someone to run what should be a humble, unobtrusive government with few duties, and a soft-spoken gynecologist and amateur economist like Ron Paul is still the right man for the job. We’ll see how he fares Tuesday (and for the record, I never thought that Dean scream was so odd, either).

UPDATE: Ron Paul has reportedly been dropped from Fox News’s scheduled Sunday-night debate, though the more-boring Thompson remains. Don’t take that lying down, NH voters!

UPDATE 2: Ah, but in addition to appearing on CSPAN instead last night, Paul is on Leno again tonight (Mon.) — good news with or without the Sex Pistols!

UPDATE 3: Dorothy Rabinowitz, by contrast, today calls Paul supporters the kind of people who think the CIA has put radio receivers in their teeth — but I will respond kindly by saying that Dorothy Rabinowitz is no free-market ideologue and neither, I guess, are the establishment-protectors at Wall Street Journal. That must make them feel very, very responsible, since pro-government politicians never do harm. It would be interesting if we did have a market-oriented major newspaper, though.


Sean Dougherty said...

Dorothy’s ok, she’s just a warmonger and can’t accept Ron’s legitimacy because he is opposed to the war.

She won a Pulitizer for uncovering the sham day care prosecutions in Massachusetts, Florida and elsewhere in the 1990s that led to many people being innocently sent to jail (and made Janet Reno a national political figure).

I wish she could be a little more thoughtful in her opposition to Ron (like her colleague Kim Strassel) but her single line of vision is her core strength as a journalist. She never gave up trying to save those daycare victims and savage the politicians who used their plight for personal gain. She isn’t likely to give up on bashing Ron Paul either.

Overall, though, she is a great friend of liberty.

Todd Seavey said...

All right, yes, and stopping that witch hunt was a pro-skepticism victory after my own heart. If I can retain some sympathy for William Kristol due to his opposition to socialized medicine, I can retain some sympathy for Rabinowitz.

And hawks like her should be reassured that the military is so huge that I question whether even a President Paul could dismantle much of it before leaving office, though that’s not the kind of cynical route people usually like to take in approaching common ground. (And again, he’s no pacifist; wants the military strong but mostly non-interventionist, as Bush seemed to want pre-9/11; and served in the Air Force himself, for those keeping track of candidate flight skills. Who would win a dogfight between Paul, McCain, and Bush, I wonder?)

Christopher said...

If this Reason article is correct, it seems that Ron Paul doesn’t personally believe in the “theory” of evolution (as he pointedly refers to it). Now he’s obviously not going to be forcing people to teach creationism in public schools, but still, how pathetic.

Ken Silber said...

Ron Paul is the only one who could fly Air Force One while delivering a baby in the cockpit, if it came down to that.

Todd Seavey said...

Yet Paul did _not_ raise his hand (as did Tancredo, Brownback, and Huckabee) when asked in one debate who doubted evolution, so I suspect he cares far more about stopping the government from running schools and pushing _any_ theory (right or wrong) than about biology per se.

He has bigger problems, though, thanks to the New Republic article just now linked on Drudge (and overwhelming TNR’s website with hits, apparently) about the (ghost-written and long since disavowed) articles in his newsletter years ago that pushed quasi-conspiracies about blacks, Jews, and gays. I’ll have to write a full entry about that, NH, and more in a few hours, by which time if things go _very, very_ well, he’ll be giving his big first-place victory speech, or at least not weeping…

Sean Dougherty said...

I was just thinking that Dorothy might have been right about him after all. It doesn’t really matter if Ron Paul didn’t write the odious racist articles in newsletters that published under his name. Do we really want a president who lets newsletters full of racist swill publish under his name without his caring enough to check?

Unfortunately, it’s time for Libertarians to ask themselves which Republican or Democrat we’d give a similar break to.

If these were Hillary Clinton’s newsletters, or John McCain’s, would we be saying, “he didn’t mean it,” or “too bad he didn’t check closer.” Of course not, we’d react to them the same way we reacted to Trent Lott supporting a Dixiecrat for president.

I’ll look for people smarter than I am to come up with a reason not be very, very depressed about this development. But I’m not expecting anything.

Ken Silber said...

Just when I thought the Paul campaign was a fit subject for lighthearted banter.