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Today In Trivia

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Joshua Green is, in a way, right — Paul Ryan’s expensive bottle of wine is like John Edward’s expensive haircut.    It’s a farcical non-story, in other words.   It’s bad that Ryan is leading a charge to destroy the safety net because…it’s bad to destroy the safety net, and it would be equally bad if he stuck to the fruits of Ernest and Julio Gallo.    We already knew that Ryan was much wealthier than the average American; whether he buys fancy wine, a bigger house, or buries his money in the backyard doesn’t make any difference.   We already knew that the idea that the upper class can’t sustain a dime more in taxes was ridiculous.   And unlike Edwards, there isn’t even a hypocrisy angle; Randian crackpots are being perfectly consistent when they buy expensive stuff for themselves.

I guess anything that works to hurt Ryan, except that 1)I don’t think it will, and 2)I think reducing political discourse to Dowdian trivia strongly favors reactionary interests in the long run.

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  • David Kaib

    The aversion by many to fighting political battles on substantive grounds is maddening, especially when the substance is so lopsided.

  • Bruce Wilder

    It has been going on so long, that I guess it is easy for you to forget that what you refer to as “Dowdian trivia” is actually an echo of the now long-forgotten attacks of the populist Left on the privileges of the powerful.

    What strongly favors reactionary interests in our politics is the reticence of liberals and progressives to make populist appeals to the mass of people, whose political psychology and attitudes make them, (in psychological terms), authoritarian followers. The loyalties and anger of such people, which was once marshalled by union leaders and big-city political machines (and, yes, white supremacists) are now a monopoly of right-wing Media figures.

    It is a tired witticism to observe that class warfare has been carried on by only one class, but it is true.

    Thank you for being so high-minded and completely ineffective.

    • Ben

      Did you just not read that last paragraph there, comrade? Care to make any arguments against what Lemieux actually says?

      I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but I think the general idea is if the political space reaches from “hurf durf fancy haircuts” to “hurf durf fancy dinner”, it 1) prevents any actual class/economic issues from being raised and fought over 2) turns off ordinary people from participating who are natural working class allies by making the process destructive and cynical (the DFW Up, Simba thesis) 3) places an even larger emphasis on gaffes, gotchas, and media manipulation, which favors entrenched interests with money and media access, which are the bad guys.

      Wanna take a stab at talking about any of that?

      • DocAmazing

        It’s not either/or and never has been. Of course it’s vital to make substantive criticisms, over and over, and do our best to force the mass media to address them. That does not preclude pointing out the obvious lighting-a-cigar-with-a-burning-c-note behaviors. See the work of Michael Moore for examples of how to blend the two.

        • Popeye

          Also, the substantive criticism here isn’t that far off from the superficial criticism. If you wanted to argue that John Edwards was a wealthy phony who only pretended to care about poor people to pursue his own political ambitions (really crazy stuff, I know) then the expensive haircut was not a bad way of summarizing the situation. Similarly, Paul Ryan wants to “share” sacrifice by fucking over poor people while cutting taxes on the rich. If you can’t find video of him wearing a monocle while smoking a cigar and cackling evilly, then two $350 bottles of wine isn’t bad.

          I’d love to see this post developed further: it’s like John Edwards’ expensive haircut, John Kerry’s windsurfing, Michael Dukakis in a tank, Dan Quayle misspelling potato, Howard Dean yelling, Sarah Palin not knowing which newspapers she reads, GHW Bush not knowing about checkout scanners (apocryphal), Al Gore invented the internet, blah blah blah. Basically, it’s terrible news for the Democrats.

        • Well said, Doc.

  • Ed Marshall

    Anybody wanna buy some (slightly) used anal beads? After my boyfriend and I got into fisting and cock torture we don’t need them anymore.

    • Ed Marshall

      Wow, troll *really* needs attention.

      • Gary Ruppert

        The fact is, like all writers, troll writes from experience.

        • Ed Marshall

          The fact is, out in the heartland, there is nothing to do except troll the internet and attribute our repressed fantasies to random people on the internet. The decadent left in their enclaves just don’t understand real America. Thanks, Gary.

      • Clearly, someone with a rich social and romantic life.

        You know, as it turns out, a prescription drug habit isn’t actually the same thing as a personality.

        • DocAmazing

          I’ll say! People with personalities don’t call me in the middle of the night from pharmacies!

      • DrDick

        Sounds to me like the troll has not gotten laid in living memory, so that this is as close as it comes.

  • I think reducing political discourse to Dowdian trivia strongly favors reactionary interests in the long run.

    Bob Somerby has been making this point, with mountains of evidence, for about a decade. While I understand and often feel the desire to respond in kind, a war of playground retorts is not going to lead anywhere what I want to go.

    • Anonymous

      I love Somerby, but it is hard for me to think of a blogger who is more marginalized. I doubt even Gore wants to keep hearing about how unfair campaign 2000 was. Somerby still gets hot if someone refers to Lewinsky as an intern.
      Finally, Ryan should make a public gesture of paying back the Soc Sec payments he received when his father died. Clearly those benefits have harmed him.

  • c u n d gulag

    While I see Scott’s point, I think the following ad would be effective:

    Open with an old woman at her mailbox looking at an eviction notice.

    Then, she goes inside to take her pills – but finds the containers are empty.

    Then, as she’s crying, focus on her shaky hands trying to open up a can of catfood, .

    In the final shots, show Ryan at the restaurant with the bottles of wine, laughing – then back to the old lady and the catfood can.

    Then have something like this run across the screeen – ‘Republican ideas. They really pay off! Just not for you.’

    Or, “Republicans say ‘Quit your whining while we’re dining!'”

    Or something a lot better than that.
    Anyone want to try?

  • Oscar Leroy

    “And unlike Edwards, there isn’t even a hypocrisy angle”

    John Edwards is a dick for cheating on his deathly sick wife, but what was hypocritical about him? He made a lot of money fighting for underdogs, then used some of that money to run for office so he could fight even more. He never said “get rid of rich people!” which would be hypocritical, since he was rich himself.

    • The Shaggy DA

      Well said. This is a strawman the repubs love to throw up against Edwards, “Hollywood elites” and liberals in general, which is that being concerned with the plight of the poor somehow means you cannot become rich through your own effort and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

    • Scott Lemieux

      As I hope think link makes clear, I think the hypocrisy angle with Edwards is also utter bullshit (and effectively means that nobody who could obtain high office is allowed to have progressive politics.) But since Ryan doesn’t even pretend to care about poor people, even that feeble argument doesn’t apply.

    • Personally, I think we would have all been better off if Edwards had won the nomination, and then the presidency.

  • Ryan made a point of picking up half the check once he realized he’d been made. Maybe these were just three rich guys drinking expensive wine, which is surely their business; but it had the aroma of corruption about it. Ryan obviously thought so.

    • Warren Terra

      Anyone who thinks that Ryan would have picked up the check, or reported the wine as a gift under ethics laws, if he hadn’t been spotted, please raise your hand (metaphorically speaking).
      To be sure, the $100 limit may be too low. It’s not all that hard for a nice middle-class couple to spend $100 at restaurant, and if they regularly went out with another couple and alternated picking up the check an ethics-reporinting headache would be the result. Still, two $350 bottles of wine is a bit rich, and I really doubt Ryan planned on being out-of-pocket on them; either he planned to accept them as his due, or he planned to pay for them out of his PAC.

      • DrDick

        Yeah. Even here in western Montana, if you go out to one of the better restaurants in town it might run that much with a couple of glasses of wine each.

  • The Shaggy DA

    While I agree this is not a story, I do find it funny that Ryan’s apparent defense to what I assume is an elitism charge, is that he doesn’t even know what the price of the multi-hundred dollar bottle of wine he ordered is. Just like working folk.

    • Ben

      Byron York works himself into a lather over the course of several tweets by concluding that the wine was only $80.

      I can’t decide if that’s funnier or not than Ryan’s approach.

      • He’s saying the Feinberg’s wine, not Ryan’s, was $80. Thus Lieberals are the real hypocrites, or something.

        • Ben

          Ah, so he is. I take it back; that’s a veritable gale of moral clarity.

    • DrDick

      Every working class person I know, or ever have known, would be certain to check the price before ordering it, especially in a fancy restaurant.

  • Why you should care about this:

    “Confronted by TPM, Ryan did not deny the story, but lamely pleaded ignorance about the cost of the wine.”

    So someone or some organization bribed him

  • kth

    Substantively it’s not an important story. But if you click the TPM link, the item has over 1000 comments, overwhelmingly by wingnuts or replying to same (Darleen Click, of Obama Rapes Liberty cartoon fame, herself probably posted 30 comments).

    So make a note, fellow moonbats: this one really struck a nerve (obligatory assent granted to the proposition that, in an alternative universe where only the issues were discussed on their merits, liberals would prevail).

  • As a young libertarian, I think what Paul Ryan (no relation) does is his choice. None of my business.

    • efgoldman

      I think what Paul Ryan (no relation) does is his choice.

      I call bullshit.
      Ryan is an elected official, and the chairman of a very powerful committee in Congress.
      What he does has an effect on each and every one of the 300 million of us.
      Its not like he was an attorney with a small-town private practice.

      • Warren Terra

        I think LG&M may need to go to registered commenting. That one deranged troll posting under dozens of handles, including appropriating other commenters’ handles, and now this guy here. I don’t know anything about this guy, but they’re not the only person on LG&M today with whatever obscure URL that is linked to their handle – and commenting under multiple pseudonyms just isn’t cool, even when it’s not done with the intent to mislead anyone.

        • efgoldman

          Hey Warren, you don’t mean me, do you?
          I’m the same guy that used to talk to you at ObWi when hilzoy and publius were still there.
          I’m just going to assume you hit my “reply” button by mistake.

  • mb

    The only possible damage to Ryan will be the teetotaling churchladies who will be disappointed that such a fine young man has to use that demon alcohol. But a rich man consuming his riches is what their worldview is all about.

    The post at Atlantic does serve to demonstrate once again how hackish Josh Green is. It’s almost as if Mark Halperin fucked a ginger and the abortion was unsuccessful.

  • Ed Marshall

    For reasons that I don’t understand putting “Jayer-Gilles 2004 Echezeaux Grand Cru” into Google gives you back Ann Althouse’s blog as the third link for no apparent reason. That is not a joke.

    • Warren Terra

      Now that‘s an awfully expensive boxed wine.

  • Carrie Thorton

    It may not be a “story” but nearly 7,000 people have shared the link on Facebook, probably more since that doesn’t record those that just copy and paste the URL. With that many eyes and people reading, you’re missing an opportunity to slip in useful critique or something that actually is story worthy. Surely you can find something in this non-story worth thinking about?

  • Q

    Well, Col. Mustard WILL NOT STAND for this sort of thing because laughing at Paul Ryan’s choice of expensive wine is MUCH DIFFERENT than excoriating the President for his choice of condiment.

    • Popeye

      That’s hilarious. I wrote a 2-line comment to that effect and it was deleted two minutes later.

    • That woman is a busy-body, like all liberals, who doesn’t know how to mind her own business.

      Somebody ought to check her countertops.

  • Bill Murray

    Any true middle western man of the people would still be drinking TJ Swans, or if he was trying to impress a young lady Boone’s Farm. $100 would get you close to a vat of these “wines”

    • DocAmazing

      Ach, mein Gott. Do they still make those?
      I still have sore spots from the last time I drank MD 20/20.

  • Woodrowfan

    If such narratives were not effective we wouldn’t still remember Edward’s haircut, or Clinton’s (mythical) airport runway closing haircut, Kerry’s windsurfing, etc.

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