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The Self-Parody Primary

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In the exciting tradition of Unity ’08, Americans Elect ’12,  Man of the Year, and jerking off to pictures of elderly people eating expired baby food, Politico is offering its very own thrilling primary. Which center-right Pain Caucus hack would you like to completely shake up the race? They’re all winners, but it doesn’t get much more proactive than Erskine Bowles!

But there is a decent chance conventional politicians playing by conventional rules are playing it all wrong. Many voters seem open to, if not hungry for, a real discussion about tough changes. Ask Republicans and Democrats alike to name a serious and responsible thinker who could lead this discussion and the name Erskine Bowles often tops the list.

Bowles, 66, is far from an inspirational figure. In fact, he can be as dull as a butter knife in public settings. But he knows budgets, and numbers, and tough choices (he’s the man who asked Dick Morris to resign in the Clinton years) and, unlike most, has slapped his name on ideas that upset leaders of both parties but excite deficit hawks on both sides.

The Bowles pitch would rest on a rarity in modern campaigns: a very specific proposal for the tough budget choices the country should make. He came up with a truly bipartisan plan that took a real whack at America’s long-term deficits, only to see the plan abandoned by Obama, who had appointed him to make those choices in the first place.

If there’s anything the public wants, it’s a dreary fiscal scold who can’t get elected to anything but has taken a principled stand in favor of slashing entitlements to fund upper-class tax cuts, and when does that view ever get represented in the Beltway? He’s totally in your face!

I don’t mean to neglect the other entries, which also provide much comedy gold.  Puzzled as to how Hillary Clinton could be a transformative alternative to Barack Obama even though she agrees with him about everything?   It’s her access to Real Men of Genius:

She would have to make a strong my-country-needs-me-so-I’m-making-this-big-leap argument and could turn to Mark Penn and Greenberg for advice on navigating the disenchanted segment with a pro-business, tough-on-China, America-rocks message.

I think we’ve reached the point where further comment is superfluous.

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  • Yep, if there’s one thing our national discourse doesn’t have enough of, it’s pro-business rhetoric and Americagasming.

    CENTRISTS: I have a radical idea that will transform American politics: elect [some boring dude] so he can do [business as usual for the Village].

    LGM: Yeah, but that’s pretty much what’s already going on-

    CENTRISTS: Uh, hello? Have you noticed that there is a black man in the Oval Office? A BLACK MAN?! For reasons unrelated to his race this country is FALLING APART and will not be fixed until the black man is gone… for reasons unrelated to his being a black man.

    • UserGoogol

      That’s not at all what’s happening. This desire for a bland establishment centrist to save America from itself has been pretty much a constant in politics for a very long time, whereas having a black guy as President is a fairly new development.

      • John

        What is hard to understand, though, is why these assholes don’t realize that Obama is about as close to a bland establishment centrist as they’re going to get.

        • Uncle Kvetch

          What is hard to understand, though, is why these assholes don’t realize that Obama is about as close to a bland establishment centrist as they’re going to get.

          Apparently the idea is that a bland establishment centrist technocrat would “bring the country together” in such a way that partisan politics as we know it would simply vanish. Everyone would finally realize that the solutions to all our problems are already at hand, and the resounding thwacks of palms slapping foreheads would be heard throughout the land.

          So you see, if Obama’s bland establishment centrism were the right kind of bland establishment centrism, it would be obvious, because all of his policies would be passing both houses of Congress by massive majorities, and he’d be hugely popular. The fact that still has opponents who hate his guts and are trying to destroy him clearly means that he can’t be the Messiah.

          • Hogan

            The politics of failure have failed. We need to make them work again.

  • “he’s the man who asked Dick Morris to resign in the Clinton years”

    Only at Politico could this be described as a “tough choice.”

    • commie atheist

      Agreed. That made my morning.

    • Bill Murray

      I think they asked Erskine to do it because five minutes after he fired Morris, Morris would forget who had delivered the news, so it would all be OK

    • It was a “tough choice” in that he was the only one who agreed not to slap the shit out of Morris.

  • c u n d gulag

    I think everytime Erskine Bowles name is mentioned, David Brooks springs a woodie – not that anyone could notice.

  • djw

    I’m going to be chuckling about the notion that asking Dick Morris to resign is a “tough choice” all day.

    • rea

      Even apart from the context (which was hiring prostitutes, and then trying to impress them by having them lsiten in on confidential phone conversations with the president)

    • commie atheist

      Also the notion that turning to Mark Penn for advice “on navigating the disenchanted segment with a pro-business, tough-on-China, America-rocks message” is anything other than comedy gold.

      • L2P

        That’s truly awesome. I can just see the editors at Politico huddling in their offices saying, “When will some politician see the genius of flag-waving and patriotism as an election strategy? And a pro-business/anti-foriegner agenda? Why hasn’t anyone THOUGHT of THAT? Gawd, we’re smart!”

        • Uncle Kvetch

          Never mind the imbecilic content — how the fuck does one “navigate” a “segment”?

  • Walt

    I’m going to assume that hackers have hacked into Politico and are posting parody. The alternative is too awful to contemplate.

    • firefall

      I thought Politico was founded as a rival to The Onion?

    • Walt

      I have a new theory. This is straightforward trolling on the part of Politico. Someone there probably finds the whole thing hilariously funny.

  • Felix Gilman

    Please Read My 7,000 Word Article On How What The Wall Street Protestors Are REALLY Asking For Is Erskine Bowles And Plenty Of Him

  • Felix Gilman

    This Baby Is Fussy And Anxious. Is He Hungry? Yes: He Is Hungry For Erskine Bowles

    • I’ve Got a Fever, and the Only Cure is Erskine Bowles.

    • SamR

      Come on, where’s the love for the Condi pick? Petraeus, random business Galtian, Hillary (as a construction as opposed to the actual person with actual beliefs), those are things I’ve seen before. But Condi combines complete unacceptability for GOPers (pro-choice?) with a demonstrated total inability to do her job. OTOH, we would get to hear a lot of “nobody could have predicted my campaign finance manager would empty my campaign accounts and head to the Caymans.”

      • Davis X. Machina

        The person everyone would vote for is precisely the aame person no one would vote for.

        It’s so Zen, my teeth hurt.

        If you come upon the Buddha in the road, enter him in the New Hampshire primary.

    • witless chum

      Who would Politico suggest the Colts start at QB while Peyton Manning is out? Curtis Painter.

      Just kidding, it’s Erskine Bowles.

  • Joshua

    Erskine Bowles “knows numbers” so well that him and his BFF Alan Simpson sat around for a year talking about gutting Social Security without every looking up an actuarial table:

    http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-chait/88086/alan-simpson-angered-math

    • Ed

      Thank the man who put them there.

  • mds

    This all seems a bit premature. I’m going to wait and keep an eye on Intrade for any Bowles movement.

    • commie atheist

      I’ve heard that Bowles can get pretty irritable when his advice is agnored.

    • So you’re gonna Bowle for Columbine?

  • commie atheist

    Erskine Bowles, one half of that seminal rap combo, Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dogg and the Enema Man.

  • “Many voters” and “Erskine Bowles” have absolutely no business appearing in the same paragraph.

    • Malaclypse

      “Many voters” and “Erskine Bowles” have absolutely no business appearing in the same paragraph.

      “Many voters” have no idea who “Erskine Bowles” is.

      • Hogan

        Isn’t he the guy who wrote The Riddle of the Sands? I thought he was dead.

    • Bighank53

      If you start erskine voters about their internal organs, many of them will be reluctant to discuss their bowles.

      Got all of ’em in!

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  • mark f

    [O]ne can safely assume [Hillary Clinton] would be more of a centrist on economic issues than her current boss.

    Unless she were actually assumed office, in which case, since she’d be the most recently elected Democrat, even adopting Paul Ryan’s policies would mark her as the most Communistest president ever and whyohwhy won’t Democrats ever nominate a centrist?

  • CJColucci

    Erskine Bowles might be acceptable as a “best we can reasonably expect” Senator from North Carolina, but that’s about it. And see how highly the Tarheel voters thought of him.

    • Davis X. Machina

      Fairclough. East. Helms.

      The bar for the Senate in NC is impossibly high, certainly too high for a mere Erskine Bowles to clear.

  • Gwen

    They had me at “John Chambers.”

    I mean, I guess calling John Chambers a great CEO makes sense in the same way that George W. Bush was the greatest Rangers owner in history…

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