Friday, July 29, 2011


Waiting for the economic Apocalypse, I turn to Peggy Noonan, who uses today's column to essentially turn Barack Obama into Hillary Clinton, or at least Hillary as Noonan has always seen her:

I want to talk about something that started to become apparent to me during the debt negotiations. It's something I've never seen in national politics.

It is that nobody loves Obama. This is amazing because every president has people who love him, who feel deep personal affection or connection, who have a stubborn, even beautiful refusal to let what they know are just criticisms affect their feelings of regard.... But people aren't that way about Mr. Obama....

The secret of Mr. Obama is that he isn't really very good at politics, and he isn't good at politics because he doesn't really get people.

I really like the bit about Noonan never having seen anything like this in national politics, because she's certainly declared Hillary to be a non-human in the past:

No one in America thinks she’s a woman. They think she's a tough little termagant in a pantsuit. They think she's something between an android and a female impersonator. She is not perceived as a big warm mommy trying to resist her constant impulse to sneak you candy. They think she has to resist her constant impulse to hit you with a bat. She lacks a deep (as opposed to quick) warmth, a genuine and almost phenomenological sense of rightness in her own skin. She seems like someone who might calculatedly go to war, or not, based on how she wanted to be perceived and look and do. She does not seem like someone who would anguish and weep over sending men into harm's way.

... Hillary is like someone who would know she should be moved but wouldn't be because she couldn't be because ... well, why? That is the question. Maybe a lifetime in politics has bled some of the human element out of her. Maybe there wasn't that much to begin with. Maybe she thinks that if she wept, the wires that hold her together would short.

Which leads me to a passage in the current column that shows how little you actually have to know about contemporary politics to be an extremely well-paid gray-eminence pundit. I gave you a sentence from the passage above, but let me give you the rest:

The secret of Mr. Obama is that he isn't really very good at politics, and he isn't good at politics because he doesn't really get people. The other day a Republican political veteran forwarded me a hiring notice from the Obama 2012 campaign. It read like politics as done by Martians. The "Analytics Department" is looking for "predictive Modeling/Data Mining" specialists to join the campaign's "multi-disciplinary team of statisticians," which will use "predictive modeling" to anticipate the behavior of the electorate. "We will analyze millions of interactions a day, learning from terabytes of historical data, running thousands of experiments, to inform campaign strategy and critical decisions."

This wasn't the passionate, take-no-prisoners Clinton War Room of '92, it was high-tech and bloodless. Is that what politics is now? Or does the Obama re-election effort reflect the candidate and his flaws?

Bloody hell -- does Noonan even read the news? Does she not understand that this has been going on for years? Here's a news story from 2007:

In late 2002, Alex Gage sold his share of a well-established polling firm and set about convincing Karl Rove that he had the answer to ensuring President Bush's reelection.

His pitch was simple: Take corporate America's love affair with learning everything it can about its customers, and its obsession with carving up the country into smaller and smaller clusters of like-minded consumers, and turn those trends into a political strategy....

Gage's models predicted voters' tendencies with 90 percent accuracy, ... and Gage was hired to microtarget the 16 or so battleground states in the 2004 election.

It wasn't long before this new, more sophisticated form of data mining became part of the mythology surrounding Rove and his role as "the architect" of Bush's reelection....

Now Gage is working for another Republican presidential candidate entranced by the possibilities of microtargeting -- Mitt Romney....

Christ, Peggy, this is standard procedure now! And you loved Bush for a while -- and even though you're mostly lukewarm to Romney ("well, he continues to seem like someone who's stepped from the shower and been handed a dress shirt by his manservant George"), you'll decide he's jes' folks, a la Poppy Bush, if he gets to run against Obama. But what am I saying? It doesn't matter. Do you not realize that every high-stakes campaign does this? Do you not realize that Rick Perry can lay on the dumb-as-rocks cornpone for a year and a half and he'll still hire brainiacs to do this, too? Do you not even read a paper?

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