Thursday, October 16, 2014


The (subscriber-only) cover story of the latest issue of Time is posted now. It's about Rand Paul. And here's the cover:

As Tom Kludt notes at Talking Points Memo, Time is hardly being original here: a month ago, Politico Magazine also called Paul "the most interesting man in politics." Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post called Paul "the most interesting man in the (political) world" back in June. Reason called him the "Most Interesting Man in the Senate" back in 2011.

So it's a cliche by now -- but why this cliche?

I think, in large part, it's the bro (and bro-admiring) nature of many Beltway journalists. The folks at Reason would have embraced the libertarian-ish Paul no matter what, but Cillizza, Politico, and Time are part of a press corps that I'm convinced is looking for a frattish guy to escort us out of the Obama era (and save us from that icky old lady Hillary Clinton) -- and if a possible bro savior has been found, what higher, bro-ier compliment can the journos pay him than to apply an honorific derived from a series of beer commercials, and, moreover, a series of beer commercials obviously inspired by the even more bro-ish Chuck Norris Facts joke series?

I say this all the time, but I'm going to keep saying it: There's an excellent chance that the 2016 election is going to be a rerun of 2000, with the press coming to the conclusion that the Democrat is a buzz-killing, nut-crushing schoolmarm, and with a Republican bamboozling the reporters into thinking that he's both a thoughtful right-centrist and a guy you'd really, really like to have a beer with. If it's not Rand Paul, it might be Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan or Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio or Chris Christie. But the template is JFK: cerebral and charismatic.

Bros and bro fanboys will downplay any signs of right-wing extremism in their designated bro hero, and will see any modest accomplishments as signs of potentially world-historic political talent. Check out the breathless talk from the author of the Time story, Michael Scherer -- obviously more of a bro hero-worshiper than an actual bro -- on today's Morning Joe:

SCHERER: ... politics is about storytelling, and the stories almost never change, and here's a guy who's really trying to change the whole narrative of how we think about Republican Party vs. Democratic Party. He's going around the country talking to conservative, all-white, straight-and-narrow, preppy audiences and saying, "We've got to embrace the freaks and the weirdos and the longhairs and the guys with tattoos." He's going, like other Republicans have done unsuccessfully, to minority communities, saying, "I want to do a bunch of things you haven't heard Republicans say in the past need to be done." He's going to young people around the country. And more important than that, I think, is that Republicans -- he's not the first person to try and color outside the lines, but Republicans, because they're in this sort of demographic bind, are actually listening to him, and he's got a soapbox and he's actually making changes.
He's actually making changes. Yeah, you can see how much Republicans have started following Paul's color-outside-the-lines lead in the huge shifts they've made on the issues of ... er ... um ... well, I'm sure I'll think of something.
SCHERER: ... Interviewing him is like being in a graduate seminar on, sort of, how you can still be a conservative and hold these views without being inconsistent. To get from Point A to Point B, to explain himself, he doesn't really contradict himself, but it takes three or four jumps to really slice the issues he's after, and it's a far more intellectual approach to politicking than we've seen.
(Yes, you heard that right: Rand Paul is "intellectual," and "intellectual" is now a good thing for a politician to be. Barack Obama, call your agent.)

I keep alluding to 2000, but I can't deny that this sort of thing happened on Bill Clinton's behalf in the run-up to the 1992 primaries, when insiders started getting serious mancrushes on him. It also, obviously, happened to Barack Obama in 2008, big time. But if it happens in 2016, the designated bro savior is going to be a Republican who'll be far more extreme than the journalists crushing on him will ever acknowledge (or notice).

So beware -- the next presidential election is not in the bag for Democrats. This is why.


UPDATE: I reread this and realized I didn't make a very strong case for Rand Paul as bro-ish regular guy. For that, I guess, you have to turn to his trolling of Michelle Obama on the issue of food.

Frickin' hilarious!


Philo Vaihinger said...

Hey, Dos Equis is overpriced adjunct beer. Stick with Pabst.

Grung_e_Gene said...

Hahaha Michelle Obama is fat unlike all her stud like white male detractors!

Victor said...

We've 'been there' before:
Chance, the gardner - aka: Chauncey Gardner.

Of course, that was a work of fiction.

mlbxxxxxx said...

I think the problem for Paul is surviving the primaries with his "radical" and "intellectual" views in tact. I don't think he'll have a lot of room for an "etch-a-sketch" moment. He's already much more defined than Mitt ever was and his views are really the only thing that makes him interesting. If he changes his views to capture the right he will cease to be anything special. Also, the right is not going to give him -- or anybody else -- much room to run to the right in the primaries and then left in the general.

Consequently, I don't see him as much of a threat at the top of the ticket. VP could be a different story. He could be the rare case of a VP being a real asset to the right pres nominee. Ben Carson is another scarey VP choice that I don't think has much more chance than I do of being on the top of the ticket but at VP becomes a potential threat. Carson could cancel out some of Jeb's moderate common core problems.

aimai said...

I think you are right about how the press would like to portray the 2016 election. They were in a rage that Obama and Michelle brought glamor back to the white house and all that glamor and education and cool were redounding to the credit of the dems. They are actually breathing a sigh of relief that thanks to six years of vicious attacks neither Obama nor Michelle are able to be as glamorous and as star studded at the white house as they used to be. So the press are going to turn seamlessly into a melding of Obama and Hillary and label the dems the unglamorous/dowdy/stupid teacher party and try to pump up Rand or some other guy with a hybrid story (he's intellectual, but he's authentic; he's an adult, but he loves a good fart joke and he's the kicky young priest who can talk to the young). Don't be surprised if they start sniffing around Scott Brown, too, even if he loses in New Hampshire. They are that desperate for a dream boat.

Joseph Nobles said...

Rand Paul, the junkyard dog version of Chauncey Gardner. I can see it.

Steve M. said...

he's the kicky young priest who can talk to the young

Oh, that's perfect, aimai. That's exactly how the press is portraying Rand.

Glennis said...

You know what, Rand? Michelle Obama doesn't give a shit what you do.

"Most interesting man in politics?"

Yeah. Psychopaths are sure interesting people.

Unknown said...

"SCHERER: ... politics is about storytelling ..."

Yeah, and journalism is about saying "fk that storytelling noise; here's what's really happening."

I have no idea why I thought Michael Scherer might be interested in knowing that.