Thursday, September 22, 2016


Today's Yahoo hacking announcement inspired me to look in on Yahoo News, where Matt Bai still publishes regular columns. Today's is several different varieties of terrible.

The first thing Bai wants you to know is that Hillary Clinton is just an annoying shrew who can't possibly do a thing to help herself in the upcoming debates:
When Hillary Clinton takes to the debate stage next week, in the opener of a three-act tragedy that will rivet most of the nation, she should keep in mind that the campaign really isn’t about her.

I say this not because, when she talks to voters, Clinton too often has a tendency to frame her campaign as the necessary capstone of her long, lonely, twilight struggle of a career, rather than as a vehicle for reform -- although she does.

I say it not because Clinton can come across as aggrieved, a victim of venal Republicans and craven media who is biding her time until she can settle all the old scores, like Carrie at the prom.

No, I say it because at this point the campaign really isn’t hers to win or lose, and probably nothing she says will change its trajectory. It’s all about her opponent now.
What a pathetic loser! No wonder no one will sit with her in the cafeteria. And Donald Trump -- he's crazy, but wasn't it great how he threw the winning touchdown last weekend?

(Does Bai understand popular culture? He wants to portray Clinton as a grievance-nursing whiner, but then he compares her to Carrie. Does he even remember that was cruelly mistreated before she got her vengeance?)

Bai goes on to tell us that Clinton has no agency in the debates -- silly girl! -- because it's all about Trump:
Barring some cosmic meltdown from Clinton, these debates will unfold as a test for Donald Trump. We’re about to find out whether he can pass himself off as a credible entrant for the job and, perhaps more to the point, whether he actually wants it.
Hold that thought.
... Whether from incompetence or instability, Trump has managed to make himself not the default alternative to a candidate who is deeply distrusted by the electorate, but rather the dominant and more divisive figure of the two.
Trump is incompetent or unstable, according to Bai, yet Hillary Clinton is "deeply distrusted," while Trump is (pant, pant) dominant. So why is he dominant?
Rather than play along with Trump’s “Dancing With the Stars” kind of campaign, Clinton has largely receded to the shadows offstage, content to watch while Trump gyrates and boogies himself into all kind of grotesque poses, alternately amusing and reviling much of the viewing audience.
Or maybe she just can't get a word in edgewise as the media breathlessly clings to every last word or deed from Trump.
And so, improbably, the election is now a referendum on him. Clinton’s support is probably inelastic at this point; assuming she slogs cautiously through the debates in her admirable if uninspiring way, she can do little to change the minds of those who already know how they feel about her, which is pretty much everyone.
What a drab little bore she is! Uninspiring! Familiar as an old shoe!
Whether that’s enough to deliver her the White House is almost entirely a question of whether Trump can yet persuade some segment of disenchanted, moderate voters that he meets the very lowest threshold for a plausible president -- someone who won’t destroy the world, at a minimum, and who might not embarrass them every day of the week for the next four years if they get really lucky.
Shorter Bai: Low bar? Yes, I'm placing it as low as humanly possible.
... If ... Trump can appear more candid than crude, more disruptive than dangerous, he might yet vault himself over the absurdly low hurdle of acceptability -- especially if Clinton offers a contrasting study in insincerity.
She's so awful, isn't she?
If Clinton were to ask my advice (and believe me, the phone isn’t ringing), I’d tell her to do herself a favor and leave home without the canned zingers that some comedy writer is probably typing up for her right now, because that’s a thing candidates have felt the need to do ever since “Where’s the Beef?” and “You’re no Jack Kennedy” entered the political lexicon at the zenith of broadcast television’s cultural influence.
Right, because Trump won't show up having rehearsed any canned one-liners fed to him by, oh, say, Roger Ailes, because Trump is so darn authentic, even if he is crazy and boorish.
All that’s going to achieve is to make her seem more scripted and condescending next to a candidate whose core appeal for a lot of voters is grounded in shattering the tired artifice of modern politics. You don’t beat reality TV with a laugh track.
Right, because we know Donald Trump is never condescending.

Here's where the column takes a peculiar turn -- although maybe it's not so peculiar:
... Even now, were Trump to just lapse into a coma and stay submerged until three days before the election, he’d stand a reasonable chance of winning.

That a man as preternaturally stage-savvy as Trump hasn’t been able to meet this standard tells you something about his labyrinthine psyche. That Trump manages to melt down in spectacular fashion every time his poll numbers rise beyond respectability suggests that he is, at best, deeply conflicted about the prospect of actually being president.

Trump doesn’t want to be a Loser, of course, because that’s the worst thing he can ever imagine being. But I also seriously doubt he wants to wake up every day and govern.

My guess is that, in his dream scenario, Trump loses by a few points, succeeds in persuading his followers that the election was stolen by the party establishment or the media or Mexican criminals, and then repairs to the comfort of Trump Tower to consider how best to exploit the whole affair.

So this is the high drama of the debates. We get to watch a man wrestle with his own fears and insecurities, struggling for just a few crucial hours to behave like someone other than a guy whom no one in his right mind would describe as presidential.
On the one hand, I think it's nuts to imagine that this sociopathic narcissist has any insecurities whatsoever. I think it's crazy to imagine that he fears the burdens of governing -- remember, he's the guy who reportedly offered to put John Kasich in charge of domestic and foreign policy if he'd agree to be Trump's running mate, while Trump's job, according to son Donald Jr., would be "making America great again."

On the other hand, notice what Bai is saying here: Clinton can't win on her own -- she can only win if Trump consciously or subconsciously throws the election. Because she's pathetic and unlikable, and Trump, however crazy and awful he is, has all the power.


Victor said...

The "derp" is strong in this one. Yes. Yes.

I was embarrassed for him, just reading this.
But, of course, Bai has long been a shameless door-"Matt" for conservative POV's!
So, I'm pretty sure he yanked his tiny gherkin with unbounded joy, after having written this tripe.

Yastreblyansky said...

Does Bai understand popular culture? He wants to portray Clinton as a grievance-nursing whiner, but then he compares her to Carrie. Does he even remember that was cruelly mistreated before she got her vengeance?

There's a spooky thought. People like Bai don't realize that you're supposed to feel sorry for Carrie. After all, the people who are mean to her are popular and she isn't, so she deserves it.

AllieG said...

Matt Bai has been a disgrace since 1995. Fortunately, if he's on Yahoo and not involved with fantasy sports, no one but Steve has read a word of his since 2007.

Raymond Smith said...

Matt sure is big on pushing the old GOP Propaganda for sure. I am sure that numerous GOP members love it. To bad for them it is all just plain GOP BS.

mathguy said...

After reading the excerpts, it's clear that Yahoo doesn't employ an editor. Great Baby Jeebus, what a bunch of BS.

Danp said...

Much like the front row kid post a couple days ago, I disaagree with the majority here. But much like that article, the problem isn't that Hillary wouldn't make a great president. It's that she doesn't make a popular schoolmate.

She is a terrible campaigner! Obama's biggest laugh 8 years ago was when he said she was "likeable enough." Unlike Bai, he wasn't being paid by the word, but the message was the same. She tends to frame her arguments as 'why I care." The I always seems to transcend the underlying principle. She comes across as desperate to be loved.

I don't know Bai, but I don't think the point is that she can't win on her own. In this child-like theater of the absurd, Hillary can't win by out-zinging Trump or calling him a liar, because 1) nobody seems to be focused on principles, so lying is inconsequential, and 2) Trump's zingers seem natural while Hillary's don't. The bigger issue is that these debates are farcical. The most famous debate quotes of the last half century are, "oops", "Say it ain't so, Joe", "there you go again", etc. There simply is no substance. The morning after the debates, the media will tell us who won and who lost, not what their policy differences were.

Hillary is not going to win the election through debates. This election is not about issues, thanks largely to the media in general. Bush Jr. convinced a lot of people that competence doesn't matter. Hillary will probably beat Trump. I'm not sure she could beat Larry the cable guy.

Anonymous said...

Monday night's "debate": Donald T Dumpf uck will be... well, Donald T Dumpf uck; Gary Johnson will be a dumber Donald T Dumpf uck, a no one will pay attention to Hillary Rodham Clinton. Except for the emails, of course, and the eyeroll and icky female stuff. A feature, not a bug.

Carrie did indeed rain wrath on the country-club kids who were mean to her. She also rained wrath on the peripheral population, on inocent bystanders.

Caveat Emptor
Ten Bears

Steve M. said...

Just for the record, Gary Johnson won't be at the debate. He didn't make the polling cutoff of 15%, so he won't be included.

AllieG said...

Odd how many white male pundits correctly note that Clinton is unpopular and ignore that Trump is even more unpopular -- except among white males.

Feud Turgidson said...

When Marci Wheeler was over at fdl or maybe even before, she told a story of Matt Bai when he was with TNYT attending an early Netroots speaking with a small group (not as truly interested it turns out, but more in the nature of a general reporter attending the local zoo to file on the birth of a newborn giraffe) among them Marci, who folks here will mostly know is as blunt spoken as she is razor smart, and later on in his story published in TNYT's Sunday roundup or the Mag, Bai described Marci sans real name as Peppermint Patty. Which, as anyone who knows her, is stupid & wrong AND stupid wrong, because Marci was moved to tell the Netroots world and that pretty much did in Bai on any hopes he might harbor of covering progs & libs, & speaks entirely to how deaf, dismissive & derply dumb Bai is.

My point (with others here already) is that Bai's a born-n-bred elitist rightwing prig-prick in the D.Brooks mold, yet remarkably both less moldy AND interesting (an amazing double, considering Brooks adheres to a sensibility out of fashion by when the Brits went out & got them some rent-a-royals in William & Mary, and is unable to hold the attention of his own dog (On the latter, I defer to the Pierce Translations: personally, I don't know if Brooks even has a dog - but if he does, it'd be prima facie animal cruelty. Note: Matt Bai would be far worse.)

Jim Snyder said...

SteveM wrote: "... I think it's nuts to imagine that this sociopathic narcissist has any insecurities whatsoever."

IANAPsych, but contra the commenter here who actually knows what she's talking about, everything I have read in the lay lit on extreme narcissism says "narcissists are inherently insecure." (Well, perhaps more accurate to say "I infer that the writers are saying etc...", which is not quite the same thing.)


On the other hand:

which is sort of what the commenter said (sorry, don't remember the name.)

I dunno. Perhaps "insecurity" in lay usage means something more general than "insecurity" means in professional usage? If (according to PT) "narcissists tend to be defensive when their self-esteem is threatened", how is that not insecurity?

During the past 20-odd years I've tangled with at least four high-performing (but not-"grandiose") narcissists. Perhaps they're not insecure, but hoo-boy, if they're not, I don't know insecurity from Adam. And Trump strikes me as "more of the same, with grandiosity".

Sorry to go OT, but the statement ("[no] insecurities whatsoever") caused an itch.

Glennis said...

Apparently Bai didn't watch any of the Dem primary debates.