Nov 14, 2013

Are You Jake with the Fat Man?

posted by killre

Much has been made in the past week of the recent TIME magazine cover featuring a photograph of newly re-elected New Jersey governor Chris Christie with the caption/headline, "The Elephant in the Room."  Most of the yammering heads seemed to be most concerned with the apparent crassness (crassiety?) of a once-respected periodical using the word "elephant" in connection with someone who is a rather large specimen of a human-type animal, in neither the 'strikingly tall' nor 'particularly well-muscled' categories.  No-one took a moment to point out the inaccuracy of the idiom.  "Elephant in the room" refers to a topic --usually an awkward one-- that everyone is thinking about but nobody mentions.  It's likely no-one pointed this out because they were all too busy talking about it.  Such is the state of cable news: it is often uncouth in its effort to stamp out crassness.

I never heard anyone mention, even in passing, that the sigil of Christie's political organization --Ye Grande Olde Parte-- is, in fact, an elephant.

That last factor notwithstanding, there is a whiff of desperation accompanying a publication with such name recognition resorting to a three-pronged pun that they had to know would be seen by most as little more than pointing and laughing at the fat kid.  Such is the state of the print industry: in the process of strangling print, the internet is dragging it down to its own third-grade level.  It's even more heart-wrenchingly pathetic than a meaty monthly that continues to mail issues to readers whose subscriptions have lapsed.  I'm looking at you, Smithsonian.

David Gregory, the host of NBC's Sunday morning political (I'll not call it news) show, Meet the Press, tried to be manful about it when introducing Christie in last week's episode.  The producers showed the TIME cover on-screen, Gregory mentioned the caption, but at no point in the ensuing interview did he even hint at Christie's weight.

Where Gregory did metaphorically trip and skin his knee was when he addressed the possibility of Governor Christie running for president in 2016 and clumsily asked, "Are you a moderate or are you a conservative?"  Even more clumsy, he didn't wait for an answer.  Recognizing (just maybe) that the question was of the [male bovine excrement] variety, Gregory launched into a paragraph-long citation of quotes about Christie from other Republicans, all in a vain attempt to justify the query.

By the time Gregory finally stopped talking, Christie had apparently tuned out.  Even if he didn't, really, one certainly couldn't blame him for asking, "What's the question?"

Gregory:  "Are you a moderate or a conservative?"

Christie answered precisely as you'd expect him to:

(In part)  "I don't get into these labels ... Look at my record ... Judge me by my record ... I'm very, very comfortable with [that].  All the labels, that's for the folks down in Washington, D.C. ... they love playing that game ... the people of America aren't interested in that game."

In my opinion, Christie could have gone a step or two further...

"Not only is it not my job to label myself, David, it isn't your job either.  Your job, if I were a candidate, would be to ask me substantive, relevant questions about the issues we face today and in the foreseeable future.  My job would be to answer those questions as best I can.  It is up to the voters to decide whether I'm to their own personal left or right and whether or not they're comfortable with that.  That's how the system is supposed to work.  It isn't supposed to be a matter of you trying to pinpoint where I stand on the political spectrum simply by yelling, 'C-4!' like this is some big game of 'Sink My Battleship.'"

...but he didn't.  Most likely, Christie had been coached to simply bob and weave and resist the urge to unleash any haymakers, lest he open himself to swift jabs from tag-teaming critics.

Yet the jabs were thrown anyway.  One of them came from a member of Christie's own party-- former Republican National Committee Chairman and current MSNBC political analyst Michael "I Used To Be The Republican Party's Token Black Guy But Now I'm MSNBC's Token Republican; You May Call That A Step Up But For God's Sake Don't Call It Uppity" Steele.  Early Tuesday evening, Steele said of Christie, "One little disturbing moment in the interviews that he did, when asked, 'Are you a conservative or a moderate?,' he blew the question off.  He's gonna have to answer that question for a lot of conservatives around the country, and this was not a good way to start..."

Whew.  First of all, Chairman Steele, relax: it is nearly three years 'til the next presidential election, and a bad way to start would be to start too early.  Second, Christie didn't "blow off" the question.  Blowing it off would have entailed ignoring the question and filling time by rambling about an unrelated topic.  As I stated above, what Christie did was to say, in effect, "It's not my job to label myself.  My job is to tell people what I think and trust them to decide for themselves whether or not they like it."  If you stubbornly insist, Mister Chairman, on using some negative idiom for how Christie handled the exchange, I suppose I would grudgingly allow "side-stepped."  Mismatching one's idioms is akin to a football coach telling a right tackle to do the job of a wide receiver.

Third, and most important, I don't know that Christie does have to answer the moderate-or-conservative question-- at least not in the cut, dried, precooked, prepackaged and predigested way you seem to want.  Very few politicians are better than Governor Christie at staring down a reporter and saying, "I've already answered that question a hundred times; I'm not gonna answer it again."  Moreover, the answer to the moderate-or-conservative question will be revealed in his responses to other questions.  Besides, any voter too stupid to decide whether or not they like Christie as a candidate without some pundit affixing a one-to-one-hundred score or an abstract letter grade to a wholly subjective report card probably isn't going to vote for him anyway.

If all were right with the world, such a person wouldn't be allowed to vote at all.

P.S.... Dan "I Can Screw Up Three Times In The First Eleven Seconds Of A Broadcast-- Just Watch Me" Hicks must go.

No comments: