Year of the Rat: A 2008 Campaign Diary By Matt Taibbi

Over at the afore-mentioned National Affairs Daily blog, run by Rolling Stone. Matt Taibbi is the author of one wonderful article detailing the idiot belief in Fukuyama’s End of History (you ought to give it a read), and what it has meant for applied government (here, specifically, but elsewhere, certainly).

He is also, unfortunately the writer of a reference to Hillary Clinton as an “unsmiling promilitary curmudgeon with a fast-rusting vagina”, which is more-or-less not forgivable. As though anyone (least of all Matt Taibbi) asked me. I simply am disappointed, continuously, with gender-bashing in the media (especially of Hillary Clinton, for whom it would appear telling the truth was long-ago decided a properly tacky thing to do. Go figure).

Mind you, according to Rate My Professor (or one student therein, who I do hope got the D they clearly earned) said I’m a misogynist. So what would I know? Besides, apparently, definitions of things like irony, sarcasm and misogyny.

So to Matt Taibbi 2K: the 2008 Campaign Diarian.

In advance of Council Bluffs some of the hacks on the bus commiserated about their reporting strategies. A loud British reporter two seats in front expressed hope that he’d get something really real. “I hope we get some real, you know, interaction with a voter,” he gushed. Others were talking with editors via cell phone about their pre-fab article theses – Thompson as the only guy who can beat Hillary, Thompson as Reagan, Thompson the too-late candidate. Then I watched as we actually poured out into the crowd at Bayliss Park in downtown Council Bluffs, and these same guys went from Iowan to Iowan in search of the needed quotes, literally shaking audience members like fruit trees until they coughed up the right answers. The only-Thompson-can-beat-Hillary guy – actually a female wire reporter – was moving quickly, trying in the 30-odd minutes we had on the ground to get at least one or two folks to say that they were supporting Thompson for the right reasons.

“Do you think Thompson is the only guy who can beat Hillary?”
“Uh, I don’t know…”

At that the reporter frowned and quickly moved on to the next local:

“Why do you support Thompson?”

“I just think he can beat Hillary.”

“Why do you think he can beat Hillary?”

And so on. I walked away.

A youngish kid with long hair and a red t-shirt in this crowd started telling me his story, about how he’d been busted for possession of drug paraphernalia. “It was a couple of pipes…” he began.

I waved him off and explained that, as a member of the national campaign press, I was here to write about what I wanted him to say, not what he wanted himself to say.

“Look,” I said, holding up a bill. “I’m willing to pay twenty bucks to the first person who’ll say whatever I want him to say about Fred Thompson.”

About ten sets of hands flew up, including the kid in front of me. I held up the twenty.

“Name,” I barked.

“Gary Blakeman,” he said.

“Age,” I said.

“Seventeen.”

I wrote that down. “Gary, does Fred Thompson look like a pedophile to you?”

He looked at me pleadingly. “Yes, right?”

“Right,” I said.

“Yes, he does,” he answered.

“So what you’re saying, Gary,” I prompted, “is that you wouldn’t be at all surprised to walk into a room and see this candidate’s penis in a four year-old child?”

“Of course not!” the kid said. “Because he looks like a fucking pedophile, dude!”

“Mmm-hmm,” I said. “And what kind of face would you expect him to be making at that moment?”

The kid grit his teeth and strained his neck muscles. “He’d be like, unnnnhh!” he shouted.

“Thanks,” I said, handing him the twenty. He took it and walked off with his hands over his head in triumph. I looked over at the wire-service girl, who was still humping an old couple about the Hillary thing. Amateur, I thought.

You’re welcome to explain why you don’t think that’s exactly how brainless mainstream media shit-heads poison your previously correctly-functioning brain.

Also, you ought to return to the Rolling Stone, periodically, and follow Taibbi around for nothing like the greatest, but clearly set to be about the longest and most expensive (someone compare the campaign to a U2 or Rolling Stones tour, will you?) show on earth.

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