Face the Snark? Face the Fred.
The past few few days have been chock full of fascinating info about Fred Thompson. Thompson is of course the ungainly actor and undeclared GOP presidential aspirant who smells really nice, at least according to Chris Matthews. And, in fairness, he does sort of bear a resemblance to a gigantic stick of Old Spice deoderant, so Tweety might not be as far out there on this as you’d think.
But anyhow. The way Thompson is being treated by the Elite Media as well as Greater Wingnuttia is instructive, as it tells us something about how these two groups operate not in opposition but according to a self-reinforcing dialectic of mutual lunacy. And it is this dialectic that more than anything else has for the past two decades mired our great nation in this all-sucking swampland of Dumb we’re having so much trouble escaping.
Yesterday we learned from the LA Times that in 1991 Thompson, the old musky lug, did some lobbying for a reproductive rights group:
Fred D. Thompson, who is campaigning for president as an antiabortion Republican, accepted an assignment from a family-planning group to lobby the first Bush White House to ease a controversial abortion restriction, according to a 1991 document and several people familiar with the matter.
A spokesman for the former Tennessee senator denied that Thompson did the lobbying work. But the minutes of a 1991 board meeting of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Assn. say that the group hired Thompson that year.
His task was to urge the administration of President George H. W. Bush to withdraw or relax a rule that barred abortion counseling at clinics that received federal money, according to the records and to people who worked on the matter.
Shazam! You’d suppose that this would be bad news for someone hoping to win the Republican primaries. Kevin Drum thought so, opining that “this is probably just the beginning of ol’ Fred’s troubles. Anyone can look good before the national media starts rooting around and asking touchy questions, but those days are fading fast for Thompson. They always do.” In other words, the “MSM” will keep dredging up stuff like this, and that will show that he’s not as wingnutty as the wingnuts want, and then bang! goes his candidacy.
But not so fast. Tom Hilton goes spelunking in some of the fouler caverns of the Internets and brings back some disturbing news:
At Free Republic, the stories (here and here) play it as a hit piece; a typical Freeper comment is this one:
Hey, LA Slimes! Make that Hildabeast-supporting abortion group show us the billing records. Otherwise, it’s just another lying liberal hit piece done for the Clintons against their strongest competition.
And that’s the problem right there. Because the alternative epistemology of the wingnuts makes it possible for them to simply dismiss any news that comes from mainstream sources, Republican candidates are insulated from bad anything that might hurt them with the base as long as it’s reported in the ‘liberal media’. (If Drudge had reported this, it might get more traction.) Democrats are held accountable for consistency, because on the whole we believe in the existence of objective reality. Wingnuts don’t; they believe that reality bends to Will, that they can create and live in their own wingnut-friendly reality.
Which, unfortunately, seems about right. But it’s even worse than that. The wingnut ability to ignore inconsistency fits hand in glove with the Tweety-level media’s need for simple storylines, and Thompson has already been cast as the Manly-Scented Masculine Hero. Nothing as frail as the facts about Thompson’s record (such as it is) as presented by, you know, journalists, are going to have any effect whatsoever: they will be edited out of the narrative, left on the cutting room floor.
So what happens is that anything potentially negative, however truthful, about Thompson in the media can be regarded as “bias,” while anything positive, like the ridiculous portrayal of him as The Boom King, remains in effect. Observe the response to this bit of fluff from the ever-fluffy New York Times style section:
with the possible candidacy of Fred D. Thompson, the grandfatherly actor and former Republican senator from Tennessee, whose second wife is almost a quarter-century his junior, comes a less palatable inquiry that is spurring debate in Internet chat rooms, on cable television and on talk radio: Is America ready for a president with a trophy wife?
The question may seem sexist, even crass, but serious people — as well as Mr. Thompson’s supporters — have been wrestling with the public reaction to Jeri Kehn Thompson, whose youthfulness, permanent tan and bleached blond hair present a contrast to the 64-year-old man who hopes to win the hearts of the conservative core of the Republican party. Will the so-called values voters accept this union?
That’s stupid, but no stupider, and indeed far less stupid, than a lot of the stuff that the NYT has written about, say, Hillary Clinton, and in the news as opposed to the Style section, even (you can go diving through Bob Somerby’s archives on this question, if you don’t believe me, or can stomach it). But what do the wingnuts say? Prominent right-wing bottom-feeding mouthbreather Hugh Hewitt inveighs from the Townhall fever swamp:
It is an astonishing attack, really, one that tells us –again– that no line of attack on the GOP big three will be left unexplored by the MSM desperate to get a Democrat back into the White House.
But the joke is, of course, that the NYT Style piece is not really an attack at all. No. It’s another entry in the emerging canon of stories about how great it is that Fred Thompson has a penis. See, it was bad that Bill Clinton has a penis, but Thompson? Ay, que macho!
Kevin Drum’s remark that the media will begin digging into Thompson’s background for material that could hurt him with the GOP Base is, unfortunately, mistaken. Any serious story will be tagged as “bias,” of course. But beyond that: the kinds of stories that are likely to emerge are, well, as Andy Sullivan excitedly informs us (via Brilliant at Breakfast):
Outside the extremist, activist base, regular GOP voters turn out to be relatively tolerant when it comes to sexual minorities and private sex lives. They’re not well represented by their party leaders, as far as policy is concerned. This is good news for Fred Thompson. The man has had a colorful and wide-ranging sex life, as I’m sure we will soon find out.
See how this works? The “regular GOP voters” will be able to get their rocks off on these “revelations” at exactly the same time as they slam the hated “MSM” for providing them, and the “MSM” will in turn merrily shovel this stuff down their insatiable gullets. It’s a profitable dynamic for everyone concerned. That is, as long as you’re not concerned that a Thompson presidency would be a disaster piled atop the disaster of the Bush presidency, which was of course enabled by an eerily similar insane dynamic.
In short, the media-beloved GOP frontrunners will apparently always get to have their cock, and we’ll just have to eat it, too.
(With all that said, Paddy at Cliff Schecter’s place is completely correct.)