The Last Weiner Show

WaPo wizwonk Ezra Klein, Thursday:

I wish we could all agree to stop jumping on things like Mitt Romney saying “I’m also unemployed.” It’s pretty clear from the context that he was making a joke. Jokes sometimes misfire, or read strangely when pulled out of context and printed in the paper. In the interest of having our candidates speak like something other than robots, we should cut them some slack.

Well, um, no.

We actually try to be somewhat fair in our mocking, so when we took up Mitt’s remark yesterday, we made sure to note that — as reported — his audience appreciated his joke as given.

And then we proceeded to provide Mitt a new orifice.

What drew us to the joke wasn’t simply Shit My Mitt Says, however. It’s that the joke was telling — telling in a way that 27-year-old Ezra Klein might not grasp.

For it immediately reminded us of another just-folks incident, on February 5, 1992:

Then he grabbed a quart of milk, a light bulb and a bag of candy and ran them over an electronic scanner. The look of wonder flickered across his face again as he saw the item and price registered on the cash register screen.

“This is for checking out?” asked Mr. Bush. “I just took a tour through the exhibits here,” he told the grocers later. “Amazed by some of the technology.”

And really, who wouldn’t be amazed by a supermarket scanner? Except, maybe, anybody who had gone shopping in the past generation.

The joke wasn’t that Bush was technologically clueless. The joke was that Bush was so wealthy, he never stepped foot in a grocery store.

There’s a psychological shorthand to these things, an intuitive caricature. Often, the caricature can provide insight into a politician’s character and judgment that a ream of position papers won’t fulfill. We’re handing somebody the keys to The American Jalopy, after all. It’s not enough that the candidate knows the traffic laws.

And what do we learn about Mitt? He’s so fucking wealthy, he has no clue what it’s like to be unemployed, no clue about the devastating uncertainty you have to live with. He’s casual making a joke about it, because it’s entirely foreign to his experience.

And that says something.

The other thing that bothers Ezra about the attention paid to the joke is that it’s off-subject. Here we are making merry with Mitt’s social awkwardness, when we should be paying attention to the issues. Political threadjacking drives wonks like Ezra nuts.

Which, we think, helps explain the wonky dissatisfaction with Weinergate.

We’ve been enduring cries of unfair! for almost two weeks now, from folks we respect like Rachel and others, who — accurately, mind you — say that other politicians, whose sex scandals were much worse and more hypocritical than Weiner’s, got away with far fewer consequences. And now they’re blaming a rabid media and weak Democrats for his downfall.

They’re all very rational about it. They’re all concerned that the national conversation has been threadjacked.

And they’re all missing the point.

Because Weinergate is not, and never was, a rational issue. Nor was it irrational.

Instead, it was intuitive. It told you something important about Weiner’s judgment and character — not that he violated Our Sacred National Mores, but that he was so fucking stupid in how he went about it, and then, having been caught in the act, instantly became a national joke.

It wasn’t Breitbart and Republicans who brought Weiner down. It was late-night comedians, and everybody else rushing to join the fun. Disgraced politicians can survive their scandals. But not laughingstocks.

The national Wonketariat doesn’t understand any of that, because it doesn’t compute. It doesn’t lend itself to charts & graphs & polls & authoritative sources. It’s truly, madly, deeply, human.

Which is what makes democracy fun. Frustrating as hell, sometimes, but fun. Kind of like sex.

Romney’s jokes aren’t the problem. His economic analysis is. [WaPo]

You are begging fro a visit from the Maustapo, with the unauthorized use of copyrighted material and the cheeky attitude and all.

They are real, you know….

@Tommmcatt Be Fat, And That Be That: Those bastids practiced Inception on me. After I saw that movie, I tried to laugh myself to the ceiling.

I somewhat agree with Klein’s point – but on the other hand, if Mittens wants to run around and pretend his gold-plated corporate-raider ass is “jus’ plain folks”, then he deserves to have incidents of utter FAIL like this pointed out.

As for the “well, it was just a joke” bit – sure, but there are certainly jokes which are thoroughly inappropriate in context; for instance, a candidate going to a Holocaust memorial and attempting to commiserate with, “yeah, one of my grandparents died in the Holocaust too; he fell out of a guard tower…”

@al2o3cr: That’s an awesome analogy. And it’s not beyond the realm of possibility of one of the GOP candidates still doing that…

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