vintage vandy right style

This has been a hellish year for your average conservative. If you took a rose ceremony — Bachelor-edition, with all the girls bandaged up in a size too small and a shade too dark — and moved it outside, back a millennium, and around Excalibur cemented in the ground, that would be this year. It’s the sort of thing where if the sword moves an inch, you end up asking yourself, with life-negating clarity, “Do I even want this?”

At this point, I’ve watched 10 of 13 debates (help my life is a nightmare). I will likely watch the remaining 13. The debates, like cover letters, have done little to help people (besides Newt) and mostly have taken things off the table. It’s a real sparse no room at the inn kind of table that Rick Perry’s looking at, right now, obviously.

So it’s that nigh weekly game of Mitt vs. Not Mitt, and we’ve sort of ping ponged from one candidate to the next, testing out who can pull Excalibur out of the cement, if it can be, and if we even want it to be. But then you look at Mitt Romney for a good long minute, and you really, really find yourself looking for King Arthur.

He is, as I’ve argued before, Walter from Sleepless in Seattle. Bland and matter-of-fact, telling jokes nobody laughs at, good on paper — they even look kind of alike. He gives off the impression that, if it were going to help you like him, he and Jon Huntsman and their families would participate in Family Double Dare. Ha ha look how loose and friendly Mitt is! He just got slimed! Mitt Romney has a temper, which kind of makes him a little Dolores Umbridge-esque, but y’all let’s be real: Mitt Romney is so white bread, it’s not even Wonder Bread, it’s some special organic loaf that you can only buy at Wegman’s, and they slice in-store for you.

In June, Noah Millman wrote a fantastic post about individuals at conflict, and why — he suspects — Mitt Romney is so hard to believe when he speaks as a politician (besides the incessant shifts in position):

I will argue – confidently – that Mitt Romney is an authentic person, someone with a strong sense of self. One piece of evidence for this is that he is an exceptionally poor panderer – he comes off as completely phony. And, since he panders all the time, this makes him seem – in a political context – completely inauthentic. Which he is. He is an exceptionally phony politician. But not because he panders more than most politicians – because he panders much less successfully than most politicians. He is, to invert a famous formulation, an exceptionally poor liar. Exceptionally poor.

Millman goes on to detail how, while not exactly a crippling life flaw, being a poor liar actually hurts you when you govern. But the case Mitt Romney’s making is that he can be elected, even if his core base of support (22 percent) blows next to the president’s (a solid 44 percent). Rolling on back to Sleepless in Seattle for a second, there’s a part in script of that final scene Walter and Annie have together, that got cut from the film (italics mine):

Look, Annie, I love you. Let’s leave that out of it. I don’t want to be someone you’re settling for.  I don’t want to be someone anyone settles for. [beat] I have a life insurance policy,  I’m fully invested in growth stocks, I have a paid subscription to Home Rox Office, I have no sexual diseases, I have been steadily employed in a part of the economy that isn’t soft, I have expectation in the way of inherited wealth, I dress nicely, I am a member of the private sector, an independent voter, I don’t watch Monday Night Football, the only thing wrong with me is that I am allergic to wheat, strawberries, penicillin, pollen, nuts and wool. There are plenty of women who see me as the brass ring.  If you don’t — marriage is hard enough without bringing such low expectations into it, isn’t it?

You can see that an Ephron edited out that middle section, and you can see why, reading it. It sounds weirdly boorish and boring. And that’s Mitt Romney.

So, sad parade of champions: Michele Bachmann, Herman “sexually harassin’ u” Cain, and Rick Perry, the political Jeff Francoeur (you want him, desperately, to succeed, but he just can’t hit). They all kind of speak for themselves, mildly drunkenly, but Michele Bachmann has her moments occasionally, and she had herself a good one during that foreign policy debate, regarding foreign aid to Pakistan:

BACHMANN: Well, I — with all due respect to the governor, I think that’s highly naive, because, again, we have to recognize what’s happening on the ground. These are nuclear weapons all across this nation. And, potentially, Al Qaida could get hold of these weapons.

These weapons could find their way out of — out of Pakistan, into New York City or into Washington, D.C., and a nuclear weapon could be set off in this city. That’s how serious this is. We have to maintain an American presence.

They certainly aren’t looking out for the best interests of the United States. I wouldn’t expect them to. But at the same time, we have to have our interests, which is national security, represented. The best way we can do that with an uneven actor state is to have some sort of presence there.

That’s command of the situation, isn’t it? Not like we should be off, chanting into the night for Michele Bachmann to be the nominee, but in that little moment, somewhere between style and substance, there’s presence and prior knowledge applied in the moment, tethered to reality. Not to be U2 about it, but: That is what I am looking for.

And so we have Newt Gingrich, because Newt Gingrich can do that thing that Michele Bachmann can sometimes do all the time, and he can talk better than Herman Cain, and he has the same — more or less — core principles that Rick Perry has.

But the deal with Gingrich is like the old How I Met Your Mother “oh moment.” Earlier this week, Jonah Goldberg said this: “This is the moment where it’s going to be hardest for Gingrich to restrain his Newtness. This is the moment where perceived vindication breeds hubris. Already, he’s talking about teaching an online course from the White House, bragging that Obama can use teleprompters in their debates and trying to run as a general election candidate on immigration.”

“It’s a promise ring. I made a pact with God to stay a virgin until I’m married.” “Oh.”

“I don’t have an eating disorder, it’s just…when I put in my mouth, I chew it and then I spit it out.” “Oh.”

“I just turned 30.” “Oh.”

Teach a class? Teach a class? Oh.

I like Newt Gingrich a lot, but…it’s kind of like that, isn’t it? TEACH A CLASS? That “…wait, what did I do” moment.

Of course, the alternative is the end of The Graduate moment, sitting in the back seat with Mitt Romney. There’s that part in Sleepless in Seattle, at the beginning, just before they enter the house:

Am I what they had in mind?

They’re going to love you.

It’s not in the script, but Meg Ryan pauses before she says it. The answer’s no.

UPDATE ALREADY: I had this tacked onto this post: “I guess I’m going to vote for Huntsman. At least I won’t feel any worse about it than I already do.” But jk, thought about that for two minutes, and I can’t do that either. It was, as I was just told, my inner-D.C. blue blood coming out, my inner-Bush. I really, really wanted Rick Perry to be great. Maybe I won’t vote at all! (I’ll probably vote for Newt Gingrich.)


From Pew Research:

While parenthood and marriage have long been linked, America’s youngest generation places far more value on the former than the latter. A 52%-majority of Millennials (adults ages 18 to 29) say being a good parent is one of the most important things in their life. Just 30% say the same about having a successful marriage, meaning there is a 22-percentage-point gap in the way Millennials value parenthood over marriage. When this same question was posed to 18- to 29-year-olds in 1997, the gap was just seven percentage points. At the time, 42% of members of that generation — known as Gen X — said being a good parent is one of the most important things in life while 35% said the same about having a successful marriage.

Any ideas? Seriously. Normally I have my B.S. theories for these things, but I have nothing to explain that 10-point jump in the, like, quality parenting index. Is it reactionary, like because of the over-scheduling era of the 1990s and 2000s, or some other flurry of bad parenting, Gen Y wants to compensate? Or is it a positive projection because Gen Y polls as the generation closest ever with their parents? (Good thing since everyone’s moving home after graduation!)

Anyway, forget that. Here are some problematic numbers:

Contine reading…

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My mother went to Vancouver last week to cheer on the Canucks and go to the mall (she went for work), and brought back Sunday’s edition of the National Post.

Because it’s Canada, the cover story was about World Fair Trade Day — BUT the Lawrence Solomon op-ed next to it told me some stuff I had no idea about how Fair Trade is a little more French & Indian War Old Time Bartering:

The study, which followed hundreds of Nicaraguan coffee farmers over a decade, concluded that farmers producing for the fair-trade market “are more often found below the absolute poverty line than conventional producers.

“Over a period of 10 years, our analysis shows that organic and organic-fair trade farmers have become poorer relative to conventional producers.”

The op-ed goes onto detail: Fair Trade certification is expensive, and thus excludes the poorest farmers from its benefits; meanwhile, the regulation of certification is sketchy, so the farmers who follow the extensive and cost-inefficient standards get burned. So that’s what Fair Trade has been up to.

Solomon, who owns a coffee store based in Toronto, goes on to detail how, even when alerted to the Fair Trade Hard Times ‘N Big Trouble, customers still opt for it. A church group called him about coffee once:

Contine reading…


Okay, so if I didn’t send this to you, you really ought to read this USA Today Life story about America’s favorite topic: HOOK-UP CULTURE.

“Men don’t have to work as hard as they used to, to woo a woman,” he says. “I’ve talked to various interviewees who had never been on a date, which doesn’t really make sense, given they’re pretty attractive. It’s just that less seems to be required to be in the company of a woman.”

Justin Garcia, a State University of New York doctoral fellow at Binghamton (N.Y.) University who conducts research on hookups, says this general lack of dating means many young adults don’t even know how to get a relationship started.

“For the majority of students, they’re not going to dinner and a movie unless they’ve hooked up with someone. Some physical interaction comes before the dating,” he says. Often, “dates happen after a relationship, rather than before.”

Those two statements capture it better than anything else, no? And this article even goes to lengths to properly use “hook-up” in sentences.

Anyway, their theory is the increasing gender imbalance has magicked girls into ABC Family’s Lord of the Flies 2: The Amazon Ho, which Andy Ferguson at The Weekly Standard also touched on as well a few weeks ago. Mike Warren and I threw around some theories as to what’s changed in the last decade that would engender such a shift in the way people…relate, and I settled on this one:

Facebook is a contributing factor.

I realize that sounds stupid, so you’ll have to let me stab Malcolm Gladwell for a minute.

Contine reading…