I want to thank Buzz Bissinger for bringing Friday Night Lights into this world.
Also, his Twitter feed was entertaining for a few minutes, when it seemed genuinely unhinged and not calculated. OK, now that that’s out of the way…
In retrospect, we should have known that the guy who exploded all over Will Leitch on Bob Costas’s show was not on the side of the angels.
Now, Bissinger has penned a piece for The Daily Beast called “Why I’m Voting for Mitt Romney.”
Bissinger, a self-described lifelong Democrat tries to achieve a common-sense tone, like he’s a regular guy who’s able to see through all the hazy political bullshit and get at the truth. In this piece, he seems to fancy himself a less snide Bill Maher.
There’s only one problem: his entire argument boils down to, “Mitt Romney looked pretty during the debate.”
Bissinger begins his column with a pithy, topical aside about the infield fly rule* before getting down to business.
* Can we stop using the infield fly rule as the go-to example for something that’s hard to understand? It can be explained in less than 10 seconds to someone who knows the rules of baseball. Except for Sam Holbrook and Rob Neyer, apparently. Anyway…
Speaketh the Buzz:
Romney finally did what he should have done all along instead of his balky cha cha with the old white men of the conservative Republican wing: he acted as the moderate he is, for the first time running as himself, not against himself, embracing his record as governor of Massachusetts.
Immediately, Bissinger undermines his own thesis by admitting that he was swayed by how Romney “acted,” not by what he believes, says or does. Of fucking course a Republican candidate is going to try to appear more moderate in a national presidential debate. They don’t want to seem like a crazy Tea Partier except in the Republican primaries, when they have to win over the crazy Tea Partiers.
I have never seen a performance worse than Obama’s, distracted, his head dipped into the podium as if avoiding the smell of something rotten, acting above the very idea that a debate does provide a pivotal referendum on his first term as it has for all incumbent presidents, whipsawed by the legion of usual advisers telling him to play defense when his own intuition should have told him that he needed to go on the offensive as Romney slapped him around.
Look, Obama’s debate performance was not good. Not good at all. But the extent of his ineptitude has gotten vastly exaggerated as the story that Romney crushed him has taken over the media cycle, thanks in large part to the severely low expectations for Romney going in. To call Obama’s performance the worst he’s ever seen, Bissinger is rolling hyperbole — something he’s obviously no stranger to. Worse than Dan Quayle’s? Worse than Admiral Stockdale’s? Worse than Dukakis? Come on.
At the debate, Romney did not simply act like he wanted to be president. He wants to be president. He showed vigor, and enthusiasm, and excitement, a man who wants to lead. It may all be ephemeral, because most of politics is ephemeral, a cynical means to the end of getting elected. But he also revealed compassion that, during the entirety of this absurdly long march, had never been in evidence before. He recognized the needs of the poor. He recognized the need for regulation.
He said words. A lot of which were untrue. A debate performance isn’t much different than a campaign ad. The candidates are trying to present themselves in a light that will convince people (or trick people) into liking them and voting for them. Debates are compendiums of talking points and rehearsed one-liners — they’re not intended to be in-depth dissections of policy ideas. (Although Obama seemed to forget that to some extent during this first debate.) People who decide who to vote for based on modern debates are idiots. Either Bissinger has known for a while that he was going to vote for Romney and is disingenuously using the debate as an angle for his column, or he was genuinely swayed by Romney seeming assured and well-spoken and handsome and is therefore a cretin.
Even the liberal party boys, like The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, reluctantly admitted in the typical liberal style that [Romney’s tax plan] might have merit one of these millennia.
God, Buzz sounds like Gregg Easterbrook there. And throwing around vague terms like “liberal party boys” and “typical liberal style” seems like a transparent attempt to distance himself from the idea of the liberal media and show that he’s a red-blooded, blue-collar American boy. What the hell is the “typical liberal style”? Birkenstocks and tie-dye? Hipster glasses and ironic cardigans? Or is it just being correct?
Democratic supporters offered the usual antidotes to Obama’s debate performance: he was tired from running the country, the mile-high air got to him (which is why Al Gore is better off with the midlife crisis of a beard). But I don’t see Obama spending much time running the country, unless you count his recent appearance on The View, where he was far more animated and charming than during the debate.
You don’t see him spending much time running the country? THAT’S BECAUSE HE DOESN’T DO IT ON TELEVISION. What the fuck is wrong with you?
I believe that Romney’s move to the center is not yet another flip-flop sleight of hand, perhaps naïvely. I believe he will send to the political Guantanamo those dirty old white men of the party ready to bomb Iran.
What evidence do you have that makes you believe that? Because he seemed personable in a fucking debate? The Republican party as it is constructed today does not allow for centrist candidates and elected officials. The extremists in the party have shown time and time again that they will stomp their feet, hold their breath, and grind all government to a halt unless they get their way. Look what they did to McCain, for God’s sake. And I find it difficult to believe that Mitt Romney has as much strength of character and commitment to his principles as John McCain. Look who the party foisted on Romney as his running mate. That’s a move to the center?
Four years ago, all Obama had to do was speak and everyone swooned. That was four years ago. It is now four years later. He is no longer the chosen one. He is just too cool for school in a country desperate for the infectiousness of rejuvenation.
Romney has it.
I know that debates are reasonably important on the political landscape, and that some people are swayed by them. But in essence, they’re getting swayed by the way someone look and sounds, not by any substantive arguments. Bissinger’s stated reasoning for backing Romney is no different and no better than if he had decided to vote for JFK because Nixon looked too sweaty, or for Reagan over Carter because the Gipper came up with a pithy catchphrase. You would think that someone who gave the world Friday Night Lights would be smarter than that. Apparently not.