Is it news that Bill Maher (whose background you must remember is in comedy, not politics) took a recent airline incident between rapper Sky Blue and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney as a chance to make a joke about how “the Mormons traditionally have not had a great relationship with ‘the black people’?” Absolutely not. Maher’s whole shtick is to be even more outrageous than Glenn Beck, under the guise of “It’s all for laughs.”
Except somewhere along the line Bill Maher started to be treated like an actual political pundit, which he is not, so every time he makes sweeping generalizations about how he wishes there was more religious persecution in America…he’s not just doing so for an audience at Comix. He’s doing it in front of a national audience that considers him the left’s answer to Ann Coulter.
Mitt Romney may have fallen short in his last presidential bid, but his book is officially a winner. No Apology: The Case for American Greatness drops on March 21 and is already topping that week’s New York Times Bestseller list, continuing the trend of hit conservative nonfiction books and drawing comparisons to his potential 2012 opponent Sarah Palin.
CNN is reporting that the success of the book in pre-orders has also been followed by crowded book signings and cross-country appearances. It’s quite a success for a potential presidential candidate who has been out of office and out of the limelight for some time, and is returning selling what very much sounds like his campaign platform in a hardcover spine, with some personal anecdotes in between.
It’s also somewhat shocking considering the lengths to which others with similar successes have had to go to promote themselves and their book. Going Rogue is one thing: its author is one of the most polarizing figures in the nation and preceded her book release with an unrelenting barrage of press coverage. Plus, her former son-in-law-to-be was helping her greatly by lying to the American people about the extent of his nudity in a Playgirl shoot (and occasionally taking jabs at the former governor). The media attention behind the release of Sarah Palin’s memoir was the perfect political storm.
Romney’s path to success is much quieter. Outside of getting punched in the face in an airplane by someone marginally related to Jersey Shore and having his CPAC speech overshadowed by a two-pronged Beck/Breitbart conservative firestorm, the Romney team has been rather quiet. He hasn’t been polling terribly great, but he’s certainly in the running, and has kept himself in the news cycle with periodic appearances without saturating the market with his product. He has also been making appearances on his book tour, campaigning with the people without actually having to admit that that’s precisely what he’s doing. And he’s become much more humorous and likable, and whether he has legitimately lightened up or his campaign team told him his lack of personality was a deal-breaker for American voters, it seems to have been working. People want to hear what he has to say. While it’s unclear whether this newfound popularity would translate into votes this year, Romney is going to have to extend his appeal anyway into 2012 if he wants to be a viable Republican candidate.
While most of you were cheating on your flame-haired imaginary boyfriend with the two biggest victims of the Gotcha Media, soon-to-be perennial presidential candidate Mitt Romney was all business in an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman last night. On the table were such recent highlights in his career as the constant speculation surrounding his presidential run and his mile-high scuffle with a member of obnoxious Jersey Shore house band LMFAO.
Romney has been making the media rounds lately to promote his new book, No Apologies, but for most of the interview appeared to be selling himself as an affable, good-humored, freedom-loving everyman with terrific hair. His admission that the “good swat” he received in the Vancouver airplane incident “broke” the artistic marvel that he carries on his head almost elicited the audience’s sympathy – almost – and his mostly successful attempt to bury the robotic Massachusetts Republican of 2008 was rewarded with what for David Letterman were fairly innocuous jabs, like a correction of his generic “I don’t know if I’ll run for president” statement: “Of course he’s running. I can tell by the cologne.”
Perhaps his only fault, especially in Letterman’s eyes, was his praise for Sarah Palin. “She’s terrific. She’s got energy, passion…” he said, though he quickly handicapped the compliments with a warning: “By the way, be careful what you say about her…she has a rifle, you know.” Letterman learned that lesson the hard way.
Days after Mitt Romney’s bizarre airplane fight while leaving Vancouver and the Olympics, more details about what actually happened on the flight are emerging.
And it only gets stranger – apparently the other guy was rap star Sky Blu of the group LMFAO…and he says Romney started it!
TMZ has the video response from Sky Blu to Romney, in which he describes the circumstances. For those who aren’t familiar with LMFAO, they’re a Black Eyed Peas-esque “hip-hop” group, and Blu is the guy in the yellow shirt with the braid and sideways hat. Fox & Friends‘ Steve Doocy summed up the situation this morning like this: “While Romney says he was threatened after asking the man to put his seat back, Sky Blu disputes the story. He says Romney got violent with him first.”
Interestingly, Time’s Michael Schererreports Mr. Blu is the nephew of Democratic fundraiser and Motown Records founder Berry Gordy.
This may require a Jagerbomb Summit.
Here’s Fox & Friends recapping this story (enjoy Doocy saying ‘LMFAO’):
It’s two years away, but speculation surrounding the 2012 presidential race is alive and kicking, if only for the increasingly irrefutable fact that anyone who intends to run without immediate access to a cable news soapbox is starting the 2012 campaign at a severe disadvantage. It is the uphill battle facing possible Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, who, from the Minnesota Governor’s mansion must be watching potential challengers like Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Newt Gingrich milk their cable news contracts for all they’re worth.
Pawlenty is taking an unorthodox approach compared to his would-be opponents: making media appearances to debate substantive issues. He has willingly stepped into the ring to debate health care with President Obama, taking advantage of the President’s call for a bipartisan health care summit on February 25th to publicly list off his ideas on the topic. On Sunday, the Washington Postpublished an opinion piece by the governor entitled “Five Ways to Reform Health Care,” and last night Pawlenty appeared on Fox News to explain his ideas to Greta Van Susteren on air. It’s a comprehensive conservative approach that highlights the token set of problems Republicans have been pointing out with the current reform – interstate insurance availability, tort reform, a more meritocratic approach to awarding insurance companies. It goes beyond a simple grocery list of possible changes in the way the American health care industry works: it’s a sizable chunk of a campaign platform.
Pawlenty’s approach, if he decides to run for office, is as thoughtful as it is risky. Anger and populist outrage sell in the age of the Tea Party, and Pawlenty is marketing himself as a near-technocratic, mild-mannered critic with ideas that don’t betray an urgency to save the nation from the socialist threat of the Obama administration. On the air, he is still working on mastering his calm, capable “presidential” demeanor without coming off so anemic – it’s clear why the other potential candidates get so much air time on Fox and he doesn’t. On the other hand, by defying mainstream demand he may be tapping into a niche market of voters that are searching for someone less animated and more studious on the problems facing the country.
Here is Pawlenty’s appearance on On the Record to expand upon his opinion piece in the Post:
John McCain may have done his best to stow old Bush administration personalities away for his presidential campaign, but Fox News is reporting that a new poll shows former vice president Dick Cheney is actually a fairly popular choice among Republican voters to run for president in 2012.
In a poll that was probably taken about a year too soon, 10% of a pool of 2,003 Republicans supported a Cheney presidential run. The organization that conducted the survey, Research 2000, is simultaneously described as being “non-partisan” and having an affiliation with Daily Kos, though they surveyed only Republicans and there is no indication that, even if they did harbor a bias, the case of Cheney making a splash in the primary pool would do little to benefit their cause. The presidential nominee question was also one in a variety of opinion questions such as “should Obama be impeached?” and “do you think ACORN stole the 2008 election?” that received surprising responses (more people than one would imagine – 39% and 21%, respectively – said yes to those questions).
The poll results are good news for Sarah Palin, who led in the polls with 16% support, and Mitt Romney, who received 11% support. These results, however, are fairly predictable: Palin is the new face of Fox News and the tea party generation; Mitt Romney is… well, Mitt Romney just is, and he ran for president once so he may be the only name subjects polled could remember, especially compared to some of the other options.
The news here is the emergence of Cheney as a viable third candidate for the Republican nomination to the presidency. Cheney beat out five of the other options, many of which have been more actively suggesting a possible run for office: former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty and a surprising appearance by South Dakota senator John Thune. Cheney has suffered a chronic case of unpopularity since his early days as vice president, but his favorability ratings remarkably started to surge as soon as he left the White House. Last May CNN reported that between his departure from the White House in January 2009 and May of that same year, his popularity rose 8% among all Americans. Although Matt Yglesias was quick to point out that this still made him only slightly less popular than the communist nation of Cuba, that bump almost a year ago has apparently snowballed into a potential presidential run (Fox News is reporting that there are groups in favor of “drafting” Cheney to the presidency, but this might be stretching the truth a tad). For now, Cheney has adamantly turned the idea down, and the chances of him gaining significant ground on someone like Palin are slim, but if there’s one thing 2010 has taught us, it’s not to trust an old man claiming to be happy to retire from a great job.
The first words of Daniel Okrent’s cover story for Time magazine are telling: “If Detroit had been savaged by a hurricane and submerged by a ravenous flood, we’d know a lot more about it.” It is what I first thought when I saw the cover of the new issue of Time flash on the screen of Morning Joe today: Katrina. After Katrina, the cri de coeur was about saving a great American city; there has been no such cri about Detroit, save from Mitt Romney when he’d say anything to win Michigan
Yet here’s a staggering statistic about Detroit, put in context by Okrent: “Three years after Katrina devastated New Orleans, unemployment in that city hit a peak of 11%. In Detroit, the unemployment rate is 28.9%. That’s worth spelling out: twenty-eight point nine percent.”
But, as Okrent says, the tragedy of Detroit “has long been a slow unwinding that seemed to remove it from the rest of the country” — and even the death throes of the auto industry have brought with it a weird kind of schadenfreude, between scolding the Big Three CEOs for their private jets to Washington and clucking about how American cars aren’t as good as foreign cars and have been unduly protected (never mind articles like this: “Five Reasons Not to Buy American Cars“). Considering that Detroit is basically a one-industry town (and that industry sure ain’t newspapers!), it’s hard to see Detroit as anything but pretty damn screwed.
Time Inc. wants to change that — and so they’ve kicked off an ambitious, year-long project called “Assignment: Detroit” — they bought a house, staffed it up, and will be reporting on the ground for the next year.
In a rare joint publisher’s letter, running in both Time and Fortune, Time Inc’s John Huey says this:
Why would we ever do such a thing? Because we believe that Detroit right now is a great American story. No city has had more influence on the country’s economic and social evolution. Detroit was the birthplace of both the industrial age and the nation’s middle class, and the city’s rise and fall — and struggle to rise again — are a window into the challenges facing all of modern America. From urban planning to the crisis of manufacturing, from the lingering role of race and class in our society to the struggle for better health care and education, it’s all happening at its most extreme in the Motor City.
So to that end, says Huey, they’re going to “flood the D-zone” (urk) with a phalanx of journos, photogs, bloggers and videographers from Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, Money and their various dot-coms. They’ve got a blog. They’ve got a Twitter. CNN Money is running a series of videos. Hopefully for the D-zone all that will lead to a flood of money back into the city — or at least generate some interest and outrage on its behalf outside its midwestern environs.
So maybe the story of Detroit will end up being…a profitable one? One that generates not only the good karma of covering an important American story but the necessary clicks to justify funding it? These are of course the daily battles in media toda — if we’re gonna cover it, how are we gonna pay for it? Snark though you might about Megan Fox coverage (MEGAN FOX BOOBS! There, we just justified the time we’ve spent on this post) but the reality is stark: Investing the time and money to cover this story means somewhere, somehow, that money has to be made back. And clearly, that money hasn’t been coming from Detroit bureaus over the past few years, since so many of them have been closed one by one — including Time’s. So you can snark on that, too, but at the end of the day this is what journalism is supposed to be about at its best: Shining a light, and helping to make things better.
Back to Detroit. Daniel Okrent is from there, and he’s the right writer for this story — a straightforward storyteller, not too maudlin, but with a few twists of the knife:
If, like me, you’re a Detroit native who recently went home to find out what went wrong, your first instinct is to weep. If you live there still, that’s not the response you’re looking for. Old friends and new acquaintances, people who confront the city’s agony every day, told me, “I hope this isn’t going to be another article about how terrible things are in Detroit.”
Cut to the heading of the next section: “My City of Ruins.” Ouch.
The larger “ouch” comes from the fact that Okrent is not only telling a personal story along with the engrossing tale of Detroit as a city, that could easily stand on its own — it comes form the larger implications. To put it bluntly, Detroit is the canary in the coal mine — we’ve already seen that with the newspaper industry, cutting back home delivery to a few days per week, and we’ve certainly seen that with the implosion of the American auto industry over this last year (longer, surely, but this last year has been the doozy, complete with the impossilbe-sounding “B” word). Here’s Okrent:
The ultimate fate of Detroit will reveal much about the character of America in the 21st century. If what was once the most prosperous manufacturing city in the nation has been brought to its knees, what does that say about our recent past? And if it can’t find a way to get up, what does that say about our future?
What indeed. I guess Time Inc. will spend the next year telling us.