Bill Clinton Has Obviously Never Seen “The Big Lebowski”

From October 25, 2012.

Matt Bai says Bill Clinton’s advice to frame Mitt Romney as an extreme conservative rather than the nihlist voters believe him to be was a mistake (here in The New York Times).

Crux of the piece:

“The bottom line here is that one can over-think this whole notion of framing your opponent. Ninety-nine times out of 100, the line of attack that works best is the one that really rings true. In the case of Mr. Romney, whatever his stated positions may be, the idea that he’s a far-right ideologue, a kind of Rush Limbaugh with better suits and frosty hair, just doesn’t feel especially persuasive.

On the other hand, the notion that Mr. Romney isn’t centered in any philosophical impulse — that he will say or do whatever it takes to win — seems more plausible, given his contortions on a range of policies, and given his excessive caution as a candidate.”

Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan said that Romney’s singular skill at reversing positions whenever it seems expedient (or, to be generous, right) could be understood in the context of his mid-century Mormonism.  Mormons believe in continuing revelation, Sullivan says, pointing out that Africans and African Americans were classified as cursed in the LDS until 1978.   He quoted Mormon leader Bruce McConkie’s statement that year: “It doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year, 1978.” (Sullivan also points out that for close to 40 years, Mitt Romney remained active in a racist church, and that no one is raising that issue the way Obama’s connection to Jeremiah Wright was held up for all to see).

Sullivan claims that it’s okay to use Mormonism, “the only consistent intellectual thread in Romney’s life,” as a kind of decoder.  Readers accused Sullivan of not understanding what Mormons believe about the efficacy of continuing revelation.

Is it possible that Romney’s left-to-center-to-right-to-center-to-right-to-center dash of the last 18 months is simply the candidate’s inner life lived out in public?  Maybe.

And then there’s the belief, which Bai basically says most voters hold, that Romney is a manipulative nihilist.  The Lebowski Problem come home to roost.  Unfortunately for Barack Obama, Bill Clinton was otherwise engaged when Walter Sobchak instilled in us a deep distrust for that particular non-ethos.

Third party!

Forthcoming: Social Media is Sincerely Awesome (Sorry, Aldous Huxley)

Good afternoon, friends.

Easy there, Chris.

I’m hoping to record and post two new video blogs later today or tomorrow.  One is going to be about social media in the hands of people watching the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt from afar. I’ve talked about it already here, but I what I think I’ll end up saying in the new post was inspired by a question from my good friend and frequent reader/commenter here at TDC, Chad Hogg. Chad is a supremely super-intelligent and thoughtful man.  You should read his blog.  By the way, Chad, I’m listening to a track from Tragic Kingdom as I type this.  I thought you should know.

In related links below, Andrew Sullivan makes fun of Malcolm Gladwell for the later’s agnosticism on the impact social media has had on the Tunisian and Egyptian movements.  Confession:  I love Andrew Sullivan and am a frequent reader of his Daily Dish, but I haven’t read the linked piece yet.

R.E.M.
The history of social media contained in an outmoded archival paradigm. Wait, what? Yes.

That said, you probably know that I’ve been very interested in this whole topic and have been following it across various forms of media. Something immediately apparent to me is my almost shocking desire to refer to news sites as “Old Media” in this discussion.  I really was just about to say that I’ve been following the story across New and Old Media online, but New Media is, by definition, online.  We’re realizing more and more, though, that online media is not necessarily New Media.  In many cases, New Media has become old media, and the unquestionably new New Media is social.  Twitter and Facebook are to CNN.com what CNN.com is to newspapers.  I think that’s becoming clear.   But the new New Media isn’t just new.  It is, in very real senses, a media outside of time.  It almost doesn’t make sense to call it New or to even call it real time.  It is the media of witness, and that’s what I’m going to talk about.

If you’re following at home, I’m now listening to the Ronettes.

Last night, I came across this very well-done cartoon that outlines a popular essay about which plausible dystopian anxiety (George Orwell’s or Aldous Huxley’s) is more likely in our present and emerging future.  It’s long, so let me say up front that I think both propositions need to be guarded against (that might be the most obvious thing I’ve said, ever), but that I obviously can’t go all the way with the “Huxley is right” argument when it comes to things like social media.  (And neither should you.  Pesky normative statement alert.)

Needless to say, I believe in curating beauty and that loving things worth loving (and sharing that love) will actually make us better. Loving crap is something different.  Loving pop culture?  Like anything, that’s a mixed bag.  I love Pet Sounds because its beautiful.  I love Elvis because he’s singular.  I love “Sweet Child O’Mine” because it’s awesome and life-affirming.  I think the balance lies precisely there…do the things we love encourage us to live bigger, more fulfilling, more creative lives, or do they diminish the expectations we have for ourselves by their sheer size and repetition?  Friends, isn’t that finally up to us?

The other video will about about The New Sincerity. That is to say,  I think I’m going to encourage everyone to keep on being awesome.