Tuesday, December 18, 2007


In honor of the fast-approaching Iowa Caucus, representing the official kick-off to the 2008 presidential season*, I thought I'd make note of an interesting column that touts a bold new approach to securing the presidency for under-underdog Ron Paul. Despite his unelectability, the Texas congressman is the "chic pick" among more independent-minded GOP partisans; in fact, Paul collected $6 million in online contributions just this past Sunday, an unprecedented one-day total. His candidacy/public face is an offbeat amalgam of platform planks: He's an anti-war Republican who takes a dim view of much of Washington's official response to 9/11, in particular the Patriot Act. He's also a pro-life former OB/GYN (he claims to have delivered 4000 babies) who supports vigorous enforcement of national borders and opposes most public services for illegal aliens; and, he opposes the current, sweeping impetus for a national health-care system, a topic that has been such a rhetorical minefield for his fellow candidates. The guy is outspoken, meaning not merely that he raises his voice or shakes his fist in the air while delivering the usual Beltway clich├ęs, but that he actually says unconventional/unpopular things—hence his unelectability. Well, there's that, and there's his dweebish mien; sometimes I have to remind myself that it's not just ol' Pat Paulsen all over again. But Paul's general position on most issues is that Washington should just butt out—hence his appeal for libertarians like columnist Walt Thiessen.

In his column, Thiessen suggests a "thought experiment" wherein Paul supporters diligently try to "attract" their guy into the White House. Thiessen even invokes our old friends Rhonda Byrne, Bob (I Will Never Die**) Proctor and Joe Vitale, drawing generously from The Secret in making his case. He asks his readers to marshal their "inner powers" on Paul's behalf, and even suggests that this strategy—though never formally articulated or organized before now—"explains quite clearly why the Ron Paul revolution is happening. Thousands of people from around the country and around the world are finding each other, predominantly through the Internet, because they chose to focus their thoughts on achieving freedom right now."

I could make a snide remark here, along the lines of how "thousands" ain't gonna cut it, but I think the same point is better made by observing that a corresponding movement has been afoot for some time now from within the Obama camp. Several months back on Obama's discussion forum, one ardent supporter called for all spiritual types to try to attract the presidency to him. And of course, with Secret-loving Oprah squarely in Obama's corner, his campaign was sure to be infused with all sorts of buzzwords signaling an "empowered" view of his presidential chances.

This raises an intriguing metaphysical question: All things being equal (which they're not here, but humor me), if one group of people tries to attract the presidency to Paul, and another group tries to attract the presidency to Obama...does Hillary still win?***

* though it seems like Campaign 2008 has been underway since Campaign 2004 gave us George W. Bush's illustrious second term.
** Click through, scroll down to Proctor's name for an explanation of the phrase in parens.
*** Sure, I could be wrong. And right now it does look like (almost) anyone's race. It's just that I can't picture any candidate out-maneuvering the Clintons in the final, cutthroat stages of a down-and-dirty campaign. Can you?

In the spirit of giving credit where it's due—a holiday requirement, of course—I should point out that Secretron is Cosmic Connie's apt label for fanatical followers of Byrne's Boondoggle.


Cosmic Connie said...

Thanks for the mention, Steve. Despite his anti-abortion stance I actually like Ron Paul more than many of the other candidates. But I think that more than anything else we need a funny president -- and I mean one who is intentionally funny, unlike the doofus who...well, anyway, I'm leaning towards Dave Barry again because we can't get failed Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman to run for president.

Anonymous said...

Connie - Not to get entirely off topic but I agree with you. Funny is vastly underrated as a commodity and a characteristic.
It takes intelligence to be funny; humorless people scare me.

Anonymous said...

This has got to be one of the most incongruent things I've ever heard! Not your post, Steve, but the idea of a Libertarian promoting the Law of Attraction. Too much!

I'm a Ron Paul supporter. I'll stick to using the good old-fashioned way of spreading the word.

Steve Salerno said...

Lana-- You know, that hadn't even hit me till you mentioned it: the libertarian/LOA thing. Especially when you're using the LOA for a collective purpose. That does indeed seem funny.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I wasn't thinking of that angle (I wish I were that clever). Now it's even funnier.

Mary Anne said...

Anon said:
"It takes intelligence to be funny; humorless people scare me."

Isn't that the truth.

a/good/lysstener said...

I'm not going to kid you, I'm not a political person, but I like what Ron Paul stands for if this represents him as he really is. If he gets as far as the nomination, which sounds doubtful, let me know, I'll try to get properly magnetized so we can attract him to the White House!

I also agree about humorless people. Even if they're not actually scary they're still not worth wasting time and energy on. Life is too short! I learned that the other day trying to get a dialogue going with one of the others from this blog. ;-)

Steve Salerno said...

Hmmm, do tell....

On second thought...don't. I have enough trouble policing matters on this blog without mediating disputes that occur elsewhere. But I still fall back on the old Rodney King line: "Why can't we all just get along...?"

Michael T. said...

Just wanted to say I am a newbie here and this is a great blog. Definitely not HUMORLESS! You have found a new regular. I'm going to read a while before I comment, but I enjoy what your shamblog community seems to be about.

Michael T. said...

Okay I lied, here's a comment about "dweebish miens". That was also Joe Lieberman's main problem, I think, aside from being Jewish which as we know doesn't go over well in middle America. He just didn't and doesn't look presidential. They even made fun of that on Letterman, where he lists the top 10 reasons for voting for him, ending with, "Look at me, can you even imagine a sex scandal while I'm in office?" This is basically the same issue with Denis Kucinich, who's another good man.

Cosmic Connie said...

"This is basically the same issue with Dennis Kucinich, who's another good man."

Kucinich may be a decent man with a good heart...but he's pretty much "out there" in a new-agey sort of way. In the highly unlikely event that he ever became president, my own blog would by definition become a political blog. That would mess up my entire purpose for blogging.

Anyway, welcome to the party, Michael T!

Steve Salerno said...

I like Kucinich--he impresses me as a sincere guy, and a straight shooter. (Who but a totally sincere guy would say some of the stuff he says??) Apropos of which, if he ever wants to be taken seriously, he really, really, really needs to stop talking about UFOs. Forever. (I know, I know...we probably aren't alone. But for a politician to talk about it just sounds...well, you know.)

Or else he should board the next one and try to build a political career...elsewhere.

roger o'keeffe of nyc said...

Huh, I'm starting to get the feeling that what we've mostly got here is a nice collection of people whose political tastes lean all the way from center-left to Howard Dean. (And what ever happened to...?) Should be interesting to engage some of you as the campaign heats up. ;-)

Steve Salerno said...

I don't think that's the case at all, Roger. We tend to play devil's advocate here quite a bit; at least I do. Which is to say, we don't run to the formulaic answer, and if somebody says "black," any one of us may be inclined to shout "but what about white!?" That's how you test things (including ideas), after all: You subject them to the rigors of analysis and even attack. But you're right--or maybe I should say correct?--a little bit of engagement never hurt anyone.

By all means stick around. Should be fun indeed.

RevRon's Rants said...

My only problem with the libertarian perspective is that in a complex society such as ours, there does need to be some degree of control over the powerful, in order to prevent the abuse of those less powerful.

"Deregulation" has a nice ring to it, but without a commitment to the well-being of the populace, it quickly becomes regulation in favor of the influential, and at the expense of everyone else.

Your PR Guy said...

Ya'know...ol'Ron's not doing so bad using social media to attract, mobilize and communicate with his faithful.

Whether he wins the White House is a different story, I agree. But if he does, The Secret rhetoric won't help.

I haven't heard him use much sham-talk, but I also don't think he's immune from using it too, especially if he sees Obama's rating climb because of the Oprah-effect.

What's driving his campaign is his candid, unorthodox message. Regardless of that, he's still a REPUBLICAN and can't be trusted, regardless of what he says. We only need to look back eight, long, tiresome years to find another man who lied his way into office.

While Bush didn't use sham-talk, he did capitalize on the tritisms of evangelicals.

As Steve pointed out about LOA and the Libertarian Party -- I never made that connection either. I've been following Paul, Kucinich and Richardson --- and listening and laughing at Clinton, Guiliana, and Obama (the Oprah thing was too much for me!)

Having spent the last 15 week reading just under 2 million words and, 200,000 journal articles of the best academic(ese) on persuasion, message framing and political communication, I can tell you that politicians get funnier and funnier.

Steve Salerno said...

PR Guy: He's a "Republican and can't be trusted"? Isn't that just a bit of a generalization? I'm willing to entertain arguments about how the current administration can't be trusted; I think they've been given ample rope to hang themselves, and have done so many times over. Yet even there, I think there are basically good, well-meaning people in the Bush posse who are sort of caught up in it all and not quite sure how to extricate themselves. Like, say, Condi. I also felt very bad for Colin Powell, who I think was put in an almost impossible position.

It's like when I hear stuff about how all Republicans are closet racists and such, I am wont to remind people that it was a Republican who freed the slaves, and was willing to fight a civil war over the point. I grant you, that was a long time ago. Still, let's not lose all perspective. (And while we're at it, let's remember that one of the icons of the current Democratic Party, Robert Byrd, was once a card-carrying member of the KKK.)

Finally, if we're going to talk about "lying your way into office," or to keep yourself there...have we so quickly forgotten The Many Deceptions of Slick Willie and the Arkansas Mafia?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for pulling out that generalization from Your PR Guy and commenting on it, Steve. Saves me the trouble!

Steve Salerno said...

Always glad to be of service, Lana.

Your PR Guy said...

Generalization aside, I agree that Colin was caught in the middle of some messy stuff -- none of it we will ever understand. But I don't think Condi is as innocent as you might think. Her diplomacy across the pond and her tact have much to be desired.

Slick Willie was a bit dirty too. But at least he didn't lie America in a costly war akin to Vietnam and a occupation that's fueling the very hatred Bush wanted to stop.

While Bush has sent thousands of men and women to die for a lie, Slick Willie only got caught with his pants down. NO ONE DIED because Bill got a blowjob and lied about it!

And I agree that the Republicans have been given ample rope to hang themselves, so why aren't we witnessing another impeachment. Why aren't more of them being held accountable? The only guy who's in trouble (and Bush will probably pardon him) is Scooter.

You want to know what's worse than SHAM -- look no further than the White House, and then go talk to parents whose family member came back to America in a body bag -- their body riddled with scrapnel from an IED.

Okay, enough politics...

I don't expect an answer...but since I've come of age to vote, my choices have been limited. And American leadership has been quite disappointing.

Anonymous said...

I think Ron Paul's a great guy--that rare occurrence of a politician who's willing to say what he actually believes, as opposed to what's PC or might garner support, and even rarer instance of someone who's willing to go to full disclosure (he lists all contributors to his campaign, plus dollar amounts contributed, on his website for the world to see). I'm sure he wouldn't want people connecting the Law of Attraction with his campaign! As for his appearance, your mention of Lincoln is timely, since he'd NEVER have been elected with his bizarre appearance and high-pitched voice in today's mediacentric climate.

Steve Salerno said...

Very true (the mediacentric comment in particular). Things haven't been quite the same since Nixon was undone by his jumpy manner (and his sweat glands) on national TV...

Mary Anne said...

Michael T. wrote:
"He just didn't and doesn't look presidential."

This reminded me of one of my favorite presidents, Warren G. Harding. He was chosen, because he looked like a president. Lucky for him, Harding died in office.

The Crack Emcee said...

First, a big "hello" to Michael T: Welcome to SHAMclub. It's just like Fight Club - but with a compassionate ref.


Ron Paul's a fruitcake with an ice cube's chance in hell of making it to the White House. If I was him, I'd start looking for a job now: Best to look for something while you got something going, and all that.

Dennis Kucinich? Get the tinfoil hat, Connie, cause the guy's a true Shirley McClaine loony tune. Honest? Sure, but also honestly crazy. And Steve, the last line in Harry Frankfurt's book, On Bullshit, is "Sincerity is bullshit." That's something to keep in mind when listening to John Edwards too. Or Oprah/Obama.

Mike, Joe Lieberman's not presidential material but, at least, he's got his priorities right. I wouldn't want to hang out with him on "Family Night", though: Bor-ing!

Roger O'Keeffe: This is only a mamby-pamby granola crowd when I'm not around. I'm the token card-carrying black Republican Bush-and-war-lover in these parts. Not center-right but Right. Nice to meet cha - now vote the way I tell you.

PR Guy: "he's still a REPUBLICAN and can't be trusted"? Wow. You've got it bad, Dude. Like Steve said, "it was a Republican who freed the slaves, and was willing to fight a civil war over the point" and, I'll also point out, Republicans were the majority in the vote for passage of the Civil Rights Act. Republicans got all the true civil rights bonafides: Dems got nothin' but talk and "I feel your pain" nonsense. Something to think about, no?

Colin Powell? Cautious general and a political novice. Will go whichever way the wind blows. His wife has more political integrity than he does: That woman knows how to play the game. Colin? He's a loser.

And, yea, I know what you're thinking but, no, I haven't made up my mind this go 'round. This election is unique in that, except for the Wicked Witch, we're starting fresh - with a whole bunch of flawed candidates - so it's better to keep your powder dry and wait: We've still got a ways to go.

RevRon's Rants said...

I dunno about the idea that one's appearance could eliminate their chances at winning the presidency, Steve. If one's parents are wealthy and powerful enough to buy him (or her) a degree and a complete resume, even an illiterate, ill-spoken beady-eyed and besotted ferret could manage to get elected, despite holding to political ideologies that the majority of the country actually reject. :-)