Wednesday, March 16, 2011

From the Desk of Sen. Fred Thompson: A March Madness Bracket For Those Who Hate Social Security

There are limits to how much Obama-hatred I can comprehend. I myself am frustrated by a number of things about the guy -- his embarrassingly offhand non-approach to the scandal of Bradley Manning's continued detention and his embarrassingly offhand non-approach to the continued detention of people other than Bradley Manning in Guantanamo, for starters. And also his doomed and half-pitiful approach to find common ground with a trollish and cynical opposition that spends its time either 1) imagineering his fanciful non-American origins and anti-American motivations or 2) crassly attempting to harness the nutty fervor of those who spend their time on that speculative task in the service of, like, extending the carried-interest tax loophole and ending clean-air laws. And also there are some other things, some of which probably reflect unrealistic expectations on my part and others of which probably reflect real and serious and intractable problems with our political system. But while it seems obvious to me that Obama is playing himself by attempting to play nice with these goofs, and while that frustrates me, I bump up against my Obama-skeptic ceiling pretty quickly. Not only do I not think he's the secret child of Stokely Carmichael and Joan Baez -- or Bill Walton and Angela Davis, or Dick Allen and Patty Hearst, or whatever Pamela Geller is speculating about now -- but I think he's probably a pretty decent man with a very difficult job. Which is all sort of a long way of saying that I'm totally fine with him filling out a NCAA bracket if he wants to do so.

And I suspect that, for the most part, those on the right who are acting outraged about Obama's bracket (for a second straight year!) are probably okay with it, too. There will be exceptions, people who are not ever okay with anything -- the first comment on that WSJ link above is from someone who describes the president as Barry Soetoro, which is what the Prison Planet nerdlingers call him in their elaborate Obama fanfic multiverse. But do I suspect that Sleepy Fred Dalton Thompson, one of America's laziest political elites, really begrudges Obama his bracket? No, of course not.

Thompson, who displays the porky sheen of a glazed ham and has evinced half the work ethic, is a nap aficionado so stuffed with foie gras that even a no-show job as a Senator from Tennessee proved too much for him. A planned presidential campaign never really quite happened -- perhaps because some Republican primary debates were held in cities without their own branch of Morton's of Chicago -- and he has been kind of half-assing his way through a career as a lobbyist, voice-over actor and spokesman for American Advisors Group, a typically upstanding-seeming reverse-mortgage lender, ever since. It's a good way to make a living, I guess, but it's no one's idea of a tough gig. Should Thompson choose to fill out a NCAA bracket, it would almost certainly be the most productive thing he did that day, unless he was shooting another Iron Eagle sequel.

So does Thompson mean it when he writes, at The National Review, that Obama is "ignoring the heavy lifting that comes with the job of 'Leader of the Free World'" by filling out his brackets? I'd guess no, or at least no more than Thompson means anything he says. But, increasingly, that seems to be the point of much of the right's Obama-related discourse -- rhetorically, it might be heated cant seeded, SEO-style, with random buzzwords, but essentially it's simple, taunty trolling. (The American Prospect's Adam Serwer has posited that the Obama-is-a-Muslim thing is a subspecies of this -- that is, it's just another way to call him a jerk) That Thompson would get his troll on isn't surprising, and isn't all that meaningful. I doubt he put much more thought into carping about Obama's bracket than he does into, say, encouraging old people to get fleeced through reverse mortgages.

But, in this one instance, Thompson actually seems to be showing some initiative. His NR piece -- entitled, grandly, "The Brackets of Leadership" -- is as rich in tossed-off folksiness, as syrupy with condescension and as light in actual substance as you'd expect, but it's also an invitation for NR readers to create their own bracket of conservative cant, with, say, the privatizing of Social Security standing in for the University of North Carolina:

Now, while I could easily slot issues like Japan, the budget, entitlement reform, and tax cuts in upper seeds, I think the president would find it much more rewarding — and perhaps more engaging — if he knew that this was more of a community-organized endeavor.

So down below, let’s use the comments section to build our “Bracket of Leadership” for our ever-distracted president. We’ll take your suggestions and unveil the brackets tomorrow. Don’t feel limited to national-security issues, mind you, though we all know there are plenty. And there is no rule that says that “Tax Cuts” can’t be seeded next to “Zero Out the Education Department” (though I’d hate to pick one over the other).

What serious person wouldn't hate making that decision? As someone who organized a couple of NCAA bracket pools this year -- one at the Wall Street Journal, and another for Can't Stop the Bleeding -- I know well how not-at-all stressful those three-to-six minutes of clicking fields and sending out invitation emails are. So kudos to Thompson for being brave enough to take things in an entirely new direction. So far, Thompson's commenters haven't come up with anything for his Brackets of Leadership, although one of them has mentioned Obama's birth certificate. Perhaps they're too busy CREATING JOBS to engage in this sort of thing?


  1. Among the shrill, disingenuous nonsense that offends me the most about Law & Order Fred* is something buried in the half-assed "community organizer" dog whistle about "more rewarding and engaging if it comes to the community": sure, it's valid and interesting to poll people about what concerns them most, but with tools like him, it always comes with the rider that these people also have the "common sense" answers about how to *fix* what concerns them most.

    Quoting myself: "common sense won't get your wireless router configured; stop pretending it'll get health care fixed".

    *And how the holy fuck does a guy with that accent end up a NYC DA? Was that in the script someplace?

  2. Dave, this post may be the funniest thing I've read in 2011. Other than Gilbert Gottfried's Twitter account. And if I appreciated professional sports, it might have even rung true on additional levels. Still, bravura job, amigo.