Saturday, August 23, 2008

D Minus-2: Gonzo on Veeps

I had been without sleep for two or three days at the time, and my temper was close to the surface. Beyond that, I had spent the past five or six days brooding angrily over the list of vice-presidential possibilities that McGovern had floated in the New York Times several days before the convention even started. I recall telling Mankiewicz in the coffee shop on Friday night that I had never seen so many bums and hacks listed in a single paragraph in any publication for any reason. . . .
But Frank assured me that my wrath was premature. "Don't worry," he said. "I think you'll be pleasantly surprised." . . .
So there was nothing personal in my loud objections to Eagleton a week later. It struck me as a cheap and unncessary concession to the pieced-off ward-heeler syndrom that McGovern had been fighting all along. Tom Eagleton was exactly the kind of VP candidate that Muskie or Humphrey would have chosen: a harmless, Catholic, neo-liberal Rotarian nebbish from one of the border states who presumably wouldn't make any waves.
-- Hunter S. Thompson,
Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72
For some reason, the late Dr. G0nzo's words keep haunting me this year. While so many of the circumstances in this year's election are unprecedented ("vuja de," as George Carlin would say), Team Obama keeps making moves that recall the absurd overconfidence of the McGovern campaign in 1972, when Mankiewicz, Hart & Co. seriously believed that the unpopularity of Nixon and the Vietnam war would guarantee the election of whoever won the Democratic Party nomination.

Obama's choice of Joe Biden strikes me as eerily similar to McGovern's pick of Tom Eagleton 36 years ago. Unlike Eagleton -- a young nobody in '72 when he was tapped for the No. 2 spot -- Biden is a known quantity, and all of Biden's scandals are old news. While there may be some undiscovered conflict-of-interest scandal lurking in Joe's closet, we're unlikely to be shocked (pardon the pun) by any revelation of secret treatment for mental illness.

Yet Biden is definitely a concession to the Old Guard, "the Ultimate Washington Insider," as Patrick Ruffini says, and exactly the sort of Establishment figure that HST would have denounced as a "bum" and a "hack."

Beyond that, naming the choice in the wee hours Saturday completely undercuts the obstensible purpose of the text-message announcement idea. When this idea was originally announced, you could see its brilliance: About 11 a.m. on a weekday, for instance, the text message would go out, everybody would get it on their cellphones or Blackberries, and the name of the nominee would spread via word-of-mouth buzz in the workplace. Supporters would have the exciting memory of one of those "I remember exactly where I was" moments.

Instead, the campaign dawdled so long that (a) there could not possibly be any word-of-mouth factor, and (b) the MSM beat them to the punch. As Ed Morrissey says:
I’m not sure a political campaign could possibly screw up a running-mate announcement as badly as Team Obama.
Well, it could be done, Ed: McGovern waited until 4 p.m. on the Thursday of the convention before making the call to Eagleton. Still, as in '72, the disappointment of many on the Left is palpable, especially among Hillary's supporters like Jeralyn Merritt (who is "underwhelmed and greatly disappointed") and Big Tent Democrat, who says, "Hell of a rollout. Not."

Enough of that. My flight for Denver leaves tomorrow, and between now and then I've got two articles to write, including about 1,400 words of print-only reporting that will require me to transcribe audio (my least favorite job in the world). So I've got to stop blogging and start writing, and you can't expect many updates from me until I've at least made some headway on that stuff.

UPDATE: 350 words into writing the first of two pieces, I take a break to note Michael Goldfarb's observation:

But what's with holding the text message until 3 a.m. for Joe Biden? The only explanation that makes any sense is that Team Obama just couldn't resist one last dig at Hillary.

Allahpundit disagrees:

A likelier explanation: They meant to send it out this morning, but the networks scooped them by confirming the pick around midnight so they had to push it out ahead of schedule to save as much face as possible.

Either way, they've pushed it into the Saturday news cycle and blown whatever word-of-mouth buzz factor they might have gotten by sending the message in the middle of a weekday.

UPDATE II: Linked by Memorandum, Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft, Moe Lane at Red State, and Stephen Green at Vodka Pundit. Thanks all. And hey, Tommy Chong says Joe Biden's a narc -- pass it on, man!

UPDATE III: Ed Driscoll links with "The Enharshening of the Mellow." Wow. Heavy, man.

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