Schadenfreude, with a Side of Carnage

Schadenfreude [shahd-n-froi-duh] noun. Satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune.

Serve it up ice cold! Tribal Council finally arrived. Two of ’em. And blood was spilled. South Carolina comes up next, and in Nevada another caucus with scarcely decipherable rules. Suddenly, everything is moving at top speed.

We’ve been watching this circus for nearly a year, and up to now the only dropouts were candidates who weren’t making much of a fuss anyway: Scott Walker, Lincoln Chaffee, Jim Webb, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Lindsay Graham. Lawrence Lessig, remember him? Sheesh, the first I heard of him was when he quit the race.

These candidates were felled by polls and failures of fundraising. Fun to watch but fairly bloodless. If Trump is the drunk bloviating on the stool at the end of the bar, candidates like Jindal and Chaffee were the bum muttering to himself at the bar’s front door.

Even some of the more resilient back benchers, for example Chris Christie or Carly Fiorina, could not find any kind of traction with their messages. There’d be a quick surge based on an incident or a quote, then they’d slide back down into the primordial ooze that floated a point or two above a poll’s margin of error.

Then the voting started.

Iowa killed off Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Martin O’Malley. New Hampshire offed the two that I loved to hate the most: the aforementioned Fiorina and Christie.

That still left nine candidates, and two of them were surely doomed. The campaign of Ben Carson—yes, that Ben Carson—is on life support. Pun intended. But that’s nuthin’… Jim Gilmore finally threw in the towel a few days after New Hampshire. His campaign was so stillborn that it couldn’t have scored a five-second cameo on The Walking Dead.

I don’t feel bad for any of these people. Each was annoying in his/her own way. Some were terrifying. And yet, I’ve discovered that even the most evil candidates can have something that I agree with. Ugh. Reality is so inconvenient sometimes…

Scott Walker gained national stature by repeatedly winning elections in Wisconsin, and talking trash about liberal institutions. He famously compared peaceful protesters to ISIS, seemingly without consequence. But he never gained traction in the presidential race, despite being annoited as the initial choice of the Koch Brothers! And that’s what I like about this jerk: he proved once again that money can’t buy everything.

Openly militant Lindsay Graham beat the war drum at every opportunity. “Boots on the ground” seemed his answer to nearly every problem. Gah! But he also militantly supported Social Security. Get outta here, you socialist!

Bobby Jindal was militant about assimilation, understandable since he and his parents are poster children for immigrant success. But Jindal drank too much conservative Kool-Aid on his way to becoming a real American. Like Sam Browback in Kansas, he cut expenses in his state drastically.

The effect on the Louisiana economy was devasting—just as it was in Kansas. Does no one ever learn? Jindal’s campaign then fell into that familiar defensive posture of portraying failure as success. So what’s to like? Try his creepy Republican response to Obama’s 2009 State of the Union address—he forgot to add sugar to that lemonade, and IMO that melodrama sank his chances before he even floated them.

Mike Huckabee earned my disdain this time around for his hysteria at the first debate, when those heavily edited videos were so popular, falsely accusing Planned Parenthood, as Mikey put it, “…selling baby body parts like the parts of a Buick!” Now the filmmakers are under indictment and Planned Parenthood is exonerated. But that isn’t what right wing voters will remember, is it?

Less annoying, but still tacky: Huck’s adoption of the Newt Gingrich strategy to sell your new book at campaign stops. Here’s an idea: why not throw in a bottle of supplements claiming to cure diabetes, or bible verses that cure cancer?

Whenever Rick Santorum gives a speech attacking gay marriage, he calls it the gateway to “man on dog” sexual congress. Ick. I gotta wonder if Mister Reek has a special hankering for a shaggy dog somewhere. And yet, he has been even more consistent in demanding that the U.S. get its manufacturing infrastructure back. A worthy cause, but he never explains how we compete with the low wages and environmental nonchalance in China.

As much as Rand Paul frightens me with his so-called libertarian attitudes on subjects such as the Civil Rights Act, he did utter my favorite 2016 campaign slogan: “Stop borrowing money from China to spend somewhere else.” Even more, I’m going to miss the juxtaposition of his worship for namesake Ayn Rand with her militant atheism.

I also liked his chant to stop going to war in the Middle East and his support for decriminalizing marijuana. I wonder if he watched the final season of Justified—centered around the coming legalized cannabis trade in Kentucky.

I never disliked Martin O’Malley, but the only times I heard him speak were at the debates, where he claimed again and again that as governor or Maryland, he had done the very thing the debaters were currently discussing. Whatever they were discussing. Each time he said “We did that,” the claim became less believable.

O’Malley was high on solar energy, a great cause. His overall progressive agenda matches my politics fairly well. And the negative chatter about him being mayor of Baltimore during the violent period of time portrayed in The Wire didn’t stick to him.

But nothing else stuck, either. O’Malley was that nice man with the elbow patches on his sport coat, who you met at some dinner party. You had a pleasant conversation with him and forgot his name on the way home. Now I’ll damn him even further with faint praise: I would vote for him against any Republican candidate.

Chris Christie did an expert job of taking down Marco Rubio in the debate three days before the New Hampshire primary. Rubio’s popularity dropped like a stone and he came in fifth, but that fall did Christie no favors. He still lost to Rubio, one spot below in sixth place.

This after Christie had essentially lived in New Hampshire for the month before the primary.

Commentators will tell you that his failure to rise stems from the “Bridgegate” scandal, but I maintain that his bully persona sinks him even when he’s speaking about positive things. Christie’s tone and demeanor tell me that he knows he’s an asshole and enjoys the part.

Rubio played right into Christie’s critique of him, repeating the same idea, with exactly the same phrasing, four times. But consider the critique itself: Rubio has the same rehearsed speech. IMO that describes every candidate running this year. Most years, for that matter.

Christie may be sliding back into the sludge that is New Jersey politics, but don’t think that you’ve seen the last of him. Several of his hand-picked appointees are under indictment and going to trial this year, over Bridgegate. He won’t be able to duck subpoenas because he’s on the campaign trail. That local news will go national instantly, and I can’t wait!

Carly Fiorina began earning my ire years ago, when she forced her company Hewlett-Packard to purchase Compaq for no apparent reason, other than the deal got her a personal big payday. It also got some 30,000 employees fired, which she dismisses as necessary—she even brags that she increased the HP work force. Technically true, but only if you count the Compaq employees that she didn’t fire.

Now that she’s out, her current creditors have reason to worry: she stiffed even the widow of her 2010 senatorial campaign manager—and paid up only when her deadbeat behavior became a liability to her 2016 ambitions. She owed the woman’s dead husband, a Fiorina loyalist, $30,000 in back wages.

This after banking some $42 million in golden parachute severance and other gains when she was fired from H-P. This after paying herself back $1 million from that 2010 campaign. That is soulless.

But wait, there’s more!

Fiorina’s mendacious tirade, in the first debate, about Planned Parenthood harvesting aborted babies’ brains places her in my Despicable Hall of Fame. She maintained that claim even when confronted with the reality that the scene she screamed about was not actually in the movie she claimed to have watched.

You remember the movie; it was made by the people indicted for falsifying government documents, not to mention reality itself. Planned Parenthood? Exonerated, but I told you that already.

So what’s to like about Carly the a-hole? An infamous “Demon Sheep” ad from her 2010 primary for senator from California. They’ll be teaching it in art and political science classes a hundred years from now. And mocking it in the dorms.

offer a bittersweet goodbye to these characters (with any luck there will not be a next time, so forget about “until we meet again”). Bitter because IMO these people and their attitudes are bad for the country. Sweet because not one of them will be president.


Political Survivor #32

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Steve Schlich is retired after 35 years of writing fiction about software: “easy to use,” “does what you want,” and the like. Hobbies include webmaster for, writing songs and short stories. In 2004, he created, a website chronicling the naughty public art in Washington, D.C. He lives happily with his wife and cats, north of San Francisco.

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