has opened a special, experimental section for politics
, which they'll keep up through the U.S. presidential election. In addition to Slate
, and assorted blogs, I now have even more political news sources. If this is this a good thing, or a bad thing, I cannot say.
Since Wednesday, I've seen quite a bit of coverage of Zell Miller's keynote address for the Republican National Convention. Even here on E2, it's wound its way through the Page of Cool a few times over the long weekend. Miller's behavior has been so extreme (telling Chris Matthews of Hardball that he wished he could challenge Matthews to a duel, etc.), I had a hard time figuring out why something so scripted as a national political convention would have used him for the keynote address. It wasn't until I saw coverage on Comedy Central's The Daily Show that a rather sinister notion came into my mind.
After a short riff based on clips of Dick Cheney's wife talking about her husband, Daily Show anchor Jon Stewart says, "Now, normally we would have spent time analyzing the vice president's speech, but," transitioning into clips of Zell Miller's speech. Indeed, the remaining 3+ minutes of the Headlines segment of the show devotes itself to Miller's red-faced vitriol.
So, is it possible that Miller was designed to be a distraction? While it's hardly anything new to use politicians removed from the actual candidates to give the fire and brimstone speeches so the candidates can keep their sunny faces, Miller takes it one further. By being almost cartoonishly callous, Miller is inviting attacks, and time spent attacking and refuting him is time not spent analyzing statements made by people who actually have anything to do with the presidential campaign.
This is a task for which Miller seems suspiciously suitable. He is, famously, a (wayward) member of the Democratic party, which is about as far as you can get from a Republican presidential candidate. I have also read that he was not planning on running for office again after his current term is over, meaning that he had no need to preserve any sort of reputation. Republican political strategists are not, as a rule, stupid. Indeed, political strategists are paid rather large sums of money for their ability to orchestrate public images for their employers. Every word of Miller's speech would have been scrubbed over by these people. Why put a speech that is so angry, so cartoonish, and so easily rebutted in such a central location? The current administration has shown remarkable ability to wrangle the media, and here in the aftermath are people talking more about how Bush's plans for the next four years are the same ones he failed to accomplish during the current four, or are they talking more about what a clown Zell Miller is?
In pursuasive speech, it is of critical importance to know what your biggest flaws are. It is of such importance that my instructers have actually encouraged the practice of slipping the occasional glaring flaw into a presentation or argument. When the flaw is pointed out, you suggest the real solution you want, which sounds so much better, that it is usually just taken at face value, and your audience now has the (false) impression that they provided critical input into the solution. It's like judo, only without all that honor stuff.
So now I'm stuck trying to figure out if this is too convoluted to be media wrangling, graduating into the realm of conspiracy theory. Perhaps it's somewhere in the middle. Perhaps it was a gambit. If the Republican campaign managers were making Miller their fall guy anyway, how hard would it have been for them to utterly disown him if his speech backfired? I don't know. What has become readily apparent, though, is that I know more about what Zell Miller said in response to people questioning him about his speech than I know about what George W. Bush actually said.
This does not seem right.