Man Without Qualities

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Lifting The Veil

Who of us would not be glad to lift the veil behind which the future lies hidden; to cast a glance at the next advances of our science and at the secrets of its development during future centuries?

It's so very true.
And it's also so very useful to begin one's arguments with an irrelevant cite to some heavy, hi-falutin mathematical allusion - a trick I learned, and we should all learn, from Paul Krugman. Just the soupçon of math makes a pundit look so credible - too much is just boring! But I digress.

Now that dazzling freshman senator John Edwards has told us that he will run for President, who of us would not be glad to lift the veil behind which the future lies hidden; to cast a glance at the Edwards campaign of 2004? And now it can be done! The Man Without Qualities has modified the very same super-sophisticated computer models and formulas used by Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman and the CBO to determine that eliminating taxes that, say, irrationally discriminate against corporate dividends in favor of corporate debt will have absolutely no positive effect on aggregate economic growth - to predict the Edwards campaign scenario of the future!

Of course, one must begin with high-quality, reliable data to upload into the model. For it is wisely written: GIGO.

Senator Edwards himself kindly and helpfully informs us: "My legislative priorities reflect the priorities of our state. I care about the interests of the people of North Carolina, not the special interests."

Now, from the list of his Senate accomplishments on the Senator's own website, some of our less dazzled observers might opine that there seems to be a rather close approximation - a near-equation, even - in the Senator's mind between the interests of the people of North Carolina and special interests that happen to have a big presence in North Carolina. But it's too early to be persnickety! So the information goes into the model right from the website. No fussing.

No doubt reflecting his lack of political seasoning which nevertheless has its virtues, the refreshing, fresh-faced political greenhorn has also engaged in this charming and boyishly attractive badinage:

Q. Why are you running for president?
A. Because I want to be a champion for regular people.

Q. What's the one reason people should vote for John Edwards?
A. Because I will be a champion for regular people in the White House every day. .... I spent most of my adult life representing kids and families against very powerful opponents … They needed somebody to be their fighter, to be their champion. … It's, by the way, exactly the same thing I've tried to do since I've been in the Senate, and it's exactly the same thing I'll do if I'm in the White House.

But here we digitize that badinage - more computer fodder.

And admiring, reliable sources also inform us: The youthful-looking Edwards, who bills himself as "the people's senator," took a similar tack in 1998, running in North Carolina as a political outsider who would represent the little guy.


The Senator's supporters (such as Al Hunt) are enthusing that one of the dazzling Senator's big advantages is that he is a Southerner and the Democrats must appeal to that region. OK, so after imposing parameters incorporating the Democrats' Southern Strategy, we hit the button and apply the full predictive power of the modified DeLong/Krugman/CBO technology to produce this vision of the future 2004 Edwards campaign:

--------------------------------------- BEGIN COMPUTER VISION ----------------------------------------------------------------


Ithaca, Mississippi. On a bunting-covered stage a pencil-
necked man with round rimless glasses addresses a crowd of

The pencil-neck is identified on posters as 'John Edwards,
Friend of the Little Man', and, in life as in the pictures,
he shakes a broom over his head. A midget in overalls stands
next to him.

And I say to you that the great state
a Mississippi cannot afford four
more years a Georgie Bush - four
more years a cronyism, nepotism,
rascalism and service to the
Innarests! The choice, she's a clear
'un: Georgie Bush, slave a the
Innarests; John Edwards, servant a
the little man! Ain't that right,
little fella?

The midget enthusiastically seconds:

He ain't lyin'!

When the litle man says jump, John
Edwards says how high? And, ladies'n
jettymens, the little man has
admonished me to grasp the broom a -
ree-form and sweep this nation clean!

The midget waves his little midget broom in time with Edwards'

It's gonna be back to Crawford,
Georgie! The Innarests can take care a
theyselves! Come Tuesday, we gonna
sweep the rascals out! Clean gummint -
yours for the askin'!

He beams amid cheers and then, as three girls in gingham
frocks run out to join him:

An' now - the little Wharvey gals!
Whatcha got for us, darlin's?

The oldest girl is about ten.

'In the Highways'!

That's fine.

The haytruck has pulled into the square and Everett and Delmar
are climbing out.

Everett stares at the stage.

Wharvey gals?! Did he just say the
little Wharvey gals?

Delmar shrugs. For some reason, Everett is enraged:

Goddamnit all!

Onstage, the three girls are singing in untrained but
enthusiastic harmony:

In the highways, In the hedges...

Everett stomps toward the stage, fighting his way through
the crowd. Puzzled, Delmar follows.

You know them gals, Everett?

Everett reaches the stage and climbs up into the wings just
as the song ends. The midget starts buck-dancing to a fiddle
tune as the three little girls, filing off, notice Everett.


He ain't our daddy!

Hell I ain't! Whatsis 'Wharvey' gals? -
Your name's McGill!

No sir! Not since you got hit by a

What're you talkin' about - I wasn't
hit by a train!

Mama said you was hit by a train!


Nothin' left!

Just a grease spot on the L&N!

--------------------------------------- END OF COMPUTER VISION ----------------------------------------------------------------

Well, now. This is surely a Democrat dream come true - and all so interesting. Who is the midget? Why, it's Senator Edwards' running mate, of course! In that case, he would be chosen to exemplify the Senator's quite literal commitment to the "little man" - a crack trial lawyer such as Senator Edwards knows he has to be simple and clear to communicate that all-important message, right down to the choice of running mate. And of course, the running mate will have been chosen to balance the ticket geographically - a New Englander would be perfect! The Senator is a hot property even now - so surely potential running mates will already have sensed the opportunity here, and be doing things to raise their profile in the media. Who could it be? Who could it be?

Ah, the mysteries and wonders of modern technology. If only I were as clever and Professors DeLong and Krugman so that I, too, could lift the veil behind which the future lies hidden.

D'apres Charles Austin.

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