October 19, 2007

LIVE BLOG: Rick Tyler in class

Tony Romm
October 19, 2007
LIVE BLOG: Rick Tyler in class

I'm sorry, Gingrich lovers of the world (or, er, this blog), but if Rick Tyler, his press secretary, is anything like his boss, that entire camp is but a walking contradiction.

I transcribed quite a bit of the discussion and I'd like to post all of it, but I'd clog up the blog. Instead, I figured I'd just analyze some of the more pertinent and contradictory things Tyler said.

And, a final warning: I wrote what I could as fast as I could. I do not promise front page quality journalism.

For starters, consider his analysis of the major problems affecting America:

“There are basically several challenges American faces today that are quite serious, they are, in fact, life threatening, they are in fact, western civilization threatening. First, there are enemies around the world who hate us… You have weapons of mass destruction. You also have weapons of mass disruption… what happens if manufacturers overseas inject a virus into the system and everything collapses? A lot of them are on diversified networks… but you can have mass disruption that hurts out economy. We have trouble on the world… why in the world would you spend millions of dollars when you can drive a pickup truck across a border?”

Thanks, Rick. In a speech that's supposed to be about renewing political debate, you opened with the traditional ode to all things threatening. You invoked 9/11 (if not in name then in spirit) as if to say 'its a matter of life or death that you listen to me.' How... typical.

Then you noted:

“Another threat is competing with China and India, which is a threat all of you have to face (population comparisons). They all want to pursue happiness, like we do. We always imported talent, but today that’s changing. If it’s so hard to come to the US and create jobs in the US, why don’t they just do it at home? Now I have a feeling that the US will stay competitive for the next 50 years if the us reforms taxation…, immigration, health.”

“If we don’t have choices of higher quality and lower costs, the system is broken. Now, how do we get to those challenges? I don’t hear insightful commentary on this… In both the democratic and the republican base, you have 9 candidates like seals, waiting for someone to throw them a fish for 9 seconds. So when Newt Gingrich proposed… to have no more than two candidates get on stage – and I don’t care if they’re from same parties on different parties.

Oh, that oozes conservatism. I didn't think I attended class today to be indoctrinated. I thought renewing political debate was an issue that far transcends partisan politics. Guess I was wrong. In pairing conservative issues with progressive reforms, Tyler is taking advantage of students who aren't questioning his rhetoric.

There is no greater example of this than Tyler's quick yet caustic statement about independent voters. Asking students to raise their hands, he remarked:

“If you sit it out in the primaries, you don’t have a choice... don’t get a chance to vote."

Really, Mr. Tyler? I’m registered independent, and I raised my hand. Does this mean that I’m uninformed or unwilling to participate? Quite the contrary, I'd imagine. How can one profess to revolutionize the election system yet belittle third parties and alternative movements? How can one tell a group of students that they ought to defect to the republican or democratic parties in order to have a say? Essentially, Mr. Tyler, you’re arguing that we should reject candidates who aren't mainstream, accept the system how it is and vote accordingly. Doesn't that contradict everything you JUST told us about reinvigorating debate?

And just when I thought my rage subsided, Tyler asked the class to voice the issues they believe most affected Americans. Money, politics, Iraq... whatever... but one of the issues a classmate voiced was gay rights, an issue I personally feel is immensely important.

But Tyler quickly dismissed that notion: “How many people do you think rank gay rights on the top of the list? Only 2-3%. But the media spends so much time talking about it anyway,” he said.

He quickly clarified his off-key statement when a friend of mine called him out on it. He emphasized the importance of agenda-setting, but didn't really touch the issues of gay rights.

How convenient, right? Tyler keeps silent on issues he lacks a strategy to address; he dances around the issue. In other words, Tyler does the same thing the politicians he criticizes does. Another hypocrisy.

Even better, Tyler's remarks on campaign finance reform:

“Important people in today’s campaigns are bundlers… Bundlers are people who can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. The candidate is the single most valuable resource in a campaign, and they take that candidates time to seek money… But the most valuable thing a candidate has is thinking and planning time. If you [take time away from] a candidate, how are they supposed to think and plan?”

Excellent, excellent analysis. I agree. Let's keep listening:

“I would like to see… why be afraid of freedom, I’d like to see no limits (fundraising limits)... PACS and interest groups can get into a campaign and influence it and define you and your campaign... Unions, corporations and individuals can raise as much as they want but the moment that check comes it, it goes up on the internet so people can see”

What. You can't emphasize open dialog and the need for issue-specific debate when you restrict politics to the richest and most effective fundraisers. I was appalled, to say the least.

After brooding over that idea, I decided to ask my own question. As I posted in a previous blog and comment, campaign contributions are a big concern in 2008. With mainstream networks turning fundraising successes into big headlines (re: my Obama criticism), it seems only the richest candidates survive. It seems the politicians are more accountable to big donors than tiny voters.

And you know what Tyler said?

"Campaign finance reform didn’t solve those problems, I don’t think any of that has changed. But I think the American people are very smart, they don’t always pay attention, but if you give them the right information, they’ll make the right decision… but if they saw one person donating a billion dollars, the people would see that and not vote for them. Its got to be transparent, people need to know where the money is coming from and what its purpose is. When we invented campaign finance reform after Watergate, there was no way to be reporting information, now we can with the internet."

Again, nothing. No specific answer to my question, no concern for the little voter who only meagerly pays attention to politics. Apparently, transparency legitimizes inequality. Cause that’s not oligarchical.

And that's when I stopped listening and started typing. Sure, Tyler and Gingrich are dead on in terms of renewing and reinvigorating political debates. But both are the same old, same old, as I predicted. Both reek of the same dirty, unaccountable politics this blog has sought to criticize. I'd hate to say I told you so, but I did. The truth (when someone's willing to tell it) hurts.

A sad day, indeed.


Alf said...

Hmmm. I was sick the day Rick Tyler came to speak and had to miss class, but from the looks of this blog, I didn't miss too much. Just more political spin. YAY!
What got to me most is Tyler's opinion on campaign finance reform (or lack thereof). I'm all for people being able to spend their money as they please, but politics has turned into a game of financial one-upsmanship. Who needs ideas when you have cash? Money buys exposure, exposure gets votes. Exposure also gets more money, thus beginning an upward spiral all the way into the oval office.
From what he said, Tyler thinks that transparency is enough in this system. But what does it matter that we know WHERE the money came from if we don't do anything about it? If a politician is loyal to the corporations that fund his or her campaign, of course I'd like to know. But I'd also like him or her to, oh, I don't know, make the best decision instead of the decision that gets him or her the most money? Then again, I'm just an idealistic college student. God forbid.
I'll be the first to admit I don't know that much about the specifics of campaign finance reform, but on principle alone, I call bullshit.

cynic@american said...

I agree full-heartedly. Political debates in the United States are in desperate need of reform, there is no arguing with Rick Tyler there. As for his solutions, well let's just say they left more than a little to be desired.

It amazes me the extent to which public individuals lean on singular examples as their justification and smokescreen for pretty much everything. Terrorism, huge swaths of people who want to destroy America, woe is us. I mean, how do these men and women who spout such terrifying rhetoric avoid wetting themselves?

Don't get me wrong, terrorism is very real, and is not a threat to be taken lightly. But I think labeling it as a western civilization level threat is little more than a cheap political facade by which to hind agendas that have little to do with actually fighting terrorism.

For those into archetypes and greek mythology, I turn you now to the legend of Bellerophon. Bellerophon is one of the original hero archetypes. His purpose, the sole defining reason for his existence, was to slay the chimera. No chimera, no need for Bellerophon.

I believe that this is an apt example for how public officials treat terrorism. Terrorism is our chimera, the fearsome beast that we must rally behind and strengthen ourselves in order to fight. No terrosim means no need for the United States as a hegemonic superpower spreading its influence across the globe and empowering itself economically, politically and militarily.

We learned the power of having a chimera back in World War II with the Axis powers of Nazi Germany, Japan and Italy. When those enemies fell, we found a new chimera in the Soviet Union. With the fall of the Soviet Union, you have, tada, terrorism.

Sorry if that was a longwinded explanation, but I think it was necessary. Of the other things Tyler said, perhaps the one I found the most infuriating was his call for absolutely no restrictions on campaign donations. To that I have just one question. If a multinational conglomerate gives a billion dollars to the democratic nominee and another multinational conglomerate gives a billion dollars to the republican nominee, where does that leave the voters in terms of choice?