THE GRIFT

Being shitty at running for president has worked out pretty well for Mike Huckabee when you think about it. Given that the sum total of his political achievements is winning the 2008 Iowa Caucus and being elected Governor of Dogpatch twice, the man is fabulously well-off. In 2008 and again in 2016 he has used other people's money to run for president not with the expectation of winning but to give priceless publicity to the Mike Huckabee Brand. And before you chuckle at that dismissively, remember just how lucrative Beltway Welfare can be. Speaking fees at right-wing events, AM Radio and Fox News hosting gigs, book deals, personal brand stuff on the internet…this man has no doubt been earning millions of dollars per year since leaving elected office in 2006. And it has been for remarkably easy work.

It's hard to say that running for president and getting creamed has not worked out very well for Mr. Huckabee and his family. That's why New York mag asking "Is Ben Carson Running for President?" is long overdue. As I've been saying for…well, years, I guess…the line between self-promotion and campaigning has long since become indistinct. These people who have zero chance of winning the nomination are hanging around for one reason, and it isn't because they like doing a debate every two weeks. Even those doing well like Carson and Trump aren't clearly Serious Candidates as opposed to two guys trolling. Trolling hard. As Chait states:

But now Carson actually is running for president. Or is he? It is hard to tell. Conservative politics are so closely intermingled with a lucrative entertainment complex that it is frequently impossible to distinguish between a political project (that is, something designed to result in policy change) and a money-making venture. Declaring yourself a presidential candidate gives you access to millions of dollars' worth of free media attention that can build a valuable brand. So the mere fact that Carson calls himself a presidential candidate does not prove he is actually running for president rather than taking advantage of the opportunity to build his brand. Indeed, it is possible to be actually leading the polls without seriously trying to win the presidency.

The system has become so ridiculous and the idea of personal branding through social media has become so pervasive and potentially lucrative that it is now impossible to determine who is running for president and who is running to build an empire of dolts easily parted from their cash. It is relatively easy to spot a career narcissist like Trump and wonder aloud if he is dumb enough to think he can win or if this is all an elaborate publicity stunt. That skepticism needs to be applied more broadly, though. 90% of the people running are suspect on that criteria. The professional campaigning industry abets this large scale grift too. What paid consultant is going to tell Bobby Jindal that he is a lost cause? There's free money to be had. Why get off the gravy train until absolutely necessary? Just keep pretending you're serious about getting elected, collect checks from cartoonishly rich donors and mouth-frothing old white people, and plot ways to convert the publicity into cold, hard cash when the tap finally runs dry. All you have to do is suffer through a few months of relatively light work. Everybody gets paid. Everybody wins.

This is what we've come to.

40 thoughts on “THE GRIFT”

  • Not so fast! Not everybody gets paid; not everybody wins! Some people end up secretly sleeping in their office two nights a week for shitty pay at a bottom-run mid-major institution for 'higher' learning!

    (At least we all have the freedom to trick ourselves into believing we matter through 5-hour round-trips to a city we don't possess the professional acumen to live in.)

    I imagine your life will continue to be one of my many mental hemorrhoids; nevertheless, I gain particular joy in watching you sigh into the chasm that is your professional, personal, and academic station in life.

  • I suspect Trump is actually a secret plot by Hillary. At some point he is going to stand up when all the cameras are completely on him and point directly to the audience on the other side of the camera and declare that you, America, are FIRED ! It isn't him after all that was the crazy one, it was all the media and all the people that believe they could support something like him and Carson and the rest of the clown car. He ran this joke campaign just to make the point about how absolutely bat-shit crazy this whole circus is. Madness takes its toll.

  • Leading Edge Boomer says:

    Ed is spot on, most of these are imposters who never had presidential ambitions. Huckabee has been out of the spotlight and needs to renew his financial prowess. Fiorina hasn't had an executive job offer since grinding HP into the ground, and maybe this will get her a job somewhere in spite of being a two-time political loser. Cruz is a publicity hound along the lines of Joseph McCarthy. Trump. And etc.

    Among real candidates, the governors (Christie, Kasich, Bush) have lots of baggage. Rubio wants to be the right's Obama, fresh face with even less seasoning.

    I cannot even remember who the rest of the clown car passengers are.

  • Case in point: Sarah Palin. Semi-literate grifter who never finished anything she started is plucked from obscurity to be one elderly heartbeat away from the nuclear codes. Her resume includes taking six years and five colleges to get a journalism degree, mayor of a city of 900 people, and governor of the meth capital of the US, which she won by running against a guy whose approval rating was in single digits.

    59,000,000 of your fellow Americans vote for her. Then, on Nov. 5, 2008, we're assured that she will slide back into obscurity and "no one will ever hear from her again." I want to personally bitch-slap all those people.

    Not only has she done quite well for a person of no particular merit, but her low-rent spawn has cashed in too — despite being recurring stars on police blotters across Alaska.

    The biggest upside of running for president — no matter how dismal your chances — is that you will always be referred to as "former presidential candidate," which will allow you to peddle your idiotic ramblings to anyone who will pay for them — and plenty of people will.

    We have a local "Town Hall" speakers series. The speakers are a virtual Who's Who of people who should be either in The Hague or a locked ward. This coming year's lineup gives us Bill O'Reilly, David Petraeus, and Felipe Calderon. Past speakers have included Ben Carson (2014), Mitt Romney, Charles Krauthammer, Karl Rove, Jeb Bush, Stanley McChrystal, and Liz and Dick Cheney on the same bill. The freaking thing is expensive. Tickets start at $275 a seat and go up from there. The thing sells out as soon as it's announced. 2016 is already booked.

  • Ed has graduated into the Internet Big Time. He has attracted random haters on his site.

    Mike Greenberg: As "pathetic" as you find Ed, how much more pathetic is a person whose "particular joy" is focusing from afar on the career of said "pathetic" person? To the point of posting random, off-topic hate posts?

  • "The system has become so ridiculous and the idea of personal branding through social media has become so pervasive and potentially lucrative …"

    You're being oddly nonpartisan here. These candidates are republicans, and they're running their campaigns like businesses, like Jeebus said everything should be.

  • Nobody is ashamed of themselves or much of anything else. This hasn't always been the case. Nobody body in guvmint dares to say: "Sit down and shut up," because they're embarrassing themselves and their party.

    I also believe some of this is related to the incredibly un-Christian behavior of the so-called Christian right that made abortion so much fun to talk about–and later adopted by the GOP as a whole simply to win elections.

  • @Brian M

    The Internet is full of people who sit in obscurity — many of them in their parents' basement or in office cubicles where they do nothing of importance to anyone — and spend their time trashing everything and everyone online. These are the people who post scathing Yelp reviews of places they've never been to — or even near. They come back to a blog week after week after week to say how "pathetic" it is, not realizing that returning repeatedly to a blog that you clearly don't like is about the most pathetic thing there is — other than living in your parents' basement or being a pimple on the ass of corporate America. They say things online that they don't have the guts to say to anyone's face. They don't realize that just because their ill-formed opinions can reach around the world, they have no more merit than when they could only reach to the end of the bar.

  • It's truly amazing people like Palin and Huckabee have gone as far as they have.

    If you're a truly nasty individual and can cover it up with a veneer of "Aw shucks!" folksiness, you can apparently go far in this country.

  • Skipper:

    "or in office cubicles where they do nothing of importance to anyone"

    Since we've automated or off-shored much productive activity, this is sadly too true of too many of us. (LOL). At least some of us realize that. Mike….not so much.

  • Major Kong, Palin and Huckabee are also masters of the "rill murkkkan" divisive crap, and the rubes bought into it. While Huckabee is a gin-you-wine southerner, Palin dropped her fake-Fargo accent (nobody else in her family talked that way) for a fake-southern accent when she was in full-grift mode. They both also have that "Christianer-than-thou" schtick going, even though Palin hasn't been near a church in many years.

  • H.M.S. Blankenship says:

    Was the Newtster the first one to go all in for this kind of thing? Sure, we always had those 'perennial candidates', who were never going to win. But however hopeless they were, they were actually running for office, not using the electoral process to buff up their lecture-circuit credentials or sell their books.

  • Campaigning as a money-spinner does seem to be a thing.

    Some claimed that the mega-donors phenomena really took off in the wake of disappointment in the Romney campaign – unhappiness that they were throwing vast sums of money at people like Karl Rove or the RNC without much to show for it, so cutting out the middlemen and getting more directly involved gained appeal. Will it be harder to run a profitable vanity campaign in 2020, or are there just too many wealthy donors who either also have some non-presidential use for such creatures or have Carson-eque levels of willful ignorance?

  • I've listened to people in several different environments who all said they liked Trump because he walks and talks like a MAN, not a woose. The charisma thing. Don't underestimate it.

  • The really frightening thing about all of this is that while under "normal" circumstances none of these grifters could win a general election (given the advanced state of the prion disease(TM – Charlie Pierce) that's infected the Republican brains its not at all far fetched to see one of them getting the nomination). Given the right sort of severe economic disruption at just the right time I can see enough of the low-information voters decided that they want to "take a chance" on the clown and we wind up with a president Trump or Carson.

  • Was it Newt who had something to do with a little booklet of shitty things to say about opponents (enemies) in response just about everything? I know it exists somewhere.

    Don't you think Trump is related to Eric Cartman?

  • You know Carson isn't serious when he takes time off from his campaign (when he's LEADING fer Chrissakes!) for a book tour. On the other hand he's already so famous for his book Gifted Hands (both my kids had to read it for school) that he's been so successful as an author and speaker prior to running for President you have to wonder if the guy really thinks he could win. After all, if you believe Joseph built the pyramids to store grain, (http://news.yahoo.com/ben-carsons-unusual-theory-egyptian-pyramids-195004660.html;_ylt=A0LEViRD2ztWdXwA5NljmolQ) you'll believe just about anything.

  • @bob mcneilly

    "I've listened to people in several different environments who all said they liked Trump because he walks and talks like a MAN, not a woose."

    And George W. Bush had "swagger". Boy, that sure worked out well for us.

  • Yeah. People build their expectations for gender roles on bad John Wayne westerns.

    If rigid gender roles even make sense.

  • So what you do is send Huck and Tom into town to post handbills, then you roll your wagon into the town square, open the tailgate, hold up a bottle of potion #9 and bark your rant and spiel. The backwoods curious, the flint merchants, the chiseled housewives lifting skirts against the horseshit and mud, they'll line up to gawk and hear and buy. Ben and the rest are part of a classic American breed, P.T. and every snake oil salesman with a medicine show right up to contemporary Mannetech and their ilk are alive and bottom sucking the mouth breathers. Jesus. Did I just say that?

  • @ major kong
    Not saying it would be good for us just saying what I've heard. I'm a union democrat from a long line of union democrats.

  • Maybe it's from going to colllege in the east in the 1980s when Trump was building on anything that moved, maybe it's because I've got a lot of family in NYC, but I have always (meaning; from the 1980s on) had the impression that Trump was a thin-skinned, whining, puling bully who was born rich and is always starting shit and then screaming about some perceived victimization (that explains why he and Sarah Palin get along so well–is Taylor Swift also a fan?). That's not my idea of what a 'real man' (TM) is.

    As for Bush; that Texas accent always surprised me. His family owns a vacation compound in Maine and he went to prep school and then college in Connecticut; where did the bad accent spring from? How do people not laugh at his Texas schtick?

  • Bitter Scribe says:

    @Katydid: That reminds me of when Anne Richards was seconding Michael Dukakis for the nomination against Bush the Elder, and the first line of her speech was, "Ah thought yew might lak to know wut a real Texas accent sounds lak"?

  • We ha e a new boy mayor, up here inOswego.

    His campaign literature touted his purchase of his first house, while he was still in college. It does not belabor the fact that the house (which he still owns) is NOT IN NY, but in Arizona. He lives with his parents.

  • Monkey Business says:

    In 2008 and 2012, there was at least a presumptive nominee in the form of McCain and Romney. Someone the party elders had gotten together and gone "Okay, that's our guy.". Then the Supremes torpedoed campaign finance and now we have a system where the DNC can't run an effective campaign in half the states because the divide between conservatives and liberals is too vast, and an RNC that no longer has any real power.

    The end result is a failed businessman slash reality TV star and a former neurosurgeon slash conspiracy theory afficionado, neither of whom has any experience in elected office, are leading the GOP polls.

    I guarantee you the Carson campaign is surprised that they're actually winning. There isn't a person on that particular bus that expected to make it to Iowa.

    Meanwhile, if I'm an elected Republican official, I'm in full-on pants-shitting mode because everything coming out of the clown car for the next 12 months is going to end up on their doorstep.

  • Monkey Business says:

    In 2008 and 2012, there was at least a presumptive nominee in the form of McCain and Romney. Someone the party elders had gotten together and gone "Okay, that's our guy.". Then the Supremes torpedoed campaign finance and now we have a system where the DNC can't run an effective campaign in half the states because the divide between conservatives and liberals is too vast, and an RNC that no longer has any real power.

    The end result is a failed businessman slash reality TV star and a former neurosurgeon slash conspiracy theory afficionado, neither of whom has any experience in elected office, are leading the GOP polls.

    I guarantee you the Carson campaign is surprised that they're actually winning. There isn't a person on that particular bus that expected to make it to Iowa.

    Meanwhile, if I'm an elected Republican official, I'm in full-on pants-shitting mode because everything coming out of the clown car for the next 12 months is going to end up on their doorstep.

  • Ed,

    Sorry to hijack this thread but did you see that when two black police officers shoot a 6 year old white kid during a chase they are summarily arrested for 2nd degree murder but when hundreds of black kids/adults/seniors get shot the white police officer is "doing his duty"?

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