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January 21, 2012

Out of Touch

Liz Peek asks why the media is so out of touch with the values of ordinary Americans:

In this cycle, President Obama is vulnerable – on our continuing high unemployment in particular and because people increasingly view him as not sharing traditional American values. The sympathetic the media is worried. Consequently, they have launched an all-out offensive against GOP candidates, especially targeting front-runner Romney and surging Newt Gingrich.

When it comes to Romney much of the withering criticism has nothing to do with policy, but focuses instead on the former Massachusetts governor's apparently infuriating wholesomeness.

In the New York Times last weekend, this irritation was on full display. Columnist Maureen Dowd makes fun of the young Romney’s affection for “The Sound of Music” (what is it about that musical that so annoys the left?) and disregard for The Grateful Dead.

She describes him as living in a “non-drinking, nonsmoking, suburban, uxorious bubble with Ann, revolving around Mormon rituals, Mormon couples, and the Mormon credo of strong, heterosexual, traditional families.” (In case you wondered, that’s meant to be a criticism.) “Uxorious” means having an excessive fondness for one’s wife – something that Ms. Dowd finds unacceptable.

She should know that rampant divorce and children born out of wedlock cost our country an estimated $112 billion in 2008; chances are the recession has driven that figure above $150 billion. Heads up- there are worse things than the enduring family.

In the same paper, Lee Siegel describes Romney as “the whitest man to run for president in recent memory.” In case that one leaves you scratching your head, Siegel explains that he means “the countless subtle and not-so-subtle ways he telegraphs that he is the cultural alternative to America’s first black president. It is a whiteness grounded in a retro vision of the country, one of white picket fences and stay-at-home moms and fathers unashamed of working hard for corporate America.”

He derides Romney for being “implacably polite, tossing off phrases like “oh gosh” with Stepford bonhomie.” In other words, shame on Romney for his decency, for having been happily married to Ann for decades and for earning a living. More important, shame on him for imagining that a great many Americans might aspire to do the same.

While I agree that the media are out of touch, I'm not sure they're as far apart from the prevailing culture as she believes.

I often don't understand modern culture. I don't understand the reality TV mind set that wants to see people lose their composure, lose their temper, air their dirty linen in public, do something - anything - "real". I don't understand the mind set that equates self discipline and self control with falseness or deception.

It should be no surprise to anyone that we all have thoughts and desires that are anything but praiseworthy.

To my way of thinking, it takes considerable courage to adhere to traditional values in a world that finds such standards amusing. Do people really think Mitt Romney is too stupid to know how quaint he sometimes appears to a world that no longer understands people like him? Does anyone seriously believe a man who has amassed millions and governed a highly complex (and very liberal) state doesn't "get" the clash of cultures? That he can't see how much easier his political life would be if he would just loosen up and join the race to the bottom that is American culture; trade his unpopular God and antiquated morals for a more flexible, urban viewpoint?

I am far from a perfect person. My speech is sometimes intemperate and my self discipline a continual work in progress. But I don't want Mitt Romney to be more like me. I don't need to see him lose his temper or climb down in the gutter with Barack Obama.

On the contrary, I wish I had the courage, confidence, and self discipline to be more like him.

Posted by Cassandra at January 21, 2012 09:20 AM

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Emphasis added: I often don't understand modern culture. I don't understand the reality TV mind set that wants to see people lose their composure, lose their temper, air their dirty linen in public, do something - anything - "real".

This part never changes. In the '50s, the last era in which actual music was written and performed, no one of the select class--parents--understood rock and roll, either, or the quintessential American culture that produced both the evolution of music that represented or its popularity, and Elvis Presley's rudely swiveling hips were banned from TV. It's the same popularity of coarse behavior, only the definition of "coarse" evolves.

But the press never has understood what was going around them, at least not since they became more focused on their agenda than they were on reporting what was going on around them. My understanding of when the press' disconnect began is 30-ish years ago with Walter Kronkite's infamous dudgeon, "What's going on here?" during the destruction of the VC as a viable force in that war, and the press' subsequent decision that since the government was lying to them, it was legitimate for the press to lie to the people.

Eric Hines

Posted by: E Hines at January 21, 2012 12:48 PM

I'm not sure that the world finds such standards "amusing" so much as alarming. It's almost as though people feel threatened - maybe everyone else isn't doing "it," whatever "it" may be. It tempts me to go on a diatribe about personal ethics and standards, but that would shortly devolve into a rant which would be impolite to do on your site. :-)

I never knew much about the LDS church growing up, but having been raised Catholic, I took the negative rumors with a grain of salt. Having lived in one of the major settling spots after the Morman diaspora for the last couple decades I've come to the conclusion that they make excellent neighbors. I can respect their values without being part of their particular faith, and the thought of an LDS President doesn't bother me in the least. What problems I what with Mr Romney are based on his positions and actions, not his religion.

Posted by: Pogue at January 21, 2012 03:06 PM

Cass, I think you have nailed it. People who feel threatened by Mr. Mitt are the ones who, ironically, fear more government control in their lives.

Personally, I find that amuses my reverse side away extremely. Especially Mr. Newt's bristling at the temerity of someone daring to question him about his extra-marital affairs...when Mr. Newt was the one who supported impeachment of Mr. Bill for lying about his! Go figger.

From what I know about you, you are someone I admire and whose example of hard work and discipline I strive to emulate. I think in this the admonition of Paul is appropriate: 'If there is anything praiseworthy, virtuous, lovely or of good report, we seek after these things.'

Posted by: Carolyn at January 22, 2012 12:13 AM

What problems I what with Mr Romney are based on his positions and actions, not his religion.

And that is eminently fair, Pogue - a position I can respect.


I really don't know what to say about Gingrich except that people who are inclined to support his candidacy really need to do a little research. We need to be very careful about what we endorse... or are willing to look the other way on.

And I'm not talking about the guy's marital history, though that is bad enough.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 22, 2012 10:30 AM

Marital history be damned. His aspect alone would put enough people off to make defeat a certainty.

Posted by: vanderleun at January 22, 2012 01:33 PM

His aspect alone would put enough people off to make defeat a certainty.

Well, there is that too :p

Seriously, thanks for the link, vanderleun. I'm honored :)

Posted by: Cassandra at January 22, 2012 03:12 PM

Casandra - I will have to bookmark your blog - got it from Chicago Boyz - I can't disagree with anything you have said - On Gingrich - I am wary about him.

He is probably the best speaker of the candidates - but people seem to have forgotten how quirky - - veers suddenly and unexpectedly into an unexpected belief and opinion (remember Nancy Pelosi? - Paul Ryan?) - he can be.

And all of his personal baggage will be brought front and center by your friends and mine, the MSM.

They would want to make him the topic of discussion instead of Obama's record.

Romney isn't my first choice but I'll take whatever Maureen Dowd hates any day.

I don't get "reality shows" either - other than people's eternal fascination with what Minky is going to do about Binky - and the enjoyment at slowing down and gawk at a traffic accident -

One gets enough of that in life - why watch it for entertainment?

Posted by: Bill Brandt at January 22, 2012 05:59 PM

I give him credit for an exemplary personal life, which means a great deal to me -- and is something that makes me very nervous about Gingrich.

But what Romney is failing to do is articulate how to run an exemplary government, especially how to turn one around that's gone so disastrously wrong. He has a lot of voters who will go along with him, if necessary, in a resigned and rather hopeless fashion. What he doesn't have is voters who really believe he can do a good job; they just expect him not to make quite as horrible a set of mistakes as Mr. Obama surely would make in a second term. Romney really should worry about an open convention. He commands almost no loyalty. He's like airplane food: you eat it because you're trapped.

Posted by: Texan99 at January 23, 2012 11:08 AM

You are my sister-in-spirit. My actual sister is a touch more liberal (but not unduly so) than either of us.

This read as if it spilled from my fingers.

'Ceptin' I don't type so purty.

Posted by: John of Argghhh! at January 24, 2012 03:54 PM

Back atcha, John. Every now and then I get overly discouraged (last night was one of those times, but I backed away from the Internet and spent some quality time with my spouse and when I got up the next morning, the sun was shining... well, metaphorically anyway).

Anyway, it's nice to know that if I'm smokin' crack, there's someone else inhaling right along with me.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 24, 2012 07:11 PM