Some of the best writing occurs when a journalist consciously pans back and tries to show the workings of what Lindsay Tanner termed the Sideshow.
This week Adam Weinstein did just that with The Florida Debate: There Is No Spoon at Mother Jones.
Weinstein contrasts the lack of action outside the frame of the television camera at the latest Republican debate with the colour and vibrancy he witnessed four years ago.
As he noted this week:
“On the University of North Florida’s campus, site of the state’s final, pivotal, critical, do-or-die, nothing-will-ever-be-as-vital-as-the-next-two-hours-of-stage-acting GOP debate, there was little evidence of a pitched battle for the country’s soul.
“The student union and the road that ringed it were dotted sparsely with signage from four groups.
“The most dominant group was UNF’s “spring rush” committee. The second-most was CNN, the keeper of the debate, which had taken pains to brand the campus. Third was Ron Paul. Fourth was “WE BUY HOMES.”
“That was all. No protesters, no supportive crowds. Occupy Jacksonville was otherwise occupied, and the tea party was over.”
Weinstein takes us behind the scenes, to the “filing room” where the journalists covering the debate watch it on screens and tap away at their keyboards.
Just like bloggers!
Then he takes us to the “spin room” which he describes as “a kind of after-party with B-list celebrity politicians and no liquor.”
This is where the reporters get to question people like Tim Pawlenty (or they would if he didn’t give “the crappiest soundbites.”) about the performance of the candidates.
There’s lots to love in Weinstein’s piece – including this great par:
“It was being held in a fried-burger joint called the Boathouse, which described itself as “Classic American Food.” In this spirit, cheese and corn were abundant.”
American politics is the Greatest Show on Earth and while it’s a bit disconcerting to see just how deranged things can get, it’s certainly never dull.
This week’s Baxter for best political entertainment goes to Newt, thanks to an irresistable mix of ice buckets and moonshine.
I particularly loved the ice buckets and my thanks to Andrew Sullivan, writing on his The Dish blog at the Daily Beast for drawing it to my attention.
He picked out the following par from Bob Dole’s open letter criticising Gingrich:
“Newt would show up at the campaign headquarters with an empty bucket in his hand — that was a symbol of some sort for him — and I never did know what he was doing or why he was doing it, and I’m not certain he knew either.”
Good old Mother Jones (she had a great week) knew, with Your Daily Newt: The Iceman Cometh by Tim Murphy.
It’s a noble tale of a man who went to Washington and made a difference.
As Newt himself is quoted as saying in the lead-up to the 1996 election, when he was carrying that ice bucket around, “If there was any one symbol I wish we could be remembered by, I believe it should be an ice bucket.”
Go and read Tim Murphy to find out why. Well worth it.
A bit more Newt –
2012: A Newt Gingrich Space Odyssey by Juli Weiner at Vanity Fair
Newt’s Moon Base: Not as Illegal as You Think – yes, more Tim Murphy at Mother Jones.
And some Romney –
And a bit of fun at Mitt’s expense over at Slate with The Romney Income Calculator