Friday, July 13, 2012

DON'T PANIC: A nerdy discussion about why we can calm down about Romney's VP pick

[Note: this is probably going to be one of the nerdiest posts about Romney's choice for vice president you'll read. Bear with me...]

Fans of Douglas Adams' comedic science fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy are familiar with the phrase, "DON'T PANIC." These two words are described in the books as being written "in large, friendly letters on the cover" of the electronic guide book that inspired the name of the series. Intergalactic travel is a complicated and dangerous endeavor, so a little reminder not to panic is a helpful concept.

I'm starting to think that all articles speculating about Mitt Romney's choice for vice president should be required to have a large "DON'T PANIC" label on them. Too many people seem to have lost the ability to discuss the topic with any sort of calmness or logic.

First of all, none of us actually know a darn thing, so a lot of the screaming is completely premature. Drudge Report got everyone in a tizzy last night with the declaration that Condi Rice was a "frontrunner..."

Drudge headline, July 12, 2012
...but then again, as BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski tweeted yesterday, Drudge announced a similar "scoop" in 2004 that turned out to be nothing based in reality:

If you head over to Drudge you will find that there are rumors swirling that Condi Rice is at the top of the short list to be the Vice Presidential nominee.
I don’t know who is hitting the crack rock tonight in the rumor mill, but bull shiitake mushrooms...
But hey, this is a great way to get the conversation moving past the Bain Capital nonsense the Obama camp is pushing and get the focus back on Romney for his veep pick. Well played in that regard. But really, we’re going to buy these rumors?
Few saw Sarah Palin coming. Many have speculated on Condi Rice, which I think makes it less likely. I don’t even think this is a serious leak from Team Romney. It’s just silly.
("Bull shiitake mushrooms" would be a great name for a rock band, but I digress.)

The whole story just sounds like the classic misdirection technique of magicians: distract the audience with a shiny object or sudden movement, so that the magician can take the action needed to pull the rabbit out of the hat.

Second, none of the candidates Romney is considering would be a disaster if he picked them, or didn't pick them. Not one of them. No, really. 

Take, for example, my Senator, Marco Rubio. 

What happens if Romney doesn't pick him? Florida continues to be represented by a young, intelligent, staunchly conservative Senator who still has four more years left in his term.

So, what happens if Romney does pick Rubio? The base will be energized, and the Republican ticket will have the benefit of one of the most exciting and inspiring speakers we have in the conservative movement, who is better than almost anyone else out there at sharing the conservative message in a positive way.

We win if Rubio stays in the Senate. We win if he is the vice presidential nominee. Get it? We win either way.

I can go through a similar analysis for Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Congressman Paul Ryan, and the rest of the potential nominees. And let's be clear about this: none of these candidates are unqualified (certainly not when compared to 2008 candidate Obama) or so overly liberal in their politics that they would cause a conservative backlash. 

No matter who Romney picks, the Left will call the Republican presidential ticket "extremist" and run the silly ads about throwing grandmothers off cliffs, so there's no point in trying to avoid it. The mere objection to ObamaCare or willingness to publicly express support for pro-life causes is all the Democrats ever seem to need to slap the "extremist!" label on a Republican, so why worry?

As for the suggestion that some choices, like Tim Pawlenty or Rob Portman are too "boring," that's just nonsense. This election is about the economy and Obama's record. Period. I trust that anyone who is passionate enough about conservative politics that they would demand an exciting tea party firebrand for a vice presidential candidate will find themselves sufficiently motivated in November by ObamaCare, our nearly $16 trillion national debt (although who knows how much it will be by then), and the unemployment rate to get to the polls and vote.

Third, let's appreciate how Romney is handling this process and how his campaign is managing the press. It may seem like it is taking a long time or following a convoluted path, but there is a benefit to how it is unfolding.

Unlike 2008, where John McCain never appeared in public with Sarah Palin until after he had announced her as his running mate, and many Americans hadn't even heard of her, Romney has been very obvious about traveling to meet with potential running mates, inviting them to spend time with him, holding joint events with them, etc. Romney is clearly going through a meticulous and deliberative process to find a vice president, and that's a good thing. There have been an endless stream of news stories about who is meeting with Romney, what events they are attending, etc. 

A large part of Romney's argument to the American people why they should elect him president is that he has significant business experience and analytic skills. He is demonstrating exactly that in the way that he is conducting this selection process.

Finally, just to tie a big, nerdy bow on this post: I've been saying since last year that the Republicans' problem is that we are playing the wrong game. There's a perfect analogy from Star Trek: the "Kobayashi Maru" test used to train Starfleet Academy cadets (I told you this was going to be a nerdy post!). 

There are several different iterations of the Kobayashi Maru test in the various films, television series, books, etc., but the basic story is that the cadet taking the test conducts a simulated battle in an attempt to rescue a civilian ship (the Kobayashi Maru). However, the test is set up so that the resulting battle with the Klingons as the cadet attempts to rescue the ship will always result in defeat. The instructors seek not to observe the cadet's battle strategies, but how he reacts in a "no-win scenario."

The punchline is how James T. Kirk deals with the Kobayashi Maru test: he rejects the game that is presented to him, and decides that the rules do not apply: " I don't believe in the no-win scenario." Reasoning that the fact that the battle is unwinnable is a kind of cheat itself, he justifies cheating the test, and reprograms the computer so that the shields on the Klingons' ships fail, allowing him to "win" the battle.

Back to politics: we, too, need to reject the rules we've been given, and refuse to play the game we're being expected to play. Throughout this election, the Left and their allies in the mainstream media have rejoiced as Republicans ran through a gauntlet of presidential candidates, laughing as we tore each other apart over which one would best energize the base, the nebulous notion of "electability," and then the past several months of many people questioning the reliability of Romney's conservatism

Now we're playing a variation of the same game, gnashing our teeth and rending our garments about who Romney will pick for his running mate, claiming that if he picks this person or doesn't pick that person that it will lead to certain defeat, the tea party will give up and stay home, and all hope will be lost.

No, no, no! The game is not "make sure my favorite candidate gets picked because everyone else is completely unacceptable;" it's much, much, much bigger than any one individual candidate. 

The game we need to be playing is (1) defeat Barack Obama, (2) reverse the destructive deficit spending and reduce our national debt, and (3) restore the proper balance of powers between the federal government and the states and people.

We win this game by focusing on the economic and spending issues, hammering Obama about his record without mercy, and working our tails off to preserve Republican control of the House and take back the Senate.

None of this is dependent on Romney picking Marco Rubio, Condi Rice, Bobby Jindal, Rob Portman, Mickey Mouse any specific person to be vice president!

Follow the lessons of Star Trek and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: reject the game that is presented to us, and DON'T PANIC. It's OK to debate the finer points of what the different candidates might bring to the table, as long as we stay calm and remember that isn't the goal of the game that we actually need to be playing: 

Defeat Obama. Elect a conservative Congress. Hold them accountable and demand reform.

One final example: the 1983 movie War Games, a young computer hacker played by Matthew Broderick averts nuclear war by getting a computer to play tic-tac-toe over and over again, and then run through simulations of global thermonuclear wars over and over, before finally realizing that there was no way to win (see also: mutually assured destruction).

Let's play a nice game of Make Barack Obama a Full Time Golfer. See you in November!


  1. I think I saw "Bull shiitake mushrooms" open for Dan Fogelberg in 1978

  2. hysterical post! Are you a Trekkie???

    1. Heh. Not really, although I really liked the 2009 movie and the episode with the Tribbles always cracks me up. I'm definitely a huge nerd though, and proud of it :)

    2. Davide Gerrold, the writer who penned the Star Trek episode in question, wrote a great book about the experience with the same title as the episode, "The Trouble with Tribbles".

  3. Totally agree about imbalanced, uninformed responses. However, I think it is healthy that the guy who implemented gay marriage by Executive Order in Massachusetts, and implemented the most radical socialized medicine and cap & trade programs of any state (up til that time) in the country, sense some outrage to help steer his decision. Many of us who have studied the "Natural Born Citizen" issue in depth would be just as devastated by Rubio being selected, as those of you who see him as a HispaniReagan.

    Once again more unlike Bush's selection of Cheney - those in Republican party are getting wrapped up in cathartic emotional "statements" by the VP pick - rather than someone who can actually do the job of being President.

    But Sarah you are dead on that even while it may be healthy to fire a shot across the Mittsters yacht, I suspect that anyone the campaign "floats" is automatically NOT the person, so that they have a huge unifying emotional impact at the convention.

    Should he still be nominated that is. (Obligatory Shout out to Lawyers for Ron Paul)

    1. Marco Rubio is an American citizen and has been his entire life. Any "study" of of the "natural born citizen issue" I've ever seen online that says otherwise contains substantial factual errors and misinterpretations of well-established legal doctrine.


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