Double Dumb


It is a truth universally acknowledged that every era deserves its own wonky post-election analysts. Lately Mark Halperin and John Heilemann have shrugged on the mantel previously worn by such notables as Jules Witcover, Theodore H. White and, um, Hunter S. Thompson.

Their perspicacious coverage of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections have provided posterity with insights into the sheer brilliance of Barack H. Obama, his disdain for the nuts and bolts of political campaigns, his disgust for the hypocrisy and deceit such campaigning requires, and the fact that he has surrounded himself with brilliant, quick-witted aides.

As if that weren’t enough, we also have learned that Obama benefitted from the fact that John McCain, his 2008 opponent was really old, and that his 2012 foe was really rich. Oh, and Sarah Palin was really dumb. That just about covers it, except that Obama’s wife, Michelle, possibly even smarter than he is, is definitely wiser, and will do whatever it takes to ensure that her benighted subjects will benefit from the guidance only her husband can provide.

Full Disclosure: (I always enjoy the full disclosure ploy. It somehow implies that the discloser possesses candor even greater than that wielded by Messrs. Halperin and Heilemann) I have always wanted to be one of those wonky post-election analysts, and having survived yesterday’s snowpocalypse, I have decided that now is the time to step up and lay claim to what is rightly mine. What follows is my analysis of the 2012 presidential election.

Before we begin I would like to stress that you will need to read very carefully, because my wonkiness is far wonkier than any other commentator on the scene today, and that includes Rachel Maddow and Melissa Harry-Perris.

Today I visited two grocery stores in search of basic staples–eggs, vegetables, sliced luncheon meats, Jack Daniels, cheese, bread–and discovered they were still mostly empty after Saturday’s panic buying. Why were people panic buying on Saturday? Because there was a snow storm forecast. This storm carried the possibility of dumping as much as a foot of snow on lower Michigan over a 48 hour period.

Now, for those of you not familiar with basic principles of geography, which is to say, Americans, Michigan is located in the Great Lakes region of the United States. Annual snow fall averages range between 15 feet and 40 inches, with metropolitan Detroit laying claim to the latter total. The average high temperature in January is below freezing. In other words, if you lived here, you would not be a stranger to winter weather.

What then caused otherwise rational people–okay, people no less irrational than any other Reality-TV-watching and celebrity-voyeuristic Americans–to engage in such irrational behavior? The only possible explanation is the way local media started a drumbeat of dire weather predictions some 36 hours before the storm was actually due to hit. This is part of the sensationalization of weather which is arguably one of the most disgusting aspects of popular American culture (Miley Cyrus aside).

A basic rule should be that snow in January is not newsworthy. Cold weather in January is normal. Hot, humid weather in July is normal. Thunderstorms in July are not newsworthy. If a foot of snow were to fall next July in Detroit that would be worth covering, but not in January.

Everyone seems to agree that news stations have gone overboard in their treatment of normal weather events. Everybody understands that snow is normal. Despite this, it seems if the media repeats the same story, distorts its meaning and refuses to report the truth, people will, despite their knowing better, accept those stories and act accordingly, even if they know the stories are lies, and even if they know it is not in their best interests to do so.

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