“But never have I met any candidate quite as frightening or fact-averse as Louisiana state Rep. Lenar Whitney, 55, who visited my office last Wednesday. It’s tough to decide which party’s worst nightmare she would be.”
It is not, by the logic of conventional wisdom, a good thing when the candidate actually frightens the Cook Political Report editor, but down Lou’siana way perhaps the Palin of the South and voters in Terrebonne Parish see it differently.
And let us be clear—”Palin of the South” is not an insult, regardless of however hilarious or horrifying or redundant others might find the phrase.
David Wasserman explains, for the Washington Post:
As a House analyst for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, I’ve personally interviewed over 300 congressional candidates over the course of seven years, both to get to know them and evaluate their chances of winning. I’ve been impressed by just as many Republicans as Democrats, and underwhelmed by equal numbers, too. Most are accustomed to tough questions.
But never have I met any candidate quite as frightening or fact-averse as Louisiana state Rep. Lenar Whitney, 55, who visited my office last Wednesday. It’s tough to decide which party’s worst nightmare she would be.
Then again, as bad reviews go, that one is pretty impressive.
And for even casual political observers it should be immediately apparent that something extraordinary seems to have occurred. That is, the idea of a “fact averse” Republican is nothing new. Nor is the idea of a conservative candidate, politician, or public figure coming so unhinged as to seem frightening. But it is something else when such rhetoric is applied within the context of responsible public discourse.
Whitney has only raised $123,000 to date (fourth in the GOP field), but she has sought to boost her profile and appeal to conservative donors with a slickly made YouTube video entitled “GLOBAL WARMING IS A HOAX” (84,000 views so far). In the video, Whitney gleefully and confidently asserts that the theory of global warming is the “greatest deception in the history of mankind” and that “any 10-year-old” can disprove it with a simple household thermometer.
Whitney’s brand of rhetoric obviously resonates with some very conservative Louisiana voters who view President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency as big-city elitists directly attacking the state’s energy industry and their own way of life. And she would hardly be the first “climate denier” elected to Congress. But it’s not unreasonable to expect candidates to explain how they arrived at their positions, and when I pressed Whitney repeatedly for the source of her claim that the earth is getting colder, she froze and was unable to cite a single scientist, journal or news source to back up her beliefs.
And, of course, things only went downhill from there.
Something about the Palin of the South?
To change the subject, I asked whether she believed Obama was born in the United States. When she replied that it was a matter of some controversy, her two campaign consultants quickly whisked her out of the room, accusing me of conducting a “Palin-style interview.”
The thing is that a CPR interview is not the sort of calculated ambush we come to expect of end-user processed news product. It’s not like when Oregon Republican congressional candidate Art Robinson came to Maddow’s show ready to fight and completely embarrassed himself. No, CPR interviews are instead a traditional part of running for office in the United States, just like the editorial board circuit.
But also, what does that mean, a “Palin-style interview”? One would hope it is not a reference to the infamous Couric interview, but at the same time it makes a certain amount of sense insofar as it would follow a resolving pattern within the conservative critique, that it is somehow misogynist if we do not lower the bar to accommodate a mythical frailty of women. To the one, even two years later Palin could be found complaining about the idea of facts.
But neither is the spectacle of a politician complaining about the fact that facts exist really so unusual. However, we might recall Rich Lowry of National Review waxing spectacular about Gov. Palin’s debate performance against Joe Biden:
Palin … projects through the screen like crazy. I’m sure I’m not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, “Hey, I think she just winked at me.” And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America. This is a quality that can’t be learned; it’s either something you have or you don’t, and man, she’s got it.
Does Ms. Palin have a clue what she’s on about? Hardly. But she does send “little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America”. How could we not want such eminent qualifications in a vice president?
Just work with the elements for a moment. Success has more to do with little starbursts and less to do with reality. Well, you know. If you’re a woman. Because, well, Sarah Palin might think of facts as some sort of “gotcha” scheme, but, you know, she sends little starbursts through the screen, and did she just wink at me?
We might, then, thank Colin Campbell of Business Insider, who noted:
In a Facebook post last week, after the interview was conducted, Whitney slammed the Cook Political Report. “It was obvious, from the onset of the interview, that Wasserman had planned to jump me simply because I am a Conservative Woman and liberal shills like Dave Wasserman want to destroy us,” she wrote.
And there you have it. Mr. Wasserman could not possibly be unsatisfied because the candidate failed to properly address the fundamental questions put before her, but, instead, he is disdainful of women and is out to destroy her.
This is the problem: Lenar Whitney is a bad candidate because she is a bad candidate. The only thing being conservative has to do with it is risk assessment and frequency of outcomes within the data set. Or, less pretentiously, there seem to be more conservative goofballs running around than (A) their liberal equivalents, or (B) normal. While anyone can suggest that conservative vacuity is hardly a new phenomenon, it does seem to emerge more frequently. Still, though, the bottom line is that the only reason Lenar Whitney’s womanhood has anything to do with the question at hand is because she declares it must. And to take her at her word, the real #WarOnWomen is a refusal to set a lower bar. There is no Ladies’ Tee in politics. And nobody can figure out just why Republicans think they can win female voters by asserting extraordinary needs for a mythical feminine frailty.
Wasserman, David. “The most frightening candidate I’ve met in seven years interviewing congressional hopefuls”. The Washington Post. 30 July 2014.
Silverton-Peel, Vanessa. “If it were possible to smear a person by quoting to him things that he has published in his own newsletter”. msnbc. 7 October 2010.
Siegel, Elyse. “Sarah Palin: Katie Couric Interview ‘A Waste Of Time'”. The Huffington Post. 22 November 2010.
Stein, Sam. “Palin Stumped On McCain’s History Of Supporting Regulation”. The Huffington Post. 24 September 2008.
Lowry, Rich. “Projecting through the Screen”. National Review. 3 October 2008.
Campbell, Colin. “Louisiana Republican Flees Interview When Asked About Obama’s Birthplace”. Business Insider. 30 July 2014.
Whitney, Lenar. “What The Cook Political Report printed about me is an outright lie”. Facebook. 25 June 2014.