Saturday, September 10, 2011

This just in: The results are final, and it’s clear that the landslide winner of the Republican presidential debate was…Ron Paul.

That at least is the shocking conclusion to be drawn from the “Who Do You Think Won the Debate” feature on “First Read,” MSNBC’s political blog.

Following the Wednesday night event at the Reagan Library, the site reports that 85,205 of 161,499 respondents to its online insta-poll – 52.8% – declared Uncle Cranky Pants the victor, the most controversial piece of public opinion research since the last Vote for Your Favorite Lady Gaga Look survey.

You can’t blame FR for trying, given the competition for eyeball-driven, warp speed wipe-out wave of instant analysis, You Tube mashups, Top 10 takeaways, Twitter snark bites and W&L lists caroming around the internets about a cable network debate a mere 14 months before the election.

Show business for ugly people: The only sight more cringeworthy for viewers of the debate than Jon Huntsman’s shiny spray tan was the awful showing by John Harris, the editor-in-chief of Politico, which co-sponsored the event.

On a night when the political junkie site had a chance to shine on a national stage, its co-founder put on an awkward and clumsy performance better suited to 2 a.m. local cable access than to prime time.

Introduced by Brian Williams, Harris high-beamed a wide-eyed, unblinking visage of terror directly into the camera, his gaze apparently locked in place by multiple injections of ibogaine.

When a technical malfunction screwed up the plan to use an old video clip of Mitt Romney to pose a question, Harris looked dazed in yanking out his IFB and flopping around behind the moderator’s desk like a catfish in a boat bottom.

After leaving the set during a commercial break, perhaps to wolf down a Xanax, he came back as the broadcast was resuming, and walked directly between the camera and Nancy Reagan, in the middle of Williams’ slobbering tribute to the former First Lady.

When Newt Gingrich bitch-slapped him for asking a question he didn’t like, Harris seemed to an untrained eye to be wetting his pants, as he inanely mumbled “okay, okay” in response.

Jim VandeHei, Harris’ business partner and Politico’s executive editor, nearly redeemed the site with a post-game appearance in which he made several swift and sharp observations, calling attention, for example, to the vast improvement Romney has made as a candidate since 2008; unfortunately he was quickly drowned out by the insufferable braying of Chris Matthews, who is hardwired to instantly and automatically interrupt anytime one of his guests starts saying something interesting or intelligent.

The nadir of Politico’s dismal effort came the next morning, with its own coverage of the debate. In recounting Michele Bachmann’s performance, ex-tabloid reporter Maggie Haberman, who covers California politics from a perch in Manhattan, wrote the single stupidest line among all the zillions of words spent on the event:

(Bachmann) held her ground on issues like reducing the price of gas to $2 per gallon if she’s president, and called for a full border fence.

There you have it: an unalloyed nugget of 100% pure Beltway idiocy confirming yet again why the American public is right to hate the media.

Never mind that Bachmann’s promise of $2 per gallon gas is ineluctable proof of the woman’s full-blown, cuckoo-land psychosis, a recurring delusion that should prohibit any serious discussion of her fitness to be president.

No indeed. Reality be damned, the key issue for Politico and its legions of cynical “insider” brethren is that she held her ground on her nutty claim.

To read entire column, click here.