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Convince me. Convince me. Convince me.
November 5, 2012 10:21 AM   Subscribe

Charlie Pierce is a longtime sportswriter and author who has, among other things, reported for Grantland, Slate, and the Boston Globe, paneled on more than a few games of Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, and fished diapers out of trees as a state forest ranger. He's also made a name for himself as one of the sharpest and most incisive political columnists since Molly Ivins. The lead writer for Esquire's Politics Blog ever since a caustic article on former Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell cost him his Globe job, Pierce has churned out an uninterrupted stream of clever, colorful, and challenging commentary on the 2012 election season and its implications for the nation's future, dispatches often seething with eviscerative anger but shot through with deep love of (or perhaps grief for) country. Look inside for a selection of Pierce's most vital works for some edifying Election Eve reading.

Greetings from Idiot America
Creationism. Intelligent Design. Faith-based this. Trust-your-gut that. There's never been a better time to espouse, profit from, and believe in utter, unadulterated crap. And the crap is rising so high, it's getting dangerous.
(Also a seedling for his 2009 book Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free, discussed previously.)

The Cynic and Senator Obama (June 2008)
There is one point in the stump speech, however, that catches the cynic up short every time. It comes near to the end, when Obama talks about cynics. Obama says that cynics believe they are smarter than everyone else. The cynic thinks he's wrong. The cynic doesn't think he's wiser or more clever or more politically attuned than anyone else. It's just that he fears that, every morning, he'll discover that his country has done something to deface itself further, that something else he thought solid will tremble and quake and fall to ruin, that his fellow citizens will sell more of their birthright for some silver that they can forge into shackles. He has come to believe that the worst thing a citizen of the United States of America can believe is that his country will not do something simply because it's wrong. It would be a mistake for anyone -- but especially for a presidential candidate -- to believe that the cynic thinks himself wise or safe or liberated. In 2008, the cynic is more modest. He considers himself merely adequate to the times.
The Cynic and President Obama (October 2012)
Perhaps all our best presidents are the ambiguous ones, the ones hardest to figure out, because they force us to take more of the obligations of citizenship on ourselves, and not to look for some Great Man to lead us. Too often, the president had been criticized for not being what other people made him out to be four years ago — the conservatives who fell for him were particularly lachrymose in this regard, the liberals more angry — and the cynic thought that was a dodge. He has no obligation to be what you wanted him to be, what you wished he would be. No person owes anyone else that.

The rain fell more steadily as the cynic sat there on Mr. Madison's back porch. Another guy, thought the cynic, who did his best with what was available, who hated "faction" so much that he designed a system against its poison, but who also helped found the longest surviving political party in the history of the world, the party that had just renominated Barack Obama to be president of the United States. Of all the possible presidents in 2012, Barack Obama was the best of them. But that wasn't the point anymore. The country needed more than a president. The country always had needed more than a president.
The Comeback Speech Romney Should be Giving
How'd you like it? You wanted me to be authentic and you got it, both barrels, gold-plated with a lovely mahogany stock, perfect for killing varmints. Put me on a podium in front of an auditorium full of mouthbreathers I wouldn't hire to park my car and I turn into an ice sculpture. But put me in a room with sentient piles of currency, and I can relax and explain the way the world works in the only language they understand, the only language that counts. I speak Money, bitches, and if you didn't learn it when you were young, there ain't no Rosetta Stone you can use to play catch-up now. We spoke Money at home. We spoke Money at prep school. Parlez-vous franc? Sprechen sie Deutschmark? You don't speak Money, you don't speak to me, because, well:

I'm Mitt Romney, bitches, and I'm all you got left.
2010 State of the Union flashback: Last Night, Barack Obama Became President
Who else is there? The Democrats are a timorous collection of trimmers and hedgers, one more bad beat away from whimpering themselves into a gelatinous goo just liquid enough to ooze under the door of some lobbying shop. They couldn't get laid in a whorehouse if they drove up in a Brink's truck. They spent a flat year trying to get one vote out of Olympia Snowe.

And the Republicans are simply insane. Poor old John McCain is being primaried by J.D. Hayworth, once the dumbest man in Congress, at the behest of what might be called the lunatic fringe, if it wasn't the very mainstream of the party now. The energy of the party is wholly directed from the ancient, dark heart of American conspiracy theories, where it is not directed at simply standing athwart anything this president wants to do. Republicans repeatedly have voted against measures they have previously supported. Meanwhile, angry seniors in goofy hats have got them all terrified.
Murderer of Opportunity, Political Coward, Candidate for Vice President of the United States
Paul Ryan is an authentically dangerous zealot. He does not want to reform entitlements. He wants to eliminate them. He wants to eliminate them because he doesn't believe they are a legitimate function of government. He is a smiling, aw-shucks murderer of opportunity, a creator of dystopias in which he never will have to live. This now is an argument not over what kind of political commonwealth we will have, but rather whether or not we will have one at all, because Paul Ryan does not believe in the most primary institution of that commonwealth: our government. The first three words of the Preamble to the Constitution make a lie out of every speech he's ever given. He looks at the country and sees its government as something alien that is holding down the individual entrepreneurial genius of 200 million people, and not as their creation, and the vehicle through which that genius can be channelled for the general welfare.
On RNC Opening Night, Republicans Dare to Build a Lie
It was an entire evening based on a demonstrable lie. It was an entire evening based on demonstrable lies told in service to the overriding demonstrable lie. And there was only one real story for actual journalists to tell at the end of it.

The Republicans simply don't care.

They don't care that they lie. They don't care that their lies are obvious. They don't care that their lies wouldn't fool an underpaid substitute Social Studies teacher in a public middle school, who would then probably go out one night and get yelled at by Chris Christie. ("They believe in teacher's unions. We believe in teachers," he said in his speech. Yeah, you just don't believe in paying them.) They don't care that their history is a lie and that, by spreading it, they devalue the actual history of the country, which is something that belongs to us.
The Problem with the New American Exceptionalism
The will not to believe is the shifting sand beneath the unstable entire architecture of American Exceptionalism. Because our attachment to the idea is theological, and not empirical, we can neither look at our history nor our politics honestly. Eventually, the lies pile up, one atop the other, and you get a Willard Romney, who runs an entire campaign based on self-refutation and deceit. Eventually, the elections become electronic Kabuki. Our elections must be honest, not because we make them so, but simply because they are ours. It will all work out right in the end because this is America, fk yeah, the shining city on a hill. Faith eventually undermines reality. We start believing in spirits and incantations. And then we fall, hard.
The Post Office Is Not an Other. The Post Office Is Us.
There is a reason why we used to build buildings the way we built the post office in Geneva, with its mural and its marble, and its great arching windows and its Doric entablature. It wasn't because we were profligate. It was because we considered self-government, for all its faults, to be something precious that belonged to all of us, and that it should be housed in places that looked as though we valued it enough to celebrate it and protect it at the same time. They were monuments we raised to ourselves, because we deserved them.
Elizabeth Warren: The Politics Blog Interview

In Line for the Early Voting That Wasn't: Scenes from the World's Greatest Democracy in Inaction, in Florida
He had been waiting since 9:30 that morning. Three hours later, he'd finally gotten through the doors and into the library, where he had shown the ladies at the desk his photo ID, and he'd been given his ballot and directed to another line leading into another room. He waited another half-hour, and he eventually wound up at another desk. The man told him to put his ballot into a machine. Reynolds did as he was told. The problem was, of course, that he hadn't actually voted. He'd followed the precise instructions of the only two election officials he'd encountered and he wound up casting a blank ballot. Brooks, who'd admitted that she'd never seen a situation quite like this one, could only offer Reynolds an opportunity to fill out an report on what had happened. "There's nothing else," she told him. "Technically, you already cast your vote."

Deliberate? An understandable accident? It was probably the latter, but that didn't matter to Brian Reynolds, who was sitting despondently on a curbstone. "Three hours," he said. "Three hours, I wait here to vote. I want to vote. It's important to vote. And I do everything they tell me to do, and my vote does not count. That is not right. They should educate the people in there to do what's right."

The line went past him, all the way to the end of the parking lot. Brian Reynolds sat on his curbstone and watched the other people who were waiting to vote. His day as part of the World's Greatest Democracy was over. He had cast his vote. For nobody.
Why I'm Voting to Re-Elect President Obama
This is not "fear" talking. I watched the Republican primaries. I went to the debates. I saw long-settled assumptions about the nature of representative democracy thrown down and danced upon. I heard long-established axioms of the nature of a political commonwealth torn to shreds and thrown into the perfumed air. I saw people seriously arguing for an end to the social safety net, to any and all federal environmental regulations, to the concept of the progressive income tax, and to American participation in the United Nations, the latter on the grounds that a one-world government threatens our "liberty" with its insurance-friendly national health-care reform bill. I saw Rick Santorum base his entire foreign policy on the legend of the 12th Imam, and I saw Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann actually be front-runners for a while. I saw all of this and I knew that each one of them had a substantial constituency behind them within the party for everything they said, no matter how loopy. When you see a lunatic wandering down the sidewalk, howling at the moon and waving a machete, it is not fear that makes you step inside your house and lock the door. It is the simple logic of survival. Fear is what keeps you from trying to tackle the guy and wrestle the machete away from him. And, as much as it may pain some people to admit it, the president is the only one stepping up to do that at the moment.
From last night: For Obama, the Clock's Running in His Own Head Now
There will not be many more of these. There are three more days, and then Fired Up and Ready To Go will join All The Wat With LBJ and I Like Ike as ancient prayers. If he loses, there will be a powerful movement to render him, and these rallies, as footnotes. If he wins, he will be president again, and it will be a dusty, grinding job for as long as the calendar allows him to do it. At the end, with Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" pouring out of the speakers, he turned from the podium and, just for one second, he did a little dance step. And then you could see the discipline reassert itself again. Ever since he came upon the scene, he has been a candidate who has had to rein himself in, someone who could sing Al Green, but just a line, someone who can dance, in front of an adoring crowd, but just one step, and then gone again. On the press riser, his senior staff was watching him do it, and they all smiled, and the sunset fell across their faces.
More Long Reads from the campaign trail.
posted by Rhaomi (73 comments total) 129 users marked this as a favorite

 
Pierce has been on a whole other level than any other political writer for the past two years. Nobody else even comes close. He's hitting classic Hunter levels of above-the-crowd-ness.
posted by mightygodking at 10:23 AM on November 5, 2012 [20 favorites]


Awesome post Rhaomi.
posted by ndfine at 10:23 AM on November 5, 2012


(Minor correction: O'Donnell was a Delaware Senate candidate. I lived through that.)

(Awesome post.)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:25 AM on November 5, 2012


Shoulda held onto to this for the December Best Post showdown.
posted by notyou at 10:28 AM on November 5, 2012


I loved his piece The Bomb That Didn't Go Off:
And, as their eyes followed the balloons, marble balloons into an iron sky, their grief would hide the truth from them.

That we are, all of us, political animals, whether we want to be or not, that all our actions are political and that it is in our basic political natures that we are connected to all political acts, even political acts of madness. We commit them, or we cheer them, or, through our fears and anger, or even through simple civic lassitude, we allow them to happen. We are connected in this whether we want to be or not.

That, fundamentally, we are the fuse.
posted by ndfine at 10:28 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Great post!
posted by OmieWise at 10:28 AM on November 5, 2012


Shoulda held onto to this for the December Best Post showdown.

but... the relevant election day is tomorrow
posted by elizardbits at 10:29 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


They'll still be counting votes in December.

Fine. You caught me. I was really just trying to say "Awesome Post!" in cuter, more favorite-friendly way.
posted by notyou at 10:32 AM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Except that I read a column where he claimed that Obama hadn't had the legislative success of Clinton, or couldn't work with Congress like Clinton. had. What, was he three years old during Clinton's first term in office? Did he not remember the failure of the Clinton health care bill, etc.? I stopped checking out links you his work after that.
posted by raysmj at 10:34 AM on November 5, 2012


I agree. This is an awesome post, and Charlie Pierce has been crushing it.
posted by gauche at 10:39 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The most amazing thing I've learned from this fantastic post thus far: there's a Wait Wait Don't Tell Me stats page! Why was I not informed about this earlier? I'm usually all over this level of awesome obsessive geekery.
posted by zachlipton at 10:40 AM on November 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


I had not connected the person who wrote the most astonishing and wonderful article ever written about Paul Ryan, "the zombie-eyed granny-starver from Wisconsin", with the sports commentator who appears from time to time on various NPR shows. Amazing. Now I have entertaining things to read tomorrow night while waiting for the results.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:40 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks all. A confession, though: as much as I admire Pierce's work, I've only read him over the last month or so, and irregularly, so there are probably a lot of other seminal pieces I didn't come across. If you know more, do share them!
posted by Rhaomi at 10:42 AM on November 5, 2012


So this is THE THREAD, right?
posted by lalex at 10:43 AM on November 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Pierce's Esquire columns are one of the few things keeping me sane this election. I just hope that he can make it through the next couple of days without finally grabbing that Prestone bottle.
posted by octothorpe at 10:44 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


So this is THE THREAD, right?

I didn't set out for it to be -- partially to give people this day beforehand to actually read the stuff, and partially because I prefer making my newsfiltery election discussion threads more straightforward -- but feel free to commandeer if you just can't wait.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:47 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is that permission to commandeer? I'm taking it as permission to commandeer. I was just about to venture a post myself just to break the tension of waiting, but I didn't have anything suitable waiting in the wings so it'd probably have been reeeeeally lame.
posted by JHarris at 10:54 AM on November 5, 2012


Oh, the Amazon page for that book. Hardcover: $6.64. Kindle: $11.99. SCREW YOU AMAZON
posted by JHarris at 10:56 AM on November 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


There are other open election threads, this is not a thread about the elections per se, it's about Pierce. I don't think this should be turned into a de facto election thread just because we're all ancey. (I know I am, I'm still posting quite a lot in the last debate thread.)
posted by OmieWise at 10:57 AM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, the Amazon page for that book. Hardcover: $6.64. Kindle: $11.99. SCREW YOU AMAZON

Seeing that made me copy the ISBN and drop it right into my holds list at my local library.
posted by thecjm at 10:58 AM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fantastic post. Charles Pierce has been the one redeeming feature of this whole shitty election cycle. If nothing else, he's worthy of Hunter Thompson's mantle just for coming up with the epithet "Zombie-Eyed Granny Starver" to describe professional asshole Paul Ryan.
posted by R. Schlock at 10:58 AM on November 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


From last night: For Obama, the Clock's Running in His Own Head Now

I read this last night, and it's a lovely piece of writing. The final sentences:

At the end, with Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" pouring out of the speakers, he turned from the podium and, just for one second, he did a little dance step. And then you could see the discipline reassert itself again. Ever since he came upon the scene, he has been a candidate who has had to rein himself in, someone who could sing Al Green, but just a line, someone who can dance, in front of an adoring crowd, but just one step, and then gone again. On the press riser, his senior staff was watching him do it, and they all smiled, and the sunset fell across their faces.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:59 AM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, in Idiot America, I still get to see FB posts from my conserva-friends, including a "funny anecdote" about a kid asking her teacher howObama could be president since he was born in Africa, ha ha! I was thankfully not the only person who said "Uhhh...no." in response.

More moderate types are now posting a quote from Condi Rice about not feeling bitter and entitled but about working for what you get, wow, that's deep Condi, thanks.
posted by emjaybee at 11:00 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


[Do not be alarmed: I fixed the O'Donnell state mention with mod powers, not witchcraft.]
posted by cortex at 11:02 AM on November 5, 2012 [23 favorites]


His columns on the debates were great too:

Things Not to Talk About in Denver When You're Broken: Your Debate Preview, or What They Should Talk About

The Presidential Debate That Wasn't Very Presidential: How Obama Let the Etch-a-Sketch Take the Controls

The Zombie-Eyed Granny-Starver Takes on the One Man Who Relishes This Mess: Your 2012 VP Debate Preview

VP Debate 2012: The Real Paul Ryan Is Bad for America

The Last Stand for Humanity for an Election in Which Bullshit Is Now the Status Quo: Your Debate Preview

America Has Now Met the Many Romneys, and America Knows They Can Get Their Asses Kicked: At the Debate

2012's Incredible Disappearing Issue: Climate Change

War Is Not the Answer, So War Becomes the Answer: Your Final Unaccountable-Executive-Branch Debate

Nothing Is Foreign to the Liar Willard Romney Anymore: A Report from the Flippy-Floppy Final Debate of 2012
posted by homunculus at 11:03 AM on November 5, 2012


I just hope he doesn't down all that antifreeze in response to those idiots at Tiger Beat on the Potomac.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:04 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just let someone post an election thread tomorrow morning. It'll happen. We don't have to panic!
posted by gerryblog at 11:11 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, that puts an end to my micro-business re-posting Pierce pieces here on the blue. I'll just repeat the few I've previously posted, because they are so delicious.

Back in January, when Gingrich was leading the pack:
...they are settling on Newt, and not on Rick Santorum, because Santorum, while admittedly a dick, is not an angry bully of a dick, and that's what the base is looking for.
When Obama compared Romney to Bush, unfavorably:
"I know George W. Bush and you, governor, are no George W. Bush," is about the nastiest thing that can be said about any American politician.

The other fun thing is Pierce's cultivation of epithets for Politicians, just like the way that Homer always refers to Achilles as "swift-footed".
Paul Ryan
Zombie-eyed granny-starver.

Scott Walker
Twice-elected goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries as manager of their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin.

N. Leroy Gingrich
Definer Of Civilization's Rules And Leader (Perhaps) Of The Civilizing Forces.

Willard Romney
The International Harvester.

Reince Priebus
Obvious anagram.

posted by benito.strauss at 11:23 AM on November 5, 2012 [17 favorites]


Thanks for the post. I've admired this guy for a while. His Obama endorsement is the most truthful I've seen in a landscape of depressing Politico-style cheerleading that wants you to forget about the rough edges.

CNN ran a piece over the weekend claiming that if you think politicians are lying to you all the time, you're part of a "dangerous" distrust in the system that the reporter equated with mad conspiracy theories. Charles Pierce's writing is the opposite of that.
posted by steinsaltz at 11:24 AM on November 5, 2012



[Do not be alarmed: I fixed the O'Donnell state mention with mod powers, not witchcraft.]

Jump off the Broadway Bridge into the Willamette, cortex, and we will be the judge of that.
posted by Danf at 11:26 AM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can barely even parse what he's trying to say in those "cynic" columns, but it seems to boil down to the usual "it's your own fault if you expected Obama to upload the Constitution. He wanted to do things but those mean Republicans wouldn't let him even though he came in with 70% approval and both houses of Congress."

Hunter S. Thompson wrote that he voted "No" in 1968. I can only imagine how he would be eviscerating Obama if he were here today.

And the "Idiot America" stuff just seems like more profiteering off people who want to believe they're smart and everyone else is dumb. Like Mike Judge's misguided and unfunny Idiocracy, I'm sure he sticks to skewering "White trash" in order to dodge the less savory eugenical implications of calling poor minorities stupid.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:26 AM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hopefully these all get put into a book, a la The Great Shark Hunt 2012.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:30 AM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


The first "Cynic" article contains this block:

"We will lead in the observance of human rights, and the rule of law, and civil rights and due process, which is why I will close Guantánamo and I will restore habeas corpus and say no to torture. Because if you elect me, you will have elected a president who has taught the Constitution, who believes in the Constitution, and who will restore and obey the Constitution of the United States of America."

From an Obama stump speech, and then the second takes "liberals" to task because "[Obama] has no obligation to be what you wanted him to be, what you wished he would be. No person owes anyone else that."

Really?? A politician who swears an oath to uphold the Constitution has no obligation to do so? A president has no obligation to keep his promises? maybe I'm wrong, because again I have trouble even parsing what he's trying to communicate, and I'm not sure if the device of "the Cynic" is meant to be the author or someone he is criticizing. but this just reads like dishonest glurge.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:32 AM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I tried to get through the "Idiot America" piece. But, see...I live smack in the middle of Idiot America, and reading it was too much like constantly biting an open sore in your mouth...over and over and over.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:32 AM on November 5, 2012


Like Mike Judge's misguided and unfunny Idiocracy...

The reason it's not funny is that it was apparently misguided.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:34 AM on November 5, 2012


And the "Idiot America" stuff just seems like more profiteering off people who want to believe they're smart and everyone else is dumb.

I for one do not want to believe I'm smart and everyone else is dumb. But, being of generally sound mind, I have arrived at this conclusion.

Like Mike Judge's misguided and unfunny Idiocracy

...okay now you've completely lost me. The only Idiocracy I know was on point and crazy funny.
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:35 AM on November 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


At first I enjoyed Pierce on "Only a Game" as a fellow Minnesotan, but then I grew to hate his shoutiness. Lately I read his political stuff and figured it must be another guy with the same name. Now I need to reconsider him as a single person, "containing multitudes."
posted by wenestvedt at 11:44 AM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


If I didn't want to punch Esquire in its collective dick every single time I load its lameass sexist poseur stylefuck shitesite, I'd spend a sizable portion of every day reading Pierce. He brings the business.
posted by waxbanks at 11:45 AM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


When I saw Idiocracy, I thought it was an over-the-top, enjoyable, but only slightly humorous comedy. Six years later, I realize that the reason I didn't find it so funny was that it was actually not a comedy, but a documentary that Mike Judge sent back from the future.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:45 AM on November 5, 2012 [17 favorites]


Pierce is my favorite political writer and I read his Esquire blog every day, but somehow I never knew the story about how he was fired by the Globe. Great post.

P.s. As much as I like him, I find the sports related "interviews" he does on NPR almost painful.
posted by Eyebeams at 11:46 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


And the "Idiot America" stuff just seems like more profiteering off people who want to believe they're smart and everyone else is dumb. Like Mike Judge's misguided and unfunny Idiocracy, I'm sure he sticks to skewering "White trash" in order to dodge the less savory eugenical implications of calling poor minorities stupid.

It's not that I think other people are dumb. It's just that the base of the GOP scares the shit out of me. That people who believe this stuff have the franchise is probably the most amazing thing about our democracy. We just need to trust that there are more of us than there are of them.
posted by longdaysjourney at 12:06 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Apart from the sheer entertainment value, his column has been a beacon in the darkness. Nice to read an old-school liberal with fire in the belly.
posted by whuppy at 12:09 PM on November 5, 2012


Now I need to reconsider him as a single person, "containing multitudes."

Same here. I've been reading his Esquire stuff all year knowing it's the same guy, and I still don't like listening to him on the radio. There's an insult that says a person has a face made for radio; I think Pierce has a voice that's made for print.

If I didn't want to punch Esquire in its collective dick every single time I load its lameass sexist poseur stylefuck shitesite ...

I just link directly to the politics blog, bypassing that whole foofaraw.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:12 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


BTW, the John Harris Pierce mentions in at least one of his articles is not me.

Also, to repeat an earlier disclaimer I've had to make at least three times now, I'm not the John Harris who programmed Jawbreaker for the Atari 2600.
posted by JHarris at 12:14 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just to remind everyone that he's also still a hell of a sportwriter, he has a new column today up at Grantland:

What I miss most about hockey are the different ways things look, and the different ways things sound. There is nothing in sports like walking out into an arena in which everything is dark except for the gleaming sheet of ice below. Nothing sounds quite like the hiss of the blades, and the different sounds of the different tiny detonations — a puck onto a stick, a puck onto the glass, a puck onto the boards, a body into the boards — that make up the action. They are all sharp and varied, like the argumentative calls of exotic crows. What I miss most about hockey are the many ways it is so different from everything else. Everything is so damned vivid. This is, of course, only part of the reason that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman needs to be rendered naked, smeared with honey and jam, and dragged behind a Zamboni across an endless field of anthills.

Or something.

posted by mightygodking at 12:35 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is tragically telling that what is considered today's Best Political Writing is coming from a former sportswriter. (And after sports statistician Nate Silver became the go-to-guy for polling analysis) America has never before seen an era where the Sports writers are better than the News writers, and it can't be a good sign.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:36 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


oneswellfoop: America has never before seen an era where the Sports writers are better than the News writers
Can't tell if being serious or if I just missed the joke.
posted by introp at 12:41 PM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's kind of a natural career progression for the kind of journalism we have now, where everything is a horse race and the most important thing is who won and who lost.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:41 PM on November 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


benito.strauss: "Reince Priebus"

"Bicep rune, sire" -- Paul Ryan as emperor???
"Pubic Ire Sneer" -- hmm. No.
"Curb Eerie Spin" gasp!
posted by boo_radley at 12:41 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I got my hands on a press pass during the DNC for the express purpose of tracking down Charlie Pierce to thank him for his amazing writing. Never found him, but glad he is getting some love here.

Also, his spontaneous outbursts of laughter have become my favorite part of Wait! Wait!
posted by Sweetie Darling at 12:47 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


America has never before seen an era where the Sports writers are better than the News writers, and it can't be a good sign.

I think that the beltway media has, for the most part, imbibed the kool-aid. The need to maintain relationships with sources leads them to treat facts as if they were two-sided. There's a bubble of "conventional wisdom" that leads many of them to lose their ability to think independently. I think there is something to in making a career reporting on sports, where people call things as they see it, and there are not two sides to every fact. I can think of a couple of other people (Costas, Olbermann) who started in sports be pretty blunt about what they see when the subject turns to politics.
posted by ambrosia at 12:52 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I fuckin' love this guy.

I also love how the most interesting sports writers are now having interesting things to say in politics (well, Buzz Bissinger excepted)
posted by C.A.S. at 1:11 PM on November 5, 2012


Daily Show came up with the best Reince Priebus anagram I've seen: PUBIC RERINSES
posted by JHarris at 1:12 PM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


America has never before seen an era where the Sports writers are better than the News writers, and it can't be a good sign.

That's at least open to discussion. I'm thinking Grantland Rice, Ring Lardner, Damon Runyon - and that's just the 1920s.
posted by BWA at 1:23 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I realize there are plenty of Wait Wait dislikers, but Charlie Pierce's laugh is the absolute best thing in the world. I have often expressed the opinion that the best thing that could ever happen to a person who wrote jokes was making him laugh.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 1:53 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Reince Priebus Forced Back Into Ancient Puzzle Box After Being Tricked Into Saying Name Backwards
posted by homunculus at 1:58 PM on November 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


I'm going to be the lone dissenting curmudgeon to this thread and say that I generally prefer Peirce's sportswriting to his political writing.

Just before I saw this post, in fact, I thought about clicking over to his blog, and then thought, no, reading Pierce will mean I'm feeling smug, and a lifetime of Red Sox fandom taught me smug gets you gutpunched.

Which is not to say I don't admire him; I'd say he's the political writer whose turns of phrase have most often caused me to twist my smile and think, "God that's clever, you bastard." But he's only got one register, and all those soaring, operatic metaphors go from pathos to bathos in 3.2 when applied to the wrong subject. There are times when he seems to be trying to force more grandeur and emotion into his subject matter than it can possibly hold, like trying to pump wine into a raisin. More goofy than intoxicating.

On the other hand, I'm a little worried I'm inadvertently doing a take off on him in this very comment, which tell you something too.
posted by Diablevert at 2:27 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


You've got a point, Diablevert. I think Pierce needs to be part of a well-balanced information diet. Having him as the sole source of political news would be bad and would clog ones intellectual arteries, but having just a taste after reading through TPM is a good palate cleanser.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:01 PM on November 5, 2012


Man, that Post Office piece brings tears to my eyes. Well done, sir, well done indeed.
posted by KingEdRa at 4:22 PM on November 5, 2012


I can only imagine how he would be eviscerating Obama if he were here today.

Far be it from me to channel HST, but I don't think so, at least given the much more clearly-drawn villains on the stage. I think he'd have many of the same feelings as he had about Jimmy Carter, who he genuinely respected in large part for Carter's sincere, thoughtful dedication to doing the right thing.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:55 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a pretty liberal born-and-raised in Ohio expat in the deep Red South, and trying (failing) not to freak the fuck out about the election. Nate Silver has been my tonic, Charles Pierce has been my angry lullaby for the last two months.
posted by mostly vowels at 9:01 PM on November 5, 2012


I've had the pleasure of working with Charlie on occasion. Great guy, humble, smart and funny.

He's one of the few writers today who uses the word "commonwealth" when talking about the United States. Whenever I encounter it, it makes me stop and ponder its meaning.
posted by stargell at 9:22 PM on November 5, 2012


I thought he only used "commonwealth" (God save it!) when referring to Massachusetts (or, I guess, Virginia).
posted by benito.strauss at 9:39 PM on November 5, 2012


When I think of the United States I think of many things but I've never in my life thought of it as acting like a commonwealth in the vein of say, Australia.
posted by Talez at 9:50 PM on November 5, 2012


Timely! New Pierce joint just showed up in my rss - Election Day: A Light at the End of Our Obstacle Course

There is one side in this election that is far too timid, and far too closely allied with far too many people it ought not to be allied with at all, but which at least does admit the existence of a political commonwealth, and at least does recognize that self-government is an ongoing creative endeavor.

It really has been an ongoing theme for him, and one that so recalibrates my political sensibilities, that he now has me genuinely frightened of this devaluing of the entire concept of having a polity, which I don't think I would have put together as a gestalt unless he pointed it out. But yeah, he is a savagely articulate man, and I'm not sure I would have made it this far through the ridiculous/horrifying election season without him.
posted by hap_hazard at 10:07 PM on November 5, 2012


Surely the obvious anagram of Reince Priebus is "I, Prince Erebus".
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:30 AM on November 6, 2012


re: commonwealth

Pierce uses it to refer to Massachusetts. Also, there are only 46 states in the USA.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:59 AM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


It would appear that the apple does not fall far from the tree.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:39 AM on November 6, 2012


FEAR & LOATHING ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: I Took LSD And Went To See Romney In Yardley
posted by homunculus at 8:47 PM on November 6, 2012


The Greatness of Barack Obama Is Our Great Project
posted by homunculus at 12:40 AM on November 7, 2012


benito.strauss: I thought he only used "commonwealth" (God save it!) when referring to Massachusetts (or, I guess, Virginia).
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania - represent!
posted by IAmBroom at 9:43 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


How the Democrats Can Make the Republicans Pay
posted by homunculus at 6:26 PM on November 9, 2012


Out on the Weekend
posted by homunculus at 6:27 PM on November 9, 2012


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