Ugh, not a good morning. Suffice it to say that the casa de Lott has woodpecker problems and I’m not laughing. Readers, how do you tell a woodpecker to get lost? Bear in mind that I can’t get a clean shot at him and I’ve already tried the “Hey, let’s try some knocking too to see how you like it!” trick. I think he thought he’d found a mate.
But I digress. The upside of the little guy tormenting me is that it gives me no excuse to sleep in and delay mention of the fourth decent recent Weekly Standard cover story (previous Standard mentions here, here, and here). This one, by Matthew Continetti, is about Ralph Reed’s run for lieutenant governor of Georgia. My favorite observation in the piece:
He has stage presence. Reed’s speech contains no malapropisms, and his rhetoric is polished. Also, he must have taken Stage Movement 101 at the George Dubya School of Public Speaking, because he has all the physicality that the president brings to the stump, and he uses it to his advantage. His shoulders are thrust back, his head juts forward, his finger point is practiced, his hand-chop steady like a knife. It makes for a riveting performance. Every now and then, someone who is decidedly not a member of the Gwinnett County Republicans — a busboy in an apron, a glassy-eyed college student in Abercrombie & Fitch-wear — would walk over from the dessert trough to watch Reed, captivated by the show.
Of course, Continetti points out that Reed’s timing is awful and the candidate knows it. He refuses to give any on-the-record interviews to reporters while the Jack Abramoff investigation winds its way through D.C.
The Standard reporter looks into Reed’s connection with Abramoff and argues that it’s the Georgia candidate’s
misfortune that he happens to have worked with Abramoff on several Indian gambling campaigns. And yet it’s also striking that the $4.2 million his firm collected from Abramoff and Scanlon over four years may damage his national political ambitions. Because when you look at Reed’s private-sector career as a whole, such a sum seems hardly worth getting worked up over. It’s pocket change.
From Reed’s activity in college Republicans to his almost businesslike conversion experience to his stint at the academy as a doctoral student to his founding of the Christian Coalition, the piece serves as a pretty good primer on one of the men who helped to reorder American politics. It distances itself from a lot of the shallow coverage of the Georgia tactician by actually understanding the tradeoffs that Reed made to “bring social and religious conservatives into the mainstream of the Republican party, and thus, in turn, into the mainstream of American politics.”
Reed accomplished this feat, reports Continetti, “by draining the Christian Coalition of much of its explicitly Christian, or even religious, content.”
And then Reed cashed in. His Century Strategies — technically not a lobbying firm — has had its finger in an awful lot of pie charts, from Enron to the recent Indian money fiasco. It was likely instrumental in engineering a “yes” vote in the House on Puerto Rican statehood. It helped to lobby for normal trade relations with China and worked to keep kids fastened to their seats to watch “Channel One,” a daily 12-minute news broadcast that can demand lucrative advertising fees.
And now, as Continetti tells it, “Reed’s candidacy collapses whatever distinction remained between private interest and public office.”