Saturday, June 5, 2010

Fibber McGee's Closet

The News-Sun editorialized today, that ...
Over the years we've seen mountains made out of mole hills, but none greater than the political flap over a minor military award Congressman Mark Kirk claimed, but didn't receive.
A mole hill
Your LakeCountyEye will concede the point. However the whole l'affaire de Kirk is actually an example of an effect well understood in political circles:
Fibber McGee's Closet
Most operatives are too young to remember Fibber McGee or his eponymous closet. Back in the day, when your LakeCountyEye was a mere tadpole, many nights were spent under the blankets, with the LakeCountyEye crystal set tuned into everyone's #1 favorite radio show: Fibber McGee & Molly. The show's title character, Fibber McGee -- a blowhard given to telling tall tales and with no visible means of support -- is regarded as the patron saint of the modern Internet blogger. The best remembered running gag from the show was Fibber McGee's Closet: an over-stuffed hall closet that would eject its contents on top of anyone who opened it.

Which is exactly what happened when high profile MSM outlet, the Washington Post, decided to open Mark Kirk's political resume last week: everything came spilling out. The creative embellishments to Kirk's military service hurt Kirk with veterans and veterans groups, Kirk's natural base of support. Vets now regard Kirk as an opportunist who would lie about his service record for political gain: a weekend warrior who rides to prominence on the valor of active duty servicemen.

But the exaggerations of military service were only the tip of the iceberg. The Republican Party base -- the Libertarian and Tea-Party activists -- were always at best tepid in support of the liberal-leaning Kirk. The revelations gave that base the excuse they were waiting for to openly rebel against his Senate candidacy.

Probably the most damage done was to the Kirk spit polish brand. Which is why the media has been having so much fun reporting this story over and over again. Kirk campaigns on his record as not just a serviceman, but a straight and forthright serviceman. Kirk has branded himself as Opie Taylor in a flight suit. Which are why the revelations are more than a mere mole hill. They call into question not only Kirk's claims about his service but about his rep as a straight-shooter.

All of which means the campaign narrative is changing. A candidate who is regarded as just another scheming politician cannot rely on the indulgence of the voters. It becomes harder to disregard persistent rumors the candidate is, for instance, secretly gay. And if the candidate has been fibbing about that all of these years, then what hasn't he been fibbing about? A narrative that feeds on itself like this, will take a campaign into a downward spiral. Kirk may or may not be able to pull out of this tailspin -- the LakeCountyEye magic crystal ball is cloudy. But if you hide your junk in a closet, and that closet is a Pandora's box, you'd be well advised to keep that closet nailed shut.

2 comments:

DMAC57 said...

I just have to wonder why this information is being presented now and not late in the summer. After all, we Americans tends to have about a nine minute recall and all the hoopla may be forgotten by November..... except for pockets of voters such as Veterans.

Barney Baxter said...

hi DMAC57,
Ellen's been posting this info on her blog for more than a month. Not telling when these things go viral?
-BB-