Roger Simon’s “stench” fantasy

The satire was broad enough; it’s not Simon’s fault if other people are hard of reading.

Ann Althouse is throwing a tantrum about the Roger Simon column that imagined Paul Ryan referring to Mitt Romney as “The Stench,” after a local Republican official in Iowa was quoted in the NYT as saying that if Ryan ever wanted to run for national office he’d have to “wash the stench of Romney off him.”

Althouse’s theory is that Simon deliberately put the false story out there to damage Romney, with the clearly satirical parts – the PowerPoint riff – buried on page 2, but there for plausible deniability.

Umm … no. The joke wasn’t really very hard to spot.

Here’s the top of the article:

Paul Ryan has gone rogue. He is unleashed, unchained, off the hook.

“I hate to say this, but if Ryan wants to run for national office again, he’ll probably have to wash the stench of Romney off of him,” Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa, told The New York Times on Sunday.

Coming from a resident of Iowa, a state where people are polite even to soybeans, this was a powerful condemnation of the Republican nominee.

Though Ryan had already decided to distance himself from the floundering Romney campaign, he now feels totally uninhibited. Reportedly, he has been marching around his campaign bus, saying things like, “If Stench calls, take a message” and “Tell Stench I’m having finger sandwiches with Peggy Noonan and will text him later.”

The first hint comes from “a state where people are polite to soybeans.” Then we get to “Tell Stench I’m having finger sandwiches with Peggy Noonan and will text him later.” That couldn’t possibly be a real quote. “Finger “sandwiches”? How much broader a wink do you need?

And no, no actual VP candidate ever refuses a call from the guy whose heart attack he hopes to be waiting for. “I’ll text him later”? Get a grip!

The fact that so many reasonably important media players got punked by this does suggest how impossibly badly things are going for Romney & Co., and how much some of them would have liked the story to be true: as I would, of course, myself.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been even slightly tentative about my reading; I allowed myself to be influenced by the crowd reaction rather than paying close attention to the text.

The cues were there, in big type; I don’t think Simon should be blamed if other people are hard of reading.

Footnote Anyway, Boston’s nickname for Ryan couldn’t possibly really be “Gilligan.” He’s obviously a “Robin.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

22 thoughts on “Roger Simon’s “stench” fantasy”

  1. Althouse has problems with humor, but no problems with seeing things that maybe aren’t there. Remember when Obama was supposedly glancing at some young women’s butt? She couldn’t get over that one.

    1. How about when Jose Padilla was blinking out secret to al Qaeda via still photograph? Good times…

      It’s like Albert Collins says:
      I don’t care, what the people are thinkin’
      I ain’t drunk, I’m just drinkin’

  2. I didn’t look that closely, and recognized it was a joke but thought it was Paul Ryan’s joke, not Roger Simon’s – that the “stench” line, which got a fair amount of play, had hit home and Ryan was making a joke out of it.

    But isn’t Roger Simon a well-known Republican, anyway?

    1. You might be thinking of the Pajamas Media/Scenes from a Mall Roger L. Simon; Roger Simon the Politico columnist is different guy, who AFAIK is a strict Villageist who would never admit to any political preferences or even to thinking that any policy positions are important. (I could be wrong about that, though.)

        1. Thanks. Got it.

          I couldn’t make the leap to Mitt Rmoney [sic], crimefighter. Or Mitt Rmoney, industrialist, for that matter.

  3. Since you pointed at Althouse twice of late Mark I went and had a look at her doings.
    Saw a post where she took great delight in the fellow that hopped into a lion’s pen and lost a limb.
    Seems that said something about the naiveté of tree huggers in general.
    Or at the very least it gave her outhouse of commenters liberty to stomp on some vegans.

    I like the fact your looking for someone on the right to spar with. Debate is healthy.
    (For example: witness Warren Terra’s utterly polite dismemberment of Bux:

    But surely you can find someone with more intellectual heft than Althouse?
    She’s a lightweight blogger surrounded by pennyweight commenters with a “Shop Amazon” button on her masthead.

  4. .

    If fewer people believe the toxic right-wing enabling fictions that is pushing because of this ‘joke’, great.

    That anyone _ever_ took Republican funded propagandists like Roger Simon seriously is the bigger joke.

    Republican funded isn’t a “mainstream political” outlet and’s CHIEF POLITICAL “journalist” is a fraud, not a “mainstream political” journalist.


    Satirists aren’t journalists. is a joke.

  5. It is an open secret that Mitt Romney is a member of “The Yes Men”tm and his presidential campaign is the longest running and most successful Yes Men prank to date. There is much debate however whether Paul Ryan is in on the gag or is the brunt of it. Time may tell. In the meantime just enjoy the high wire highjinks. 😉

    1. You’ve got a nice genre-bending movie plot there. Manchurian Candidate meets Truman Show? Of course the reveal has to be that the Yes Men were put up to it by George Soros 🙂

  6. I’m with Althouse, and not because of the page 1/page 2 aspect. First, context: Do we really expect that Roger Simon, who clearly favors conservative/Republican politics and candidates, would be making a jest at the expense of his preferred party’s candidate? Second, we really don’t know much about Ryan the private person, except that he just might have a tendency to exaggerate his personal accomplishments. Therefore, it’s not out of the question that the guy would be out there making fun of and disparaging his running mate (who we know most Republicans don’t respect).Third, for satire to be successful, people have to recognize it as such, rather than as being factually accurate. I would venture that most people reading Simon’s piece thought it was straight reporting until someone alleged otherwise.

    1. a jest at the expense of his preferred party’s candidate

      Simon’s piece was poorly executed, and that’s what led to the confusion. It’s not clear to me, for example, that Simon was mocking Romney or Ryan. I read it as a satire of the Iowa Republican guy and other Republicans who criticize Romney, like Noonan, and of the people in the AARP audience who failed to comprehend Ryan’s superior intellect.

      But who knows? Simon did a lousy job of identifying his target, and that’s why people took it as a straight reporting piece with a few jabs at random targets like Microsoft.

  7. It is Simon who miscalculated — I assume inadvertently rather than as the plot Althouse claims. The “soybeans” and “cattle” asides are the kind of cutesy throw-away lines that can appear in a news story that is not intended as satire, and do not clearly telegraph that this entire article is not intended to be taken seriously. The “Ryan is reportedly saying” stuff is indeed surprising, but that is another word for “newsworthy”. My hat is off to any editor who read this and said, “We had better recheck this with Simon before going any further.” However, I cannot fault those who took the writer at his word.

  8. “…it’s not out of the question that the guy would be out there making fun of and disparaging his running mate…”

    Absolutely right. History is replete with examples of many Republican Vice Presidential candidates who have done exactly that.

    Richard Nixon consistently mocked Ike, saying “What does he know about government? He’s nothing but an overage retired soldier who took a job with an effette Eastern intellectual university.”

    More recently, George Bush (the REAL George Bush) was heard to muse “Reagan? Isn’t he that old-time actor who was president of a union, and a Democrat to boot?”

    Even back in the early days of the Republican Party, they had that problem. Andrew Johnson said of Lincoln, “Honest Abe my butt! Lincoln is so dishonest he’s even convinced HIMSELF he can end this stupid war and bring the country back together. Did you ever hear anything so dumb?”

    (Note to the sarcasm-impaired: The above is not meant to be a real history lesson.)

  9. Speaking of sarcasm, I simply adore the louder than usual whining about media bias from right-of-center rugged individualists about how the media are so mean to Romney.

  10. I alert easily to shiny objects and this year’s presidential campaign has been full of them. For me, the Republican campaign itself has thus been strange to the point of being bizarre. Remember the people in the Republican primary debates?

    All I remember about “stench” was noting that it appeared in something I’d read. As an idea, it seemed a bit stranger then usual but no way did it qualify obviously as irony, comedy, or even humor. I treated it as if it were just another example of Republican poor reality testing and wondered why it hadn’t received more coverage in the MSM. In short, I thought Ryan really had said it and I quickly rationalized why he had done so. It was not incongruent with my expectations. In fact, if memory serves, I had read earlier someone using “death stench” as a metaphor to describe Romney’s failing campaign.

  11. “Althouse’s theory is that Simon deliberately put the false story out there to damage Romney, with the clearly satirical parts – the PowerPoint riff – buried on page 2, but there for plausible deniability.”

    Yeesh. The PowerPoint stuff was just about the only thing in the piece that wasn’t clearly satirical. Ryan’s entire shtick is to appeal to people who think things like that using PowerPoint makes you a wonk even if you can’t add two and two together. “Look at my PowerPoints and graphs and stuff and see how smart I am” is more or less the entire Ryan persona. The rest of the article didn’t read at all like it was about Ryan, and the only difficulty in determining it to be satire would lie in the complete absence of humor in the piece.

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