Remember how last week, Politico wrote this mammoth indictment about how The New York Times and the Washington Post were engaged in a seedy practice of being pointlessly and frivolously critical of the Romney campaign, and it wasn't fair? Which, in turn, led, to observers noting some obvious things, like the fact that at "every point in the past 10 months, Obama has received more negative coverage than positive coverage" and that when it came to "cheap voyeurism" masquerading as political critique, no one does it better than Politico themselves? Yes, that was all a thing that happened, in our lives, and it was all good for a few laughs.
But evidently, someone at The New York Times -- who, like the Post, defended themselves against Politico's charges -- decided that maybe they ought to go out and prove that Politico was right about them all along. And so today we have this dispatch from Michael Barbaro, in the paper's "Home & Garden" section, about how all of Mitt Romney's neighbors in La Jolla, Calif. really don't like him. It has all the political salience of a sack of dog leavings.
"Bellyaching over the arrival of an irritating new neighbor is a suburban cliché," Barbaro writes, before proceeding to go on for over 1,700 more words about it, instead of doing what most people would do in this situation, which is to type "CTRL-A" and "DELETE."
If we recall from previous reports, Romney's La Jolla home is the one where he is famously installing a "car garage." (He does have a lot of these homes, so it's useful to know about this, if only to keep track of Romney's widely sprawled domestic empire.) This story, titled "The Candidate Next Door," seems to be an attempt to take a third or fourth bite of the "car garage" story -- which, by the way, was broken by Politico's Reid Epstein, to the great consternation of the Romney camp. (You might notice that Epstein isn't doing much Romney coverage lately, which brings us right back around to Politico's ongoing attempts to "make nice" with the Romney campaign.)
Okay, well, what's to be learned about Romney's neighbors? Well, for one thing, he doesn't quite fit in -- see, the people in Romney's neighborhood "[evoke] 'Modern Family' far more than 'All in the Family.'" Har-dee-har.
Barbaro talks to a a pair of gay couples from the neighborhood, who he treats as intriguing, exotic novelties, and who each fantasize about having some sort of extremely passive-aggressive confrontation with the candidate. Romney is also accused of harshing the locals' mellow: "A young man in town recalled that Mr. Romney confronted him as he smoked marijuana and drank on the beach last summer, demanding that he stop." Well, once upon a time he probably would have gone at this young beach hippie with a pair of scissors, so maybe Romney is actually meeting his neighbors halfway?
For a while, the piece sort of strives to keep this "Modern Family" idea alive -- Romney is a conservative celebrity living alongside a collection of typical California liberals! It is slightly undercut by the demographic breakdown the article includes: "The La Jolla of 2012 is as purple a precinct as they come, with 7,764 registered Republicans and 7,024 Democrats." So when, in the very next line, a resident muses, “It’s odd that this is where Romney picked [this] place [to live] — it’s so progressive," you think, "Is it though? Because I can add."
Eventually, however, it really shifts into gear, and you learn that the more important takeaway is Romney has apparently moved in alongside a gaggle of affluent, backbiting NIMBYs who are just mad that he is threatening their property values -- through both the extensive, ongoing renovations to his home and ... well, by just being around, and having a large group of security personnel traveling in his wake. They are sad that their road is blocked up, and their "ocean views are in jeopardy," and their favorite "dog walking routes" have been "disrupted."
It truly is a collection of first world problems. And one thing that reading this story offers is the chance to imagine the other, more politically relevant stories that could have been written. Sure, it's not exactly news that Romney is titanically wealthy and routinely indifferent to those of lesser station. But that indifference would be better set off by California's ongoing foreclosure crisis, relief for which Romney opposes.
And at another point in the piece, one of Romney's neighbors tells Barbaro that if it were President Barack Obama causing all this neighborhood disruption, "I'd probably be fine with it." You could say the same thing about Obama supporters' reactions to the president's "kill list," only that would have been a more interesting story.
At any rate, way to make Politico look prophetic, New York Times. Great job. Good effort.
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