A Philosopher's Blog

Sand Baggery & Zingers

Posted in Politics by Michael LaBossiere on October 3, 2012
Ronald Reagan wearing cowboy hat at Rancho del...

Mitt is no Ronald Reagan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although early voting has started in some states, the first presidential debate is tonight. While the candidates have been prepping for some time (Romney has apparently been trying out his zingers since August) the main focus has been on a campaign to lower expectations.

While it might seem odd, each party’s minions, spinions and pundits have been busy trying to craft a narrative in which their man is an inferior debater relative to his ass-kicking rhetoric-fu master opponent. Well, with the exception of Chris Christie who apparently did not get the memo regarding lowering expectations.

While some folks might be baffled by this, years of competitive running have taught me about the art of sand baggery.  In the case of running, sand bagging usually occurs in the warm up run before the race and involves runners crafting a narrative of their alleged injuries, fatigue, emotional disorders and other dire obstacles to running well. In Tallahassee, the master of sand bagging is my friend Jeff. Before a race he will weave a tale of running woe that will leave one wondering how he still lives, let alone manages to run. Naturally, he always manages to run a great race (expressing shock at the miraculous recovery that made it possible). He is such a legend that when other runners sand bag well, they are accused of being graduates of Jeff’s school of sand baggery. The point of this sand bagging is, of course, to have ready made excuses in case the race goes badly. Jeff also uses it to try to get an edge in the competition: many a naive fellow has fallen victim to the sand baggery, burning themselves out thinking that they will be able to wear Jeff down.

In my naive youth, I had not heard of this sort of sandbagging, but I did have a lesson in the importance of not bragging before a competition. Before my last big college track meet, the coach had a party for the team. My arch-rival, Glenn, was (as usual) talking some smack. So, when Matt asked me how I would do in the 10K, I said “I’ll be a minute and a quarter mile ahead of Glenn.” While I was initially joking, I quickly realized that I had thrown down the gauntlet and it was, as the kids say today, on. Glenn and I were close in speed and rather devoted competitors. For example, one time we were doing mile repeats and were tied in “wins.” During the tie breaker, the area went dark as a massive lightning storm erupted in the area. While everyone else ran for shelter, we stayed on the flooding track until it ended with my victory. But it was really, really close. The coach was not happy-after all explaining to the college why we had been electrocuted probably would have been a good day for him.

So, when the 10K started, I knew I had to run an incredible race or I would be obligated to eat my words. Naturally, I ran an incredible race and beat Glenn by over a quarter mile. That hurt…a lot. Part of it was luck-I happened to have a really good day while Glenn had something of a bad day. This taught me that it is best not to talk it up before a competition and that was the last time I ever made such a bold and arrogant prediction. Now when people ask me how I think I will do, I say, “I’ll tell you at the finish.”

As might be imagined, the candidates (or their minions) know that things can go badly in a debate much as they can go wrong in an athletic competition. If their man has a cold or is otherwise off his game, he can come across badly. There can also be costly slips. As such, it is not surprising that the minions, spinions and pundits are stacking up the sand bags. This way even a merely competent performance is regarded as being better than expected.

Of course, there is a certain dishonesty and false modesty in this process. After all, Obama is clearly a charismatic debater and Romney can (provided he doesn’t make any $10,000 bets) debate quite well. As such, there probably will not be any disasters or epic victories tonight. But, of course, surprises can happen.

Interestingly, while Romney and Obama have been sand bagging, Romney’s camp has let it be known that Romney has been loading up zingers, presumably to try to create a few Reagan moments (Reagan, a master of timing and showmanship, got in some good shots) in the debate. Of course, the zinger approach does have its risks. Romney lacks the showmanship and charisma of Reagan, so he might not be able to zing effectively. There is also the risk that his pre-loaded zings will appear to be exactly what they are, namely pre-planned and practiced. Zings tend to work best when they are unscripted and the idea that Romney has been practicing zings seems to add to the idea that he is somewhat mechanical in his ways.

Obama has said that he will not be doing any zinging, which certainly matches his style. While Romney has to make an effort to appear human and likable, Obama has to avoid appearing to be arrogant and professorial (although as a professor I often wonder why that is such a bad thing).

While the debates are presented as important, apparently most voters have already made up their minds (and some are already voting). Of course, a disaster or a miracle could occur during the debates and change things-but the odds of that happening are rather low. After all, the debates are carefully planned, scripted and controlled events-more scripted  theater than true competition.

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55 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on October 3, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Funny that Obama gets tagged with the “professor” label. If you listen carefully, Romney’s vocabulary is at the college level whereas Obama’s is more like the 7th grade level.

    • biomass2 said, on October 3, 2012 at 7:52 am

      If you listen carefully (or, to put it another way, try to maintain a balanced view) Obama knows how to adapt his presentation to an audience. A good skill to have. Don’tcha think?

      • T. J. Babson said, on October 3, 2012 at 8:05 am

        I never said Obama was a bad politician–just a bad president.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 3, 2012 at 11:17 am

      Well, Romney does have two advanced degrees from Harvard, so one would expect a decent vocabulary (plus attacks from the anti-intellectuals).

      As far as Obama goes, his vocabulary seems well above the 7th grade. Also, why? That is, why accuse him of having a 7th grade vocabulary?

      • T. J. Babson said, on October 3, 2012 at 11:51 am

        I’m saying he uses a 7th grade vocabulary when he talks to Americans, and so I am wondering why people think he comes across a professorial.

        I’m sure he possesses a perfectly adequate vocabulary that is on par for someone with a law degree.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 3, 2012 at 1:29 pm

          People who say he is professorial tend to do so in the context of criticizing him, so presumably it is some sort of negative behavior on his part. Given your claim that he uses a 7th grade vocabulary while having a better one perhaps people think he is talking to America like a prof talks to students.

      • T. J. Babson said, on October 3, 2012 at 11:52 am

        Just listen carefully to Romney’s diction sometime. He would probably be more popular if he did not use so many big words.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 3, 2012 at 1:30 pm

          Wait, are you advising Romney to be more like how you see Obama (that is, using small words)?

        • T. J. Babson said, on October 3, 2012 at 1:37 pm

          Yes. Romney should be crushing Obama on the merits. That he is not is a testament to Obama’s greater skills as a politician.

          • biomass2 said, on October 3, 2012 at 4:03 pm

            Or, perhaps, it’s a testament to the fact that in a free country not everyone agrees on what “the merits” are. Stated another way, in America you can’t expect everyone to agree with you. Nor is everyone who disagrees with you anti-American. A variation on that theme: “Not every patriotic American agrees with your sense of what the merits are and how they are to be assessed:”

          • T. J. Babson said, on October 3, 2012 at 4:20 pm

            Can you name one thing that has improved under Obama, biomass?

            • WTP said, on October 3, 2012 at 4:51 pm

              You’re wasting your time. There’s another kind of baggery going on here, but it ain’t made of sand.

            • biomass2 said, on October 3, 2012 at 5:24 pm

              The stock market.
              Go ahead. Ask for another one.

            • biomass2 said, on October 3, 2012 at 5:25 pm

              WTP: I”m still waiting for your reply to my 4:20.

            • biomass2 said, on October 3, 2012 at 5:26 pm

              And WTP, it’s not tea-baggery, either.

            • biomass2 said, on October 3, 2012 at 5:28 pm

              And TJ: On “the merits” what has Romney done over the last four years that would make you think he should be “crushing” Obama?

            • biomass2 said, on October 4, 2012 at 3:44 pm

              I gave you one. Sure you don’t want to ask for another?
              I’m thinking the new Start Treaty would be a possibility. . .perhaps because some/many conservatives hate it.

              Interestingly, though, some very significant people in both parties support it:


      • WTP said, on October 3, 2012 at 12:27 pm

        Well, Romney does have two advanced degrees from Harvard, so one would expect a decent vocabulary (plus attacks from the anti-intellectuals).

        Falling back on the old canard of twisting anti-intellectualism into anti-intellect. Mike, there’s no anti-intellect aspect to it. Romney has experience in the real world. There’s no criticism of actual learning in school coming from people such as myself and others whom you would call anti-intellectual. The absence of learning from real world experience is where the criticism lies. Holding on to what is taught when confronted by the school of hard knocks, or never even confronting the school of hard knocks, is the criticism. The so-called intellects running and teaching what they think they know, especially in domains that are unknowable, is the criticism. Pile on top of that the sophistry of the soft-headed and I’m reminded of an old Dorthy Parker line about ladies of ill repute and culture.

        • T. J. Babson said, on October 3, 2012 at 1:45 pm

          “the sophistry of the soft-headed”

          Good one. Up there with Magus’s “spaghetti-armed metrosexuals”

        • biomass2 said, on October 3, 2012 at 4:20 pm

          What, specifically, is Romney’s “real world” experience in foreign affairs? Perhaps he has a secret Mormon mistress in France? Does the Olympics actually count as a ‘foreign affair’?
          What, exactly, is Romney’s experience in the “real world” of national economics? Does running a state count? That didn’t seem to work for GW. If he’s expecting Ryan to carry the ball in that area, I wonder what ball Palin was carrying for McCain in ’08. . .

          Random: What experiences do we have in the real world that are not real world experiences? If I imagine a world where cows are 2 inches tall, is that not a real imagining in the real world? Isn’t it a real experience that I have had—even though the experience was an imagined one? It certainly wouldn’t be a fake imagined experience would it?

        • magus71 said, on October 3, 2012 at 5:34 pm

          My thoughts on intellectualism:


          • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 4, 2012 at 10:15 am

            That is a rather loaded definition of intellectualism. After all, it essentially makes intellectualism bad by definition.

    • Camp Cavatar said, on October 5, 2012 at 3:10 pm

      Clearly that is an attempt to reach all of the people, most of which have a 7th grade education. Read any newspapers lately? No offense, just an explanation. http://www.cavatar.net

  2. T. J. Babson said, on October 3, 2012 at 8:14 am

    “Mitt is no Ronald Reagan.”

    There you go again. I remember how Democrats vilified Reagan in the 1980s.

    • magus71 said, on October 3, 2012 at 5:38 pm


      Democrats love dead Republicans. They love Teddy Roosevelt, quote vigorously from Eisenhower’s “Military-Industrial Complex” speech, and went into a long period of mourning when Ford died. It’s living Republicans they can’t stand.

      • biomass2 said, on October 3, 2012 at 6:43 pm

        magus: They love the progressive Teddy Roosevelt — you know, the one who felt the Republican party was getting too conservative. But, you failed to mention Richard Nixon. Democrats didn’t love him when he was alive, and I don’t believe his death raised his status among Democrats one iota. 🙂

        • T. J. Babson said, on October 3, 2012 at 10:18 pm

          Nixon is the gift that keeps on giving.

          Yet Obama has killed U.S. citizens that have not been charged with any crime and gets a pass.

        • magus71 said, on October 4, 2012 at 6:31 am

          You mean the Nixon that ended the Vietnam War? That Nixon?

        • magus71 said, on October 4, 2012 at 6:34 am

          “who felt the Republican party was getting too conservative.”

          I really doubt that you or many other liberals would applaud Romney if he did the exact same things as Teddy.

          Never forget the tribe.

          • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 4, 2012 at 10:28 am

            Mitt is no Teddy.

            But, if Mitt was Teddy, I’d applaud. That would be because I was applauding Teddy.

            • magus71 said, on October 5, 2012 at 6:06 pm

              Yet you applaud Obama. Pretty appalling.

  3. […] Sand Baggery & Zingers (aphilosopher.wordpress.com) […]

  4. biomass2 said, on October 4, 2012 at 9:46 am

    TJ/magus:There are different kinds of killing. One kind is the attempt to kill the democratic process that allows for fair elections. Fair elections—one of the things we’re fighting/hoping for in countries around the globe these days.
    There’s collateral damage in war that kills innocent people in the honest effort to eliminate serious threats to our country. Carpetbombing wasn’t uncommon in the Vietnamese War. That killed innocent civilians.

    Help me out here. Nixon left office in August of ’74. Saigon was captured by the North Vietnamese at the end of April ’75 and the US withdrew. Is Vietnam a communist or democratic country today? Wnen did the war end? Who won?

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on October 4, 2012 at 10:29 am

      We eventually won. They are eating our KFC. American victory. 🙂

      • biomass2 said, on October 4, 2012 at 11:03 am

        That was in this century, right? I’ve read research that proves that commies (they’re still commies, right?)whatever their ethnicity, are particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of saturated fats. . . The effects, however, are not fast, and they may vary from commie to commie.

        There are reports (from Fox, for example) that KFC has opened in Iraq. There seem to be mixed opinions about ‘KFC in Iran’ (google that) and that seems to match the unsettled nature of the current situation there.
        The ‘KFC’ in Afghanistan is very interesting. It seems to be a total expropriation of the franchise logo, etc. without the agreement of Yum Brands. Yum, of course, is not going to fight the Afghans in court, fearing a lengthy, unwinnable, fight. One Yum exec, when questioned about the situation, said–of the record of course—“No way in hell we’re taking even one small step into that shit.”

    • T. J. Babson said, on October 4, 2012 at 10:43 am

      Victory for biomass:

      In the aftermath of the war, under Lê Duẩn’s administration, the government embarked on a mass campaign of collectivization of farms and factories. This caused an economic collapse and resulted in triple-digit inflation. Reconstruction of the war-ravaged country was slow, and serious humanitarian and economic problems confronted the communist regime. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, millions of people fled the country in crudely built boats, creating an international humanitarian crisis.[46][47]

      In 1978, the Vietnamese military invaded Cambodia to remove from power the Khmer Rouge, who had been razing Vietnamese border villages and massacring the inhabitants.[48] Vietnam was victorious, installing a regime in Cambodia whose leaders ruled until 1989.[49] This action worsened relations with the Chinese, who launched a brief incursion into northern Vietnam in 1979.[50] This conflict caused Vietnam to rely even more heavily on Soviet economic and military aid.

      At the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam in December 1986, reformist politicians upset by the country’s lack of economic progress replaced the “old guard” government with new leadership.[51][52] The reformers were led by 71-year-old Nguyen Van Linh, who became the party’s new general secretary.[52] Linh was a native of northern Vietnam who had served in the south both during and after the Vietnam War.[51][52] In a historic shift, Linh and the reformers implemented a series of free-market reforms – known as Đổi Mới (Renovation) – which carefully managed the transition from a planned economy to a “socialist-oriented market economy”.[53][54]

      Though the authority of the state remained unchallenged, the government encouraged private ownership of farms and factories, economic deregulation and foreign investment, while maintaining control over strategic industries.[54] The Vietnamese economy subsequently achieved rapid growth in agricultural and industrial production, construction, exports and foreign investment. However, these reforms have also caused a rise in income inequality and gender disparities.[12][13][14]


      • biomass2 said, on October 4, 2012 at 11:24 am

        TJ: I didn’t say the NV victory was good. DId I say the victory was good? No. I didn’t say the victory was good.

        I’m saying that 1/ The war didn’t ‘end’ with the Kissinger/Nixon Treaty and 2/When we left, we hadn’t won the war. I was merely trying to set the record straight about magus’ 6:31 am statement that implied that Nixon had ended the war. Your article has provided further proof Nixon only technically ended the war. The result of his action as described in the above article paints the dismal outcome of his ‘ending’. And they’re still communist. Thanks for your help TJ.

        And did I mention that I did not say or imply or even hint that the North Vietnamese victory led to good outcomes? I didn’t say it. I didn’t type it. I didn’t compose it. I didn’t write it. I didn’t word process it. Period.

  5. T. J. Babson said, on October 4, 2012 at 10:01 am

    biomass, the Dems made a big deal about the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was the mastermind of 9/11.

    Obama kills American citizens with no due process whatsoever and the Dems are quiet. You talk about casualties of war, but last time I checked we weren’t at war with Yemen.

    Meanwhile Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is in perfect health, although he may be getting a bit chubby these days.

    • Anonymous said, on October 4, 2012 at 10:39 am

      Waterboarding: John McCain

      Yemeni al-Awlaki: True, we aren’t at war with Yemen. “But’ last time I checked we’re still just a wee bit concerned about Al Qaeda , and as you know, that young Yemeni-American was considered a senior member in that delightful gang of freaks.

      As for that lovable little fuzzball Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: No man with that much body hair can be in perfect health. . .

      • biomass2 said, on October 4, 2012 at 10:40 am

        sorry/the above was from biomass2

      • T. J. Babson said, on October 4, 2012 at 11:00 am

        I happen to agree with McCain. But why is it so difficult for you to accept that killing is actually worse than waterboarding?

        • biomass2 said, on October 4, 2012 at 11:41 am

          in my opinion, the Yemeni was, in my opinion, to use a phrase from a different context, a clear and present danger to our republic. Bin Laden was a clear and present danger. Such individuals are like giant suicide bombs primed to explode.
          They’re not unlike a hypothetical guy (American, perhaps) who’s got a plane full of hostages and threatens to kill them all if he doesn’t get his multi-billion dollar ransom delivered to a Swiss account,asap.
          If you’re a government agent on that plane, would your main priority be to avoid killing a citizen or two at all costs in your effort to kill/subdue the hijacker, or would your priority be to save the 150 passengers and yourself from a likely fiery end?

          • T. J. Babson said, on October 4, 2012 at 12:08 pm

            Get a grip, biomass. A guy riding around in a Jeep in the middle of the desert hardly poses an imminent threat to our Republic.

            How many time has Mike documented that one is more likely to get killed by a falling tree than by a terrorist attack?

            • biomass2 said, on October 4, 2012 at 1:03 pm

              Give those odds to those who died on 9/11.

            • T. J. Babson said, on October 4, 2012 at 9:18 pm

              Amendment 5 – Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings

              No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

              biomass, where does the 5th amendment give the president the power to assassinate a U.S. citizen?

            • biomass2 said, on October 4, 2012 at 11:12 pm

              It doesn’t. I believe the states, according to the 10th take on that responsibility at the state level. When a situation turns dangerous to their citizens, when a felon threatens to kill citizens, a SWAT team is brought in and the criminal is, if necessary, killed. No trial. No due process. In fact, he may not have even killed one individual up to the point where the police decide that the situation as gone too far and there’s a high likelihood that people may be killed.

              I see the situations you object to as national/international versions of the same circumstances, though in these cases, large numbers of people are threatened by very determined people whose ability to follow through on their plans has been proven again and again in countries throughout the world. But I’m willing to hear more convincing arguments to the contrary.

            • T. J. Babson said, on October 5, 2012 at 9:02 am

              SWAT teams are not the same as assassination drones–do you not see the difference?

            • biomass2 said, on October 5, 2012 at 9:29 am

              I see some similarities.

              “Never, in fact, had any charges been filed against him.”

              If you’re a dog lover (and a vid lover-as I know you are) you’ll find this entertaining:

              And I see differences.
              ” large numbers of people are threatened by very determined people whose ability to follow through on their plans has been proven again and again in countries throughout the world”

  6. WTP said, on October 7, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Haditha, burned/pissed on Korans, etc., etc….not that anything ever happens on Tatooine…

  7. […] Sand Baggery & Zingers […]

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