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The Importance of Being Earnest

Howard Fineman thinks Barack Obama is spending too much time on Olympia Snowe. He also says:

Despite a bit of grandiloquence and a habit of quoting Longfellow (who was, in her defense, a Mainer), she is likable and earnest. She was believable when she told me that she had not sought such a prominent role. “It’s not me dictating anything,” she said.

Why would you say someone is earnest “despite” a habit of quoting Longfellow? That seems like a very earnest thing to do. And are earnest people really generally likable? It seems to me they’re often a bit annoying. Generally political reporters seem to prefer politicians like Bob Dole and John McCain who have a keen sense of irony.

At any rate, Fineman’s key point is this:

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Nor would Snowe’s vote mollify the GOP grassroots: they don’t think of her as a Republican anyway.

You can think of the aftermath of the stimulus vote. Securing the votes of three moderate Republicans didn’t lead anyone to characterize the bill as a bipartisan endeavor. Instead, it simply served to delegitimize the “real Republican” credentials of the three Republicans who voted for it.