Comments: Week of October 20, 2008

1. The blogosphere ran with John Heilemann’s column about how John McCain sabotaged his maverick status (“The Power Grid: How McCain Lost His Brand,” October 13), arguing that Heilemann’s description of what the candidate did wrong failed to account for “structural factors.” Wrote Matthew Yglesias: “If you’re a center-left pundit who usually pulls the lever for Democrats but also hates and loathes the dread liberal ‘base’ (a common condition), then as long as the relevant comparison class is between McCain and other Republicans (Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, George W. Bush), he can look pretty good.” The Talking Points Memo offered a few additional reasons for McCain’s loss of credibility, citing the Democrats’ new “infrastructure” for quickly neutralizing the Republicans’ attacks, as well as the economic crisis that forced McCain to “suddenly wrench himself into a populist posture— a transformation so ridiculous given his previous statements and pro-deregulatory past that it colored everything that followed.”

2. The response to James J. Cramer for his column about the midterm future of the stock market (“The Bottom Line: Wall Street, Fall 2009,” October 13) suggests that many of us have already become jaded by all the uncertainty and volatility. “So Wall Street thinks Obama is a better choice to get us out of this crisis,” wrote one reader. “Considering Wall Street helped get us into this, I don’t think the endorsement is particularly noteworthy.” Another wondered how Cramer had come up with such a precise figure: “Enough with the 8300—or at least acknowledge where you are getting it. They should have just let the market open there on September 18—we would be done with this by now.” One commenter made a different sort of prediction about 2009 — New Yorkers will go to great pains to conceal their money troubles from one another: “It’ll be interesting to hear people in the coming year saying how over they are of the Hamptons and that the Caribbean is sooo overated. They’ll say anything so people won’t suspect they can’t afford it.”

3. Elizabeth Wurtzel took quite a drubbing in’s comment section for her personal remembrance of the late novelist David Foster Wallace (“Intelligencer: Beyond the Trouble, More Trouble,” September 29). Excessive narcissism was the major charge levied against her, and it was done with, shall we say, excessive vigor. Fortunately, one or two gentler opinions were also expressed: “Too many have been too critical of Elizabeth Wurtzel for too long. Her best writing comes from writing about her condition, exposing all of the mistakes, self-love and self-hatred, and her pure, unfiltered thoughts. Give her a break.”

4. We have noted before on this page the outpouring of comments that typically greet the Sex Diaries on Well, last week there was a special treat: A frequent commenter on the site, who goes by the handle comfortablysmug, composed his own real sex diary, called The Self-Obsessed, Emotionally Detached Hedge-Funder (October 6). Need we mention that this set the comments section ablaze? There was the usual vitriol, but also evidence of a familiarity that was almost touching. (One commenter referred to him as “smuggs.”) But even some of his admirers seemed let down: “After all the hilarious and glib comments I’ve enjoyed from you, I was surprised at how unguarded you were here. You’re so hard on yourself, and it doesn’t sound like you get much pleasure out of sex.” Another commenter was less charitable: “At first I didn’t really think it was him, but now that I see his absence of comments on here I realize it actually might be. And if so, damn, man—you made one hell of a mistake. Judging others and then your life turns out to be … well … THIS??? Pretty sad.” Then, incredibly, comfortablysmug himself weighed in, replying individually to each of the comments and giving this rationale for doing the diary in the first place: “The purpose of the sex diary is not to be glamorous or self-aggrandizing, but to be like sex itself. It’s what happens when you take away all the cover and let others see what’s really there.”

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Comments: Week of October 20, 2008