Matt Volk sees signs that the long -waitedToyota hybird SUV Highlander isn't selling.. He suggests it's overpriced. ($43,600, with nav--yikes.) The alternative explanation, of course, is that it doesn't look different from a regular Highlander. Unlike the weird Prius, it's not a rolling advertisement of your eco-credentials. ... I know people who have traded in sexy Audi A4 sedans for Priuses because--in concerned-about-the-planet Hollywood--Priuses are sexier. The trick doesn't work if you drive up in what looks like an ordinary family SUV and have to explain that it's really a hybrid. ... Maybe Toyota could solve the problem with some wacky, nerdy hybrid-only wheels. ... Update: Ford may or may not have a competing "hybrid" hydraulic propulsion system that could be superior to Toyota's. Will Arianna Huffington soon be driving an F-150 pickup? See the lively discussion in the comments section of this Autoblog post. ... 12:11 P.M. link
Dick Morris is usually smart and wrong. But this column seems right. ... It was especially clever of Ken Mehlman to stigmatize Hillary's "angry" quality, since being vacuously angry at Bush is the one obvious way she has of appealing to the Democrats' left base while sticking with her support for the Iraq war. ... Left on affect, Right on effect! ... She was presumably planning to be angry a lot over the next couple of years. ... 11:50 A.M. link
Buried lede of the day? Deep in a piece on new Republican House Majority Leader John Boehne r, former Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey admits he opposes both the Iraq War and No Child Left Behind:
Armey said Boehner will have to temper his views to reflect the conference's. He cited his own votes for President Bush's No Child Left Behind education law and the authorization to go to war in Iraq as positions he never would have taken if he was not majority leader.
Armey joins Chuck Hagel and Newt Gingrich as the Democrats' last, best hopes for getting out their anti-Bush message. [But there are still entire large institutions dedicated to effectively battling the Bush administration's bellicose right-wing policies!--ed You mean the FBI and CIA.] 11:07 A.M. link
kf Touches the Heart of the Heartland! I hadn't realized, until someone tipped me off, that Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 had exactly the same marketing strategy as Brokeback Mountain, the gist of which was "Hey, a film sticks it to the conservatives but it's playing in the red states!" This is the now-familiar Heartland Breakout meme. Moore boasted that his movie was big "in every single red state in America. ... It sold out in Fayetteville, North Carolina." As with Brokeback, the press bought into the story. In 2004, Time magazine wrote:
You would have expected Moore's movie to play well in the liberal big cities, and it is doing so. But the film is also touching the heart of the heartland. In Bartlett, Tenn., a Memphis subuurb, the rooms at Stage Road Cinema showing Fahrenheit 9/11 have been packed ...
I've gotten lots of email asking why I've written so many items about Brokeback. Forty-two items on the subject would be one thing. But forty-three?I must be an anti-homosexual bigot, or a closeted self-hater, or just generally hateful, etc. Here's why I thinkI've written so much on it:
1. The Heartland Breakout Meme seems like B.S.: Fahrenheit wound up reaching about the same number of theaters--approximately 2,000 at its widest distribution--as Brokeback. But Byron York, for his book The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy, got hold of confidential movie-industry data showing that, contrary to the Heartland Breakout scenario, Fahrenheit had done the vast bulk of its business in the usual blue state urban centers (and in ... Canada). It had almost uniformly underperformed in red state cities--including Time's Memphis, where the audience was more than 50% lower than you'd expect given Memphis' share of moviegoers. Some enterprising reporter should get hold of similar data for Brokeback, once its run is over. Do you want to bet they show the same insular, blue-state dominance? The only difference would be that Fahrenheit 9/11 (at $119 million) was much more popular than Brokeback, measured in box office.
2. The Heartland Breakout Meme seems like B.S. of the sort that consistently hurts Democrats (and others who believe it): B.S. is B.S.. Bloggers are allowed to point it out (he says defensively)--especially if it's B.S. the mainstream press has no particular interest in pointing out (because it kills the story, or because they'll seem homophobic).** But this B.S. falls into a special category: the sort of gratifying myth that in the past has helped lull liberals (and gay rights activists who may or may not be liberals) into wild overconfidence. Remember when Democrats actually believed that Fahrenheit would help push Bush out of office? It didn't work out that way. Moore's film didn't change many minds in part because, as York puts it, it "never reached audiences that had the power to defeat the president at the polls." Despite all the "heartland" hype, it was a blue-state movie. York notes that Mel Gibson's Passion of Christ--a mirror-image "red state" movie that did well where Fahrenheit did badly, badly where Fahrenheit did well--prefigured the 2004 results, in that it attracted an audience roughly three times the size of Fahrenheit's (or four times Brokeback's!).