The Decline and Fall of Krystal Ball

Ah yes, the “lidless eye” of Facebook and youthful indiscretions.  First off, I have little to no desire to share the pictures of college graduate Krystal Ball, hosted first at Virginia Virtucon (where they responded to Rep. Rob Wittman’s request to take them down)  and then almost immediately hosted by Greg Letiecq over at BVBL (NSFW — don’t click) — where the pictures have all but driven the nail in an already floundering and practically dead campaign.

In fact, I wonder whether those who shared the pictured even though of Krystal’s daughter and her (eventual) thoughts… or her family… some lines don’t get crossed, fellas.  This might have been one of them.

I have absolutely no desire to post the pictures here.  The impact, however, is done.  Having three daughters of my own, the probability is zero that I would allow any of them near that sort of individual or campaign.  That has ramifications for the person I would prefer represent me in Congress, to be sure.

…or course, that was Krystal Ball as a college graduate, and not Krystal Ball the 29-year old Democratic primary winner in VA-01.  Is there a difference?  Perhaps… but Ball’s campaign has done practically everything in their power to marry — and not draw distinctions between — the 22-year old college grad and the 29 year old accomplished businesswoman.

Unwilling to admit defeat, Ball’s campaign has been doing just about everything possible to turn these pictures into some sort of revival of flagging hopes.  Case in point, Ball’s interview with NBC 12, where she mentions the pictures as a diversion from the “real issues” of the campaign.  And oh, Wittman’s refusal to debate:

If you actually stomached listening to this, I’ll summarize it for you: “the pictures were from a private ‘gag party’ and publishing them is sexist.  And by the way, I still want to be seriously considered for Congress.”

Gawker put it best.  I’m pretty sure that if Krystal Ball were Chris Ball, these pictures would still be published.  “Sexism” was a total non-starter from the get-go.  Of course, I’m still waiting for the candidate with the guts to say, “Yes, I (insert scandal here) and you know what, this is America.  That’s none of (opposition candidate)’s business.  Truth be told, I’m embarrassed for him/her for showing an interest.”  End statement, give it a weekend, move on with a new issue.

I hate to break into a post mortem on a campaign before it’s actually over, but this has to be one of the most poorly run campaigns since a moderately-known TV personality tried to run against Eric Cantor in the early part of this decade.  Krystal — your campaign is over.  In fact, it never set you up to be a serious candidate for Congress.

For that, you should be very, very angry.  Or if anger isn’t your character set, then analytically reflective.

Do you want to know when Krystal Ball for Congress campaign effort was over?  It wasn’t Rudolph-the-Red-“Nosed”-Reindeer.  Nor was it the Krystal Ball’s alleged “pump-and-dump” penny stock scandal that truly ended the campaign.  Nor was it the moronic attempt to raise money with an “Avenue Q” fundraiser with hit songs such as:

  • “It Sucks to Be Me”
  • “Everyone Is a Little Bit Racist”
  • “If You Were Gay”
  • …and “The Internet is for Porn”

You think any of that screams “congressional”?  Or refutes the concept that the Krystal Ball in the sophomoric pics isn’t the same Krystal Ball running for U.S. House?  Probably not… and that’s a problem.

But I digress.

This was the moment when the campaign jumped the shark — Krystal Ball shopping around a cutout of Rob Wittman in an effort to get the congressman to debate:

Message to Krystal Ball: No one was going to debate you. Why? Because the campaign never established your relevancy.  At the moment this video set your tone, you were done in VA-01.

Free advice to candidates for public office.  If you don’t take yourself seriously, don’t expect anyone else to do so.  Challengers have to run near-flawless campaigns.  This — right here — was when the wheels came off.

Message to Danny Barefoot (KB’s campaign manager): What in God’s name possessed you to tell (or allow) your candidate pull do some cutesy stunt that would absolutely guarantee she would never debate Rob Wittman??  First off, it flies in the face of rule #1 of politics: Find a reason to fire the incumbent, and hire the challenger.

Second, debates?  Seriously?  Pick something of relevance — Newport News shipyards, the Virginia class submarines, earmarks (maybe everything should be earmarked, Danny?), jobs, the Chesapeake Bay, Interstate 95, small business development, rebuilding the manufacturing backbone of the 1st District.  But debates?  No better way to scream that your candidate is out of touch and spoiled than whining about debates when folks are out of work, Washington is out of touch, and oh by the way — your candidate is part of the problem by virtue of being the Democrat in the race.  In fact, you should be creating the environment where Wittman is demanding to debate Ball!

Lastly — and I have to come back to this — why are you talking about Rob Wittman?  I would have paid you in gold coin to up my name ID by carrying around a cardboard cutout and have your candidate (and campaign) spend money talking about me.  That’s brilliant… someone on Wittman’s campaign staff deserves a medal for weaseling the Ball campaign into that corner.

You want an example of how to run as a Democrat in this environment?  Look at Tom Perriello’s campaign in VA-05.  Think about it — the demographics are similar (both Bateman and Goode were Democrats before they switched parties), they are multi-jurisdictional districts, and longtime GOP strongholds.   Sure you’ve got an uphill battle in VA-01, but is that any different than what Perriello faced in 2008?

Environment, you say?  Nonsense… Perriello was down by 23 in ’08, and 23 in ’10.  In both instances, the trends are showing Perriello within striking distance against formidable GOP opponents.  Copy and paste this dynamic, because it’s how Democrats down on their luck are going to win in Virginia for at least the next six years.

***

Was this political hit worth it? The pictures of Ball with the sex toys and such?  It’s certainly a new low.  Voters and politicos on both sides may laugh or deride, but remember — at the end of the day, politicians are catering to the baser instincts of the voting public.

If this is the sort of stuff you didn’t want to see, they wouldn’t show it to you.  Right?

Now you might say to yourself  “absolutely not — why would I want to see crap like this?” but you’re lying to yourself.

Base instincts are common instincts.  We all appreciate schadenfreude — reveling in the misery and mishaps of those we perceive to be our betters.  Advertising agencies, political consultants, and others make millions catering to these instincts.  And the day 50%+1 find this sort of stuff invasive and repelling, then it will stop.  Until then, expect more of what works.

The only inoculation?  Education and culture.  Best of luck finding that in schools and homes today.

***

Is Krystal Ball’s political career over? Probably not, unless she decides she’s had enough and will not put herself forward for public consideration.  If Elliot Spitzer can get work on CNN, Ball has a long, long career in Virginia politics, for a couple of reasons.  She’s young, articulate, a very polished public speaker, and clearly very accomplished.  DPVA would not go wrong in giving her some high-profile position after the fact.

The fact of the matter is, as personally disgusting as I might find the pictures, this is the new normal for politics.  Everyone’s parties, moments, indiscretions, etc. are going to find a clearinghouse online.  Facts will be arranged.  The person you were 10 years ago or 40 years ago isn’t the same person you are today.  St. Paul would not survive today’s political environment, to be sure.  Yet memories are short.  Who blames Clinton, Limbaugh, Gingrich, Schwarzenegger (remember those pics?), Kennedy, or yes — Jefferson?  Isn’t this part and parcel of the game?

Of course, as a libertarian-leaning conservative, there’s not much I agree with on Krystal Ball’s politics.  Ball ran wide to the left of moderate Democrat and veteran Scott Robinson.  People can take my US$0.02 one way or another.

At the end of the day, Ball’s campaign will go down to a very hard and difficult defeat on November 2nd.  Unfortunately, her campaign has offered us precious little instruction on how to deal with the “lidless eye” of Facebook and the new variety of opposition research.

This having been said, Krystal Ball could have been served better by her campaign.  If anything, it’s a textbook on how not to react to one petty scandal after another.  Still, Ball’s reputation will recover from the pictures, at least more quickly than the penny stock issues.  Whether anyone will learn anything about it — or think twice about winning at all costs — remains to be seen.

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