Dumb Partisan Outrage of the Day

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

So I guess if you have ideas about solving the federal debt that involve cuts to entitlement programs, you’ve given up your right to drink good wine.

This “controversy” is about as dumb as when Republicans complain about the Obamas going on vacation while America is in a recession! Ryan wasn’t gloating about drinking good wine. He didn’t put out a press release celebrating his taste in expensive wine. No, a drunk Rutgers professor invaded his privacy, eavesdropped on his conversation, snooped to see what kind of wine he was drinking, looked up the cost of the wine on the menu, then went to the media. This is Breitbart-esque nonsense from Talking Points Memo.

Some choice bits:

The pomp and circumstance surrounding the waiter’s presentation, uncorking and decanting of the pricey Pinot Noir caught the attention of another diner who had already recognized Ryan sitting with two other men nearby.

There’s a ritual you go through with a waiter when you order a bottle of wine from restaurant. But pomp and circumstance? Really? Did they play rich people music when they brought out the wine? Did Ryan dance the secret millionaire’s jig before tasting his sample? Feinberg makes it seem as if Ryan was rubbing it in the noses of other diners that he was about to sip a fine wine that none of them could afford. Except that the drunken professor who confronted Ryan actually had to look up the price of the wine before she could be angry.

She was outraged that Ryan was consuming hundreds of dollars in wine while Congress was in the midst of intense debates over whether to cut seniors’ safety net, and she didn’t know whether Ryan or his companions was going to pay for the wine and whether the two men were lobbyists.

Again, what is the point, here? That politicians who want to cut or scale back public programs aren’t allowed to spend their own money on good wine? She’d almost have a point if this was a violation of House lobbying rules. Except that she had no idea if the men Ryan was eating with were lobbyists. She just saw a congressman she loathes, started snooping, rudely took photos of his table*, then drunkenly confronted him, all on a hunch that his dinner companions might have been lobbyists. Ryan says they were economists.

“It was my birthday, and I’d had half a bottle of great wine with dinner,” she wrote in an e-mail to TPM. “I wasn’t drunk, but I was certainly emboldened to speak my mind.”

Wait a second, here. How could Feinberg—who as a business professor at Rutgers is presumably a well-paid public employee—in good conscience enjoy a half bottle of “great wine” at a fancy D.C. bistro when people are suffering? When unemployment hovers near 10 percent? When the world economy is in a tailspin? When President Obama is entertaining cuts to Social Security and Medicare? Oh, that’s right. She has the correct opinions on all of theses issues. So she’s allowed to enjoy good wine with a clean conscience.

Feinberg said all three men were “droning on loudly during the evening that liberals think that if you’re a millionaire, you have done something wrong.”

I doubt this happened. Agree or disagree with his politics, everything I’ve read about Ryan indicates he has a mild-mannered personal demeanor. This sounds much more like a liberal university professor’s nightmarish vision of what an evil, budget-cutting, Rand-loving Republican simply must be like. Did Ryan’s monocle also pop out and splash down into his glass of expensive wine? Did he check his top hat with the maitre d’, or did he set it on the table next to his plate? Did he brush off with the back of his hand orphan children who begged him merely for scraps of house bread that otherwise would have been thrown in the trash?

I love a good politician-bashing story as much as anyone. But this reeks of mindless partisan sniping.

(*Ryan was in a public space (thought at a private restaurant). So long as the restaurant allows photography, I don’t think it should be illegal to snap his photo. That doesn’t mean it isn’t rude, just as it would be rude to snap photos of a celebrity trying to enjoy a meal.)

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31 Responses to “Dumb Partisan Outrage of the Day”

  1. #1 |  Andrew Bowers | 

    I haven’t seen anyone claim Ryan or anyone else shouldn’t be allowed to drink expensive wine. Perhaps mildly embarrassed but that’s all. You seem to be making a much bigger deal out of this than those who reported on it.

  2. #2 |  terraformer | 

    Someone should have asked this woman why on her birthday, she didn’t donate the price of her meal to the poor seniors and stay home herself for a gourmet helping of Raman Noodles.

  3. #3 |  Andrew Bowers | 

    Yeah, especially if she is a public official personally pushing national legislation that would lead America into historic austerity. Is she?

  4. #4 |  claude | 

    People should ride Paul Ryan constantly. It will be a good day when he is removed from office. He is good for absolutely nothing.

  5. #5 |  Ryan the Oenophile » Right Thinking | 

    [...] something about this ridiculous nontroversy about Paul Ryan drinking … wine. But Radly Balko lined it up perfectly. Apparently, a mildly intoxicated Rutgers professor saw Paul Ryan drinking a $350 [...]

  6. #6 |  Warren Bonesteel | 

    This is a great example of the hypocrisy of both sides of the aisle. She can enjoy an meal at an expensive restaurant, but it’s evil when her ideological opponents try to do the same thing.

    Change the political parties in the story.

    Had a drunken conservative accosted a Democrat in the same fashion, the same article from a liberal mouth-piece would have read quite differently….and the right-wing blogs would be supporting the good professor, instead of attacking her.

    The state of affairs in America is pretty obvious when we find ourselves politicizing a meal at a nice restaurant.

  7. #7 |  ClubMedSux | 

    Well claude’s argument has certainly clarified the issue for me: if claude doesn’t like somebody, one must never defend said individual from any attacks, no matter how trivial. Please remove this blog entry post-haste, Radley!

  8. #8 |  David in Balt | 

    @ ClubMedSux

    Yeah, pretty much. If someone did this to someone with a (D) behind their name, or FSM forbid, Obama, Claude would be frothing mad calling for criminal or libel charges. It’s nice to see that there truly is a bipartisan place to start mending society, hypocrisy.

  9. #9 |  Bryan | 

    That woman sounds like a complete fuddy-duddy.

  10. #10 |  Tde | 

    Thank you for having the moral courage to stand up for a politician’s right to enjoy $700 of wine with dinner without being questioned about it.

  11. #11 |  anoNY | 

    “Thank you for having the moral courage to stand up for a politician’s right to enjoy $700 of wine with dinner without being questioned about it.”

    Balko is standing up against the stupidity of people who are trying to make something out of nothing.

  12. #12 |  Carl Weetabix | 

    Forget Ryan, but it is hard to believe that our representatives, most of which are “rich” by any standard and probably few, if any, even literal “middle class”, can represent the vast majority of us, the unwashed masses as it were.

    Moreover, since the unwashed masses are unlikely to be invited to their tables, much less their offices, it’s hard to believe they don’t live in an echo chamber of viewpoints that reflect a very different picture than the reality most of us live in. Whether they can transcend that is another question, but I would not bet on it.

    This is regardless of political persuasion.

    So whether Ryan is particularly “egregious” I don’t know – but I do know the whole thing just stinks.

  13. #13 |  Maggie McNeill | 

    “Did Ryan’s monocle also pop out and splash down into his glass of expensive wine? Did he check his top hat with the maitre d’, or did he set it on the table next to his plate? Did he brush off with the back of his hand orphan children who begged him merely for scraps of house bread that otherwise would have been thrown in the trash?”

    As one who hates partisan nonsense I was predisposed to like this article, Radley, but you surpassed yourself; I literally LOLed. Excellent!

  14. #14 |  Brandon | 

    Looks like a lot of those 500k who came for the front yard garden story have some trouble getting past the team blue blinders.

  15. #15 |  FridayNext | 

    I have to agree it is a none story. But then I didn’t think the price of John Edwards’ haircut was a story either, but that went on for fricking weeks.

  16. #16 |  hooglyboogly | 

    @ #12 Carl Weetabix

    “few, if any, even literal “middle class”, can represent the vast majority of us, the unwashed masses as it were.”

    Stop voting for them then.

    “Moreover, since the unwashed masses are unlikely to be invited to their tables, much less their offices, ”

    One doesn’t need an invitation to visit the office of their representatives. One just needs to get off their ass.

    “So whether Ryan is particularly “egregious” I don’t know – but I do know the whole thing just stinks.”

    Why? Because someone enjoyed a bottle of wine you can’t afford? Poor, poor Carl.

  17. #17 |  Julian | 

    I’m a pretty dedicated liberal, and I don’t know why the hell anyone thinks Mr. Ryan’s drinking preferences matter one single goddamn. His ideas are stupid, they’d cause plenty of harm and do little good, and he’s lied through every orifice of his body in promoting them, but none of that has anything to do with him liking pricey wine. This implication that there’s something unseemly or hypocritical about drinking expensive booze when you’re the type who wants to dismantle SS and Medicare is just silly. Ryan’s exactly the sort of person you’d expect to find doing such a thing; I’m just surprised he wasn’t smoking a cigar at the same time.

  18. #18 |  Ted S. | 

    Money might be vulgar but spending [one's own] should be fun.

    (Paraphrased from http://www.searcys.co.uk/gherkin-club/membership-benefits/ )

  19. #19 |  c andrew | 

    “This “controversy” is about as dumb as when Republicans complain about the Obamas going on vacation while America is in a recession!”

    Hmmm.

    Didn’t Obama’s mouthpiece complain about the Republicans leaving DC to go back to their constituencies as scheduled because they weren’t working on raising the debt ceiling?

    I’m a bit amused by Obama’s latecoming insistence on fiscal rectitude given his and the democrats’ spending orgy in the last 2 years. Not to say that the orgy wasn’t bipartisan with Bush and McCain pushing the original TARP. I just find it tiresome that Obama will attack them for lacking fiscal rectitude at the same time he attacks them for attempting to cut entitlements. Talk about having cake and eating it too.

    (This is not to say that the current Republicans are actually being fiscally responsible. C’mon. 2 Trillion in “cuts” of “projected spending” over ten years? That means at least 4 years before we offset the first stimulus. Not to mention that CATO has shown that projected spending will still rise by 1.8 Trillion.)

  20. #20 |  c andrew | 

    Not to say that the orgy wasn’t bipartisan with Bush and McCain pushing the original TARP

    Should read…

    Not to say that the orgy wasn’t bipartisan with Bush and McCain AND OBAMA pushing the original TARP

  21. #21 |  Phelps | 

    In all fairness, this would be beneath Breitbart. Unless Ryan was sticking his dick in the wine, even Breitbart would have passed.

    They really fear Ryan to try this hard to smear him.

  22. #22 |  Sinchy | 

    The busybody should have quietly snapped a picture of the people at Ryan’s table and tried to find out if they were lobbyists, then when it came out that Ryan didn’t pay for the wine, which he probably wouldn’t have done (it’s human nature) she could have exacted some real damage to her political enemy.
    Instead she gave Ryan a lesson on the optics of the class divide. Now whenever Ryan is out for dinner he might order a Budweiser.
    He is allowed to enjoy whatever he wants, but the fact that he and his friends, and fellow politicians are enjoying these luxuries while asking working people to sacrifice should be illuminating to those who think he can be working for all of us, rich or poor. The fact is most of the ruling class has no clue what working people’s lives are like. It’s all theory for Ryan and no reality. That’s the story.
    I would love to try a $350 Pinot.

  23. #23 |  NY Cynic | 

    It’s a such a non story, in addition the left fear of Ryan is funny at best. Rockwell and Co have shown that Ryan is another empty conservative suit, using Libertarian rhetoric.

  24. #24 |  MPH | 

    The following seems to apply to Feinberg (paraphrased from a quote by Thomas Sowell): “The problem isn’t that Feinberg can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Feinberg can’t think. The problem is that Feinberg doesn’t know what thinking is; she confuses it with feeling.” And as others have already noted, the idea that what Ryan was doing was reprehensible while what she was doing wasn’t, even though she was doing the same thing, is a hypocrisy typical of a fanatic.

    And for those of you who are wondering about what makes a bottle of wine worth $350, I have the following observation from my personal experience. My most expensive personal purchase of a bottle of wine is $220, although my usual purchase runs under $10 per bottle. What makes a $220 bottle of wine cost 10 times a $22 bottle of wine? It is NOT 10 times better. It comes from a winery with a consistently good product from year to year. They use the most expensive form of harvesting, where each individual grape is picked at the peak of ripeness. But most importantly, what makes it that expensive is that it is RARE, and is currently in fashion (or “trendy”). There are plenty of small, family run wineries that are both consistent, and use the best quality practices, but that aren’t either fashionable enough, or rare enough to command such prices (and the appearance of rarity is something that a winery can artificially increase). Look at MI wines for lots of examples of this. Many excellent wineries (117 last I knew), a lot of really good wine, still mostly unknown, and so still reasonably priced. So don’t lament that you can’t afford a $350 bottle of Pinot Noir. Go out and buy a $35 bottle (from a store, rather than a restaurant) and you’ll be 99% there. Trust me, you won’t miss, or probably even notice, the missing 1%.

  25. #25 |  claude | 

    “Well claude’s argument has certainly clarified the issue for me: if claude doesn’t like somebody, one must never defend said individual from any attacks, no matter how trivial. Please remove this blog entry post-haste, Radley!”

    We could probably apply that to u as well, now couldnt we? Did anyone tell Radley not to post or defend him? No, they didnt. People should ride that little ineffectual nothing all day every day. Im sorry that opinion is such a problem for u. Actually, not really.

  26. #26 |  claude | 

    “Yeah, pretty much. If someone did this to someone with a (D) behind their name, or FSM forbid, Obama, Claude would be frothing mad calling for criminal or libel charges.”

    U obviously dont know me very well at all. At least put some effort into it. Sheesh. Maybe u can support Paul Ryan by shopping at his next job… Paul Ryans Used Cars. ;-)

  27. #27 |  John Q. Galt | 

    So, when can we expect some stalker pics of miss biz professor?

  28. #28 |  JOR | 

    Anyone who says the problem with people they disagree with is that “they don’t think, they feel” probably isn’t worth paying attention to (except to note their willful stupidity), and that includes Sowell. Hypocrisy and compartmentalization of moral standards are an incredibly common human habit; we’ve all done it before, sometimes while “emotional” and sometimes in cold blood, and it takes no special talent for empathy to understand how or why someone might make such an intellectual error without being addled or insane or “emotional”.

    But then, imagining that proponents of some belief one thinks to be wrong must be addled or insane or “emotional” is another common human habit.

  29. #29 |  Chris | 

    Susan Feinberg gave an 8 minute interview about her “outing” of Paul Ryan. She is clearly extremely pleased with herself.

    http://www.thomhartmann.com/bigpicture/thom-hartmann-talks-susan-feinberg-who-caught-paul-ryan-act

  30. #30 |  orange | 

    I agree that this is a silly story. However, your post is kind of silly, too.

    Why did you feel the need to refer to Feinberg as being “drunk” three separate times in this post when that is an assumption not in evidence? Ryan described her as “possibly drunk” and she described herself as “not drunk”. So why are you jumping to conclusions?

    Oh, because you’re taking sides. And, sure, you’re allowed to take sides. But you’re not allowed to invent your own reality. Your post didn’t benefit from the multiple accusations of her inebriation, so you really didn’t need to include that dubious assertion.

  31. #31 |  Petty controversy: Paul Ryan’s ‘outrageous’ $350 bottles of wine (The Week) | NewsPeruse.com Latest and Breaking News | 

    [...] hard to see how anyone could mistakenly order two $350 bottles of wine.” Still, counters The Agitator, there’s no rule that politicians “aren’t allowed to spend their own money on [...]

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