Don’t Sniff at Linda McMahon — Cover Her

In a column in Sunday’s Hartford Courant, former Connecticut State Senator Kevin Rennie calls Linda McMahon a “bulldozer” who is poised to “steamroll” Rob Simmons, her main Republican opponent in the U.S. Senate race. See http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/editorials/hc-rennie-mcmahon-simmons.artjan31,0,4909814.column.

Rennie has his reasons for saying this, all politically clinical ones, and they are worth reviewing. McMahon isn’t just wealthy, he believes; she is both rich and savvy, a lethal combination.

Rennie thinks McMahon is “hitting her mark” as a candidate with a personal narrative and an appetizing post-Scott Brown stew of New England Republicanism. The column tries for its own bullseye with an analogy between World Wrestling Entertainment programming and Ronald Reagan’s campy turns in Bedtime for Bonzo.

Here’s where, at a remove of 3,000 miles, I don’t so much dissent — Kevin Rennie sounds like a smart guy — as point out where the validity of his analogy begins and ends.

As I’ve said repeatedly, anyone confronting the McMahon family’s political ambitions, like their business ones, should start by not underestimating them. I don’t and I don’t. That is to say, I have no direct interest in the Senate election in Connecticut, and I do not think for a moment that Linda is stupid. I do think what she represents is dangerous, and what Rennie isolates as the “scary” precision of her focus-group machinery isn’t the half of it.

McMahon is no Reagan. That is not because elites have made the mistake of sniffing at both of them. It is because Bedtime for Bonzo, Knute Rockne, All-American, Hellcats of the Navy, Dark Victory, Kings Row, Death Valley Days, and the future president’s many other shlock classics were never produced by setting up dozens of his fellow actors for needless early deaths. And Reagan was not a boss, and bosses are accountable. Especially when health-care reform is in the air, and her company’s approach to occupational health and safety is basically that of coal mine owners before there were unions.

Whether McMahon proves to be a bulldozer or a buffoon understandably matters to politicos. What matters to the rest of a country whose culture and politics have already been infected by the values and manipulations of WrestleWorld is whether her candidacy becomes the setting for reining in those excesses, or taking them to a new frontier.

We’re watching with morbid fascination. Today you in the Nutmeg State are the canaries in our national coal mine.

Irv Muchnick

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