Freakspotting and Alvin Greene

by Dave Weigel

Today's Alvin Greene news -- every day, there's Alvin Greene news -- concerns a local baseball team taking up the Democratic Senate candidate on his idea of selling miniature figurines of himself to boost South Carolina's economy.

With all the talk earlier this year of a "Mr. Liberty" statue at nearby Patriots Point, the RiverDogs already planned to give away miniature "Mr. Liberty" statues to the first 1,000 fans in attendance Saturday for their minor league baseball game against the Augusta GreenJackets. In January, an Atlanta-based group proposed a male counterpart of the Statue of Liberty to stand guard over Charleston Harbor. The proposal was rejected by Patriots Point officials, and later by North Charleston officials. Reacting to Greene's plans for economic development, the Charleston ballclub has decided to place Mr. Greene's face on these figurines.

At what point did the ballad of Alvin Greene become less of a story and more of a Festival of Fools, with the unemployed candidate playing the Quasimodo role? I think it came after the Democrats, led by Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), dropped their conspiracy theories about Greene being planted somehow by fiendish Republicans. They did so quietly, after the circus had moved on, not wanting to admit that the claims were based on nothing but confusion about why a man with so little money would blow $10,000 on a Senate bid -- as if assorted kooks and nobodies didn't do the same thing every four years in order to call themselves "presidential candidates." (At CPAC 2007 I found myself seated once next to Susan Doocey, a perfectly nice woman who informed me that she was running for president, which got everyone else to back away from her. And Ray McKinney, a smart under-the-radar GOP candidate for Congress in Georgia, started in politics by running a stunt 2007 White House bid.)

With Democrats no longer going after Greene, though, the story was over. Why, then, do reporters keep heading to South Carolina to profile the guy? Do they expect him to say something profound, or admit that he lied about how he got on the ballot or... you know, make news? What was the point of the talented Katharine Q. Seelye wasting two hours with Greene in order to get him to make inscrutable comments about Nidal Hassan?

I'm not telling people what to publish. I'm genuinely curious about what the news value is when it comes to Greene -- if there's any value other than the one the Weekly World News used to consider when it published photos of BatBoy. Sometimes it feels like there are three quick-bake kinds of candidate reporting -- catch the rising star, catch the falling star, and "hey, check out the freak."