One year ago the race for the White House reached its final month with Mitt Romney looking like a plausible winner, despite his "47% blunder"--thanks to President Obama's stumble in their first debate. So, starting this week, I will post an excerpt from my ebook, Tricks, Lies, and Videotape (just $2.99) which collects my daily campaign items from The Nation and from this blog, in a unique day-by-day tracking of the race.
From October 14, 2012
David Brooks is at it again. Three weeks ago, in the wake of the release of the “47% video,” Brooks wrote a column directing scathing criticism at Romney. He accused Romney of not understanding, among other things, “America” and “the social contract” and other matters almost as bad. He said he doesn’t even ‘know much” about this country. He was totally out of touch with our “culture.” He even called him Thurston Howell Romney.
You could not imagine that, given those essential faults, that there’s any way Brooks could still consider Romney a valid candidate for president and, with a heavy heart, would have to drop his support.
No such luck.
Instead, within days of facing those brutal truths, Brooks was back in apology, and then booster, mode (and he has never renounced his fanboy affection for Paul Ryan). It’s as if Paul Krugman accused Obama of being “anti-American” and then returned to writing love notes as if afflicted with amnesia.
Well, we might expect more from Krugman, but this is really no surprise coming from Brooks. Witness his treatment of Sarah Palin in 2008. He would come to call her (aptly, as most of us recognized during that campaign) “a joke” and only qualified to be a TV “talk show host.” But when it really counted, during the 2008 campaign when there was a very real chance she’d become vice president, he trimmed his sails in his Times column.
From October 12, 2012:
As I expected, the vice president easily topped Paul Ryan on points, substance, and ready-to-lead. Ryan looked shallow, sometimes intimidated, often out of his depth. As a few tweeted, “He had his Eddie Munster face on too long.” But Biden--apparently not learning from Obama’s lack of respect for the split screen--repeatedly appeared on camera betraying disrespect for him opponent, not just smiling (as some of his defenders claimed) but openly scoffing, mocking, butting in. It’s true: Ryan’s blatant lies deserved scorn, but Biden should have left that to verbal thrusts only. He threw away a chance for a knockout, while still winning the nod from the judges, for sure.
As for the pundits and cable channels: MSNBC predictably went big for Biden, Fox even more so for Ryan—with one analyst after another hitting Biden for his “demeanor” and “buffoonery.” Karl Rove tweeted that Biden was “unhinged.” Many analysts at CNN said Ryan “held his own.” Gloria Borger somehow called Ryan “fluent” in foreign policy. This despite the fact that Biden, like Clint Eastwood, was talking to an empty chair all night.
Now to what really matters, the polls: The key “instant poll” from CBS, among 500 undecided voters, found Biden wins 50 percent to 31 percent. (Romney had won easily last week over Obama.) Asked whom they could relate to, Biden won; he also was seen as more ready to be president. Some 85 percent said Biden knowledgeable and 75 percent said the same of Ryan.
CNN called it a draw. I had warned during debate Ryan would do better than you might think, since he was getting killed on substance, due to Biden’s “laughing” etc.
From October 11, 2012:
Veep as in Bleep? New York magazine imagines what the Biden-Ryan debate tonight would be like if it was created by the f-bombing folks behind Veep on HBO. A few highlights:
Ryan on the last four years ..."You have put this office in a salad spinner of fuck."
Biden on Medicare vouchers ..."It's like trying to use a croissant for a fucking dildo. It doesn't do the job and it makes a fucking mess."
Ryan on the 47 percent ..."I've met some real people, okay? And I've got to tell you, a lot of them are fucking idiots."
Biden on Ryan's muscles ..."You know, I can see right through your shirt. Is it designed that way?"
Ryan on Biden's age ..."We need somebody who's plugged in. The only thing Joe's plugged into is his fucking piss bag."
Biden on his psyche ..."I'm a political leper and an emotional time bomb, so here's an idea, let's put me onstage."
From October 10, 2012:
I was pleased to see Jon Stewart last night run in its entirety (it’s only about sixty seconds) my favorite FDR video clip, which I have promoted for some time as an Obama must-see and must-use, in ads. Now the clip takes on new urgency in the wake of the Obama flop in the first debate.
The president clearly needs a new debate coach, and even from his grave Franklin D. Roosevelt is the best around. He could even give Bill Clinton a few lessons. Stewart, after running the clip, noted that, oh, that Roosevelt guy won a race or two (or four).
Here’s the clip. Of course, FDR’s jibes could be used almost word-for-word to shoot down empty GOP promises about not cutting favored programs, slashing taxes and somehow balancing the budget.
But there’s another FDR clip that today’s Democrat in the White House ought to screen a few times. You may have read about the fairly famous Roosevelt invitation (from a 1936 speech in Madison Square Garden) to his more over-the-top critics: “I welcome their hatred.” But what else did he say in that speech?
Check it out here. Note the key line: “Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob.”
Then there’s this (not in the clip but in the same speech): “For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away…. Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.”
And more today: "Mr. Romney’s Neighborhood" from Jimmy Fallon. A beautiful day. Dog strapped to trolley. A visit to the Land of Imagination, where Romney and Ryan "get their facts." And a visitor at the door, Mr. Obama.
From October 9, 2012:
Despite the blatant racism on display at various Birther and Tea Party rallies—at protests embraced by many in the GOP and Fox News—we have often been told that the numbers of such adherents is very, very low. Or even, that racism is dead in America since, as Will Cain of The Blaze told Bill Maher last Friday with a straight face, the U.S. elected a black president.
On the other hand, how do you explain that Birtherism was never a “fringe” faction within the GOP? In fact, all manner of polls have shown that actually at least half of Republicans embrace or once embraced the meme that Obama was not born in America. The latest poll I saw still pegged that “fringe” at an unhealthy 40 percent of all Republicans.
One of the great mainstream media fails of the past two years, right up to the GOP convention, was ignoring Birtherism as a near-majority view in the modern GOP—and refusing to probe what that means.
I’m reminded of all this today by the the shocking (except, it’s not) story out of Morgan Hill, California, courtesy of a local TV report. It seems one fine fella has erected a chair in front of his home along with a teleprompter, perhaps in homage to Clint Eastwood. So far so good. But with this twist: on the chair are two watermelons, and hanging from it is a noose. Nearby a go-back-to-Kenya sign.
Oh, one more thing: Another sign, “Mitt Romney for President.”
Is this the quote of the week, if not year? A neighbor says that the chair and watermelon are okay but maybe “the noose is a little over the edge.” The homeowner, in the video, says the “display speaks for itself” and he had no problem if images were circulated widely. Strange fruit, indeed.
Of course, this is not to say that most Romney backers are out and out racists. But it would be nice if the media, belatedly, explored the remaining strength of Birtherism—and what it reveals.
From October 8, 2012:
A new Gallup poll out today, based purely on what voters believe in the post-debate period, finds the race for the White House tied at 47%–47%. Just a few days ago Gallup gave Obama a 6% lead and found a 54% approval rating. Why the plunge? Gallup found Romney’s win in the debate—or, if you will, Obama’s flop—the worst in its recorded history. Of those who watched, Romney won by 72 to 20.
This is an even wider margin than the instant polls indicated, and perhaps reflects more folks being affected by the media coverage, which kicked in at full-Romney-win throttle. Even most Democrats said Romney won (no surprise there—even SNL noted MSNBC libs’ shaken reaction).
Also troubling for Dems: part of the Gallup poll was taken in the aftermath of Friday’s good jobs numbers.
Gallup’s daily tracker (actually a seven-day average) as of yesterday still gave President Obama a 3 point lead. There was a bit of good news: Some other polls suggest that Romney’s ‘bounce” may be over and settling in at about a 3% gain, as Nate Silver at The New York Times calculated.
Perhaps more troubling in all this is that many polls in swing states suddenly find Romney gaining or taking the lead. Wisconsin and even Ohio (which the GOP was seemingly about to write off) appear to be back in play. And just as bad, or worse: Obama’s debate performance appears to be dragging down Dems in key Senate contests. Some polls, for example, show Senator Sherrod Brown’s lead over his amazingly callow challenger in Ohio now very surmountable. And expect more bad news this week in Missouri and Virginia and elsewhere as polls emerge—unless the jobs numbers report cools that trend.
The bottom line is: Five days ago, Obama appeared to be cruising to victory, with ever-widening leads in most of the swing states. If the debates, or world events, did not produce a bombshell, there was little chance he would lose. And the jobs numbers report proved much better than expected (even if the right-wingers cried “conspiracy”).
Now, it’s all up for grabs again—including Democratic control of the Senate. Already, outright anger toward Obama for fumbling the debate so badly has been expressed by some supporters on the left, and surely this will explode if it turns out to be the negative turning point in the entire campaign. Of course, this is very premature. Joe Biden may whip Paul Ryan, and Obama will surely do better in the two remaining debates with his opponent. But perhaps the damage has been done.
What I fault Obama for is not lack of preparation on facts—he had them at his command—but seemingly lackadaisical planning on how to rebut Romney to his face. And even more damaging (given the media’s obsession with style), and quite inconceivable: his lack of attention to how he’d look in the now-common split-screen coverage, and his refusal to craft and deliver a strong closing statement. The Romney camp, fearing a powerful Obama closer, had tried in advance to eliminate any final statements in this debate.
Meanwhile, media coverage of the first debate is getting increasing attention. I will just mention for now Paul Krugman’s reaction, as expressed on a Sunday morning show yesterday. Like me, Krugman has roasted Obama’s debate performance but also hits the media’s lack of focus on the many Romney lies in the debate. A more honest and balanced media response to the debate would have been: Romney wins on style, Obama on truth-telling. Yes, Obama deserved to take a hit in the polls, but it would have been less pronounced if Romney’s mendacity had received equal play.
Monday, October 14, 2013
New Feature: This Day in the Obama-Romney Race
is author of a dozen books (click on covers at right), including the new "THE TUNNELS: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill." He was the longtime editor of Editor & Publisher. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @GregMitch