To tell you the truth, the liberal freak-out over Obama’s “debate disaster” is a good thing. The complacency that was palpable two weeks ago is gone and everyone horrified at the thought of Mitt Romney essentially reigniting a third term of deficit-busting, laissez-faire Bush-o-nomics and multi-trillion dollar international pratfalls is reminding friends and neighbors that the ability to flat-out lie in front of 70 million people is not the primary virtue of an effective president. (One of, sadly, but not the first.)
Post Romney “surge”more liberals will vote than before.
The best description of the lefty meltdown I’ve heard since Oct. 3 came from David Weigel, who compared the reaction to the “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace”, the first in the third set of sequels from George Lucas.
Said Weigel in his Slate post: “Democrats walked out of the theater/turned off the TV saying ‘huh, well, I wanted it to be better’. After a few days of talking to friends, it changes from a disappointment into the worst piece of crap in human history.” That’s about right.
Or, as E.J. Dionne remarked, “When you give conservatives bad news in your polls, they want to kill you. When you give liberals bad news in your polls, they want to kill themselves.”
As I said last time, all debates require showmanship, the willingness and ability to put on a show that appeals not just to your most invested partisans but the, shall I say, “casual consumer”, people who’ll tune in maybe once before returning to Thursday Night Football or “Dancing with the Stars”. Obama lacked the former. Romney lacks neither.
Did you see the spot-on Saturday Night Live skit on “independent voters”?
As infuriating as Obama’s performance was in failing to toss up one-liners and smackdowns, what he actually said, in its meandering, dialed-back, “too polite” way was both fair and accurate. By now, it has been conclusively proven, and proven again, that virtually everything Romney said about everything of significance was, well, a lie.
The predicament, as many pundits have noted, is how do you call a lie a lie, or a liar a liar, without actually using either word?
The larger point is that in the debate arena, with, as I’ve said before, moderators who are not going to demand specific, coherent answers to their (highly generalized) questions, “performance prevarication” is an entirely effective strategy. I’ve told my hand-wringing liberal friends over the past week that the 70 million people who watch the debate performance, in all it’s calculated artfulness, pales in comparison to the single digit millions who’ll react with astonishment at the fact-checkers’ evisceration of that performance the next morning.
Given the near instantaneous access to factual information — on tax plans, Tax Policy Center analyses, records of previous candidate statements on abortion, the Blunt amendment, Roe v. Wade, you name it, the cable channel I’d watch is the one that throws that stuff up in a real-time crawl. It’d be, you know, fair and informative.
Make no mistake, the burden is on Obama and, tonight, Joe Biden. The modern GOP is almost entirely an election machine. It’s contempt for government has been vividly reflected in its indifference to governing — for everything that is other than re-upholstering financial advantages for its peer and donor class. To beat that game you simply have to bring the fight … with a bit of humor substituting for angry indignation.
Also over the past week, I was gratified that a couple of the big dogs, Paul Krugman and Bill Clinton, followed my lead and hammered points I made after the first debate. (I’m going to bill those two.) Krugman in his assertion that the establishment media is incapable of dealing with a campaign like the Romney-Ryan circus, where … lying … is a conscious strategy, and Bubba in his description of the Romney debate performance as the minimally informed super-salesman “closer” who is wheeled in to charm the clients without getting mired in uncomfortable details. These kids meant it when they said they weren’t interested in a campaign dictated by fact-checkers.
It’s of course disheartening that today’s Tea Party/populist conservatives can be exhilarated into tumescence by shameless dishonesty. But most of them are blindered creatures of a routinely dishonest, sales-driven rhetorical culture. A commercial culture that places no serious value on credibility as you or I know it. Put another way, they don’t really expect their “team” to deliver anything they promise, other than of course those tax benefits I just mentioned. Campaigns are just “stuff you say”. A show you put on.
As for the sad trolls who float along behind the modern conservative machine piping their toy kazoos, they are unwitting chumps. None the less they are delighted that their “team” is sticking it to the sort of people who avoided them in high school. The basic grievances of human nature never fully heal.