Coming off, as we are, the first presidential debate, picking a topic for this week’s column was a quintessential “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” dilemma. On the one hand, I’m getting really, really tired of writing about the same freaking thing every week — politics is full of jackasses, but Republicans are especially big jackasses and here’s why — and as a result, every fiber of my being screams at me to just type up a list of under-the-radar horror films or something. Though, to be fair, that’d probably end up being even more divisive than I usually am.
The fact that we’re in election season is the only thing that obligates this content. Mark my words, as soon as Obama is re-elected — let’s not kid ourselves — I’m going to lose myself in a Wikipedia sinkhole and emerge a week later, assigning light-saber combat styles to Food Network personalities.
On the other hand, this is, by the loosest definition possible, a political column, and we are on the heels of a major debate. It’d be disingenuous and, let’s face it, a bit of a cop-out on my part if I didn’t chime in on this, especially considering the miles-apart narratives surrounding the aftermath of Denver.
Regarding the latter note, there have been, as I can see, three primary narratives guiding media coverage since the debate ended. Rooted on the surface in partisan sentiment, they nevertheless hold certain amounts of contextual water and, in some cases, are wound intrinsically together. This song is almost over, so let’s get cracking.
1. Romney Won, Obama Lost
Why It’s True: If we’re stopping at characterizing mannerisms and interactions, then, yes, this is probably true. Let me be blunt: in terms of stage presence and rhetoric, Romney bludgeoned Obama. Over-rehearsed and deeply programmed though they were, his talking points were spoken with enough confidence and conviction to make them sound reasonable and well-intentioned, which is essential when most of what you say is a sticky rhetorical salad that doesn’t add up.
Romney dominated the exchanges, speaking rapidly without getting mush-mouthed and — in an impressively brazen (I mean that as a compliment) breach of etiquette — directly addressed Obama on several occasions. A rather brilliant strategic maneuver, I think, in that it threw the typically polite president off his game from the get-go, and established that night’s version of Romney to be a candidate willing to bend the rules, to get a little rough in the interest of the country, or at least his plan for it. We still don’t know what that is, but more on that later.
Obama, in comparison, was reserved to a fault, and just looked generally tired and irritated on the stage. Whether it was due to fatigue from all the simultaneous campaigning and presidenting, or to his well-founded bemusement that he actually had to debate this joker, no one can really say. He didn’t call Romney out on any of his lies — again, more later — or any of his horrendously gaffe-y, telling comments (47 percent, anyone?), and didn’t exhibit any trace of aggression. Image-wise, he took a hit.
Why It’s BS: Looking first at the grand scheme of things, it’s one debate. In different, more honest terminology, it’s one instance in a trio of instances that really aren’t going to matter that much. The 2008 debates between Barack Obama and John McCain served only to highlight the fact that McCain was old and his policies were ineffective, which we already knew.
In the context of the first Obama/Romney clash, what we already knew about Romney was simply reinforced: he’s terrible in moments that aren’t strictly scripted, and he’ll do whatever he can to avoid being drawn into an actual, honest discussion. If he looked good and sounded confident, it’s because he essentially delivered his stump speech, complete with lies and exaggerations — the “six studies” Romney cited that supposedly support the math on his tax plan consist of two conservative bloggers, three Romney advisers and Harvey Rosen, a former George W. Bush adviser — and he steamrolled and yelled over Jim Lehrer anytime the moderator tried (admittedly, not very hard) to rein him in or ask a pertinent follow-up question.
Obama wasn’t very aggressive, but then, he didn’t have to be. Even under these circumstances, all the incumbent has to do is play competent defense and continue to campaign well. His advisers, David Axelrod among them, admitted that the president was a little blindsided by this version of Romney, but that they’re going to be in Romney’s face much more next time.
2. The Romney Bump! Wheeeeee!
Why It’s True: I want to preface this by admitting I ate a little crow. I predicted in an earlier column — or, more accurately, like six or eight earlier columns — that it would be impossible for Mitt Romney to ever lead Barack Obama in any poll, ever, that didn’t involved Andrew Breitbart asking Georgia residents which candidate they’d let their daughters marry. For the love of god, a Fox News poll had Obama comfortably leading in most demographics. That’s like Varg Vikernes listening to Pat Boone, then telling his friends about it. And yes, that metaphor was just for me.
But yeah, a Pew poll came out yesterday that showed Romney leading Obama by four points among “those most likely to vote.” A word about the caveats in these polls: “most likely to” doesn’t mean squat. If that were true, the valedictorian from my high school would have gone on to Harvard instead of dropping out of UGA and running back to agricultural school, and I’d be a Buddhist director on Broadway. Side note: rednecks think gays and Buddhists are the same thing.
Still, that’s a bump, and Republicans are rightfully thrilled.
Why It’s BS: If there’s one thing we can take away from most polls, it’s that they don’t ring true in the long run. Remember, a poll is a microcosm of impassioned, immediate reactions, especially those taken in the immediate aftermath of a major event, like a debate. Remember when it was announced that Osama bin Laden had been assassinated by Seal Team 6 on the president’s orders? For a while there, Obama’s approval rating was polling at 57 percent or higher. Gradually, it dipped back into the usual low-to-mid 40s territory.
“But Josh,” you might be asking yourself because you read this column for some reason. “You’ve been gloating over the pro-Obama polls for months now! Isn’t it hypocritical and disingenuous of you to brush this one aside?”
You raise a good point, hypothetical, impossibly polite reader. The difference, however, is that Obama has been polling comfortably ahead of Romney for months now in every demographic, save a couple. This indicates not an isolated outpouring, but a trending sentiment, and makes for a much more accurate reading of current national sympathies and tendencies.
3. Romney Has Turned It Around
Why It’s True: Ha ha, seriously?
Why It’s BS: Remember what I said earlier about polls? That a single, isolated incident is borderline negligible, but that a string of similar incidents indicates a trend? Ever since general election campaigns started this year, the Romney team (nay, conservatives in general) have been quick piss away whatever goodwill or momentum they gained at any given point. A formula developed early, and any hopes that Romney or his team could claw their way out of it were effectively quashed by the time the “47 percent” video was aired.
And yeah, yay for the Romney bump. But, in true GOP fashion, they’ve nearly obliterated the momentum. Just a day after the election, the jobs numbers came out, with unemployment at its lowest point (7.8 percent) since Obama took office. This is great news for the whole country, and you’d think it would be greeted with enthusiasm from all sectors.
You obviously don’t know anything.
Conservatives — Romney, Fox News and all — immediately took to questioning the numbers, and even went so far as to accuse the administration of “cooking the books” in order to get the desired results. Yeah, most of this came directly from the mouths of people like Donald Trump and Jack Welch (who admitted he had no evidence at all), but when Fox News — ostensibly the GOP mouthpiece — actively courts those individuals, it’s safe to assume that they’re on board.
A few things, conservatives: A) this makes you look crazy, B) it makes you look like you are completely apathetic to the good of the country as a whole, and C) the numbers are due to a combination of several factors, including trends that you should’ve seen coming a mile away.
Quick elaboration. Unemployment has been steadily, slowly dropping for a couple of years now, so it should come as no surprise that it continues to drop, at pretty much the same rate. Reacting this way — mostly because of the drop below 8 percent — is telling and ridiculous. On top of that, unemployment, regardless of the year, tends to drop slightly around this time of year anyway, as college students get part-time jobs, etc.
You’re fashioning a bats**t insane narrative, one that is completely antithetical to the actuality of the situation. Once the election is over, very promising careers in reality television await you all.You Might Also Like: