Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Topic A

Of course, the election remains Topic A, at least until November 6, and in Washington, needless to say, indefinitely.  This has been a particularly frustrating election, based on the following observations:

1. Media pack behavior.  Never before have the media behaved so totally within a pack mentality. The conventional wisdom is somehow fashioned amid the sturm und drang of the campaign and hardly anyone dares to offer observations that challenge it. Now instead of merely elevating the uninformed views of people randomly interviewed on the street to high commentary, we are offered "tweets" and attempts at "zingers" emanating from "spin rooms"--it's all totally bogus. Steve Allen really had it right as to the significance of the opinions of the "man in the street"--they usually were idiotic.

2. Built-in bias. The media still is susceptible to slick operators, and Romney certainly is one of those. So Obama is decried as condescending, out-to-lunch, and off his rocker when he appears to be laid back in the first debate; Romney adopts a moderate, less contentious tone in the last and is praised as statesmanlike. Romney also blatantly discards his previous positions and rarely is called on it. 

3. Campaign oratory.  Wendell Willkie once admitted that "in moments of campaign oratory, we all expand a little." This time Romney has shown he will say anything and change any position to meet the immediate campaign need.Obama rarely exaggerates but the media are much more willing to turn on him and it isn't his incumbency because Bush II got the same "liberal media bending over backwards to be nice to him" treatment.

4. Obama's arrogance.  The President has not received good advice or support from his top-level staff.  He obviously doesn't enjoy these kinds of debates--since they aren't really debates in any normal meaning of the term, who of substance would?--but having agreed to them, he needed a much better strategy.  His unwillingness to get down and work closely with pols of his own party also is hurting him. He seems to have few surrogates--few out there speaking for him. Bill Clinton has done far more than anyone might reasonable expected. Only at the convention did other Democrats show up, perhaps because Obama had not been there for them.

5. The ads.  Yes, they're lying and awful. Apparently, as we have learned over decades, negative ads work. Some people clearly are influenced by them. It does make you recall that "no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public"--I can't remember whether that was Barnum or Mencken speaking.

We do get the leaders we deserve.  Clarence Darrow said it best: "When I was a boy I was told anyone could grow up to become President. [He was speaking btw of CalvinCoolidge.] Now I'm beginning to believe it."

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