I watched CNN with family last night until it was clear Obama had won. I found it particularly funny that the fellow walking through the counties on CNN, John King, well before the projected victory, managed to find so many different ways to communicate that Romney had lost – without saying it out loud. It’s very difficult for the governor to win, it’s hard to see a way forward, etc. It reminded me of Erasmus’s exercises on saying the same thing in dozens of different ways.
The presidential election has entered its final weeks of spin. Each side is convinced of the inevitability of victory and is busy pumping out propaganda to that effect. All I’m convinced of, though, is my need to take more naps and remain well rested. Normally a minor political junkie, I have actually grown a bit weary of the campaigns. I may simply be getting older and even more cynical than usual, but it seems as if I’ve seen this election before, with Romney not terribly different from McCain, and the president not terribly different from his 2008 self. Everything has a deja vu haze about it. Or perhaps I’m thinking about the 2000 debacle.
The President came out swinging so fast last night that he forgot to open with the customary thank you. As it turns out, it was an effective strategy.
Body language goes a long way to communicating a sense of energy, and the town hall format allowed him to move and gesture to great effect. He looked like a different man than the one who stood cautiously throughout the previous debate.
To be fair, the questions favored Obama, but Romney made two major gaffes that he can only blame himself for. The first was his “binders full of women” moment, which, to be charitable, was a weak answer to a very serious question, given his low polling with women voters. The second mistake was pressing Obama over the Libyan embassy attack, a most unpromising line of reasoning that quite frankly amounts to a rather thin gruel even if it was accurate (which by now it should be clear it is not).
What struck me most about the debate last night was how it managed to be simultaneously filled with content and empty. Policy numbers were flying left and right, and yet very little was being said. I didn’t really get a sense of either candidate other than Romney’s new smiling hyper-aggressiveness and Obama’s caution.
It reminded me of a poker game. Romney played the guy that bets every hand, no matter what he has – a offensive, loose game, much like his tax policy of gambling that lowering tax rates will lead to higher returns. Obama played the guy who sits and waits for the right cards – a tight, defensive game, much like his fiscal policy of making strategic bets on certain industries. I would observe, keeping to the metaphor, that the first kind of game requires a much better player than the second.
Clint’s RNC speech woke up an otherwise sleepy convention. Watching it, I can’t see the big deal that I’ve seen in convention coverage about it being a disaster. So he talks to a chair, rhetorically. So he stammers a lot. So he forgets Romney’s got a law degree. So his language is occasionally colorful. Nobody’s perfect and he did the job he came to the convention to do – fire up the base, which can be seen in the all the applause he got. Overall he spoke to frustration with Obama, which is not exactly in short supply, so he was on pretty safe ground at the RNC. His speech was not for liberals any more than any of Romney’s or Ryan’s.
Veep picks have become increasingly important and substantive, given the increase in the power of the vice-presidency. Still, it is important always for candidates to use the veep pick to move to the center. Ryan does not do this for Romney anymore than Palin did anything for McCain. Admittedly, there wasn’t much to pick from, given that Republican moderates are more or less a dead species, but I was expecting someone more palatable to independents/undecided. Ryan’s budget plan, being concrete, makes him really easy to attack and paint as extreme. I’m already seeing a flood of anti-Ryan prop and the announcement’s not a day old. The message is the same across the spectrum – extremist.
This ongoing negative strategy of the administration – really not negative so much as just holding the center -continues to look like a winner. That is not to say that I approve or agree with it – just that it seems to be working.
If I were in Romney’s shoes, and playing politics, I would have nominated a moderate woman – read not Palin – to address his consistent weakness in the polls with women voters. But there are so few GOP choices. There are no less than four GOP female governors, though.
Saw The Dark Knight Rises finally. Not as good as the last one, but very good all the same. Lots of nods to canon while feeling true to the last two movies. My favorite version of the Bat is still the one from Arkham Asylum and City, but the Bale version isn’t bad at all.
Been watching a lot of Olympics, too.
Haven’t posted much of anything lately. I suppose I should start slow. What about Jared Diamond complaining about Romney’s misuse of Guns, Germs, and Steel? Pretty funny. It would seem Romney, already quietly policy-free in the states, has no luck opening his mouth overseas, either. He’ll get a bounce from Tampa, and Obama will get a bounce from Charlotte, and these should cancel each other out.
The morning’s NYT: Whites Account for Under Half of Births in U.S., and a fascinating color spread of a race-baiting super-PAC attack ad on Obama that links him to black-liberation Wright all over again.
I remember, back when I was working on the diss – early 2008 – I was in the stacks of Harding’s religious library when I ran into an elderly white gentleman having trouble finding a book. People ask me for help in the stacks all the time – I guess I look like I work there. Anyway, I helped him. He was checking out books on black liberation theology, trying to understand this Obama fellow through his minister. We argued amicably for awhile about whether or not the political beliefs of your minister reliably affect one’s political beliefs. He was firmly of the position that you can’t sit in church for twenty years listening to the same minister and not be affected. I realized while talking that we had a very different view of the malleability of opinion, as well as the centrality of religious belief to political belief. As such, that ad, if it runs, may appeal to him but not to me. But I don’t think he voted for Obama in the first place, so this campaign may be a wasted effort, further polarizing the already polarized.
I think he did the right thing. Time will tell how much it hurts him, but you can’t say he lacks guts, announcing support for gay marriage at the beginning of his re-election campaign. You could say he’s swinging left due to lackluster big-money donations, but this is a move at a entirely different level that say, supporting a minimum wage increase or an assault weapons ban. It simply hasn’t been done before.