I really just don’t know anymore about presidential politics (not that I really care very much) other than to say this: anyone who would actually campaign for the job is unfit. We’d be much better off just picking someone at random, in a lottery of some kind.
In what passes for breathless political theater at CNN, the latest Romney-Obama flap concerns “off the cuff remarks”. Off the cuff remarks are great – and the press picks up on them, whereas usually they are ignored – when they confirm what the press thinks about the candidate already. It’s an example of “confirmation bias“, which is bad enough when regular people succumb to it, but takes on somewhat more importance when the people who are supposed to provide “information” to others.
In any case, you’ve got Romney revealing his true colors by saying that nearly half the electorate is lazy, dependent and entitled and are going to vote for Obama no matter what. Seizing the moment, the president’s men couldn’t have done a better job in response, tapping into the press echo chamber:
“It’s shocking that a candidate for President of the United States would go behind closed doors and declare to a group of wealthy donors that half the American people view themselves as ‘victims,’ entitled to handouts, and are unwilling to take ‘personal responsibility’ for their lives. It’s hard to serve as president for all Americans when you’ve disdainfully written off half the nation,” said Obama campaign manager Jim Messina in a statement.
In response, the Romney campaign trots out its attack dog VP candidate Paul Ryan, who tries to counter the huge Romney gaffe by dredging up some Obama quote from four years ago, to the effect that some voters “…cling to their guns and their religion”:
“This Catholic deer hunter is guilty as charged and proud to say so,” Ryan said Monday at a campaign event in Iowa. “That’s just weird. Who says things like that? That’s just strange.”
Can it get any stupider? To be fair to Ryan, I don’t know what you can say when your candidate’s smug condescension to half the country has been so effectively exposed out of his own mouth, other than show that the opponent has just as much contempt for the people he is wooing. But if you have to reach back more than four years for some verbal ammunition that the electorate has already discounted – since, after all, it did elect Obama – then it just looks like you really have no answer. In which case it would have been better, of course, to say nothing. Just absorb the damage and move on.
What this episode shows is that while Romney is a detestable, shallow, self-serving, self-righteous and over-privileged fop his running mate is, contrary to his wonkish reputation, a lightweight foot-soldier for whomever is in command.
Not that I have any sympathies for the Obama camp either, you understand, but what a decisive tactical victory for them, handed to them by their opponents themselves.
There may be one interesting (and potentially positive) thing about this election: neither candidate can seem to muster up more than the most obviously manufactured enthusiasm either for the campaign or the job itself. As I said, no one who really wants it should have it, and this election may be the first sign that even those who are running for the job are conceding in a small way that the whole contest is, if not farcical, then at least nowhere near as important as it pretends to be.
Update: Now Romney is getting pummeled in the Canadian press. This really is a PR disaster for him, confirming the worst suspicions the “voters” had. Again, not that it’s particularly important. Not even that he’s wrong exactly. But the timing and content here are just awful for him. Possibly terminal, in the electoral sense.
Update 2: Apparently it was Jimmy Carter’s grandson who pushed the Romney video at issue, meaning that at least it seems he doesn’t have the tin ear that his grandfather did. And he certainly know that it’s all about the narrative:
He put the anonymous video source in touch with the Mother Jones reporter and then butted out, knowing he was onto something. “Any time that you can find a clip that strengthens the narrative already established, that’s what becomes a big deal,” Carter explained.