– Bud Norman
– Bud Norman
– Bud Norman
– Bud Norman
– Bud Norman
There is less than a week to go before the most consequential presidential election in generations, and the big story is the weather.
We wouldn’t want to downplay the significance of Hurricane Sandy, which has killed 50 people, severely disrupted the lives of millions, and caused untold billions of dollars of damage to beloved and irreplaceable property, and we sympathize with all of those who have been affected by the storm. Although the weather has been quite pleasant around here lately, those of us who live on the plains know all too well how very brutal nature can be.
Still, one hopes there will be some space left in the news for the election. Sandy’s winds seem to have blown all mention of the presidential race off the front pages and out of the newscasts, and that is a shame. As horrible as the storm has been, it is not at all hyperbolic to say that a second Obama term could be even more destructive.
What little attention has been paid to the presidential election in the past few days has mostly concerned how it might be affected by the storm. Some alarmists have fretted that Obama will somehow contrive to delay the election, which is too paranoid even for our tastes, but most of the speculation has concerned which candidate is most likely to benefit from the weather.
Any break from the news that has lately seen Mitt Romney surging in the polls is thought to be beneficial to Obama, a plausible theory, but the four years’ worth of unpleasant stories won’t be immediately forgotten and are bound to resurface once the campaigns resume today. There’s also a hope among the Democrats that Obama will seem more presidential when the helpful media broadcast images of him solemnly running the government’s response to the disaster, which is also plausible, and especially walking around the rubble with whatever elected officials can find time for him, but a president’s role in these affairs is mostly limited to signing orders to spend money and there have already been countless images of that. Every natural disaster now entails the usual cries about global warming, which is still considered an issue for the Democrats, but no one seems to pay them much heed any longer.
Another theory holds that Romney could benefit if lingering bad weather, power outages, road closings, and various clean-up chores keep large numbers of voters away from the voting booths. This strikes us as reasonable, given that Romney’s voters will crawl across broken glass on their knees to vote while Obama’s supporters seem to be less enthused these days, but the areas that are most likely to still be struggling through Election Day are in states that usually vote Democratic in any circumstances. There’s also a good possibility that Obama will blunder through the hurricane, or at least say something that reminds people of their pre-storm reasons for voting against him, and a good probability that at least some of the storm victims will be without electricity or have some other valid complaint on Election Day.
– Bud Norman
Perhaps it’s a sign of advancing fogeyism, but we lately find ourselves yearning for a bygone era when political campaigns were conducted with proper decorum. There was always mud-slinging, dissembling, thuggery, and all manner of other unpleasantness, but at least the candidates could be counted on to refrain from cursing in the presence of children and mothers.
Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has thus far been as fastidiously proper as the man himself, but Barack Obama’s re-election bid has too often descended into vulgarity. Thursday’s news exposed yet another example. The offending party was Obama himself, who gave an interview with Rolling Stone in which he characterized his opponent with what its politely called a “barnyard epithet.” We’ll not re-state the word here, so let it suffice to say it’s a familiar term generally used to describe someone malodorously dishonest.
Lest we be accused of fuddy-duddiness we still stipulate that the term is relatively mild by today’s degraded standards, and confess that we have also employed it on a few occasions when in the company of rough men or the more worldly sorts of women, but it’s not the sort of language that one uses in the more respectable circles Rolling Stone’s high-brow readers presumably frequent. There have undoubtedly been previous presidents who used the term — Lyndon Johnson was famously foul-mouthed, Richard Nixon introduced the term “expletive deleted” to the lexicon, and one can only imagine what Andrew Jackson let loose with after a jug or two — but all were careful not to do so within earshot of the public.
Most of the president’s critics have focused on the rich irony of his using term to describe anyone else, and it certainly is audacious for the man who won office promising universal health care and middle-class tax cuts and endless entitlements while halving the deficit in four years to make such an accusation. More energetic scribes than ourselves are required to catalog all of the malodorous dishonesty that Obama has shoveled during his brief political career, from the phony-baloney cost figures he used to sell Obamacare to his false Libyan tale to the entirety of his self-written persona, but the critics’ point is well taken.
Still, let us also save a share of opprobrium for the language that he used. Such words are polluting the culture, and it cannot help this dire situation to give them a presidential imprimatur. The next grandfather who asks the loud young men at the next table to watch their language in the presence of children will have to contend with the argument that the president and vice-president have used the same words, and that is a shame that should not go unremarked.
The phrase was probably chosen by Obama with great care, and calculated to confer an aura of proletarian authenticity that will contrast with his opponent’s more patrician bearing. This should have a special appeal to more youthful voters, who seem unable to formulate a sentence without at least one obscene amplifier, but also to a leftist base that has reveled in foul language since at least the days of Lenny Bruce. For some reason the same people who find it appropriate for the government to dictate everything from one’s choice of light bulbs to an opinion regarding affirmative action or same-sex marriage bristle at mere social conventions regarding cursing.
– Bud Norman
There were serious stories in the news Wednesday, such as the latest evidence that the Obama administration lied about the nature of the deadly attack on the American embassy in Libya, but it was nonetheless hard to ignore the latest antics of Gloria Allred and Donald Trump.
Two of America’s most shameless attention-seekers both garnered some coveted headlines in the midst of an important presidential election with much-hyped attempts at an “October surprise” on behalf of their preferred candidates. Although both succeeded in their primary objective of getting their names in the papers, neither is likely to have a significant effect on the race.
The latest ploy by Allred, a crusading feminist lawyer known for intruding herself into all manner of passing controversies, was to demand that a Massachusetts court unseal Mitt Romney’s testimony in a bitter divorce trial. This sounds titillating enough, except that it wasn’t the happily married Romney’s divorce, there is no suggestion that Romney had anything at all to do with the split, and his testimony only concerned the rather dull matter of the value of some stocks the estranged husband and wife were squabbling over. Romney’s assessment of the stocks seems to have cost the wife some money in the eventual settlement, leaving her with a continuing resentment of the Republican nominee, and Allred apparently hopes that scorned women everywhere will react by rushing to the polls to vote for Obama.
Romney’s reaction was to instruct his lawyer not to contest the matter, assuring the public that he was happy to let them read his testimony, then get back to the more serious business of reminding voters how many women remain unemployed in the era of Obamanomics. Given that Obama probably already has the high-society divorcee vote locked up, this seems a sound response.
Trump, the billionaire real estate developer and reality show star with the famously bad hair, grabbed his share of the spotlight with an offer to donate $5 million to a charity of Obama’s choice if Obama will only release his hermetically sealed college and passport records. There is speculation that the records will reveal Obama was admitted to Columbia as a foreign student and traveled abroad on a foreign passport, popular conspiracy theories that are plausible enough, but the more likely benefits of the gambit are to draw attention to Obama’s secretiveness about his past and raise doubts about what he might hiding.
– Bud Norman
Regular readers of this publication have no doubt noticed that we are not averse to sarcasm. Wielded effectively, sarcasm is an effective rhetorical device, can even achieve a satisfying literary quality, and often provides the added benefit of a healthful chuckle.
Such is our regard for sarcasm that it pains us to see it misused, as President Barack Obama has so often done over the past many years. In Monday night’s final presidential debate against Mitt Romney, for example, Obama employed sarcasm on several occasions to a disastrous effect.
The most celebrated incident occurred after Romney inveighed against Obama’s parsimonious defense budget proposals, rightly noting that they would leave the Navy with fewer ships than at any time since 1917 and well short of what the admirals have determined are necessary to fulfill their mission. Sneering like one of the late-night comedy show hosts that he so often hangs out with, Obama retorted that “Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”
Reports indicate that the lines prompted a big cheer from press gallery, but it is unlikely that more objective observers were as enthusiastic. Reaction from the military was certainly unimpressed, with soldiers noting that both horses and bayonets have played a role in the war Obama has been prosecuting in Afghanistan, sailors noting that submarines are called “boats” in naval parlance, and almost everyone in uniform down to the lowliest “corpseman” wondering at what point in his career as a community organizer and adjunct law professor and hack politician Obama became such an expert military strategist. A majority of the civilian population probably had a similarly unfavorable reaction, with even the most militarily unsavvy doubting that such barbs would adequately substitute for a few cruisers or destroyers in wartime.
Worse yet, the line probably garnered few laughs outside the press room or the sweetly smoked living rooms of MSNBC’s paltry viewership. Sarcasm is a challenging art, and Obama fell short of its magnificent potential for reasons well known to the accomplished practitioner.
Sarcasm should only be deployed in appropriate circumstances, to cite but one rule that Obama disregarded. Except in the most unusual circumstances sarcasm should be eschewed at events such as funerals, elementary school awards presentations, baptisms, death bed visits, and presidential debates concerning matters of national security. Obama’s sneering screed seem petty and unserious, while Romney’s forbearance made him seem far more presidential.
Sarcasm should also be reserved for the most obvious fallacies, and one needn’t be a hard-core Romney supporter to see his argument made a serious point that warranted a serious response. The sarcasm was an insult not only to Romney, but to all those interested to hear a serious response from Obama.
Truly skewering sarcasm ends a debate on any point, but when it misses the remark it only invites a withering counterattack of sarcasms. So it was with Romney’s follow-ups that “the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.” The gag belongs to a genre of jokes that was stale even by the time the “Seinfeld” program lampooned it million syndicated re-runs ago, presupposes that most voters will share its assumption that the peace-through-strength model that ended the Cold War is no longer relevant. Obama’s relentless Bush-bashing seems to have some popular appeal, but Reagan-bashing is offensive to the old folks and makes one seem something of a geezer to the young.
Similar sarcasm abounds in the Obama campaign, which has turned into a veritable stand-up routine of knee-slapping Big Bird and binder jokes, and the die-hard fans who still turn up at the rallies seem to eat it up. Lefties love their sarcasm, no matter how unskillful, so long as it’s aimed at the proper targets. The left’s obsession with sarcasm dates back at least to Saul Alinsky, the late leftist guru of community organizing whose “Rules For Radicals” advocated ridicule as a propaganda method, and it increasingly seems to be their favorite method of argument.
– Bud Norman
Mitt Romney went awfully easy on Barack Obama in Monday night’s presidential debate, by our thinking, but we suspect he had his reasons.
The most frustrating portion of the proceedings was the discussion of the Sept. 11 terror attack on the embassy in Libya and its four resulting deaths, when Romney declined to mention the administration’s repeated denials of requests by the ambassador for more security, its weeks-long insistence on a false story that a little-known video had provoked the event, its outrageous imprisonment of the filmmaker and implied apology for the First Amendment, its continuing dissembling, the president’s callous description of the deadly attack as “not optimal” and “bumps in the road,” or any of several other disturbing aspects of Obama’s utter pooch-screwing in the matter. Similar punch-pulling marked Romney’s response to questions about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, America’s commitment to Israel, and the likely dire consequences of the recent political upheavals in the Middle East.
Vexing as it was to listen to, we can see how such tactics effectively served a broader campaign strategy. The debate was devoted to foreign policy during an election dominated by economic issues, the two previous debates had likely sufficed for all the but the most politically enthused, and televised competition from professional football and the seventh game of the National League championship series had further reduced the audience, so Romney’s main objectives were to reassure the skittish womenfolk that presumably predominated in the audience that he’s not a bloodthirsty war-monger and avoid anything that would provide fodder for a ravenous press to exploit over the next few day’s worth of news stories.
He seems have to succeeded in both regards. As much as we would have loved to see Romney tear further into Romney’s failings, his lack of aggressiveness on the obvious points probably bolstered the amiably calm-and-steady persona that he displayed throughout the evening. If he made any glaring mistakes, the news reports that followed on brief news reports failed to highlight them.
Romney also scored a few points along the way, provoking some rather unpresidential behavior from the president. He rightly criticized the apologetic nature of Obama’s foreign policy, and when Obama rudely interrupted to dispute the allegation he was met with some verbatim quotes that most viewers will inevitably interpret as apologies for America’s past. When Romney rightly noted that Obama’s defense cuts have left the Navy with its fewest ships since 1917, Obama responded with a sarcastic explanation of how “we have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them,” implying that not only Romney but the Navy admirals that have requested an additional 38 ships lack a rudimentary understanding of naval strategy.
Although foreign policy was the announced topic of the debate, much of the debate was spent on the closely related topic of the economy. This allowed Obama to talk at length about hiring more teachers, which he seems to believe is the key to the economic recovery that has somehow eluded him the past four years, and Romney seized the opportunity to express his love for teachers even as he doubted that a few thousand more of them will somehow bring about full employment.
– Bud Norman
Political debates are scored subjectively, of course, and those predisposed to thinking that Barack Obama won Tuesday’s contest will likely go right ahead and think so. He didn’t convince us that his presidency hasn’t been disastrous, however, and we doubt that he won over many other skeptics.
Despite the significant advantages of a “town hall” format and a moderator clearly eager to help his cause, Obama probably also failed to convince many voters that Republican rival Mitt Romney is a lying, woman-hating, tax-cheating, Big Bird-killing plutocrat eager to wage war on the poor and downtrodden. Although Romney missed a few opportunities along the way, he came across as knowledgeable, competent, and very much a human being.
Romney also seemed classy yet down-to-earth as he endured the quadrennial inanities of the “town hall” “debate.” The questioners at these events almost invariably want to know about something of personal importance rather than national significance, which gives an edge to Democrats ever willing to oblige an individual at the taxpayers’ expense, and these purportedly undecided voters often turn out to be partisans hoping to embarrass the Republican. This time around a woman asked about women, which seemed intended to help Obama regain an apparently lost advantage with female voters, but it only gave Romney an opportunity to point out that a lousy economy is harmful to both sexes while Obama was reduced to touting a little-known Lilly Ledbetter bill that will affect a relative handful of women while discouraging many employers from hiring anyone of either sex. Another woman seemed to be demanding proof that Romney is not George W. Bush, and although we were disappointed he passed up the chance to produce his birth certificate he otherwise handled the question well without blasting his fellow Republican, while Obama was unable to offer a compelling theory that Romney is in fact Bush.
The best efforts of the moderator also failed to do Obama much good, although one of her frequent interjections was widely blamed by many conservative pundits blamed for one of the most disappointing moments of the night. During the inevitable discussion of the murders of four Americans at the embassy in Libya on Sept. 11, an issue that has been severely damaging to the president’s campaign, Obama insisted that he had described the event as terrorism from the outset, and when Romney disagreed the moderator flatly insisted that the president was right. A glance at the transcript of the president’s Rose Garden address in the immediate aftermath does include one oblique reference to terror toward the end of his brief remarks, but the coming days of news coverage should force even the most biased reporters to concede that the president did nonetheless spend weeks telling a now-discredited story that the murders were the result of a spontaneous demonstration provoked by a little-known film. Indeed, within minutes of the debate even the moderator was admitting she had been essentially incorrect.
– Bud Norman