Heckling to the Choir

Regular readers of this publication are aware that we disagree with almost everything President Barack Obama says and does, but we wish he wouldn’t take it personally. Some of our friends say and would do equally stupid things, and for the most part our disagreements do not become disagreeable. The president seems to believe that it’s all about him, however, and on Wednesday was pouting to another crowd of hand-picked adorers in Kansas City that his critics should “Stop being mad all the time, stop just hatin’ all the time.”
The hand-picked crowd of adorers started chanting “We love you,” laughed raucously at all the boilerplate ridicule of Republicans, and the president was temporarily transported back in time to those happier days of ’08 when hope and change were in the air and it actually was all about him. Perhaps the president hasn’t noticed that hand-picking such adoring crowds has become a harder chore for his aides as his cult of personality has dwindled down to Jonestown levels, or that a majority of disapproving Americans outside the arenas are no longer paying any attention by his very un-presidential act. It’s not just the phony hip-hop folksiness of that dropped “g” at the end of “hatin’,” and the petulant foot-stomping about that stupid Constitution that allows those mean old congressmen to spitefully vote for what their constituents want rather than what he wants, but mostly how very obvious it is that the ridicule is being offered in lieu of a reasonable argument.
Surely you’ve encountered liberals at the right sorts of cocktail parties who respond to any unfashionable opinion with a dismissive laugh and a sneering put-down, and when asked have nothing to explain the response except another dismissive laugh and sneering put-down, but one expects better from a president of the United States. We recall the president ridiculing Mitt Romney’s statement that Russian President Vladimir Putin should be regarded as a “geo-political” by recycling an old “Seinfeld” gag and chortling that “The ’80s called and they want their foreign policy back.” Now the ’80s are calling back, and America wishes that Ronald Reagan were still around to answer the phone. We also recall another hand-picked crowd of adorers laughing it up about complaints that the southern border isn’t secure, with such zingers as “next they’ll want us to build a moat, and put alligators in it,” and you would have gotten the sense that those crazy Republicans truly believed a hundred thousand or so minors could just waltz across the border unaccompanied. Those crazy Republicans’ paranoid fantasy that if you liked your health insurance plan you wouldn’t be able to keep it under Obamacare got a lot of laughs from those hand-picked crowds of adorers, too, and a lot of the president’s other frequent forays into ridicule now look just as ridiculous.
At this point an argument, complete with facts and logic and a proper respect for the swelling opposing opinion, would probably be more effective. We’re not hatin’, just hoping.

– Bud Norman

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Wising Up the Youngsters

Back in our younger days the old folks used to fret over the lack of trust we had for our national institutions. Now that we’ve reach old fogeyhood, we find ourselves slightly heartened to see that the current crop of young folks are at long last becoming mistrustful of government.
Although we have not noticed this trend in our own occasional encounters with the under-30 set, we are assured it is underway by a recent poll from Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. The ivy-covered organization’s annual survey of “millennials,” as today’s 18- to 29-year-olds are often called, found that their trust of government has dropped below even last year’s “historically low levels.” Almost every institution has seen its numbers slip, with Wall Street and the United Nations being the unaccountable exceptions, and it’s gotten to the point that even President Barack Obama is trusted by only 32 percent of the respondents.
Given the youngsters’ overwhelming support for Obama in the past two elections, the polling results are potentially good news for Republicans. Other hopeful numbers in the poll are that 44 percent of those who voted for Romney say they will definitely vote in the mid-term elections, compared to only 35 percent of Obama who say the same thing, and those identifying themselves as Republicans have increased in number even if they remain a minority. More importantly, the broader finding that “millennials” are less trusting of the government suggests they might at long last be persuaded to stop voting for more and more of it.
The wising-up of the young folks is not surprising, as they were bound to notice sooner or later that the candidates they have embraced are eager to stick them with the old folks’ medical bills along with a $17 trillion national debt and a massive regulatory state and meager employment prospects, but it remains to be seen if the GOP can win their votes. Our experience of young folks suggests that the lure of hope and change and free stuff has a powerful effect on them, and the next Democratic candidate could still convince them that despite whatever disappointments they’ve experienced in the past the next time is going to be different. Republicans still suffer from a reputation as sexually repressed squares, too, and the only things young people seem to desire more than hope and change and free stuff are sexual license and being thought hip. Undoing the the damage done by the public schools and higher education and all those touchy-feely soccer leagues might require an ever greater catastrophe than the one they’ve been living all their adult lives.
The best the Republicans can likely hope for is that fewer young people will bother to vote all, but even that might be enough to swing a few elections their way. If the Democrats are obliged to make their promises at least somewhat more plausible, and have to campaign without the youthful idealism and energy of the whippersnappers, that would also represent a significant improvement in America’s politics. Youthful idealism and energy are the most destructive forces known to history, and the sooner they are blunted by the hard-earned cynicism and lethargy of old age the better.

– Bud Norman

Politics and the Single Woman

Like so many of us, the Republican party seems to have a problem wooing single women.
Although the “gender gap” that has allowed the Democrats to win strong majorities of the distaff vote is so widely acknowledged it has become a quadrennial cliché, a closer look at the data reveals that the GOP’s more specific problem is with the unmarried variety of women. According to the almighty exit polling Mitt Romney won the votes of women with husbands by the same 11 point margin that he lost the overall female vote, and similar disparities have occurred for the past several elections.
A widely believed theory attributes this phenomenon to the Republican party’s well-known opposition to abortion, and this seems plausible enough. Some polls show that women are split almost evenly on the issue, as is the country at large, but it is a reasonable assumption that the single women are more likely to favor abortion rights than their married counterparts. Still, given the apparent permanency of Roe v. Wade and the abundance of other issues that are of importance to even the most avid abortion enthusiasts, there must be more to the problem.
We suspect that that the economic insecurity that comes with being single is a more important factor. Without the a spouse to rely on during times of unemployment, or even during the times of less-than-affluent employment, women are more likely to look to the government and its varied entitlement programs for support. Obama’s never-ending re-election campaign seems to have reached the same conclusion, as it made a specific appeal to such anxieties with its much-ridiculed “Life of Julia” web site and countless speeches that also enumerated all the government-bought goodies that Democrats are in business to provide.
This notion is bolstered by the fact that single men are also more likely to vote for Democrats than their married counterparts. Indeed, in the last election Obama won the single voters by a whopping 62 to 35 percent while Romney won the married folks by a slightly less whopping 56 to 42 percent. Single men are still somewhat less likely than single women to vote Democrat, which we would chalk up to a persistent if diminished desire for self-sufficiency that tradition has inculcated in the male of the species, but the financial worries that also afflict single men apparently makes the welfare state ever more attractive to menfolk as well.
The problem with single women wouldn’t be so severe if there weren’t so many of them. Unmarried American women now outnumber the married ones, a fact that would have been thought unthinkable just a few short generations ago, and the disappearing stigma against illegitimacy and the decline of other old-fashioned notions about marriage make it unlikely that the trend will soon abate. Indeed, a widespread belief we’ve noted among the single women of our acquaintance that the mores of a few short generations ago were somehow oppressive is probably another reason that a Republican party that is proudly associated with the old-fashioned values of that lost era is probably yet another reason for the gender gap.
It is not at all clear what the Republican party can do it about, short of giving up on its reason for being and trying to outbid the Democrats for the votes of single men and women. The government could stop the numerous welfare policies that encourage single motherhood, revise divorce laws that make marriage a less attractive option for men, and otherwise stop discouraging people from getting married, as well as emphasizing the social costs of illegitimacy, but that would require the Democrats to act their self-interest and thus is unlikely to happen. Republicans could also try to explain that their economic policies make it more likely for both men and women to get jobs that would free them from dependence on the government, but they’ve been doing that for the past many years with desultory results.
The Republicans still have many exceptional single women in their ranks, and should give them a more prominent role in shaming their liberal sisters into the self-sufficiency that feminism once claimed to stand to for. As many a single man has unhappily discovered, though, those women are exceptional.

– Bud Norman

In Search of the Missing Voter

All of the amateur psephologists on the right have been glumly sifting through the election data, searching for some hopeful explanation of what happened on Tuesday, and several have seized on the curious case of the missing voters.
Early counts of voter indicate turnout was lower than in the 2008 election in every state, and although the unaccountably prolonged process of vote-counting will eventually increase the final numbers it appears the decline was significant. Conservatives can find some consolation in the fact that Obama almost certainly won’t match the number of votes he won four years earlier, but they also have to face the sobering truth that Romney will likely wind up with fewer votes than the famously uninspiring campaign of John McCain.
Although some of the decline can be attributed to the storm that swept through much of the northeast in the week preceding the election, other reasons are clearly required for the rest of the country. The fall in Obama’s vote haul is easily explained by the vast gulf between the extravagant earth-healing promises of his ’08 campaign and the dismal economic record that he was saddled with in ’12, but it’s harder to say why anyone willing to take the effort to vote for McCain wouldn’t have done the same four years later for Romney.
Some will say it was because the election was of little interest outside the swing states that were blitzed with campaign rallies and constant television advertising, a plausible theory given that most of the mass media quite were happy to distract their audiences from the important issues of the campaign, but turnout was apparently down in those beleaguered swing states as well. Others will contend that Romney was never fully embraced by the most hard-core conservatives of his party, but by the election day he was certainly regarded as a more rock-ribbed type than the even squishier McCain. There are the predictable suggestions that Romney’s Mormonism scared off evangelical voters, but our wide circle of evangelical friends and acquaintances seemed genuinely enthusiastic about his candidacy.
Only in retrospect do we see that Romney’s upbeat and well-behaved campaign might have failed to motivate those McCain voters to trudge back to the polls. The campaign’s assumption was that animus toward Obama would suffice to turn out the right-most voters and that a soft sell was required to win over the moderates who might be scared off by an angrier tone, which seemed reasonable enough at the time and at one point even seemed to be working, but as of now there is no denying that it simply did not work. A more alarmist campaign that screamed of the impending debt crisis and collapse of the entitlement system might not have worked, either, but at least it would have given the Republican party’s candidate in 2016 a chance to say that the voters were warned.
Our best guess, though, is that all those missing voters simply gave up on politics at some point in the last four years. Some were likely the usual sort of apolitical Americans who got caught up in the unusually high level of interest in the ’08 campaign and quickly reverted to their less depressing interests, while others were people who followed politics with a sufficiently keen attention to notice how very badly it is going and how unlikely it is that anyone currently in the political arena will be able to change course. It was always a gamble that Romney would have been able to tame the ravenous appetites of the public for the government goodies, and one that we were willing to make, but it’s not entirely irrational for someone to conclude that it really wasn’t worth leaving the house and standing in line.
Those people aren’t going to like what they’ll get, of course, and one can only hope that they’ll dislike it enough to be back the polls next time.

– Bud Norman

Election Day

At some point today we will don cap and jacket to stroll over the fallen leaves and past the humble bungalow houses toward a nearby Lutheran church, where we will cast our vote. After so many years in this old neighborhood it has become a familiar ritual, and we can anticipate that it will involve the same friendly banter with the curmudgeonly old retiree from the local university who always mans the polls, the same short chats with the familiar faces who somehow always show up at the same time, voting the same straight Republican ticket, and the same stroll home past the aging limestone elementary school for assurance that the kids are still stuck in class.
This time will be different, though, in some vague and disquieting way. Every election is the most important of our lifetimes, or so the candidates would always have us believe, but this one truly is of the utmost importance.
If Barack Obama manages to eke out a majority of America’s voters, it will nudge the country past a point from which no Republic has returned. A coalition of the government class and its dependents will have triumphed over those who are expected to pay its bills, a majority of Americans will have acquiesced to the government’s power to force individuals to purchase products they do not want and venerable religious institutions to act contrary to their most cherished beliefs, a cult of personality sustained by a corrupt and decadent media will have triumphed over truth, and the unsustainable costs of the new order’s ravenous appetites will careen the country toward economic disaster.
A victory by Mitt Romney will not necessarily avert these disasters, but it will make better outcomes possible. Romney and his running mate are honorable men, rooted in the best traditions of the country, who see the nation’s economic health with clear eyes and have demonstrated the political courage needed to take on the great challenge of setting the country back on to a path of freedom and self-reliance.
Thanks to our country’s brilliantly devised constitution it is within the realm of possibility that a Republican-controlled House of Representatives or a sufficient number of resistant state governments could slow the march toward the same welfare state model that is currently falling apart throughout Europe, Latin America and other benighted parts of the world, but an Obama victory would make the momentum almost impossible to resist. Even the most brilliantly devised constitution is only as strong as the men and women that the citizenry entrust with its care, and the people are always free to choose badly.
This will make for a long walk back from the voting booth, but we’ll walk with hope and a prayer for the country.

– Bud Norman

Campaigning Up a Storm

In the immediate aftermath of the Islamist attacks on America’s embassies throughout the Middle East, which resulted in the death of an ambassador and three other Americans in Libya, a determinedly Democratic friend of ours expressed confidence that the events would prove a benefit to Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. Various media were in high dudgeon about Mitt Romney criticizing a cable from the embassy in Egypt that seemed to sympathize with their attackers, and our friend anticipated that the inevitable rally-round-the-president reaction to a national security crisis would carry Obama to victory.
It remains to be seen how the election will turn out, but it is not too soon to conclude that our friend was wrong. Despite the best efforts of many of the national media to emphasize Romney’s supposed gaffe and ignore the series of deadly mistakes made by the Obama administration, polls suggest that a majority of Americans now disapprove of the president’s actions in the matter.
Although it will have to happen much more quickly, the Hurricane Sandy issue seems likely to follow a similar trajectory.
Many of Obama’s cheerleaders in the media saw the devastating storm as a an opportunity for him to appear “presidential,” a lucky break given that four years of being president have apparently afforded so few such opportunities, and their resulting coverage made the most of it. The post-storm news cycle has been filled with images of a solemn-looking Obama waxing concerned, signing important pieces of paper, and walking purposefully along the devastated shores of New Jersey with that beleaguered state’s portly governor. Democratic pundits seem particularly pleased to constantly re-run the effusive praise of Republican and erstwhile Romney supporter Gov. Chris Christie, whose comments have probably served him well in his 2013 re-election race in deeply Democratic New Jersey but utterly destroyed any hopes he might had for winning a Republican nomination outside his state.
There’s been the expected condemnation of Romney, too, and even ridicule of his request that supporters donate money or any needed supplies to the storm victims. The criticism has been that Romney callously failed to visit the storm-damaged areas, but if he had the criticism would have been for interfering with the rescue efforts for a cheap photo-op, and the jibes about his well-intentioned fund-raising effort suggest he wasn’t going to escape ridicule in any case.
The problem with the strategy is that the last weekend of the election is almost certain to be filled with stories of looting, dumpster-diving, power outages, gas shortages, transportation failures, and all of the other unpleasantness that invariably follows a natural disaster in a densely populated area. New outlets will be forced to run these stories even as they offer up more assurances about the excellent job that the government is doing, and the discrepancy will be stark.
Expect the Romney campaign to wisely refrain from any criticism of the recovery effort, which would only provoke a charge of politicizing a tragedy from a media that has spent the past days eagerly politicizing the tragedy, but the failure of the administration to live up to its implied promises will go without saying. This is not to say that any government can prevent the vicissitudes of nature, but that is what the press and the Democratic party have maintained during every Republican administration, and it is only fair that they be held to the same standard now.
The footage of Obama and Christie walking along the shore was touching, even reminiscent of Rick Blaine and Capt. Louis Renault walking into the “Casablanca” night and proclaiming the beginning of a beautiful friendship, but images of the post-photo-op mayhem should be fresher on Tuesday.

– Bud Norman

Politics in a Hurricane

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.

Here’s hoping that all who were affected by the storm recover quickly, and that any effect the storm has on the election will benefit the challenger. It’s an ill wind that blows no good, as they say.

– Bud Norman

Barnyard Rhetoric

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.

Modernists scoff at the notion that degrading a culture’s language will wear away at the culture itself, but we suspect that the left counts on it doing so and that is the very reason they are so prone to such language. Old-fashioned notions such as politeness and propriety are bulwarks of an established order that must be destroyed in order to bring a new utopia, and that seems to be happening one word at time.

– Bud Norman

Try to Act Surprised

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.

We’ve not yet heard the Obama campaign’s response to Trump’s offer, if they’ve bothered to make one, but we expect the president will decide that his favorite charities can get along well enough without an extra $5 million. Obama’s campaign has bigger troubles than Donald Trump, including those new revelations about Libya, and the public will probably pay little attention to distractions.

– Bud Norman

That Obama is Sooooo Smart

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.

Lefty sarcasm can be effective, as Dan Quayle, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and any number of other irrecoverably ridiculed conservatives will attest, but it seems unlikely to prevail against the sobering economic realities that are ever present in this election. Should this prove true, we’ll be eager to offer a witty “duh.”

– Bud Norman


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