— 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
A few days ago we were splashing around a friend’s backyard pool, a much appreciated invitation in a Kansas summer, and a woman of our mutual acquaintance who had dropped by made a complimentary remark about the wooden gateway and concrete base that our friend had recently built. “You didn’t build that,” we teased him, “somebody else made that happen.” Our friend chuckled knowingly at the witticism, but the woman of our mutual acquaintance was clearly perplexed by it. We helpfully explained that the remark was an allusion to President Barack Obama’s recent speech in Roanoke, Virginia, where he made the very same comment about America’s business owners, and she was not the least embarrassed to admit that she had no idea what we were talking about.
Her ignorance of the speech left us looking perplexed. After all, the speech had been widely reported by almost all of the media, touched off a week’s worth of debate among the chattering classes, been highlighted by a widely disseminated advertisement from the Romney campaign, and it’s “You didn’t built that” line had immediately become as iconic an epigram for Obama’s administration as “I didn’t have sex with that woman” had been for Bill Clinton’s. We had assumed that the phrase was by then as ubiquitous as a catch phrase from “Laugh-In” or “Seinfeld,” and that even the most obstinately ignorant Americans would be aware of it, so it came a surprise that such a sentient woman could have somehow been aware of it.
People do manage to avoid hearing of such things, though, and often enough that we really shouldn’t have been surprised by the woman’s apparently blissful ignorance. We can recall another conversation with a young fellow who boasted of how the current administration had gone three years without a single scandal, which he clearly regarded as a most remarkable accomplishment. We asked if he didn’t consider the Fast and Furious operation, with its Keystone Kops plotline and massive body count, or find the Solyndra fiasco, with its mix of high-minded “green” idealism and corrupt cronyism, to be scandals. We then threw in the resignations of admitted communist Van Jones and the Mao-admiring Anita Dunn, the Justice Department’s lax attitude towards black supremacist voter intimidation, and a few other choice contretemps, asking if he didn’t find any of these the least bit scandalous. He was not only unfamiliar with any of the stories, but dubious that they had happened at all, and angrily demanded to know if we had heard these scurrilous lies on the Fox network.
An aversion to news outlets that provide news challenging to one’s own opinions is part of the problem. Politically-minded people who only want to hear things that deify their guy and impugn the others can now easily find a suitable magazine, network or internet site. This phenomenon leads some media critics to pine for the old days when everyone in the country got their news from the same three networks, a few newsweeklies, or the lone daily newspaper, but it’s likely that if the old order were still in place even right-wing news junkies such as ourselves wouldn’t have heard anything in the past four years or so that suggests the current administration hasn’t been scandal-free and wildly successful in all its efforts.
A larger part of the problem, alas, is that so many people don’t bother to seek out any information on current events even in the most sympathetic media. In some cases this is a result of cynicism, in others mere apathy, and oftentimes plain old stupidity, but in no cases does it ever prevent the ignorant from feeling entitled to an opinion and a vote.
The determinedly unaware segment of the population tends to vote Democrat, or so we have observed, and for a variety of reasons. Those who don’t follow the news still wind up hearing the generally left-leaning views of late night comedians, movie stars, and other opinion-makers, and never hear of the arguments advanced by the less glamorous but better-informed pundits. Hearing the anti-business tirade that Obama launched in Roanoke might not have dissuaded the woman at the pool from voting for him, as she shares the president’s resentment of the prosperous entrepreneurs, but at least it would have forced to her form some coherent argument for her envy.
On the other hand, she might never hear that Mitt Romney is a dog-torturing, woman-hating, tax-evading cad who somehow made money by sending his businesses into bankruptcy and then killed a factory worker’s wife. She’s also unlikely to avoid the mounting evidence of economic decline that daily confronts everyone who has to work for a living, whether they ever pick up paper or not, and no one will get the opportunity to explain that it’s all the fault of the people who have been out of power the past several years.
— Bud Norman
This is Thursday, so far as we can tell, but somehow it doesn’t seem so. Planting a holiday in the middle of a week has a discombobulating effect, and it might be some time before we regain our natural rhythm.
Middle-of-the-week holidays have a notoriously negative effect on worker productivity, which is not our forte no matter the vagaries of the calendar, and given the consistently sluggish state of the economy of late we expect this official lull should be particularly enervating. The government has attempted to rectify the problem by moving some presidential birthdays and other observances to Mondays, regardless of the actual date of what is being observed, but for obvious reasons they are unable to move the Fourth of July to the Second of July.
The news business always maintains at least a skeleton crew on Independence Day, even though there’s rarely any news that needs to be covered. Politicians traditionally avoid intruding on the public revelry, the stock markets are closed, the press release writers are enjoying the day off, and even the criminals tend to take it easy. That leaves the obligatory sappy feature story about people celebrating at the lake or someplace photogenic, but of course the people being written about are too busy celebrating to ever read the stories. On occasion some natural disaster will intervene without the slightest regard for anyone’s vacation schedule, and this year it was the big eastern storm of six whole days ago that still has left a million or so homes without power, but those people aren’t going to read the stories because they’re without power.
Foreign news of some significance will sometimes arise on the Fourth of July or some similar occasion, foreigners being rudely indifferent to America’s holidays. This time it was the deranged government of Iran launching a series of long range missile tests, accompanied by the usual saber-rattling rhetoric, a ominous development that is sure to rattle the oil markets and could lead to war and unthinkable disaster. The story was easily overlooked on the Fourth of July, but will be impossible to ignore over the coming days.
— Bud Norman