Calhoun’s Cannons for Oct 5, 2012
To be persuasive, we must be believable. To be believable, we must be credible. To be credible, we must be truthful.
Edward R. Murrow
I made sure I was appropriately dressed for the occasion by wearing my special Presidential Debate tee shirt. The one with Meh emblazoned on the front, which is about all the enthusiasm I can conjure up for this overlong, overblown, overpriced, ridiculous Bataan Death March of a political campaign.
The debate was not without its moments. The moderator was asleep at the switch while the President looked like a distracted boulevardier slouched gracefully against a lamp post, one leg casually canted behind him. No need to stand firmly on two feet – this one could be phoned in. And Mitt Romney nearly rattled his careful coiffure off center when he launched into his rat-a-tat-tat imitation of a frustrated but wildly agitated 11 year-old boy desperately trying to get his Dad to buy him a new pony – “All you need to do is raise the rates, lower the base, widen the top, cut the bottom, it won’t cost you a penny, it’ll be revenue neutral, I have a plan, I have another plan, I have two plans, I’ll explain later, just trust me, please, please, puhleeeze.”
Until I wanted to smack him and holler, “Get a grip, Mitt!” and send him to his room. I mean, wide-eyed enthusiasm is one thing, but the quivering near hysteria of a hyper-ventilating salesman desperate to close is quite another. Plus, I couldn’t help thinking, Jeeze, I don’t want that twitchy guy on the other end of a red phone at 3 a.m.
But the biggest Meh of all in this election is the utter refusal of all parties to address The Rest of The Story. President Obama hasn’t “fixed the economy” for two critical reasons. First, nobody could fix this mess in four years. Boom and bust cycles have their own time tables and this one is particularly complicated. Claiming otherwise is simply dishonest. And two, everybody keeps ignoring the one huge elephant in the room: a Republican Congress whose leaders had one – and only one– priority: Making sure this president would be a one term president. Period. That was it, from day one. The result is we ended up with a Congress bent on knee-capping and monkey-wrenching, not repairing and rebuilding.
Like all presidential debates, this one was filled with spin, fudged numbers and worse -- Big Lies. That’s been a particular problem because we now live in Republican strategist Karl Rove’s World, where nothing is true, reality is simply what you say it is, and arithmetic is obsolete. It’s all New Math now, baby.
Which makes it nearly impossible for a democracy to govern itself. How can it when all information is politicized and branded as false, facts become fungible and Edward R. Murrow’s “credibility” is now an irrelevant anachronism.
Wednesday night’s debate was a perfect example. Both candidates came in for plenty of fact-checking smacks. But what the hell was Romney doing dragging in the old infamous fake $700 million “cut” from Medicare story? That lie had been killed off, debunked, ‘splained repeatedly, loudly, in public, yet there Romney was, shamelessly dragging it on stage like a dead zombie. Or, worse yet, conjuring up the ghost of Sarah Palin’s destructively false “death panels” and “government takeover of health care.” Romney knows those fake talking-points are lies that have but one purpose: to deceive rather than to illuminate. But he was willing to present them as fact to an audience he believes to be idiots.
Or consider the poor voter having to try to deal with a candidate that believes in Policy as Vapor. Debate night we in the TV audience were astonished to learn that Romney now has a “new” budget plan, the details of which are totally unknown because it’s, like, all new, with details to be added later. (Another plan? Is Romney a Fuller Brush salesman with a suitcase full of little vegetable brushes, each one a different color? You don’t like blue? Oh, well, here’s a purple one?) Shape shifting vague makes dishonest campaigning easy but it doesn’t work well if you’re a voter trying to decide which candidate’s stated policies you want to vote for.
And that’s because the devil’s always in the details. Which is where the real problems facing the American people lie and why this election is being touted as the struggle for the soul of America.
There are two forces at work now: 1% Corporate America and 47% Useless Mooching Public America. The vested interests of both do not necessarily coincide. Indeed, there is more than ample evidence that the interests of one too often bring great harm to the interests of the other. Bain Capital comes to mind. So does Wall Street. The Koch Brothers. Outsourced Jobs. Tax breaks for the rich. All great for Corporate America, not so good for Main Street. The Koch Brothers have their Congressmen in place to guard their interests. But who is there to guard and defend the interests of We the People, you know, the Useless Mooching 47%?
As it stand now, what we’ve created is a world of Karl Rovian fakery, dishonest math, shape-shifting policies, etch-a-sketch personalities, erasable histories, fantasy realities, ridiculous apocalyptic thunderations, missing time-lines, poisonous partisanship, predatory corporations and a total lack of common sense. Not to mention a Republican party that sadly sold its soul to a guy named Grover Norquist, a congress filled with corporate hacks (and genuinely science-challenged ignoramuses), and a population too willing to believe in fairy stories that always end with free candy raining down from the sky on all the good children.
And now a candidate who promises to fix the budget by killing off Big Bird.
Which is why my Great Debate tee shirt says it all and says it best: Meh.