A Dismal Performance

President Obama held his first press conference in a couple of months on Monday. It was an impromptu thing, probably dictated by the criticism he’s been receiving lately over his lack of communication with the White House press corps. He’s had time to do interviews with People magazine and Entertainment Tonight, where he was really put on the spot by incisive questions such as “What kind of superpower would you like to have?” but the actual press has been shut out. That’s a little puzzling; the press has been his biggest cheerleader ever since 2008. Well, in truth, they’ve been a bit more than that:

In the paragraph above, I called the White House press corps the “actual” press. That may have been pushing it. The first question directed to Obama was a home run pitch, giving him a chance to comment on the foolish statement made by Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin, who fell into a verbal hole over “legitimate rape.” I won’t go into that one; all one has to do is watch the mainstream media to get round-the-clock coverage of Akin’s blunder. The key point here is that it gave the president a wide open door to criticize Republicans.

When one of the corps deigned to address the negative campaign the Obama team was conducting, Mr. Obama was all innocence. No, he hasn’t done any such thing. He’s been issue-oriented—completely. No, no one called Romney a felon. “You can’t just make stuff up,” he solemnly intoned. Very impressive. But it seems relatively few, even among his press followers, could believe that one. He’s making stuff up all the time. And of course he never said Romney was responsible for a woman’s death because Bain Capital closed her husband’s plant. That was the work of a Super-PAC with which he has no connection—except for the fact one of his former White House spokesmen, Bill Burton, runs the PAC. But they don’t coordinate with Mr. Burton. Of course not.

All in all, it was a pretty dismal performance, and probably reveals why he has been avoiding the press for months. You never know if one of those Fox-y types might sneak in and ask something downright impertinent.

The media hasn’t merely covered for Obama directly, but also indirectly by minimizing stories that could damage his views. Take the shooting at the Family Research Council last week as an example. The mainstream news gave it only a slight mention, and even when it did, it chose to ignore the 800-lb. gorilla in the middle of the event:

Be aware of the whitewashing that often occurs. If truth is going to win out this election, we’re going to have to be vigilant.

On Behalf of an Adult Conversation on the Issues

The presidential campaign finally has gotten around to an important issue: the future of Medicare. At least that’s what the Republican ticket wants it to be—a campaign focused on real issues. It’s having a hard time, though, getting the Obama team to cooperate:

One can understand why the president doesn’t want to talk about all those other things; they all point to his failures. He seems to have concluded that his best option for reelection is to tear down his opponent’s character:

The goal is to avoid some painful truths, namely that the charges being made against Romney and Ryan don’t comport with the facts:

I wasn’t sure at first, but I’m beginning to believe the Republican approach of taking it directly to Obama and challenging him on the very grounds that he thought were safe, might actually work. This is the way it should be—direct talk about the problems we face and serious attempts to solve them. May those who want to have an adult conversation on our future make their case to the American electorate, and may the electorate give them the opportunity to carry out their plans.

Demogoguery vs. Substance

Democrats have wasted no time beginning their attacks on Paul Ryan, as I predicted yesterday. It really wasn’t all that brilliant a prediction; their game plan has been fixed for quite some time. And of course they have all the helpers they could ever need:

They’ve already accused Romney of murder. I think he’s finally getting the message that these kinds of unsavory attacks are for real:

Now they have two people they can accuse of the same thing:

Wouldn’t it be nice if the focus of this campaign could be the two different visions of what the country should be? That would give the electorate a real choice. I think the Republicans want it to happen, primarily because of the stark distinctions that can be made:

I know some on the Republican side are eagerly anticipating the vice presidential debate:

Ryan has always been a serious lawmaker who puts forth concrete plans. Even Bill Clinton praised him. Erskine Bowles, the Democrat co-chair of the debt commission, called Ryan practically a genius. And Barack Obama, in an apparently unguarded moment, actually said Ryan had put forward a legitimate bill that could be the basis for a debate. Naturally, that was all before he became the number two man on the Republican ticket. Democrats who understand that Ryan is intelligent and a hard worker are having some anxious moments:

What we are witnessing, and will probably continue to see throughout the campaign, is the difference between those who resort to demagoguery versus those who possess the gravitas of substance.

The Ryan Pick

Mitt Romney won some admiration from me on Saturday when he chose Paul Ryan as his running mate. Romney’s history had prepared me to be disappointed with a “safe” pick—safe from the GOP establishment’s point of view. Word is that a number of Romney’s advisers were cautioning against choosing Ryan because he would be considered too controversial. To Romney’s credit, he dismissed those fears and gave Ryan the nod.

Paul Ryan is the real thing. He hasn’t been perfect in his voting record. He voted for TARP; the majority did because they were told the sky was falling. He also voted for the GM bailout. I would like to know if he regrets that vote now. But those are slight blemishes on his record of consistent concern for fiscal restraint and traditional morality. His pro-life voting tally is 100%. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, he actually had the nerve to come up with a plan that would lead to a reduction in the national debt and the salvaging of programs like Medicare. Personally, I don’t think Medicare ever should have existed, but since it’s here, it needs to be handled with fiscal responsibility.

Of course, that budget plan—which passed the House but was never given a hearing in the Harry Reid-controlled Senate—has been demonized by Democrats as throwing grandma off the cliff. Never mind that it kept promises made to those who are 55 and older. No, he wants to kill old people. At least that’s the message they trumpeted at the time, and it’s a message they are now digging up again. But it’s balderdash. How many Americans realize that Obamacare guts Medicare by over $700 billion? How many know the system is due to go bankrupt in a few years?

The only reason Ryan is viewed as controversial is that he takes the debt seriously and seeks to do something about it. He also is a great believer in the free enterprise system and wants to unshackle individuals and businesses so they can once again compete and grow. Wow, what a radical!

We now must prepare for the onslaught. Ryan must be destroyed. One commentator spelled out the basic plan for doing so. He said,

In the national media narrative . . . every Republican figure is reduced to one of three things: old, stupid, or evil.

George H.W. Bush: old. Dan Quayle: stupid. Newt Gingrich: evil. Pat Buchanan: evil. Bob Dole: old. George W. Bush: stupid. Dick Cheney: old and evil. John McCain: old. Sarah Palin: stupid. . . .

Because Paul Ryan isn’t old, we will see an effort to paint him as either stupid or evil. You and I know that painting Paul Ryan as stupid is like trying to paint Bill Clinton as chaste. . . .

Sometime in the fall, Saturday Night Live will offer some young comedian in a black wig and a creepy smile, boasting, “My favorite Christmas carol is, ‘Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer'” and we will be told by every political and cultural columnist that it is the most incisive and revealing bit of comedy coming out of the show in years, ever since “I can see Russia from my house.”

(In time, seven in ten Americans will believe that the comedian’s line was actually uttered by the candidate.)

So, be prepared for the denigration campaign. It’s begun already, but will pick up steam the closer we get to the election. As always, the key will be if the Republicans can effectively counter the lies and get their message out. Ryan is articulate; he will do his best, which has always been very good. If Romney can explain the principles as well as I expect Ryan will, there is hope.

Strange Developments & One Odd Spectacle

We’re seeing some strange things as this presidential campaign heats up. I don’t recall ever seeing such skewed polls before. The Pew organization, which is supposed to have a good reputation, just put out a poll that shows Obama leading by large margins in swing states like Ohio and Florida, and giving him over 50% nationally. Yet other polls indicate his approval rating in those states is about 44-45%. How is this possible? By sampling Democrats at a rate even higher than the margins in the 2008 election. That makes absolutely no sense. Pardon me if I’m getting the impression the electorate is being manipulated into thinking this is a done deal.

Then there’s the odd spectacle of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, on the Senate floor, accusing Romney of not paying taxes for ten years. He cites an anonymous source—but a credible one, of course. Again, pardon me if I believe we are being manipulated from on high:

It doesn’t help when the media plays along with the manipulation. No one among mainstream news reporters is challenging Reid’s unsubstantiated claims. They are allowing him to run rampant with innuendo. Is there anyone out there who seriously thinks a Republican could survive the scrutiny that bogus attacks like these would inspire? How can Reid possibly believe he can get away with this? Well, he knows he has the media on his side, and his desire to win trumps all ethics. Is he being malevolent or is he just plain foolish? Are these two options really mutually exclusive? What would it look like if we used Reid’s tactics against him?

Another interesting development—one that few saw coming—is that Romney and Republicans in general are doing better at fundraising than Obama and his fellow Democrats. The Obama campaign could be in trouble soon because it is spending its money faster than it’s taking it in. If that sounds like something you’ve been hearing for the past four years, there’s a good reason for it:

He may have to pull out all the stops to get more cash. What can a president do in a situation like this? Well, he can continue what he has done his entire term, and at which he has become an expert:

But it may not be money that determines this election. Could it be that deeply held beliefs may be the key? Wouldn’t that be nice?

The Diversionary President

Presidential campaigns are rarely things of beauty. In my course that covers the second half of American history, I show some videos of campaign ads. Some of the worst come from the LBJ campaign against Barry Goldwater in 1964. When I say “worst,” I mean in the sense of misleading. The message communicated by the Johnson team that year was that if we elected Goldwater, he would blow up the world. Literally. The most famous/infamous ad was of a little girl picking leaves off a daisy, counting to ten. Then a voice started a countdown from ten to . . . a film of a nuclear bomb going off. Subtle, huh?

Well, at least the Obama campaign isn’t claiming that Romney will blow up the world if elected. The president’s people aren’t focusing at all on big issues. The one thing LBJ had going for him was he did deal with a major issue. For Obama, it’s all about diversions. He doesn’t want anyone to pay attention to his record. Instead, he’s trying to redefine his opponent. Sometimes, though, that hasn’t worked too well:

He’s doing his best to pick on whatever minor diversions he can find in hopes that no one will notice the emperor has no clothes:

The citizenry has been treated to dogs on car roofs, tax returns, and outsourcing [while ignoring all the companies saved and jobs created here at home through Bain Capital], and real issues such as Fast and Furious are ignored by the media as a whole:

One cartoonist has captured it better than all the others, simply because he’s tried to include it all in one cartoon:

Reading all those post-it notes might be difficult, but they are quite instructive.

Truth as Victim

Campaigns have always been quite adept at creating false images of opponents. As a student of American history, I know this is not a new phenomenon. Our history is replete with the skewering of political foes, usually with a fair amount of lies thrown in. But never in our history have we had such access to information to cull out that which is false. You would think that would make politicians more cautious, but in the case of President Obama and his team, all caution seems to have been swept away during this campaign season.

Even though every new ad that appears can be checked against the record, Obama’s people have continued to run roughshod over the truth. They have tried many different tacks. One has been to accuse Republicans of wanting to suppress the minority vote by requiring photo ID’s to prove that voters are what they say they are—legitimate voters. Unfair, the Obama campaign declares, in the face of the following facts:

How can they make a valid claim of purposeful disfranchisement of voters when ID’s are required for all of the above? Yet has the media called them out on it?

They’ve also taken to attacking Romney personally, trying to make him into a felon because his name was still on the roster of Bain Capital three years after he said he had left the company. Yet even Democrats supporting the president have pointed out it was part of the reporting requirements and he was not actively making any decisions for the company during that time. But what else can you expect from Chicago politicians?

If you’re interested in finding some genuine felons, might I suggest you start in Chicago?

In connection with Bain, Romney is accused of being an outsourcing king, thereby losing jobs for Americans. Never mind all the jobs saved by Bain during his tenure, and the companies that were strengthened; focus instead on some of the investments that didn’t work out. One might excuse this attack as the result of Obama never having had any experience with free enterprise, but I don’t think that excuse will fly. As Bill O’Reilly pointed out in his program the other night, the Obama administration is buddy-buddy with General Electric, the majority of whose employees now work overseas. One Romney ad has dubbed the president as the Outsourcer-in-Chief. Therefore, this Obama attack is pure hypocrisy.

We’ve also seen a multitude of ads demeaning Romney as a filthy rich guy who doesn’t understand common people. Some of this is meant to distract from Obama’s problems:

While Romney certainly is rich, he can’t measure up to some of Obama’s key supporters, such as Oprah Winfrey, whose net worth is far greater than Romney’s. When do you think the president’s campaign team is going to take her to task for possessing so much wealth? Right.

In all this, Obama bemoans the lack of civility in politics, talking about how disappointed he is that the political atmosphere remains so poisoned:

That might be the rankest hypocrisy of all, coming from the Poisoner-in-Chief. I’m not sure truth has ever been more twisted than what we are now witnessing.