Search Right-Wing Genius's Blog

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Will Obama's Machine Save Him?

Let's start out by acknowledging the obvious: History is not on President Obama's side this election year. No incumbent president in the postwar era has won reelection when the unemployment rate was above 7.2%; right now, it's 8.1% and unlikely to change very much between now and Election Day. Every president since Andrew Jackson who has won re-election has been re-elected with a greater percentage of the popular vote than he received four years earlier; no serious, intelligent person in either camp believes Obama will do better this year than the 53% he pulled in 2008. He is the first U.S. president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a net loss of jobs. A majority of voters do not like his signature legislative achievement and want it repealed. An even larger majority thinks the country is on the wrong track. This is not an atmosphere conducive to getting re-elected.

Yet, Obama appears to be flying high. In every swing state, there's at least one poll showing him ahead of Mitt Romney. His approval rating is now slightly higher than his disapproval, depending on which poll you look at. As of the writing of this post, he's ahead in all the national polls. The percentage of voters who view him favorably has inched upward, while his negatives are slightly down. With a month and a half to go before Election Day, Romney is behind, and the president looks like he's about to close the deal.

Part of the blame for this surely lies with the Romney campaign. I know it's easy to second-guess when you're not in the heat of battle, but the Romney-Ryan campaign is clearly not waging as good a fight as they could be. (I've done my part to offer better ideas, but to no avail.) There's also the mass stupidity/gullibility of broad swaths of the electorate; a recent poll by Reason Magazine revealed how disturbingly uninformed/ignorant most voters in this country are when it comes to fiscal issues and an even basic understanding of the economy. These problems, however, would only explain why Romney isn't beating Obama. To see why the president is actually ahead in this race, you have to look beyond the lay of the land and examine the depths of what may be the greatest political machine in U.S. history.

Obama and the Democrats' ground game helped generate a historic Democratic turnout in 2008. While it remains to be seen how effective their voter turnout efforts will be in this election, they certainly didn't do much for them in 2010. Even beyond that, however, the Obama campaign is being aided by a machine that exceeds in size and scope anything Republicans have or have ever enjoyed.

You're probably familiar with the historical components of the national Democratic machine. Aside from the party operatives, there are labor unions and the pillars of their fundraising apparatus: trial lawyers, Wall Street, the Entertainment Industry and, more recently, Internet tycoons (Silicon Valley and Puget Sound). Today, however, President Obama is benefitting not just from these traditional support structures but also a network of forces devoted to keeping him in power. Here now is a rundown of these forces and a brief description of how they are helping to buoy this terrible president's poll numbers:

The Media

With the exception of talk radio, every medium in this country is dominated by the Left, and few would disargee that the right-wing rhetoric that pervades talk radio is limited to the commentary side. When it comes to delivering "hard" news, conservatives have no advantage over liberals on the airwaves, the Internet or in the print media.

Overt, delibrate bias in the press--i.e., among reporters who are supposed to cover stories in an objective fashion and not inject their own personal analysis into their reporting--is hard to spot, but there have been several clear examples in this election cycle (such as when Andrea Mitchell got caught running a misleadingly edited clip of Mitt Romney speaking in Pennsylvania on MSNBC). The more dangerous biases manifest themselves in the way journalists present the news or in the choices they make about which stories to report on and how much attention to give each one. Conclusive proof of these biases, however, is difficult to produce, unless you can get an apples-to-apples comparison of two nearly identical news stories with different political implications. We got such an example last week, when two old recordings surfaced; one showed Mitt Romney speaking at a fundraiser back in May about, inter alia, the growing culture of entitlement in America, the ongoing conflict between the Israelis and Palistenians, and the Republican party's challenges with the Latino vote. (This footage had actually been public for months, but the cleaned-up images were only recently released.) The other footage featured Barack Obama speaking at Loyola University in 1998 about how he "believe[s] in redistribution" and how government policies can effect redistribution of resources. According to the Media Research Center, from Tuesday evening (September 18) through Thursday morning (September 20), the big three networks combined spent over an hour covering the Romney footage while devoting less than six and a half minutes to the Obama tape. Romney's comments were also the lead topic of discussion in the A-blocks of Meet the Press and This Week w/ George Stephanopolous on Sunday.

It gets worse. After initially claiming to have released the full tape of Romney speaking at the fundraiser, the saboteurs who put this video out there admitted that they hadn't actually released everything they had recorded. Then, David Corn of Mother Jones, who obtained the raw footage of Romney from James Carter IV (grandson of former Pres. Jimmy Carter), acknowledged that they didn't even have a complete recording of everything the candidate said at the fundraiser. In other words, we do not know and we may never know the full context of what Governor Romney said at that fundraiser. The only tenable argument of why this doesn't render everything Romney is on tape saying meaningless (or at least not newsworthy) is that no context could possibly mitigate what he said, but as President Obama himself has averred, the out-of-context defense is not amenable to such an exception.

The more disgusting aspect of this egregious display of bias is that the network news devoted more time in the same time period to covering this Romney story than the deadly violence in the Middle East or the administration's constantly-changing narrative about the genesis of the attacks on our embassy in Cairo and the counsulate in Benghazi. To that point, on Thursday, September 13th, the New York Times ran with the headline "ENVOY DIES IN LIBYA ATTACK ON EMBASSY; A FLASH POINT FOR OBAMA AND ROMNEY". Nothing wrong with that, but in the story below, under the headline "A Challenger’s Criticism Is Furiously Returned," Times reporters Peter Baker and Ashley Parker offered the following account of the two candidates' reactions to the tragic news out of Libya:
While President Obama dealt with the killings of an ambassador and three other Americans and deflected questions about his handling of the Arab world, Mitt Romney, the Republican seeking his job, wasted little time going on the attack, accusing the president of apologizing for American values and appeasing Islamic extremists.
No mention of the president's decision to skip his intelligence briefing and head to Las Vegas for a fundraiser in the wake of what we now know was a terrorist attack. Query whether his predecessor would have gotten the same treatment had he done the same. (I can't remember; did the Times run that photo of President Bush aboard Air Force One flying over New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit?) In fairness, the article did mention President Obama's transparently political (and, in my opinion, disgracefully petty and unbecoming of the office of president) charge that Mitt Romney has "a tendency to shoot first and aim later," though Baker and Parker characterized the comment in a much more charitable fashion. (So, to recap, Mitt Romney criticizes the U.S. Embassy in Cairo for apologizing for a movie in their official statement to an attack, while the president of the United States takes a cheap shot at his challenger, using tougher language against him than he did against the terrorists who attacked us. Same thing, I guess.)

There is also the issue of media organizations using facially nonpartisan means to influence voters. Take polling, for example. In recent years, many networks and media have started commissioning thir own polls instead of relying on those done by professional pollsters, like they've historically done. This does not evince any sort of bias per se, but consider this question from a recent Bloomberg poll:

Gov. Mitt Romney has told donors that 47 percent of Americans think of themselves as "victims" who are dependent on government programs. Which best describes your reaction? (Read list. Rotate.)

41 He’s right and more people should be able to make it on their own

51 He’s wrong and most Americans work hard and sometimes need some help from the government

8 Not sure
This is what's known as a "push poll" question, one designed to "push" a political narrative, rather than collect data in an objective fashion. You might expect this from Democratic operatives masquerading as pollsters, but it has no place in a professional survey conducted for a news organization that plans to report it as news.

Special Interest Groups

Newspapers and TV Networks aren't the only once-independent entities that have long since sacrificed their objectivity for partisan endeavors. This election cycle, Obama and Democrats have benefitted from overtly partisan activities by organizations that are supposed to be apolitical. The fraternity between the American Left and, e.g., the AARP, NOW and the NAACP is no longer clandestine, but the serious problem Republicans have as yet been unable to solve is that a lot of voters--viz., the constituencies these groups purport to represent--still see these organizations as trustworthy, independent sources of information; even worse, they've fallen into the same trap that so many union members have--believing that the charlatans running these organizations have their best interests at heart.

Obama and his campaign have recognized this phenomenon and are already capitalizing on it. One Obama campaign ad--laughably entitled "Facts"--quotes the AARP as saying that Obamacare "cracks down on Medicare waste, fraud, and abuse" and "strengthens guaranteed benefits in Medicare." (For the record, AARP blessed Obamacare with its stamp of approval; this Obama ad might have some semblance of credibility if it cited to a source that had no motive to lie about the subject.) The ad also quotes the AARP as saying that Paul Ryan's Path to Prosperity "would undermine the market power of Medicare and could lead to higher costs for seniors." (There's that word "could" again!)

Some of these groups have their own political arms that cut out the middle man by simply disseminating their propaganda themselves. Planned Parenthood's PAC (Political Action Committee) has been on the airwaves in key swing states for months. This ad, which cuts a clip of Romney speaking out of context to deceive viewers into thinking the candidate aims to "get rid of" Planned Parenthood, is airing in Ohio and Virginia.

To his credit, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have tried to break through the force fields of deception these institutions have erected and maintained around their target audiences; Romney spoke at the NAACP convention last month, and Ryan addressed the AARP last week. Both got booed when they talked about repealing Obamacare, which polls continue to show is wildly unpopular with the electorate at large. These perhaps-futile efforts to appeal to the hopelessly indoctrinated exemplify the challenge faced by the Republican ticket in combatting these groups: Ignorance can be cured by knowledge, but when voters have been instilled with  misinformation that they adamantly believe is correct, confronting them with the truth just elicits a negative reaction.

The Late-Night Jesters

While Americans may be turned off by politicians and politics in general, we love our political satire, and even though most of the comics who grace our screens at night lean left politically, their humor has historically transcended partisan divides. About eight years ago, however, once the staggering popularity then-President Bush had enjoyed throughout much of his first term had subsided, the jokes made at his expense on The Late Show, Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show w/ Jon Stewart and the like took a nasty turn. Comedians--and their writers--forsook humor for haranguing. Clever satire gave way to odious vitriol. An increasingly obvious stream of hate had infected their once-witty material.

Still, there's a role for humorists to play in humbling our most powerful leaders, but what happens when a man you yourself have placed on a pedestal ascends to the presidency? Can you find it in you to mock, ridicule and deride the man you hold in such high regard with the same vigor you've exhibited in lampooning his predecessors? We got our answer to that over the past three and a half years, as Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, David Letterman and the writers of SNL have handled President Obama with kid gloves; an objective, unbiased observer would easily conclude that they've actually been harder on his opposition. Consequently, when the president deigns to appear on their shows, he can expect a warm reception. (Actually, that's an understatement; what he can expect is the PG-13 equivalent of fellatio.)

After the president's aforementioned fundraiser in Las Vegas, he took time out from his busy schedule to honor The Late Show with his presence. (I'll not fault him for not rescheduling; it's not like the U.S. had just suffered another terrorist attack or anything.) Letterman predictably served up softball questions and even referenced Mitt Romney's comments from that edited fundraiser video, asking the president, "Is that what rich guys at country clubs are talking about?" (The president was allowed to give a three-minute, uninterrupted answer to this question.)

Similarly, when SNL kicked off its latest series of Weekend Update: Thursday Edition on September 20th, the first four jokes Seth Myers told were at Mitt Romney's expense; he even found a way to work in some baseless, racially-charged smear about Mitt Romney. So much of this is to be expected, but is it really so much to ask that Myers stick to making light of actual news items that have some basis in reality instead of repeating unsubstantiated rumors that are clearly designed only to malign a good man? Why couldn't he have made a joke about the scum who started or spread this slanderous lie instead of perpetuating it?

If any of this sounds like the complaints of a pessimistic Romney supporter, then I assure you that was not my purpose in writing this article. I'm simply trying to describe, by way of example, how this incomparable political machine Obama has working for him is aiding his efforts to win re-election. I think one more example of this late-night stumping for Obama is appropriate. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert seemed all too eager to make hay of the edited Romney video once its existence became widely known, but like most of the media, they treated the doctored footage of Romney noticeably differently than the tape of Obama speaking at Loyola. Stewart actually devoted two-thirds of his program on Tuesday, September 18, to material on Romney's surrepitiously-recorded remarks, but it wasn't all humor. A merciless diatribe knocking Romney for "talking to donors in a manner you would imagine cartoon rich people talk about cartoon poorer people" (which included the tasteless use of Romney's late parents against him) turned into a vituperative rant against the nominee. I'll spare you a recitation of Stewart's invective, but suffice it to say that his tone would be more appropriate, for say, an impassioned critique of the president's inexcusable reaction to the terrorist attack on our consulate in Libya. No mention of that, nor of Obama's "redistribution" comments, and the following night, when The Daily Show finally got around to addressing the Obama tape, the target of their derision was not the president but rather, FOX News. That's right, instead of lampooning Obama's remarks with anything close to the level of fervor he displayed in lambasting Romney, Stewart and his writers found a way to make FOX News, which they dubbed "Bullshit Mountain," the story. Imagine how they would have reacted had President Bush been the one shirking the duties and responsibilities of his office while his foreign policy was going up in flames (literally).

It's critical for the future of this country that Mitt Romney defeat Barack Obama this election cycle. That's not to say electing Romney and Ryan will fix everything; Obama and the Democrats have done a lot of damage over the last 44 months, some of which can't be quickly undone. (Heck, we haven't even undone all the damage done by FDR's New Deal.) I'll not pass judgment on whether the preceding list of individuals and groups supporting him are trying to hasten Americans decline or genuinely unaware of the consequences of their actions, not without clear and convincing evidence for or against either possibility. What there can be no doubt of is that Romney, Ryan and those of us who support their cause are up against a machine of unrivaled (in this country) proportions. In less than 40 days, we'll know whether we can rival its power.

No comments:

Post a Comment