Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Faux Outrage over Faux Outrage

So the political blogs and talking heads are up in arms over the negative tone of the campaign. So what? Here is why it won't change. Obama and his surrogates have no record to tout. If they were proud of his accomplishments, they would be trumpeting the signature achievement of the ACA. But even if you are a liberal, you must admit that the President's campaign has made little of the issue. With the economy in bad shape, and Obama unwilling to defend the ACA, the only campaign strategy left is to attack Romney.

For his part, Romney must counter-attack, first, because he can't allow Obama to define him in a negative light. Second, the nasty campaign redounds to Romney's advantage; because Obama loses his "likeability," a key advantage he has retained until now. By ratcheting up the rhetoric, as well as pointing out how nasty the Obama campaign's attack have become, he attacks the President's strength.

Personally, I won't lose a wink of sleep. Some of the scurrilous attacks on Romney get me angry, but ultimately, they have been a boon; because they have been shown to be so false. The demonstrably false accusation that Romney killed that worker's wife has been thoroughly debunked and hurt the President. Mark Halperin is quoted in Politico today:
Based on what happened last night, the president’s team is stunned that the president would be accused of engaging in a campaign of hate. Mitt Romney used the word ‘hate’. I think he meant it. I think the president’s team was very stung by it.
Halperin is a political analyst for Time. Stung? Really? Please grow up, and maybe you shouldn't coordinate attacks like accusing your opponent of killing people. If that's not hateful, what is?

Expect the nastiness to continue, until such time as it looks like a loser for one side or the other. If one side stops and the other side sees the negative attacks stop being effective, the tone might change, but don't count on it.

Virginia Postrel suggests another way in which the tone might change. She recalls Ross Perot's 30 minute informercials on the economy and federal budget from 1992 that drew big audiences. She thinks that Paul Ryan is telegenic and articulate enough to pull off something like that. I agree, and given the grave nature of the threats to our long term economic prospects, people would pay attention. She closes with:
The American public is in the appropriately desperate frame of mind for a serious policy discussion. The Ryan pick suggests that Romney might be willing to offer one. The alternative is three more months of sniping about tax returns and college transcripts (not to mention how dogs are treated) -- attacks on the candidates’ identities rather than their ideas. The times demand better.

Unfortunately, I don't think we can count on it.

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