MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
It is reassuring to the DC punditry world and the corporate journalism industry to write up a post-debate headline, such as this one over a Los Angeles Times article: "Mitt Romney makes smooth shift to center in debate with Obama.
In his first debate with the president, the Republican works on his empathy problem and appears to gain momentum."
Let us concede that in the television age, style often triumphs over substance. This goes back to the first pivotal television debate in 1960. Allegedly, a poll was done after the Kennedy/Nixon debates and Nixon won among those who listened on the radio (which was still a major source of programming in many homes then) and Kennedy among those who watched on television. Maybe it's folkore, but Kennedy on television came across as a young optimistic dynamic handsome candidate – and Nixon had his famous dour stubbly bristle look on TV.
If you watched television last night with the sound off, Romney gave the visual cues of the kind of guy who is so bursting with confidence in himself and his "product" that he could sell you a junk car rendered permanently inoperable in an accident and make you believe that it is a brand new Cadillac with the fresh smell of leather seats. Meanwhile, President Obama took the route of trying to appear above the fray, but ended up looking sedated and sour – and failing to find a unifying narrative. George Lakoff (the master "framer" of progressive themes) and Elizabeth Wheling wrote about Obama's epic rhetorical failed opportunity for BuzzFlash at Truthout this morning.
It's a great American weakness and strength that optimism is appealing, except that it is so often a style of optimism built upon a dry gulch. There are shyster optimists who are con artists with ebullience and there are true believers. Romney is a bit of both.
But last night was the Romney who represents cynical shysterism on steroids. i've never seen anything like it: a renunciation of his entire campaign platform. It was the Hail Mary of campaign lying.
Our own Will Pitt of Truthout documented some of the audacious lies that were 180 percent at odds with Mitt Romney's campaign policies up to the moment the debate began – and the lamentable, and apparently failed, strategy of the Obama campaign to appear above calling out Romney as a liar.
Michelle Goldberg of The Daily Beast put it bluntly, "Romney Won and the Truth Lost: Romney lied brazenly about everything—notably on taxes." Igor Volsky of Think Progress wrote, "Romney Told 27 Myths In 38 Minutes."
It's clearly not unusual for politicians to lie, but normally their campaigns are built on a campaign of consistent lies framed within a strategic narrative. Reagan's campaign was the epitome of this. George W. Bush, under the disciplined message direction of Karl Rove, did the same.
But in no debate in television history did a candidate perform such massive deception on such a grand scale. Romney simply denied many of his major previous policies – including taxation, outsourcing and Wall Street regulation – that he and his campaign were disseminating up to the time of the debate.
The corporate mainstream media responds to that as if Romney were a computer that could simply be reprogrammed – and the poobah pundits declared that the reprogramming (lying) was a grand success!
Romney is Harold Hill from "The Music Man." According to one summary of the play, "the plot concerns con man Harold Hill, who poses as a boys' band organizer and leader and sells band instruments and uniforms to naive townsfolk before skipping town with the cash."
In the play (and later movie) of "The Music Man," the instruments and uniforms magically appear as Hill mends his ways.
Don't count on any high school band suddenly appearing in a Romney administration. He'd cut the funding and give the money to billionaires.
(Image by DonkeyHotey)