Like individuals, when things go very wrong very fast, presidential campaigns can act irrationally, doing things that are counterproductive. In the frenzy to do something, decisions are rushed and cooler heads are ignored. This happened in 2008 to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — fly to D.C., stop the campaign, cancel the debate, then start the campaign and do the debate. Now it’s happening to “no drama Obama” and his Chicago and White House staffers.
Take Libya. Yesterday, the administration and the campaign fought back against the conclusion that both the president and moderator Candy Crowley had gotten it wrong when they insisted the president labeled Benghazi a terror attack on Sept 12. Why in the world would the Obama team insist on this narrative? It is worse for the president.
If Obama figured out in a day that this was a planned terrorist attack, why was Jay Carney sent out on Sept. 14 to insist it was all about an anti-Muslim video? Why didn’t someone tell U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice before she went on five Sunday talk shows tying the murder of four Americans to a protest growing out of a video? Why did the president repeat this in his Sept. 20 Univision appearance and then dwell on the anti-Muslim videoat the United Nations? Declaring that the president knew full well on Sept. 12 that he was dealing with terrorism makes him and many in his administration liars.
So why push this story line? Well, the president made a big deal of it in the debate. Maybe his ego got the best of him and he couldn’t allow himself to be taken for a fool for not seeing the terror connection on 9/11 . Whatever the reason, both the White House and the campaign are now insisting on an unhelpful timeline, which in turn will require more quibbling, trimming and prevaricating.
This isn’t the only instance of a panic attack descending on Chicago (and the Oval Office). The Obama administration and its pundit spinners are running with the notion that Mitt Romney defamed all womanhood at the debate by talk about “binders full of women [job candidates].” The phony indignation is apparent. The idea Romney was insulting women does not pass the laugh test. Moreover, as with Libya, this nonsense just points voters right back to Romney’s impressive record of hiring women. The Romney team seemed to shrug (Is there a trap here? Nope!), accept the helping hand and put out a woman-friendly ad.
You have to shake your head and ask what in the world the Obama team thinks it is accomplishing. Hard to say. It argues for the sake of arguing, it attacks for the sake of attacking. The better question is: What else are they going to talk about?
After the debate it is painfully obvious that Obama has no big (or medium-sized) ideas for a second term. The Bain and tax-return gambits have gone nowhere. Big Bird is now a punch line. So why not throw it all up in the air and see what will fly? That is what Obama and his spinners are doing. The antics are far from coherent, and the message is become more and more fractured. This is what a campaign in decline looks like.