The talk of panic among Obama supporters is overstated, but the left is scrambling to help him in a suddenly close race with Mitt Romney. Not all of their efforts are particularly clever or even effective. Here is a quick look at some of the contortions that the near-panic has produced.
1) The left meets Orwell: The left has had to create a new vocabulary to accommodate liberal tax-and-spend policies and the ballot-box defeat that could accompany them. The new vocabulary was on vivid display during the recent G-8 and NATO meetings — the phony debate about "growth" vs. "austerity." To liberals, "growth" doesn't mean robust traditional growth policies including low taxes, rational spending and a balanced regulatory touch. "Growth" to them just means more government spending. And "austerity" means nothing more than some budget constraints. Greece, ground zero of this debate, is the best example. There, President Obama and the Democrats hear grave talk of severe "austerity" creating needless suffering and warnings that America must avoid a similar mistake. A look at the facts shows otherwise: Greek spending has gone down relatively little while taxes on individuals and businesses have ballooned. So far, job losses have only occurred in the private sector, which is being strangled by new taxes, while there have been no layoffs among government workers. Don't be fooled, the only thing that grows under the new "growth" policies is what used to be called debt. Debt that someone has to pay.
2) and 3) Journeys and evolutions, not confusion and flip-flops: The New York Times decided to help its friends on the left by crediting the president with having engaged in a "journey" to reach his latest enlightened policy on Afghanistan. This is a lovely piece of trickery. The decision isn't characterized as the flip-flop it was or even, more reasonably, as an on-the-job-training debacle. In truth, anyone would have to contract amnesia to forget what Obama said when he took his formerly muscular, hawkish position. This is just like how his forced reversal on gay marriage was declared an "evolution" by his fawning followers. This was saluted as a mature "evolution," not an acknowledgment of the expedient position he took in 2008 in order to appear more moderate.
4) The matter of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright: Nothing to see here; move along. If anyone gets near Jeremiah Wright, liberals scream racism! It is a bad idea for Republicans to take their eye off the critical issue of the economy. Nonetheless, a wacky plan to refresh the old Wright controversy was drafted by some GOP operatives, but never made it to the launch pad. Some Obama defenders overreacted. Their wagons never formed an organized defensive circle. They shouted: "Look at what the Republicans almost showed you but didn't. It sure would have been awful if you would have seen this, but we kept you from seeing it." I must have heard t Wright say his famous line, "God damn America," 15 times on TV last week. With friends like these, Obama's opponents don't need to run as many ads. I'm not sure Obama needs more help like this.
5) Say it's a war on women: The GOP primaries produced some bloopers and an ugly highlight reel of how to get in trouble with some women voters, but very little of it has stuck to Romney. Much to chagrin of the left, it's an unproductive overreach to say Republicans are anti-women. The target of this lament, independent women voters, aren't stupid or as eager to be declared victims as the liberals insist. Yet even with this cruel "war" underway, the polls say there isn't even a battle. According to the May 11-13 CBS/NY Times poll, Romney leads among women 46 percent to 44 percent.
The flustered adhocracy of the Obama message-meisters is good at distraction and deception. But that's proof that the meisters had expected to have a big lead in the polls and an easy spring and summer. We'll see if they've learned and if they can grasp the reality of their position and use the powers of incumbency to do better going forward than they've done so far.