President Obama is campaigning against reality. Put differently, his campaign has become dependent on voters ignoring reality, both economic and international.
The pro-Obama pundits are no longer talking about the reality outside the campaign. The economic plunge is not a topic of conversation. How could it be? As Jim Pethokoukis recounts, most economists are saying that the wheels are coming off the bus. He quotes J.P. Morgan’s economist Robert Brusca:
It’s all unraveling this morning. OK in the US jobless claims fell and the consumer comfort index improved. But the downward revision to GDP and the chillingly large drop in Durable goods orders is enough to send chills up your spine. Yes, aircraft and defense orders were the bulk of the weakness. But nothing there is reassuring. Have the NFL’s replacement officials been collecting economic data? Please tell me it is so.
Pethokoukis observes that “economic historians might well shove aside the weak three-year recovery and call the entire 2007-2013 period the Long Recession or some such. I already have been, just like the 1980-82 period was a long recession, two downturns sandwiching a brief recovery.” Yes, 400,000 more jobs than were previously totaled were created in March, 2012, but that makes the latest downturn only that much more acute. Reality is inconvenient for a presidential candidate running on the notion that things are getting better.
The Libya debacle ceased to be of interest to the Obama spinners (and a good chunk of the mainstream media) once it became an obvious loser for the president. When asked about the Libya attacks and the White House’s changing story, the president’s spokespeople respond with an attack on Mitt Romney. The campaign, they are acknowledging with every change in topic, can’t be about Obama’s performance or the real world.
It is no surprise that the liberal punditocracy is obsessed with ads, gaffes and polls. They’d like voters to conclude the race is over and to turn a blind eye toward the simultaneous economic and national security meltdowns. Obama can’t change the economy or the international situation, so he and his allies have set out to change the debate to one about inside politics. No doubt Obama can campaign and enlist the media; he just can’t govern.
For Obama and his supporters, their enemy is the world outside the campaign — burnt embassies, a national security furor, an obvious economic setback. They want to wait out the clock until November, hoping that reality doesn’t ruin the campaign.
Mitt Romney is trying to take on the role of town crier. Get up, get up! Rub your eyes and look around! His goal is to get the electorate to reject the foregone-conclusion ruse. He would like voters to ignore the political prognostication to focus on the grim state of the economy and a foreign policy gone haywire.
So how do Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) do this?
First, don’t answer process questions. The answer to questions about polls is: “Voters are coming to understand the economic choice.” Debate prep? “The public is going to see if President Obama takes responsibility for his economic record or blames others.” They must make the case that Obama’s only strength is campaigning.
Second, it is up to Romney and Ryan to hit the facts again and again, so that voters will accept that things really aren’t getting better. Romney took a stab at that today in Virginia:
As he did today in hitting sequestration, he must contrast Obama’s governing by sleepwalking with the domestic and foreign-policy realties. He said:
“The White House proposed a sequestration, kind of a gun-to-your-head opportunity, which is if Congress couldn’t get the job done properly and the President couldn’t lead them, why, they’d make devastating cuts to our military. It’s a strange proposal in the first place. It’s even stranger that it’s being put in place. As Secretary Nicholson indicated, the impact will be immediate and significant right here in Virginia. A hundred and thirty-six thousand jobs will be lost in Virginia as a result of this move. But when the Secretary of Defense said it would be devastating, he wasn’t referring merely to the loss of jobs in Virginia or any other state, for that matter. He was thinking about our national security priorities and needs. The world is not a safe place. It remains dangerous. Look around the world. Look in North Korea. They continue to develop and promote nuclear capability on their own part and to export it to others. Syria – 20,000, 30,000 people killed in Syria. Iran, closer and closer to having nuclear capability. Egypt, now with a Muslim Brotherhood president. Pakistan, highly tumultuous. Afghanistan — our men and women still in Afghanistan. I mean, you keep going around the world. It is still a troubled and dangerous world, and the idea of cutting our military commitment by a trillion dollars over this decade is unthinkable and devastating
And finally, Romney needs to point out again and again when the president says things that just aren’t so. He doesn’t have to call him a “liar”; the public can draw its own conclusions. Romney needs to call him on it when the president falsely claims that the Justice Department’s “Fast and Furious” operation started under his predecessor or that 90 percent of the debt isn’t his fault or that his “recovery” is stronger than the rebounds under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. This is invention, the stuff of campaigns, but it doesn’t match what has transpired in the real world.
Take the subject of taxes. Obama continually claims that he hasn’t raised taxes on the middle class. This is wrong. Americans for Tax Reform has a handy list of 21 tax hikes enacted by the president (a few of them only on upper-income Americans, such as “a new, 3.8 percent surtax on investment income earned in households making at least $250,000”). The vast majority of these, however, fall on the non-rich as well, including the Obamacare tax for not carrying insurance, the tax on “Cadillac” health-care plans and the medical-device tax that consumers will ultimately bear. That is before Obama allows the George W. Bush tax cuts to expire.
In a way this is a face-off between postmodernism (facts are whatever you say) and objective reality. Romney wins if the debate is about the latter. Obama wins if it isn’t. Now you can better understand the topic selection by pundits, reporters and TV producers.