A national political campaign is better than the best circus, with a mass baptism and couple of hangings thrown in.
The stomp outweighs the gavel where persecution reigns.
—Marquis De Sade’s aid-de-campe
With the notable exception of 2008, when there was no one left to defend or explain the abysmal eight years of George W. Bush, all election seasons are about the incumbent—his economy, his international standing, his policies, his leadership, his likeability and the confidence in the citizenry to either award him another four years or be so completely frightened or apathetic about his opponent, the choice is down to the lesser of two evils. Outside influences like hostages or a complete unforeseen economic meltdown and/or the random “October surprise” notwithstanding, that’s pretty much it. And in the cycles of an election season, none is crueler than summer. The best and the brightest, strong incumbents like Roosevelt or Reagan or even Nixon, have felt the sting of summer polls, dips in voter confidence, et al. But for the shaky ones, like the one we have now, the summer can be the death knell.
It’s time for those in the White House to get real about how they plan on defending this presidency. The hackneyed early pounding of challenger Mitt Romney by what appears to be a close-your-eyes-and-aim-a-dart strategy at the Barack Obama re-election committee has been weak and mostly ineffectual—and not because Romney isn’t one of the worst candidates in recent memory. Hell, a good deal of the underground element of his party never wanted him. I have yet to hear a single Republican or conservative friend or colleague—as long as they are not in the employ of the GOP—say anything positive about their candidate, except that he isn’t Barack Obama. Also, these same types who keep writing me missives that begin with “Beware the TEA Party” have yet to explain how the hell this fat-cat establishment stooge is their representative after six months of a long Republican primary.
No, Romney stinks, just like John Kerry stunk the last time we had a weak incumbent ready to be had. Kerry’s stench didn’t fully reveal itself until September. That’s about when the “I’m not Obama” thing will wear thing for Romney. He had better be about something and have a semblance of an alternative vision, because if he has to survive on cult of personality or tangible elements, he is toast. But in the summer of an election year when the warts of a presidency are out in full force, it’s all about The Man. And for Joe Cool, there are warts.
This economy, although rightly argued by the White House as markedly better than it was when Obama took office (Dow at 7,500 and the private sector losing 800,000 jobs monthly), it is hardly a scintilla of what was projected or even promised by his crack economic team of Wall St. punks and Clinton-era has-beens. The massive stimulus was hijacked by liberal lions in the congress—a congress that was controlled for four years, two under the president, before being ousted in 2010 in the wake of a slipshod and soon-to-be decided by the Supreme Court “unconstitutional” boondoggle of a Health Care Law.
And while this president has been more effective at this illicit and wholly vague “war on terror” than the cowboy president who preceded him, his ramping up the heat in Afghanistan and the blithe dismissal of most of its dead-end policies has been egregious. Remember, this is our anti-war candidate, who has assassinated more disparate terrorists than any president in history, included in the carnage are an America citizen and the man responsible for 9/11. The chances now or anytime that this guy, or anyone, least of all another Ivy League wimp trying to appear tough, is going to end this perpetual state of war is nil. It has been and will be the bankruptcy of this nation, because even purportedly fiscal conservative voices are in favor of never-ending aggression. Obama has done nothing to curtail it, if anything he has to done the opposite.
Apparently, even in the bitter heat and unforgiving light for summer, six out of ten voters still dig Joe Cool. And why not? He’s still the young candidate (Romney being another tired Baby Boomer nudge), articulate (except when explaining the actual gig he’s been given) and he’s overseen, Afghanistan aside, an overall responsible and effective foreign policy (the Libyan move—which I mocked ceaselessly—was a win-win).
But these same voters do not want more spending or more pathetic excuses about the right blocking all these infusive economic salves. There is only a right because in the dust of a Republican spending surge for the better part of a decade, leftist banshees like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid ram-rodded the usual parade of government overreach and caused a backlash. Being shocked that the opposition party, roundly mandated by the electorate in 2010, is blocking your agenda is like being surprised when a TV ad is biased towards the product it’s hawking.
Of course all this pales to the woeful economic numbers that for good or ill (and it has mostly been ill for presidents since FDR made it the business of the executive branch to be responsible for American fiscal solvency) are crushing Joe Cool weekly. Thanks for the most part to Republicans like Coolidge first and Hoover last, both of whom chose to ignore one out of every four Americans being out of work for three solid years prior to Roosevelt’s madness, the country as a whole has henceforth accepted the assistance and regulatory powers of the federal government over the monolithic banking system.
Trouble for this president is his desire to play the middle. Thus, he’s painted as a big-government liberal (in some goofy places as a socialist) as he cow-tows to the interests of speculators, banks, unions, and manufacturers, while also managing to pay lip service to the Dodd-Frank bill, which was passed under a Democratic congress and never certified. The left claim it doesn’t exist, and what happened last month to J.P. Morgan Chase makes it clear that Joe Cool has no clear footing on either side of the aisle.
And thus here we are, as we were in the summer of 2004 when I sent to press the summation of what this fall’s election should be about: “George W. Bush was ready to be had by anyone aggressive and smart enough to build a viable alternative argument to massive job losses, a throbbing recession, the most spendthrift administration since FDR, and the worst post-war effort ever bungled by a sovereign nation. This election is supposed to be a referendum on the incumbent’s standing. It was ripe for a legitimate challenger to seize the opportunity to engage a debate on its merits.”
Karl Rove brilliantly framed it about gay marriage and soccer mom fear mongering and re-elected a dunce, who continued to care take the greatest economic collapse in eight decades, as will be the case this time around for Barack Obama. Second terms in my lifetime have been doom chambers. No one can survive it, least of all a polarized nation of overfed and over-stimulated mutants ramped with fear over some bullshit they read in a random screed like this nonsense.
But at least I am willing to go on record calling it nonsense, rather than commentary or analysis, even though it is as salient as any crap I’ve read from anyone for months.
Shit, can Joe Cool run on this at best shaky and at worst horrid record of economic solvency, as instituted nearly a century ago, or will this be about how shitty Romney is or how shitty the Republicans were in the first place?
Hell if I know, but I do know it’s time for this president to get himself a helmet.
As voodoo princess Madam Sissy Meechum says, “It’s a long summer.”
James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of Deep Tank Jersey, Fear No Art, Trailing Jesus and Midnight For Cinderella.