Friday, August 31, 2012

Election Week in Review....Crazy Like FOX (August 31, 2012)

Obameter2012 covered the costs of faux correspondent Steve to sit in his room at 10:00 PM EST on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and file his thoughts on the Republican Convention...he calls them "Crazy Like FOX"...
The balloons are now deflated on the floor of the Tampa Times convention center, and it’s time to assess. It’s clear that Mitt cleared the expectations bar, and that the GOP will emerge from Florida  energized for battle.
But there were very real hits and misses over these three days, and blame will be doled out to Mitt’s handlers for questionable casting (“go ahead, make my day incoherent!”) and prime-time moments way off message (e.g., Marco and Chris co-opting their air-time to kick off 2016).
But Mitt would be the first to tell you that he is the CEO of this show, and he knew exactly what he needed to do. If you thought some of this show was crazy, consider that he may be crazy like a fox. Fox News, that is.
Fox News had the brilliant insight that people prefer hearing a version of the news that reinforces their perspective rather than one that challenges it. (Don’t go self-righteous on me, lefty; your BFFs at MSNBC ripped it off). An audience that only listens to a source of news that reinforces its biases never hears inconvenient facts or coherent counter-arguments. This, in turn, emboldens the “news” organization to exaggerate, bend, and distort facts, knowing that hyperbole is crack to a news junkie and that the fully addled audience would neither be inclined to or capable of discerning fact from fiction.
Let’s start by giving Mitt Romney credit for recognizing that this idea is way too powerful to only use on a cable news channel.
Take Tuesday. The actual official theme of the day for the Republican Party convention on Tuesday was “We built it!” The “we built it” line is a reference to a “quote” from Barack Obama which was cropped precisely in mid-sentence to make it seem that Obama was saying that small business owners “did not build” their businesses, when in fact he was very clearly saying that they “did not build” the bridges and roads that small businesses rely on to succeed.
Editing a clip to intentionally distort its meaning is what Fox News does.  It had not – until Tuesday night – become the official policy of the Republican Party.  But Mitt’s RNC is crazy. Crazy like Fox. 
Indeed, the only interesting question is whether most of the people in the convention center were ignorant (they simply did not know that the edited clip totally changed and distorted Obama’s meaning), or that they were complicit liars -- rejoicing in the clever way they had manipulated the truth to make Obama look bad. Frankly, I am not sure which is worse… but I only know that every person chanting “We built it!” was squarely in one or the other camp, and had been led there through the official communications efforts of the RNC. Nixonian, to be sure; some would say downright CREEP-y.
Tuesday night was a mixed start to the Fox Convention. Ann Romney’s job was to “humanize” her husband, which she attempted to do by describing the early years of their marriage.  She spoke of the travails a young couple, just starting, making ends meet, living from trust fund payout to trust fund payout.
Ann tried to make the Mitt of those early years seem hardscrabble and lean – you know, just the average American whose father runs American Motors.  Let’s charitably call it disingenuous. Her sudden reach out to the sisterhood of women seemed a rather limp and transparent “Hail Mary” pass at Mitt’s 12 point deficit in the polls.
Make no mistake, Ann Romney is an appealing, likeable woman, but I must confess that I thought she was just one more Foxy lady. The emotional testimonies from Romney’s friends and associates from Massachusetts and from his Mormon faith – featured on a cable-only early slot on Thursday night -- did a vastly superior job of humanizing Romney than his wife.
One of the bumpiest moments of the Fox Convention was the handoff from Anne to Tuesday’s keynote from Governor Chris Christie, who weighed in heavily by thundering “We’re not here for love, we’re here for respect.” This put him in the position of appearing to violently disagree with the candidate’s wife, who – a mere half hour before -- had declared that “love” was the central theme of her talk.
Christie then offered his own perspective on what the key theme of the campaign should be (“a candidate who will tell you the truth, no matter what!”), which is not Romney’s key message and it is certainly not the Flip-Flopper-in-Chief’s long suit. The New Jersey Governor only got around to mentioning Romney’s name a good fifteen minutes into the speech, cementing the perception that he was in Tampa solely to make a land grab at 2016.  Note to Christie: elephants never forget.  Forgive me for this seeming cheap shot, but Chris Christie really was “The Biggest Loser.”
Paul Ryan made a very strong first impression as the featured speaker on Wednesday night, although his pious, earnest manner and youthful zeal  made me think of something, someone that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Then it hit me. The Republican ticket was BainMan and his sidekick Robbin’.
Ryan quickly proved that Romney had made a shrewd choice for VP. Besides the obvious signal to the base that the ticket would be ideologically beholden to the Tea Party, the choice of Ryan also hewed to the time-honored tradition of hiring a pit bull willing to lead a take-no-prisoners style attack on the opposition.  All of which made Ryan an eerie echo of two youthful GOP VPs: he has the brains and honesty of Nixon packaged in the hunk appeal of Quayle.
BainMan watched benignly as Robbin’ did his dirty work. The self-styled policy wonk played so fast and loose with facts that his disregard for reality provided a rare occasion for unity for pundits across the political spectrum.
Poor Ryan, though, would find that the only clip from his speech that actually made it onto the morning news shows was his riff on the contrast between his iPod and Mitt’s. Therefore, the only one of Ryan’s punches that really connected with its target was dissing his new boss for digging elevator music. Thanks for the help on the “humanizing” front, Paul.
Ah, but all of this was just so much side show for the big night: Thursday.
First, a programming note. We know from Fox that everyone is mad as hell is at Obama, but it turns out that they are apparently not so mad that they want to miss a single re-run of NCIS: L.A.  Not very much of this convention ever made it below channel 10. Which is a pity, because the conventions finest moments were early Thursday night, when people who actually knew Mitt Romney way back when told warm, loving, and deeply emotional stories about him.
But the programming gods who prevented most people from seeing these lovely, gentle testimonies may have saved BainMan from having too many of mainstream, family-oriented, wholesome, and religious Americans watch a crotchety and perhaps tipsy Clint Eastwood careen through a mean-spirited and occasionally obscene train wreck of a speech.
Marco Rubio forcibly dragged the proceedings back up to street level, but he – like Christie – gave a speech that would have been a resounding endorsement of Romney if only Romney happened to be Marco Rubio.
By 10:40, the carnival barkers had been silenced, and we reached the final act. And, Lefty, it’s time to wake up and realize that this guy is actually a formidable opponent.
For starters, Mitt Romney realized that there was only one guy in the building who could actually do what everyone had tried to do all week… humanize Mitt Romney. So he took that one on. Good for him. He did a good job at that on Thursday night. Lots of family and genuine emotion at the outset of his speech… a very good way to warm up the audience.  The story of his Mom, his Dad, and the rose was world class. And he made a powerful, rousing, emotional close. Romney roughed out his smooth edges last night. He went in as a robot, but he came out as R2D2.
The rest of his speech was remarkable largely in its restraint. Having artfully left it to his pit bulls to rip Obama, Mitt had the audacity to say that he “wished that Obama had succeeded, because I want America to succeed.” (This, just a bit too much from a party whose senate leader overtly stated that his primary objective was to make Obama a one term president.)  In a seeming attempt to argue that the entitlement of the one percenters should be experienced by all, he declared that everyone in America “deserved better” than what they have gotten from Obama. No sacrifice, no changes, no “ask not… “just vote for me because you deserve better. (One last note to Chris Christie: you should have read both the wife’s and the husband’s speech on the plane to Tampa).
And, of course, not a word of explanation of how he was actually going to accomplish what he promised without cutting the military, slashing Medicare, or raising taxes. But this was not the night to ask why or get specific; there is time for that later. (As Stephen Colbert noted, probably after the election).
Emboldened, Romney teed it all up for the dems next week.
The Flipper invoked the Gipper: “So I ask you, are you better off than you were four years ago?”
Many of us, remember four years ago:  a global financial meltdown, an unjustified, horrifically costly war, a unjustified and perhaps even costlier war on science, a turning back the clock on human rights, our global reputation in tatters, and Osama Bin Laden alive and kicking. We are very eager to hear President Obama take Romney up on that question. Yes, Mr. Romney, I actually do feel a whole lot better now than I did four years ago.
But, Lefty, make no mistake. The battle has been joined, and it is being fought by people who are crazy… crazy like Fox.
Comments welcome!


  1. Great post! And you're so right, yes, we ARE better off than we were four years ago, maybe not where we want to be, but in much better shape. Our memories are so short ... thanks for the reminder, Steve.

  2. Wick Sloane, one of the nation's leading obscure columnistsAugust 31, 2012 at 8:04 PM

    I was in an elevator this afternoon, with Chris Matthews and Arianna Huffington. They were saying, "What is this Obameter? Did you hear what the guy said about Fox?"


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