By Mark Green
Already there have been three October Surprises, at least numerically: 7.8 percent; $181 million; and Romney posing as Mr. 100 Percent not Mr. 1 Percent. Arianna and Nicolle Wallace (communications aide to W and McCain, played by Sarah Paulson in Game Change) discuss whether a cool-hand, Hawaiian, sit-on-your-lead-president can change his MO when facing a Music Man spouting great lyrics with no fact-checkers or contradictory YouTube videos allowed on the stage? And while Romney "won" the first round on style, might Obama have won in the longer run on substance (Big Bird vs. the $1 trilion+ deficit)?
On the Presidential Debate. We listen to President Obama earlier week joke that "Mitt Romney's a good debater, I'm just OK" ... which turned out to be pretty prophetic.
Nicolle explains that another Massachusetts challenger "cleaned our clock" in 2004 after the Bush convention caricatured John Kerry as a dunce who then easily beat that expectation with an adroit performance. Ditto Romney. She adds that this time "the drama was that Romney and his people were the last ones to believe in themselves -- others were privately talking about Jeb or Ryan next time and no one thought he could still win -- and then he made believers of the rest of us."
Arianna goes Janis Joplin in explaining that Romney was liberated by the freedom of 'nothing left to lose'...and if Obama thought that debates were boring, he should have kept that to himself." Romney talked about poor people who were really hurting and how that was why he was running for president. Really? "What matters is not his motivation," says Arianna, "but how he came across because so much of the debate was theatrical -- and he won on the theatrics."
Mike Deaver had said that presidential performances were 85 percent visual and the rest content. So what exactly can Obama do when Romney earnestly throws out a blizzard of false statements -- like his health plan covers pre-existing conditions, his tax cuts wouldn't help the rich, etc. etc? Arianna answers that next time Obama should remember and recite Romney's earlier comments to use them against him, "the way Biden is learning Ryan's record."
Talk about spiking the football! Con commentators are acting as if Romney killed bin Laden and cured unemployment. How enduring will be his debate win? Nicolle says she'd be "stunned if Obama isn't better in the next debate" and that "Romney's still behind but now we have a race on our hands like in 2000 and 2004 but unlike 2008."
Host: After Carter in 1980 accurately accused Reagan of opposing Medicare and Dutch famously quipped "there you go again," Carter assumed that the media would roast him for such a deceptive response. Not exactly. Reagan went on to become the exemplar of how to win on style points based on the Hollywood theory that "if you can fake sincerity, you've got it made."
So in the next two debates Obama can't just defensively say that x isn't true every time Romney makes a misstatement. Instead, early in Debate#2 he needs to preemptively decode Romney's method of deploying a faux sincere crescendo to make every point. He may have learned this parlor trick from his campaign's chief strategist Stuart Stevens, who wrote in his 2001 book 'The Big Enchilada,' "You could spin anything if you did it with enough confidence."
"Since he's changed positions not on some things but everything," the president could say, "he can't be trusted on anything." Might "can't trust him" become the "there you go again" frame for Romneyspeak?
On Voter ID Laws getting overturned. Are these laws aimed at voter fraud or just voters? Why are so many of them, like the Pennsylvania version, being either stayed or struck down? (The day after the show a court ordered Ohio to reinstate weekend voting before Tuesday's election.) Arianna scoffs at their need since there's no evidence of significant voter impersonation; both agree that the time for a serious debate about such alleged fraud is over the next three years, "not during the heat of an election," in Nicolle's words. One solution: registered voters sign an affidavit that they're who they say they are, on penalty of perjury and jail if they lie. End of problem and end of this form of voter suppression.
On the "Biased Liberal Media". VP nominee Paul Ryan tells Chris Wallace that there's an undeniable "liberal media bias" against his ticket, though he declines to provide any examples. Well, a) what's THE media and b) assuming most journalists are probably left-of-center Democrats, aren't most owners of media properties conservative Republican businessmen? Arianna dismisses the media-bias claim as "way, way exaggerated. But if there's any bias it's toward gaffes and trivial things that are over-covered. These stereotypes though die hard. For example, after the debate, The Huffington Post splashed a headline 'Romney Wins the Night.'"
Nicolle too is impatient with this meme. "Because neither side culturally believes or respects the other," conservatives can't understand anyone who denies there's a liberal media bias... Yes it's a red flag but should be no excuse for losing elections! It's like an overweight person eating candy and blaming someone else. Reagan and Bush won their presidential elections."
On the 2007 "too black" Obama Tape -- a racial 47 percent?. Sean Hannity, Drudge Report, and The Daily Caller broke "news" Tuesday that they said might be a "game-changer", viz, a tape from 2007 showing Senator Barack Obama speaking more "black" to a black college audience about racial injustice. We listen to Hannity and Juan Williams on Fox disagree over its importance, with Williams saying it was sheer "race-baiting" since every pol contours his talk, even accent, to particular audiences.
Consensus alert: the women think this is a nothing-burger: Arianna cites Jason Linkins's point in HuffPost that after four years as president, it's awfully hard to imply that Obama is an angry black guy. Nicolle argues that it's unlikely either Romney or a Super PAC would use this tape because it's dated, irrelevant and counter-productive. "Anyone moved by it is already voting against Obama."
On the Radar. Iran. Jarecki. Nader. Nicolle predicts that, as a result of bipartisan sanctions, the Iranian currency is collapsing which might help diplomatically resolve the issue of Iran going nuclear short of a military strike. Arianna talks up Eugene Jarecki's upcoming film The House I Live In which exposes how the failed "war on drugs" has become an excuse to incarcerate a generation of young black men; and for those who think that neither nominee has presented detailed solutions for the next four years, the Host notes that Ralph Nader has this week published a new paperback of aggressive, progressive proposals called, Seventeen Solutions.
Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now, which is powered by the American Federation of Teachers.
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