Most pundits found Tuesday's foreign policy love-fest to be tedious. Balderdash. In October of an election year, two political rivals agreeing on anything at all is riveting television. I don't care if they're compromising on "Angry Birds" legislation; I'll be on my couch, watching.
Granted, the president wasn't exactly Henry Clay up there; mostly, he spent the evening narrating his administration's actions abroad, then listening to Mitt nod and stutter agreement in his best Rain Man impersonation ("Definitely. Definitely drones. Definitely drone strikes.") Hell, if your eyes weren't connected to your brain, you might've thought Romney's embraces had something to do with showing American unity on the world stage; but, alas, basic powers of deduction suggest this was a cynic's electoral strategery in action.
Still, American voters can dream: two weeks out, what else could (and should) the two parties concede to one another?
When a professional sports season nears its end, leagues like the NBA and MLB hold trade deadlines for teams to exchange assets and strengthen their squads down the stretch. Weaknesses at certain positions are admitted -- a fraudulent back court here, a crappy left fielder there -- and the bartering maximizes talent distribution in the free market. Aroused yet, GOP?
Let's evaluate the Top 5 deadline deals that should (but never would) occur in the Bizarro Election Season of 2012:
Trade 1: GOP deals [Obama is a Kenyan socialist hell-bent on transforming America] to Dems for [Romney is an alien from the planet Kleptar sent to ruin the lives of Earth's 99%].
Yes, claims of the candidates' respective mother planets/countries are silly, but partisans actually believe the other parts. There are progressives convinced Romney's only priority is dousing hedge-fund managers and the cast of Titanic in champagne baths, and there are plenty of conservatives sure that Obama is actually Trotsky with a sun-tan.
Now, admittedly, this proposed deal is a blockbuster -- two fan-favorite ringers that will be tough to let walk -- but there's plenty of quality ideological back-ups for both squads to sub into the contest: Romney's an awkward fellow who believes freeing up heaps of capital for his homies will accelerate job growth, and Obama is a traditional, big-government Democrat from Hawaii. There: both teams are still deep at these positions, and nobody's been admitted to the looney bin.
Trade 2: GOP surrenders [Obama deserves little credit for rescuing the financial system] to Dems in return for [The economy doesn't suck].
The fact that Republicans won't just admit that the President's bank and auto bailouts were miraculously effective at stabilizing the financial sector is a joke; but Democrats should also admit that job growth hasn't just been less than ideal during Obama's term; it's mostly been anemic. If we're being honest, this is a jobless recovery featuring a booming stock market and profitable banking sector. Yes, a strong case can be made that pre-crisis outsourcing was a structural disease to the labor sector long before anyone had ever heard of Barack Obama; that employment is inevitably going to lag behind the markets; and that his hand was terrible -- but still, let's not pretend we're roaring back to the '90s here.
Note: If the Dems wouldn't go for this deal as is, Romney could consider throwing in a couple additional lies (like "he wanted to save Detroit"). Maybe a few draft picks too.
Trade 3: Obama trades [political use of the basilisk face] to Romney for [political use of the constipated face].
I felt slightly sorry for Romney in the second debate during the Libya interchange, when Obama turned his eye-of-the-tiger, ultra-badass stare on him, like the Governor had just insulted his mother. The President's frustration with being interrogated on something as logistical as compound security is understandable. But it's hardly an act of treason to ask, "Mr. President, can you explain your administration's contradictory explanations on the events in Benghazi?"
For those of you keeping score, this patented, steely expression of the President's made its official debut to great fanfare in the Situation Room, when Obama watched bin Laden get popped. I, for one, wouldn't wish the "I'm going to send you to the bottom of the Arabian Sea" stare on anyone.
As for Mitt's default, constipated, "you resemble an adorable Pixar character" face, I think we can all agree that this was a look that did no favors for the human and animal races of our innocent planet.
Trade 4: Dems trade [Dem SuperPACs] to GOP for [surprise: GOP SuperPACs].
For all of the country's polarization, there's agreement on one thing: You ruined our lives, Citizens United. The endless blitzkrieg of ridiculous SuperPAC ads is turning the good homo sapiens of this country into wailing Chewbaccas, and there literally isn't one soul with a pulse who cares for it. I doubt even the Koch brothers can watch these things. A couple weeks ago, a Virginia-market ad campaign from an organization called something like "Americans for the Progress of the Human Planet of our Constitutional Freedom Liberties" over-ran my parents' television in D.C. There were no survivors.
In all seriousness, bipartisan unity against the Supreme Court's ruling is overwhelming, and whoever ends up in the Oval Office can expect some legislative response reaching his desk. I expect the bill will say something like "Please, no more. We can't take it."
Note: Because GOP SuperPAC money exceeds Dem SuperPAC money, Republicans would likely demand a few additional concessions. Perhaps they'd take Biden.
Trade 5: Dems trade [MSNBC, the New York Times, Candy Crowley, and the rest of the progressive-leaning media] to the GOP for [Republican minor league prospects].
Granted, there is nothing in the world of "liberal media bias" that rivals Fox News as a hub of propaganda (with the possible exception of MSNBC). Yet there remains a slight inclination for progressive politics in network and print journalism, and if you disagree with that dose of reality, I don't know--get the transcript (Candy?!).
That the media can be a considerable asset for the left in electoral politics seems obvious. What is equally stark, however, are the human assets the GOP has jogging out of the stadium tunnel. Even if Obama wins, the next few elections look less than fantastic for national Democratic candidates, the country's demographic trends notwithstanding. The Republicans have Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush hopping up and down in the locker room, and Dems have...an aging Hillary (probably retiring) and maybe Andrew Cuomo.
Who wouldn't deal Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, and Maureen Dowd for the Grand Old Party's bench? And who wouldn't like a totally neutral media?
Please, somebody unleash the free market.