FISH WRAP: CAMPAIGN WRAP, PART ONE

by E.C. Fish on October 29, 2012

ISSUES LAST WEEK — EMPTY WRAP: Many apologies for the unexpected lack of Wrap last week. While I could offer a passel of life excuses (life here at Rancho Pescado this fall has been a manic blur of day-gig overtime and domestic maintenance issues), the truth of the matter is that when I finally sat down to assemble the week’s worth of news stories into a readable prose piece, I just said to hell with it. The media political narrative for the week ending October 21st, 2012, was dominated — as the previous few weeks had been — by the aftermath of that week’s presidential debate (in which Mitt Romney embarrassed himself profoundly), the anticipation of the coming week’s debate (in which he’d do so again), and a collection of public statements that were walked back, “clarified,” or half-assed apologized for in the hours that followed.

None of it seemed to offer any insight into the future of the nation or tell us anything we didn’t already know. None of it was particularly concerned with questions of policy or real governance. None of it, the debate coverage included, offered anything like a real examination of what are two glaringly contrasting visions of what the country is and could be. And none of it seemed to have much of an effect on public opinion, which after the first debate has reverted to the same slight Obama advantage we’ve been seeing since Romney clinched the nomination.

In short, none of it seemed to matter. The news no longer matters, and it is no mere game of blame-the-messenger to lay that squarely on the news media at large. While the idea of partisan media isn’t anything new, the idea of an entirely hermetic media environment — one so completely tailored to one side of the political conversation that it denies the very notion of a shared objective truth — is a fairly recent thing. This is exactly what we have on the right these days, and thanks to the magic of false equivalency (wherein what the right pulls out of its ass is treated as every bit as worthy of consideration as what the left researches and documents, and their collection of former beauty queens, ex-morning-show deejays, and tabloid veterans as every bit as good as those elitist journalists and academics on the other side), much of what passes for news consists of unsourced innuendo and empty gainsaying that originates with Drudge, Fox, Limbaugh, or some other corner of the right-wing reality warp.

Faced with the prospect of shouting “Bullshit!” down the well yet again on this stuff last week, I succumbed to an acute case of the fuck-its, for which I apologize. That being said, I’m not going back, at least for a while. Below are a few final comments on the Romney candidacy, to be followed next week by some remarks on Obama, and the week after that by a postmortem of the whole sorry mess.

MITT ROMNEY IS MORALLY UNFIT TO SERVE: The above comments were inspired by the role that media has played in allowing the candidacy of Mitt Romney for president of the United States to continue to be taken seriously. Quite apart from any disagreement I have with Romney’s policy agenda (to the extent that any actual policy agenda is discernible from the collection of panders, flip-flops, and internal contradictions he’s presented), the conduct of his campaign and his personal conduct during the course of it have been so deeply offensive on a moral level that by my lights, they completely disqualify him from any sort of responsible public service whatsoever. Only in a media atmosphere devoid of any respect for truth and public accountability could such a campaign find itself within a few percentage points of success.

An all-too-typical case in point took place Thursday, when Romney, speaking before a campaign rally in Defiance, Ohio, told the crowd that the Jeep division of Chrysler was “thinking of moving all production to China.” This was a complete lie, one derived from the bowels of the right-wing blogosphere, which was presented apparently without any further fact-checking and which was refuted almost immediately by Chrysler itself. But despite having been definitively called out on this falsehood, the Romney campaign didn’t retract it, apologize, or even acknowledge being caught. Instead, they made a campaign ad repeating the lie verbatim, just like they did with their equally fictional and equally refuted campaign talking points about Obama’s Medicare cuts and “dismantling” of welfare reform. The latter two are still fixtures of Romney’s stump speeches.

Romney’s entire campaign has been an exercise in just this kind of bad faith, from “severe conservative” to “moderate Mitt” to whatever else he thinks has to come out of his mouth in order to get elected, all of which has been chronicled to a fare-thee-well here and many other places. The disrespect that he has shown to the American people and the democratic process has been profound. That he expects to gain the opportunity to lead them via these vile and deceitful means could only mean one thing: Mitt Romney thinks the American people are idiots. That he has gotten this close could mean that he’s right. If he is, and if his behavior in office is a continuation of his behavior in running for it, I am profoundly worried for the future of the country.

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E. C. Fish is the editor and publisher of The Spleen.

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