by E.C. Fish on September 17, 2012

ISSUE OF THE WEEK — KEEP YOUR OPTIMISM CAUTIOUS: After Mitt Romney’s midweek foreign policy meltdown, it is difficult to recall how much trouble he was already in at the beginning of the week. With a failed and frankly embarrassing convention behind him, a slight but significant lead opening up for his opponent, and the long-delayed recognition of his status as a constant and obdurate liar, the electoral-college-wonk community was speculating outright on the impossibility of a Romney win and Republican talking heads — from Joe Scarborough to Laura Ingraham to George Will to the Wall Street Journal editorial page — began indulging that same speculation, with Ingraham further suggesting that this was effectively the end of the GOP.

It was perhaps in this desperate context that Romney, on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, decided to interject himself into an ongoing foreign policy situation with yet another opportunistic and inaccurate denunciation of the president for supposedly “sympathizing” with protestors. The next morning, he offered up an equally fact-challenged defense of that statement (hinging on the ridiculous assertion that “the embassy is the administration”) in a press conference that he managed to end with one of those strange and scary smirks he gets when he thinks he’s pulled something off.

He hadn’t. The comparative trickle of Republican criticism he had endured over the weekend hit flood stage midweek: congressional leaders Mitch McConnell and John Boehner issued measured statements that contradicted Romney’s, Andrew Sullivan called him unfit to serve, and even such usual die-hard convinced fools as Peggy Noonan expressed dismay at Romney’s handling of events. Then came the threshold moment, when Romney’s campaign announced (though not for the first time) that the governor didn’t necessarily speak for it.

While I will certainly join those who believe that Romney’s actions last week were dishonest, clumsy, cynical, contemptuous of the electorate, and (as Joy Reid pointed out on MSNBC) quite beyond both dignity and decency, I am not quite ready to join the Democrats and the left’s blogosphere in their spontaneous choruses of “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead.” Having lived through Bush the First (who was declared dead multiple times in 1988, each time rising up like the killer at the climax of a slasher flick) and the actual election (as opposed to the court appointment) of Bush the Second in 2004, I can’t in good conscience encourage anything that might lead to the least little let-up of the effort to keep Romney out of the executive branch. Overconfidence and complacency are bad ideas on general principle, and anyone taking this election seriously should keep in mind the following: 1) Romney, his campaign, and his party are both desperate to win and entirely without scruples as to how they do so; and 2) American elections have been decided on silly shit many, many times in the recent past. Here’s hoping that President Obama and his supporters can keep their powder dry and their eyes open until November.

OH WHAT A GIVEAWAY DEPARTMENT: The Federal Reserve’s announcement this week that it would engage in a third round of quantitative easing (referred to as QE3) brought the predictable round of denunciations from Ben Bernanke’s fellow Republicans. What was harder to predict was just how many of these denunciations would be based much more on politics than on policy. By accusing Bernanke and the Fed of having abandoned their vaunted neutrality to boost the economy in order to aid the Obama re-election effort, Republicans have conceded both the policy point that QE3 will be an effective short-term economic stimulus and the political point that they don’t want the economy to get better until they’re finished using it as a blunt weapon to bash Obama and the Democrats.

MITT’S MISCASTING: In a fluffball interview with Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan on Friday, Romney let it be known that he’d like actor Gene Hackman to play him in a movie. Mr. Hackman — a lifelong Democrat whose name appeared on Richard Nixon’s notorious “enemies list” and who doesn’t resemble Romney in any particular — has not been reached for comment.

USA TODAY RELAUNCH: USA Today — AKA “McNews” or “that paper we got for free at that motel that one time” — launched a major redesign of both its print and online product this week, emphasizing “visual storytelling” and an online “logo that moves.” Tellingly, the LA Times covered the story in its entertainment section. “We’re trying to reinvent news here, ” said publisher Larry Kramer — and while plans call for making better use of the reporting resources of its parent company, it should be noted that its parent company is Gannett. How these bells and whistles will affect the actual content of the publication (which is to real journalism as a convenience store’s microwave breakfast burrito is to a Hell’s Kitchen biscuit with sausage gravy) remains to be seen. Given the fact that this is a marketing-driven move on the part of an already risk-aversive news organization, chances are excellent that it won’t change much. I’ll let you know the next time I have to stay at a motel.

KGO: A Keen Grasp of the Obvious Award to Dane County Judge Juan B. Colas for ruling that Governor Scott Walker’s collective bargaining law violated both the US Constitution and that of the state of Wisconsin. While this is unlikely to be the last word on the subject — Walker and his well-funded supporters have promised an exhaustive appeals process — it’s certainly an encouraging first one.

UPDATE, 9/17/12: Did I mention contemptuous of the electorate?

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

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

kirk September 17, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Are you suggestin’ that the ’04 election was legit? I’ve never thought so. And whether I’m wrong or not, it was the worst moment of my electoral life. By that time, America knew exactly what it was getting. And yet, refused to smell the coffee until the next midterms.


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