Five Weeks Left, And We Still Need Answers

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

There are five weeks remaining in this election cycle.  That seems like a relatively small amount of time, given the length of our campaigns – now an almost permanent fixture on our cable infotainment channels.  The election stands relatively close at this point, with the President having the usual advantage of incumbency.  It’s looking more and more likely that there will be no change in the leadership of the U.S. House or Senate.

We’re now solidly in the area where undecided voters begin to make up their mind.  As such, it should be a time when real issues are discussed.  Contrasts must be made.  Solutions should be on the table.  Instead…more infotainment.

Political coverage since the convention has been largely lacking in substance.  We’re rapidly approaching the point where most cable news programs need to be considered semi-scripted reality television programs.  There was a time when people openly debated whether or not professional wrestling was real.  Too often now there are times when what passes for punditry makes the WWE look authentic.

From the right, we have circular firing squads where talking heads and print writers are arguing over who is trying to carry Mitt Romney over the finish line versus who is trying to save their own skin.  A blistering exchange occurred this week between Matt Lewis of The Daily Caller and syndicated columnist Michele Malkin over Lewis’ assertion that a Malkin and others were participating in acts that were a schtick.

Too many on the conservative side are trying to secure their seat at the right hand of Mitt Romney or distance themselves to be able to soon say “I told you so”.  Not enough are helping to frame the issues that will matter to undecided voters over the next five weeks.

From those on the left, we do not have enough intellectual curiosity.  We have a situation in Libya that appears to have been a planned terrorist attack, an official explanation that appears to be fabricated, the public scapegoating of a filmmaker that increasingly looks unrelated to the incident, and the left spent the week mostly talking about…replacement refs for the NFL.  I cannot recall in my lifetime watching such a feckless press corps complicity whistle past a graveyard.

The net sum of the two weeks says a lot about where these campaigns are going into the home stretch.  The President is currently winning, despite hopes on the right that the polls are closer than they appear.  The media that backs the President are confident and on message.  Those that back Romney are fighting among themselves.

The loser in this isn’t as much Romney as it is us.  When the pundit class of press spends the week either naval gazing or ignoring significant world events, issues are not being framed and solutions are not being discussed.

Between the election and inauguration day, issues that have gone unsolved will be addressed.  Presumably, one party or the other will be expecting a mandate from this election.  The extension of income and payroll tax cuts (or not), military spending sequestration, an extension of the farm bill, and an increase in the debt ceiling all will be on Congress’ desk when they return in mid-November.  Should this election remain with the status quo, exactly what message does that send to Congress on these stop gap measures, much less how to plan for permanent fixes to the economy?

Furthermore, events this week in foreign policy from the Middle East and from the U.N. have highlighted that it’s not just the economy, no matter how many times “stupid” is added to that phrase.  Our direct involvement in the Middle East is likely not nearing an end, but about to enter a brand new chapter.  Our country needs a serious and direct conversation about who our allies are, what our interests are, and what we are committed to do to support them.  It’s neither an easy or pleasant discussion, but one that deserves the seriousness of debate.

And it is in the debates, four over the next four weeks, that perhaps, just perhaps, we can finally get serious dialogue going over where we really want to move this country.  Thus far we’ve lacked substance from both sides.  We all should demand better.

46 comments

  1. AMB says:

    Sorry but we know all we need to know about Mitt Romney. That is why this election is for all intents and purposes, over. He is an inept, unprepared, hateful poser of a man who does not deserve the presidency.
    No need to debate his substance. He has none.

        • I Miss the 90s says:

          I do not get it. When did Obama ever profit from unemploying Americans?

          Never…and he is still richer than you chuckleheads.

          May I ask what companies you work for?

          I only ask because I happen to be worth quite a bit (thanks dad) and have no qualms with buying your firms only to lay you off and hire cheaper labor.

  2. David C says:

    Also, the ‘filmmaker’ may not have been directly involved with the incident in Libya, but to pretend what he did had no broader impact on unrest in the wider region is naive at best, hopefully myopic at worst. It’s easy for know it all pundits and congressmen to shout “terrorism” but real investigations and intelligence gathering takes time. Debates on foreign policy should be welcomed, but right now all we seem to get from the Romney camp is more “No Apology” BS that thinks foreign policy is entirely the matter of who can annoy the most people the loudest. There are debates to be had: About how much we should use drone strikes, what to do in Afghanistan, what can be done in the face of civil war in Syria, how to handle the emerging post-Arab Spring governments in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, how to handle China’s rise in the Pacific, not to mention how to contain Iran.

    Romney doesn’t want to have those debates. He doesn’t have or bother to create a real critique of Obama’s real foreign policies that could acknowledge successes, failures, goals and opportunities. The Republican Party cries out for an H.W. Bush or Nixon that could have a coherent foreign policy. Instead, Romney keeps busting out tired jingoism and grubbing for any chance to win a news cycle against his opponent. From “Double Guantanamo” in 2008 to his incessant lies that Obama goes off and “apologizes for America,” it’s a sign of someone who views foreign policy entirely through the prism of how he can goose a sound bite to make him sound tough. I mean, the guy was considering Tim Pawlenty for Secretary of State, a guy with no experience outside of Minnesota State Government. He gives the impression of one who has never much thought about American policy outside our borders and who has no idea what he wants to use the Presidency for, either at home or abroad.

  3. benevolus says:

    That sequestration deal is scary, but it’s hard, today, to see how it is going to get solved.
    Reduce the FAA by 10%? The FBI?
    As I understand it, the fiscal year starts Oct. 1, this Monday. But they wouldn’t fail to resolve this until probably December. So about 3 months of full spending will go on before sequestration would begin. So a lot of agencies would have to cut more than 10% for the remaining 9 months to make up the difference. Yikes.

  4. Doug Deal says:

    The main stream press have made it abundantly clear why they are going out of business. There was a time when they did more than peddle a point of view or read from FAXed or emailed talking points.

    There job is to report on the state of the nation, the activities of the government, and the issues of the day, not prove why Romney can’t win.

        • benevolus says:

          Well, it’s just a general statement about making the press act a certain way, as opposed to Republican Hero Ronald Reagan’s clear penchant for deregulation.
          The Fairness Doctrine probably needed to be re-visited, but would a Dem have done it?

  5. Ethics is a non-partisan issue. I really hope those in Georgia are paying special attention to the Public Service Commission (PSC) races. We have a very good chance of electing someone who would be very good for all Georgians.

    “….. we can’t afford another six years of this Wise guy, who will continue to vote for every single rate increase his contributors ask for. I’ve been endorsed by the Sierra Club of Georgia and Debbie Dooley, co-founder and co-organizer of the Atlanta Tea Party, as well as a list of others. We’ll be releasing the full endorsement list to the media in the near future….”

    Read further here: Only 40 Days Remain! – http://eepurl.com/pZvU1

  6. John Konop says:

    In my opinion Romney is a talented and pragmatic businessman. The GOP base wants ideology over solutions. This has forced Romney to take positions on issues he does not agree with and not lay out a real plan. If Obama wins the GOP needs to look at themselves not the Dems.

    As far as Obama, his base is not pushing him as had to the left. And while the economy is puttering along it is still better than what Obama inherted.

    The real arguement Romney could of made was the direction of our economy and the lack of plan from Obama. But the GOP base, especially the Norquist junkies make this conversation impossible unless Romney does a 180 on the tax pledge. Romney problem is he cannot be Romney in the GOP.

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      Ideology over solutions…

      Obama ought to borrow that. Often, their ideology-driven policies cause problems in the areas that they’re addressing.

      • John Konop says:

        You are missing my point. If you are going to replace someone, based on improving a situation you must have a plan. I do think if Romney could be Romney and present a real plan based on solutions not idealolgy he would win. If Obama wins this will be the fault of the Norquist junkies, who are hurting our country. If the GOP cannot control that side of the party, the future will not be good on a national level. I voted for Bush 1 over Clinton and the reason I think he won was his
        ” Sister Soldier” moment with his own party. Had Clinton not stood up to his radical side of his party he would not of won. Think about it!

        • Bob Loblaw says:

          No, I thought that was a great slogan for Obama to use to hit the nail on the head describing today’s conservative direction. GOP isn’t controlling that side of the party. Look at the losses the country has had by ridding our government of men like Richard Lugar. That guy had credibility all over Earth. Indiana could get anything they needed. Gone. David Dewhurst has been a hard core conservative in Texas since the mid-90s. Gone. Mike Castle in DE. Same thing. The end result is going to be more Democrats in office and more people affiliating themselves with them.

          Romney has nobody to stand up to. That’s the problem. You have a powersharing agreement between right wing, collect no taxes ever groups and the zealots on the right. They each look the other way while they eat away at facts and reason.

          If Obama wins, the Tea Party goes back to the couch. That’s Bob Loblaw’s prediction! And I’m not thinking this candidate who looks, sounds, acts, lives like either side is going to move them by the millions to vote.

          • John Konop says:

            I agree, with your post, except I am not sure how it all plays out. Radical right radio is a big business now. I would bet privately many are laughing as they count the money and know they are spewing BS……. The Democrats do not face the same problem via the failure of Air Ametica.

            Also when you combine that with most young people getting their news from John Stweart….it is not a good formula for the future. I do not know how the William F Buckley/ Goldwater side of the party makes a comeback in this environment? How do you see it playing out?

            • Bob Loblaw says:

              Romney loses, the TEA Party is disgusted and goes back to watching football while Obama dismantles the country. Republicans don’t do as well in Congressional races as they hoped. Senate stays D. Half of them return to the GOP in the next primary season to work for candidates. Those that have been conservatives from the beginning and won’t go away will once again regain some sense of order amongst the Party. Hopefully, they cut a bipartisan deficit reduction bill and right the financial ship. Do that, and the GOP has a chance to compete in the next Congressional cycle. Don’t and the Dems are the ones that fixed the job problem, ended the wars, Killed bin Laden, went to Mars, saved the auto industry and brought the real NFL refs back.

  7. wicker says:

    I am sorry Charlie, but you are better than this. You are demanding that the media join the Romney campaign effort. More to the point, you are wanting the media to lay out the case for Romney that Romney has not made himself. And I am sorry, but wanting the media to use the assassination of the ambassador as a reason to go after Obama is appalling. Or maybe the media should do that when they make the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq a campaign issue.

    Charlie, you are a Republican. You would want Obama to lose even if he were doing a great job (which he isn’t) and you’d want a Republican to stay in office even if he were doing a terrible job (like George W. Bush did). Expecting the media to be responsive to your partisan wishes is unreal, especially when Romney is giving them so little justification for doing it.

    Charlie, you have to admit facts. It is good that you are not one of those types who blame the economic collapse on racial quotas imposed on banks ’cause Sean Hannity said that’s what happened. But you have to go further and acknowledge that asking the voters to accept a private equity guy after the financial industry did so much damage to our economy and nation for so long was very hard. Romney COULD have distanced himself from those types by criticizing their illegal and unethical activities – a Sister Souljah moment – but he didn’t. And it is good that you are not one of those types who won’t accept any economic approach but supply side Reaganomics because you realize that just because it worked for a few years in the 1980s when conditions were entirely different doesn’t mean that it will work all the time. But when you have Romney pledging to go back to the same economic policies of Bush when practically everyone but diehard Republicans regards Bush to be a grotesque failure, what do you want the media and the voting public to do? McCain was actually more intellectually honest in 2008 when he admitted that in many respects our economy is “the new normal” because of manufacturing jobs that are never going to come back because of developing markets overseas and free trade deals. No matter how much union busting and corporate tax rate cutting we do, it isn’t going to get those factory jobs from China, Korea, Mexico etc. or IT jobs from India back, and when more Asian and some African countries join the developing economy game, it is going to get even more tougher. And as far as the Middle East goes, let’s face it. There are three choices: being more conciliatory (Obama), being tougher (Bush) and disengagement (Paul). Because Iraq and Afghanistan were unmitigated disasters, most voters would rather choose the former or the latter (even if they don’t personally like it) than going back down a path that may well lead to war with countries that are a lot stronger than an Afghanistan with no infrastructure and an Iraq devastated by an earlier war and a decade of sanctions. Unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran and Egypt have the capacity to defend themselves AND send shockwaves through the global economy, and most voters know it.

    You want to talk about a lack of intellectual curiosity? Start with Romney’s base, who doesn’t want to acknowledge these realities, which keeps Romney from addressing them during the campaign. If Romney were to start talking about the Wall Street crooks that are now in jail and saying that he is different from them, the Hannity crowd would accuse him of making attacks on capitalism, and that is just one example.

    Again, you are better than this Charlie. Unfortunately, the main opinion-influencers on the right aren’t, and that is Romney’s biggest problem.

      • wicker says:

        Now I don’t have a dog in this hunt, because I don’t like either candidate. The only one that I would have considered voting for was Ron Paul, who was a very flawed candidate, but at least he would have been a departure from the “neo” consensus (neo-conservatism or neo-liberalism) that has dominated American politics for the last 30 years. But if I were an Obama supporter, I would want Romney to make the ambassador’s murder an issue during the debates. That would give Obama the chance to remind everyone that the initial statements condemning and blaming the video were concerning the non-violent protests in Egypt, not the terrorist assassination in Libya, and force the GOP to stop purposefully confusing the two. And go ahead Romney, remind everyone that it was an Al Qaeda terror attack. Obama would use that as an occasion to remind everyone how Bush and the GOP chose to stop destroying Al Qaeda and instead pursue that quagmire debacle in Iraq, which not only gave Al Qaeda time to retrench, but helped them recruit. Obama can make the case that his strategy of simply killing terrorists is more effective, that he has pursued that strategy while being hamstrung by the messes left behind by Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, and had Bush simply focused on Al Qaeda immediately after 9/11 instead of two nation-building invasions, there probably would have been no Al Qaeda left by now to carry out those embassy attacks in the first place.

        I think that a lot of Romney backers should realize that the very points that they want Romney to make against Obama would actually be rebutted in a way that would be a disaster. Everyone but die-hard Republicans is of the opinion that Bush’s foreign policy and the Wall Street criminality are the main reasons for the mess that we are in right now, not Obamacare, the stimulus, the bailouts (which Bush himself also supported), Solyndra and the failure of Obama to pursue supply side economics and drill for more oil. So if you think that the media is going to peddle Romney’s “Obama’s done a bad job and needs to be replaced” line … that is not going to happen when a large percentage of the voting public sincerely believes that as bad as Obama was, Romney will likely be worse because they believe that Bush was worse, and that Romney is another Bush. The media can’t make that case until Romney makes it himself, and Romney’s main problem with making that case is dealing with Romney who refuse to acknowledge how unpopular Bush is. Trying to dismiss it with “Obama is blaming Bush rather than admitting his own failures” isn’t nearly enough so long as there is a legitimate reason to fear Romney being Bush II. Only when Romney does a good enough job of separating himself from Bush and the Wall Street types will that work. Until you GOPers start acknowledging that, Romney is doomed. Period.

    • Good post – it would be hard for Romney to have a Sista Soulja moment with the private equity world seeing as how he’s essentially the Sista Soulja himself of that world – his investments still take advantage of many of the worst practices that while legal (maybe) are certainly not ethical.

  8. SallyForth says:

    And it is in the debates, four over the next four weeks, that perhaps, just perhaps, we can finally get serious dialogue going over where we really want to move this country. Thus far we’ve lacked substance from both sides. We all should demand better.

    If only, Charlie. No matter what the two candidates say or do in the debate, the media talking heads will be the ones who immediately afterward hammer into the public what REALLY happened. It will go something like:

    Super cool dude Obama slayed. Opening by crooning a couple of Al Green tunes, he launched into his classroom lecture style, smoothly answered questions about his favorite foods and hobbies, made no errors, mopped up the floor with the uncool white guy.
    Dork Romney stumbled over his own feet, fell over the podium, and mumbled incoherently to the one question the moderator gave him about the theory of relativity, said he hated old folks, and crumbled into tears (which he wiped away with $100 bills).
    Issues? What issues? Game over – no need for Romney supporters to even vote.

    The invaluable media’s slanted coverage of the candidates and its “polling” (nobody ever tells us what standards and statistics/probability they use) are the two biggest voter suppression tools going, make chump change of anything else. For the last three elections, whoever they favor wins, and they are in the process of manipulating this one. It remains to be seen whether the public gives them the desired result this year.

  9. AMB says:

    Baloney. You think Romney is in trouble because the media doesn’t portray him as he prefers. We have seen the unvarnished Romney (Mr. 47%) and he is disgusting. The corporate raider with no clothes.

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      He told WSJ Ed. Board that he’d “probably hire McKinsey” to organize transition. Seriously. He’s running for consultant-in-chief.

  10. oldman45 says:

    You want answers? You can’t handle the answers! 🙂 If we all knew the truth, we’d never consider voting for either of these guys. Washington, the government of the United states of America, our elected officials…the system is broken and only those who are deeply embedded in it know how broken it is…and they are only interested in one thing…getting reelected and staying in office! The only way they can stay in office is to make sure we never know the truth…we never get the real answers…if we did ever get the whole truth and nothing but the truth the people of this country would rise up in rebellion!

    • Harry says:

      Will they put me in jail if I say the only thing that will save this country now is a revolution against the unproductive by the productive, and a restoration of common sense?

      • I Miss the 90s says:

        Jail, no.

        You probably belong in an institution though. It has been 4 yrs since Obama took office and every apocalyptic scenario you nut jobs have come up with has been wrong.

        That is politics though. Everyone thinks their candidate is the savior and the opposing candidate is Darth Vader.

        Come on, Harry. Let the hate run through you.

          • I Miss the 90s says:

            Will do, bud. With 1/3 of the Tea Partiers looking at defeat we might actually see the fiscal cliff averted. And with Obama looking at another “mandate” things might continue to improve as they have for the past 38 consecutive months.

            With a stable economy in which I can focus on innovation rather than outsourcing and a healthcare system that doesn’t force me to seek treatment in Sweden all will be well for.the average American.

            Get yourself fitted for a new tin foil hat before then…will you.

            BTW (to use the internet lingo), have you ever had your job outsourced, Harry?

      • jbgotcha says:

        The subtext of this statement, to me, is the definition of what’s already happening: oppression of the working class by the elites.

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