Friday, September 28, 2012


Credit where credit is due: Peggy Noonan's latest column is about the upcoming debates, and part of it is probably correct, alas:
From a canny journalist with a counterintuitive head: "The media will be rooting for Romney." Two reasons. First, they don't want the story to end. They're in show biz: A boring end means lower ratings. Careers are involved! Second, the mainstream media is suddenly realizing that more than half the country (and some of their colleagues) think they are at least operationally in the tank for the president, or the Democrats in general. It is hurting the media's standing. A midcourse correction is in order, and Wednesday will offer an opportunity: I think it's fair to say Gov. Romney more than held his own this evening, and a consensus seems to be forming that the president underperformed.
That's very, very plausible. Obama is (unfortunately) the huge favorite in the debates because Romney has been a stumblebum for weeks, so mere competence on Romney's part could be spun as brilliance -- and that would seem to keep the racing going, to the media's delight. And Romney might win back the press a bit -- yes, this seems to have been the year when right-wingers lost their ability to "work the refs" in the mainstream media successfully, but it's naive to think that the press has become completely resistant to the right's ref-working. (For evidence of this, see Michael Cooper's latest article in The New York Times, which retransmits many Romney talking points about the Obama campaign's alleged dishonesty.)

But Noonan, after saying this smart thing, says some dumb things:
President Obama hasn't been challenged in public in a long time. He hasn't been challenged in private in a long time. So if Mr. Romney treats him with respect but not deference, if he really engages, challenges, questions and pushes, he just might knock the president off his stride.
Wait -- what? Obama hasn't been challenged? Well, yeah, I suppose that's true ... if you discount every word about Obama generated by the right-wing media since the 2008 Iowa caucuses, and every word written or spoken about him by every Republican politician, pundit, and operative. Not to mention just about every vote cast by a Republican in Congress since January 20, 2009. Yeah, apart from that, he's had a pretty easy ride.

(Noonan, I suppose, would argue that none of that counts, because Obama wasn't challenged to his face. Oh, except for that "You lie!" thing. And except for every negotiation he's ever had with congressional Republicans.)

Beyond that, is Noonan seriously suggesting that Romney will challenge Obama in the debates "with respect"? Respect? Mitt Romney?

Yes, she is saying that. She goes on to write:
There was something Mr. Romney did in the primary debates. When his competitors were answering questions, he didn't stand at the podium looking distracted. He'd turn and smile at them sweetly and encouragingly, as if he were thinking, "You're the cutest little shrimp." No one has looked at Mr. Obama like that since 2003. It's possible he wouldn't like it.
Actually, no, Romney didn't do that. He lurched from that weird mortitcian look he has into an apoplexy you'd expect from a rabid ferret -- and a prissy, moralistic one at that. The following clip is famous because of the gaffe that ends it ("I'm running for office, for Pete's sake!"), but watch what Romney does before that: he lashes out at Rick Perry as if Perry's interruption of him is a war crime worthy of The Hague. It's not pretty, or respectful:

Please, Mitt -- be like that in the debates. I'd love that.


Anonymous said...

The disconnect between competence and national politics might have begun with the masterstroke of selecting Dan Quayle as VP.

When the media didn't drum him out of the race and force GHWB to select someone else, the barn door was open: everything else sincehas been a natural progression to this year's GOP "least worst among equals" primary battle.

Honestly, I'm not thrilled with President Obama, either. He is merely the best Republican President in my lifetime.

I wonder how many write-in votes the empty chair will get? Wouldn't that be fun if it got 1%? :-)

Victor said...

In 2008, Obama had to debate Hillary Clinton, Biden, Edwards, Todd, and Richardson.
THEN, he had to debate John McCain.

In 2012, Mitt had to debate Gingrich, Perry, Bachmann, Cain, and Santorum.
And now he has to debate President Obama.

Now, which one looks more like a Murder's Row?
For all their other faults, Hillary, Joe, John, Chris, and Bill, are all pretty good debaters.

Newt, Rick, Michelle, and the other Rick, looks like a debate over personal issues at an AA meeting for the criminally insane at the asylum.

Sure, Obama had a tough time and his last debates, andMitt won his debates faily handily.

But I don't think the winning pitcher in the Little League World Series is much of a threat to strike out Henry Aaron on 3 pitches.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. :-)

But in 2000 the media spun Al Gore's debate victory as a loss because he was implied that Dubya was an idiot because Dubya was idiot. So, beware the press that wants a story. That's all I'm saying.


Victor said...

As long as Obama doesn't wear Earth-tones, or sigh too much, he should do ok.

Prickly Mitt the Dick, that smarmy, smirking, asshole, is always there behind the plastered on smile and make-up.

Greg said...

He lurched from that weird mortitcian look he has into an apoplexy you'd expect from a rabid ferret -- and a prissy, moralistic one at that.


I note how Peggy tries to spin the MSM's greatest journalistic failing -- the propped-up "he said, she said" horserace BS to support ratings and insider biases -- into some cute fact o' life we just gotta live with. Because they're so feisty and dedicated, those network reporters. How American.

Palli said...

Which side is buying more ad time? Which side is prolonging the idea that there are still undecided voters?
The media pundits are on the loose following the money and attention.
When you think about it, how could the media act otherwise, since it would be bad for business to admit one party is out of the running.

Peter Janovsky said...

If you're listing Republicans getting in Obama's face, you must include Jan Brewer's supremely obnoxious "finger-wagging" on the tarmac.

Steve M. said...



If you're listing Republicans getting in Obama's face, you must include Jan Brewer's supremely obnoxious "finger-wagging" on the tarmac.

Right -- I forgot that one.

White Hat said...

The topic here seems to be theater, not content. Obama has never lost a debate on that score. Romney has:

It's been a while. Obama tends not to go for the kill as Kennedy did back in 1994, and Romney has probably learned more stagecraft since then.

But Romney's current campaign is in worse straits than back then, he's pitching a losing platform that was forced on him, he's even more "multiple choice" now than he was back in '94, he quite possibly doesn't have command of his facts (he hasn't demonstrated it yet in this campaign) and he WON'T TALK SPECIFICS.

By the end of Wednesday's debate, Romney will be a quivering puddle of flop sweat.

Viewers believe their own eyes. The media and the right can spin it any way they want, but how they spin it will only affect their own standing among voters, not Romney's.

nanute said...

White Hat,
You took the words right out of my mouth. Anyone watching that is an honest to goodness independent/undecided will see right through the media hype if Romney fails in a big way. Anyone else that remains an undecided after an epic fail, (if it happens), is full of shit.

trnc said...

Aside from Steve's excellent points, how in hell would Noonan know whether or not Obama has been challenged in private?

Maybe she's talking about Michelle, but how long could that challenge stand against a solid Al Green impersonation?

merlallen said...

But the right wing loved that rudeness, if he calls Obama a n....r they will declare him the winner

jinchi said...

He'd turn and smile at them sweetly and encouragingly, as if he were thinking, "You're the cutest little shrimp."

It's odd that Noonan considers this to be treating an opponent with respect. It's treating an opponent with contempt, and that is exactly the way Romney appeared during the primary debates.