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This way madness…

Kevin Drum ponders David Frum’s Romney endorsement:

But instead, Frum makes the most overt form of the surrendering-to-terrorists argument that I’ve seen yet. If Obama wins, congressional Republicans will go completely ape and destroy the country. They will deliberately tank the economy and then impeach the president. Therefore, we have to give into them and turf Obama out of office.

It’s appalling that people are seriously making this argument. What’s worse, it’s the relatively sensible people who are making it. This is simply nuts. No country can survive with this attitude. If congressional Republicans are truly a destructive and irrational force in American politics—and God knows, I agree with Frum about that—the answer is to fight them, not to surrender to them. That way lies madness.


Romney closing argument: Vote for me – I’m a Liar

Several commentaries today on David Brooks’ latest descent from his lofty, non-partisan perch right smack into a smooth landing on the tarmac of the Republican Party and its current standard-bearer, Mitt.

Kevin Drum:

Shorter David Brooks: congressional Republicans are such implacable assholes that they’ll flatly refuse to support big legislation that’s good for the country as long as Barack Obama is president. But congressional Democrats are more reasonable, so if Mitt Romney wins, he’ll be able to get some big stuff passed. Therefore you should vote for Romney.

Shorter shorter David Brooks: the only way to deal with terrorists is to give them what they want.

If you think I must be characterizing Brooks unfairly, I urge you to click on the link above. Then come back and tell me what I got wrong.

Matt Yglesias:

After the first debate, many of the liberals who I know were very upset that the Obama campaign wasn’t more aggressive in labeling Mitt Romney a liar. I think today’s David Brooks column helps illustrate why Team Obama is a bit wary of that tactic, namely that the best case for Romney is that his campaign is largely bullshit. Brooks argues that “Romney’s shape-shifting nature would induce him to govern as a center-right moderate” if he wins, inducing him to abandon his main policy commitments on both taxes and spending

Indeed perhaps the signal illustration of how much Romney benefits from his reputation for dishonesty is that Brooks doesn’t so much as mention Romney’s absurd promise to launch an economically destruction trade war with China.

Ed Kilgore makes a longer case on “Romney by Hook or by Crook”  It is truly startling that a candidate’s best case argument is – Don’t Worry, I will do none of the things I’ve been campaigning on.  And, indeed, it makes the Obama side’s position so much more difficult – if they call Mitt a liar, it reinforces the Mitt meme.

Liberal Media – they love a good narrative

And, they’re sticking to it!  Alec MacGillis desribes the sadness of the liberal reporters with an incumbent president doing pretty well in the polls…

But then: our mile-high salvation! Denver, O Denver. As the dynamic of the first debate began to register just a few minutes in—the crisp and hopped-up Romney against the wordy and listless president—we sang our relief across the Twitterverse. The true partisans among us, the Maddows and Sullivans, rent their garments, but most of us were barely able to suppress our glee: we had ourselves a story. Never mind that the debate had produced no great knockdowns, or that, as some noted in the days following, Obama had actually made a decent substantive case in some areas, if not others. No, we had our story. It went up at Buzzfeed before the debate was even half over, before the snap polls even provided the nominal metric to back up the conclusion of a Romney rout. Politico followed soon afterward with an “Obama stumbles” headline that led the site for most of the rest of the night and following morning. Meanwhile, of course, Chris Matthews et al at MSNBC were in full meltdown. If one put one’s ear to the ground, one could all but hear the herd thundering back across the eastern Colorado plains to deliver its new narrative.

And lo, in the days that followed, the power of our story bore out across the land. Romney surged in the polls, in a post-debate bounce unlike any ever recorded. Never mind that closer inspection suggested that his rise had begun just before the debate, as Obama’s prior bounce abated. As we like to say in private company, this story was too good to check. We had a comeback on our hands, and as the San Francisco Giants can tell you today, there’s no better story than a comeback.

There was just one problem: Obama proceeded to outperform Romney in the next two debates. Following the third and final one, where Romney seemed lost for long stretches and even sprouted Nixonian sweat through his makeup, Obama even won one snap poll by a margin nearly as large as Romney’s edge in Denver. What to do with this? Easy. Acknowledge the victory, but protect our new narrative.

So, to keep the narrative up, the reporting will continue to be that Obama may not have failed in the debate, but Romney – he’s got the MOMENTUM!

Mitt Makeover now complete

So, at the final debate, we watched Mitt do a complete repudiation of all the foreign-policy items he’s been proclaiming for years.  But President Obama did an excellent job of calling him out on his “all over the map” positions.  Of course, Mitt did not seem to have an especially clear grip on any actual maps with his comment on Syria.

And, the instant polls after the debate gave President Obama the win – by 30 points in the CBS poll of “uncommitted voters.”  So, did the right-wing commentariat go ballistic on Mitt a la Chris Mathews’ “stroke,” as President Obama referred to his comments post-debate one?  No, they did not!  Surprise, surprise, they held together in their praise and spin…

As Kevin Drum reports, Mitt:

refused to say straight-up that he’d support Israel if they bombed Iran. It’s the kind of performance that should have had a guy like Charles Krauthammer tearing his hair out, but instead we got this:

I think it’s unequivocal: Romney won. And he didn’t just win tactically, but strategically.

Was there any rending of garments anywhere else? Not for a second. Conservatives just reveled in the fact that Romney apparently made himself acceptable to undecided voters. Yuval Levin: “Romney clearly achieved his aim.” Ramesh Ponnuru: “Advantage Romney.” Rich Lowry: “Romney executed what must have been his strategy nearly flawlessly.” Bill Kristol: “Tonight, Romney seems as fully capable as—probably more capable than—Barack Obama of being the next president.” Stanley Kurtz: “Romney has now decisively established himself as a credible alternative to Obama.” Erick Erickson: “Mitt Romney won this debate.”

On a substantive level, Romney’s performance from a conservative point of view was worse than Obama’s in the first debate. It was pure rope-a-dope, with Romney abandoning virtually every foreign policy position the right holds dear while utterly refusing to attack President Obama as the weak-kneed appeaser they believe him to be. And yet….no one seemed to mind.

The “hack-gap” lives!  And, the reporting on the debate, even though it might be mentioned that the insta-polls were in Obama’s favor, focuses on Romney’s passing of the commander-in-chief test.  No reports of major defeat and meltdown that came after debate-one.   Just another example of the way liberals manage to shoot themselves in both feet without even aiming.

Shape Shifters – the toughest villains

This post from Jared Bernstein discusses the difficulty of debating a shape-shifter:

Obama was unable to solve that problem in the first debate; to my eyes and ears, Biden did so in the second one, but to do so he had to intervene as his opponent was shape-shifting in real time.  It’s unfortunate to interrupt—I know, I try hard not to do it on cable TV—but if you let the shape-shifters get too far, they’ll morph into someone they’re not and at that point it’s “he-said, she-said.”

Sure, you can leave it for the fact-checkers to sort through the next day, but a) by then it’s too late, and b) they’re contractually obligated to show balance, so they tend to basically take a “pox on both their houses” view.  It’s of course the case that both sides stray from the facts, but claiming deficit savings that arguably aren’t there (though I disagree with that one) is of a total different magnitude then pretending you’re not going to go after a women’s right to choose, you’re going to go after the big banks, you’re not going to cut taxes for the wealthy, you’ll protect those with pre-existing health conditions, you actually haven’t been running for months on a $5 trillion tax cut, you’ll work with Congress to pay for that cut when you and almost every other Republican in Congress has pledged never to raise taxes.

We’ll see if Obama can thread this needle tomorrow night.   I would put a double-emphasis on Jared’s comments about “fact-checkers.”  It might be something of a solace to those who can say the next day, “well, their side lied…” but in terms of changing the impressions of the millions of people who hear the lies but not the facts, not so much.


You tell ’em, Joe

So the universal response to the Biden-Ryan debate seems to be that Joe gave a mega-vitamin-energy drink boost to the beleagured Democrats who were contemplating mass suicide.

For another version of bascially the same message, see Samuel L. Jackson at

And, a good morning-after video ‘Thirsting for an Answer” from the Obama campaign on youtube

Yet another take on the worst evah debate performance

This Richard Just column is a good reminder that one of the things most attractive about Barack Obama was his thoughtfulness and ability to deliver a well crafted speech. In describing the “Loneliness of the Long-form writer,” Just says,

“Before he became a politician, Obama was a long-form writer. And during his political career, he has specialized in writing and delivering elegantly constructed, thoughtful speeches.

“Not surprisingly, like many people who gravitate toward long-form writing, Obama’s strengths don’t translate very well to the world of debate, or at least the kind of debate that our new journalistic culture of instantaneous opinion values so highly. For one thing, when he speaks extemporaneously, he pauses frequently and often says “uh.” That sound drove journalists nuts during the debate last week; but where many of my colleagues heard lack of preparation, I heard the tic of a writer wanting to self-edit, trying to buy himself the time to carefully measure his words.”

Like most of us, Obama has his weaknesses, and in this case, the weakness is the flip-side of the strength that so many found inspirational. And, I do believe that if Mitt had been the same candidate he was until 9pm last Wednesday – defending massive tax cuts for the ultra wealthy and huge cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and all other federal programs, while hugely increasing the defense budget – Obama’s performance would not have looked nearly so bad.