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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Did Obama play Romney for a raging bull?

Everybody, with very few exceptions, is castigating Barack Obama for his performance at the first debate.  Blacks, such as Bob Herbert, go so far as to feel betrayed by him.  

On the theatrical level, there can be no quibbling that Romney outperformed Obama. On the strategic level, some questions have been raised.   

I, among many other people, have been bothered by the stream of deliberate falsehoods that have formed the major thrust of Romney's campaign.  That plus his relentless characterization of Obama as ignorant, feckless, and clueless about being a lord of the manor.  Romney's personal characterizations of Obama have incorporated all the racist cliches associated with the word "nigger."  What has been troubling is that neither the media or the people expect a respectful truthfulness in the campaign.  While all candidates tend to get caught up in a degree of exaggeration and inflated claims, and sometimes get some things wrong, and the fact-checkers register these matters,  the Romney campaign has gone way over the boundaries of credibility with his constant reversals of position, his deliberate misconstruals, and his outright falsehoods.  It was very disappointing when Obama did not confront him and address these points.  Commentators such as Chris Matthews on MSNBC have really tore into Obama for not repeating the 47 percent remarks and countering Romney by stating the positive things the Obama administration has brought about.

Commentators have generally dismissed the contentions of Obama's campaign advisers David Axelrod and David Plouffe, who said that the 47 percent comment has been worked into the ground and that Obama deliberately did not want to get reduced to the level of denying untruths and looking defensive about false statements.  However, as things have evolved, Romney's statements have undergone a more thorough examination in the media and his duplicity and falseness have become the major focus of the post-debate commentary.  Obama himself kicked off the post-debate analysis the next day by noting the reversals of positions and mistatement of facts.  A few commentators have said the debate was the CEO pitted against the professor, and the professor knew better than to offer his critiques during the heat of the moment.  A calmer, more considered review would have more effect.

There were some factors in Obama's performance that inspired agitation and criticism among his supporters.  There were some places in the debate during which Obama said there were situations on which he and Romney agree.   Sen. Bernie Sanders thought it was disastrous for Obama to ally himself with Romney on some basic issue points.  Still, in doing so he was countering Romney's claim that he could produce the bipartisan cooperation that Obama has not.  Obama laid down some basic points of agreement on the high corporate tax rate, on the need for more U.S. energy independence, and on Social Security.  To more thoughtful debate watchers, Obama was laying down some basic points of concern that the two had in common and indicating they were points on which an exploration of differences and possible agreements could be made.  But Romney rebuffed any such  opportunity, while at the same time claiming that he had operated with bipartisan agreements as governor of Massachusetts, his rebuff demonstrating the contradiction in engaging in a exchange of ideas with Obama. The press has examined Romney's claims of bipartisanship and found them dubious. 

A pase de la muerte
As the debate went on, it suggested to me that Obama was deliberately holding back.  In politics when staff members deal with unreasoning and enraged constituents, they are instructed not "to engage."  Doing so is pointless.  Similarly, in the field of rhetoric, it is considered unproductive and pointless to engage an opponent who is spewing forth scurrilous and unsupported representations and accusations. It is better to let the raging opponent voice all his propositions and prove his own errors and false charges and not to waste effort and energy by debating them. The tactic is one metaphorically borrowed from bullfighting.  A tactic for getting the better of an ultra-aggressive bull is to offer a wave of the cape and let the rage of the bull guide his charge while matador stands perfectly still and allows the blind rage to attack the cape and carry it past into an ineffectual charge.  It is called a "pase de la muerte,"  a "pass of death," referring to the deathly silence of the matador as the bull charges past to his own demise.  

A moment of truth

  This may or may not have been Obama's strategy, although his campaign advisers say it was.  And commentators have not given much notice to Romney's own missteps, such as his rather absurd making Big Bird the target for defunding PBS and patronizing Obama by calling him a childish liar. Nevertheless, Romney finds himself now fighting in an arena of his own making.  Ultimately, he will face his moment of truth. 


John said...

I refuse to watch the staged theater of two mandarins beholden to the corporations. Obama brilliantly lied to us in 2008, and governed with about as much gusto in 2009-2012 as he exhibited in Denver. Now it's Romney's turn to lie - 1 every 84 seconds that he spoke.

Since the 1970s voting's an act of selecting the least worst alternative corporate stooge.

seamus said...

John, your assertions are offensive. Get the hell out of this country if you believe you are so useless here.

John said...

“The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed incorporations.”
~ Thomas Jefferson

Perhaps apologists also think Thomas Jefferson was offensive. There is no help for the willfully blind. Obama put the same money changers in charge who caused the economic implosion and prosecuted none of the bankster crooks. All indications are Romney would do the same, or worse. Between the bankers owning the US Senate (according to Sen Durban), and ALEC writing state house legislation, the moneyed crooks just about have a lock on the government.

caheidelberger said...

I'm with you, David! It's rope-a-dope. Let Romney swing, hold back, let him put more lies on the record. You also note the Catch-22 the President faces: had he come out swinging, the narrative the next day might well have been "Obama defensive, Romney attacks wearing on President."

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