By their standards it’s a moment that will live in infamy. I’m referring to debate night, October 3, 2012, when, at least for one to two hours, the mass media that has been marching in lockstep with the Obama campaign declared their guy had been trounced by the reborn likes of Mitt Romney. It was disorienting, needless to say. Could it be that these so-called journalists were actually performing real journalism, making an honest effort to say, “And that’s the way it is…”?
If so, chalk it up to momentary weakness, a spasm of discredited thinking, a dereliction of duty. By the next day, corrective measures were applied, excuses for Mr. Obama concocted, Mr. Romney’s brilliant performance dismissed as a litany of lies. By day two, magical unemployment numbers were greeted as proof of economic boom, and Imperator Obama was once again declared to be wearing clothes, most stylish ones at that. Safely reunited with his teleprompter, he would now enjoy clear sailing to his re-coronation.
Well, you can believe that, and come November 6 we’ll see if you were right. We’ll know above all whether the Democratic president will have been re-elected, and perhaps for the most patronizing—and thus insulting to all concerned—of reasons. George Will put it as delicately as he could, when he wrote on October 1 that our nation “seems especially reluctant to give up on the first African American president,” regardless of his record. This came shortly before the Daily Caller and Sean Hannity resurrected portions of a 2007 speech Obama delivered at a black college in Virginia which the media had ignored.
On the videotape excerpts, candidate Obama sounds as incendiary as any black power demagogue of the 1960s, determined to keep an important bloc of voters as resentful and hate-filled as can be imagined. The media dismissed the newly unearthed ugliness as politically motivated “old news.” This same media the next day singled out Obama’s “moving” comments about his grandmother as one of the few highlights of his debate performance. No one was gauche enough to recall that this was the same grandmother Obama “threw under the bus” as a white racist in his famous “race speech” four years ago. In the culture of political correctness, rank cynicism can pass as the most moral of acts. That’s how far we’ve come.
We can think of it in two ways. James Bowman, our long-suffering movie and culture critic who has chronicled America’s moral and intellectual decline for more than two decades in these pages, understands as no one else the disappearance of meaning from postmodern life, including its politics (see p. 66). At the rate we’re going, post-nihilism as a universal value is just around the corner.
Our book essayist, John Coyne, also knows the depths of the nation’s depravity, and in reviewing the great Tom Wolfe’s latest blockbuster (p. 68), he’s come to the right subject and author. But he knows something else as well—that many an American reader craves a moral narrative that is timeless and binding. America’s in a terrible mess, yes. We’ll learn this month whether a return to decency might be possible.