The Emperor's latest suit of new clothes fits about as well as the previous ones. Now we all have to mouth platitudes about what a terrific campaign Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan ran. Well, guess what, they ran a pathetic embarrassment of a campaign, and when the R/R met Conductor Karl Rove's caboose at the American Crossroads, the result was a disastrous train wreck. The Emperor not only has no clothes, he is covered in unsightly warts.
I say this fully acknowledging that Romney almost won with a fine debate performance and that I for one was gulled into predicting he would win. But that would have been a fluke, losing the campaign and winning the debate.
Without doing a laundry list of complaints, I can prove my case with a simple question: did anyone here see an ad, one single solitary ad, laying out exactly what was going to happen to you after Obamacare is implemented? Anyone mention the "fine" you will pay if you do not honor the mandate to buy health insurance? Anyone mention one by one, slowly, each new tax that will kick in automatically on January 1, 2013?
I saw a million polls on Rasmussen and Real Clear Politics about the Presidential and the Congressional and immigration and exfoliation and peregrination and miscegenation and who knows what all, but not one single poll asked people if they know the amount they will pay extra in 2013. Not one asked if they are aware of the amount of the health insurance penalty. So it falls to me to give you the results of my informal poll. The answer is zero. Zero! Nobody knows because it was out of sight, out of mind and no one called it to people's attention.
I went around asking my wealthier friends if they were aware that if they die on December 31 and leave an estate of 5 million dollars, their children will receive five million dollars (well, not in New York, with an estate tax as high as 16 percent), but if they hang in until January 1, their children will receive 2.8 million and Uncle Sam will take delivery of the other $2,200,000.00. No, they were not aware, for the most part. And those are the more fiscally knowledgeable people in the society.
Personally, I would have preferred direct attacks on the Democrats and on the President, but even in the Gentleman Jim model, it made sense to EDUCATE people about the dollars-and-cents consequences of their vote beyond repeating like a mantra umpteen zillion times that there are 23 million Americans looking for work.
Even that issue was not framed to pack a punch. It would have resonated much more to repeat how many people had jobs when Obama took office and how many have them now. Then point out this is the first time in our lifetimes the country has fewer total jobs at the end of four years.
But if Romney was dumb Rove was dumber. He collected upwards of one hundred million dollars and all but one of the candidates he backed lost. The reason for his monumental ineffectiveness was simple: his ads sounded like campaign ads from the Campaign.
The whole point of surrogate advertising groups is to get their hands dirty. If the man on the ticket wants to be Mr. Nice Guy, then it's up to his backers to play rough. (The Talmud says a scholar should not fight back against his detractors but his students and followers should instead.)
The Swift Boat guys defeated John Kerry by telling uncomfortable truths that George W. Bush did not think were fodder for Presidential conversation. Where was the equivalent material about Obama in the ads run by Rove and his pals?
We did not even hear substantive material from his Presidency that was hard-hitting. No ad mentioned his telling Medvedev to tell Putin he would be flexible after the election. No ad mentioned he agreed with Sarkozy that Netanyahu is a liar. No ad mentioned he told the San Francisco Chronicle he would bankrupt the coal industry.
But we certainly did not hear personal things on the level of the ads against Romney for being a vulture capitalist. We did not hear that he was a community organizer for years without a single testimonial from anyone who benefited from his help. We did not hear that he lets his brother live in a hovel in Kenya.
Nor do the Republicans get credit for playing nice. The press frames it as a mutually negative campaign. I see the downside of this strategy, but where is the upside? Whose respect did they gain?
Yeah, I know I made the same point here eight years ago, but those who do not repeat it are doomed to learn from history.