The Debate: A Masterful Liar Defeats a Man Without Conviction (video)
Sr. Editor of The Real News Network Paul Jay invited York University professor Leo Panitch onto his show to discuss the first Presidential Election Debate, and why President Obama was virtually incapable of countering any of Romney’s gross misrepresentations:
JAY: So my headline take on the debate was Masterful Liar Beats Man without Conviction. What was your take?
PANITCH: Well, I thought Romney said one thing that was absolutely true, and President Obama agreed with it. And that was when Romney said, high-income people will do well whether I’m president or you are. I think that was the truest thing he said all night.
That said, he was full of cant and hypocrisy, although he pulled it off well because Obama was unable to present any vision of his own. The hypocrisy was astonishing when he said that Dodd–Frank protects banks ‘too big to fail’—these are known as systemically important financial institutions—and then in the next breath said this is going to harm middle-size banks. And, of course, would those banks fail, the whole point is they would bring down the middle-size banks with them. That’s why they’re systemically important.
It was astonishing that Obama was unable to respond to that. And he was unable to respond to it, because indeed he is so much in the pockets of the big banks and the banking system and is responsible for reproducing that system through this crisis. […]
JAY: The reason I say, man without conviction, and obviously I mean President Obama, is on the campaign hustings, at least when he is amongst working people, he sounds like this kind of rallying, rabble-rousing, Left-winger, and he’s railing against the rich and all of this. In this debate he seemed to have no conviction about anything he said, except that he was trying to become more of a Republican than Romney, and then he got caught, because Romney was actually more a Democrat than Obama.
PANITCH: Yeah. It was such a weak defense of any alternative program, even the one that he stands for. It was an amazingly weak defense. And it was a constant attempt to stand on both sides of every issue. So when he said Clinton created 20 million jobs, in the same breath he said: and he created lots of millionaires in the process. So all along he was making this appeal to the middle class, hardly at all to those below the middle class.
And, of course, objectively what’s happening is that more and more people are being thrown out of it and have no prospect whatever of climbing into it. And it was just amazing that he should be presenting himself in a way that is—not only doesn’t offer a vision beyond the limited kind of Clintonomics, but a vision that is even defending what he has done. […]
Stagecraft: Our Presidential Contest Has Devolved Into Little More Than A Fake Wrestling Match
For those on the Left, one of the most frustrating aspects of this Presidential election has been following the narratives of both establishment parties, each aligned with the other in their complimentary fictions, as they deceive the American voters into believing there is an actual choice to be made here.
Beyond the rhetorical divide, the actual differences between Obama and Romney are minor, if not downright trivial. Each candidate, regardless of how he has actually governed in the past, uses the talking points from his party’s platform to tap into the ideological preferences of his base. The contest is little more than a theater of deception.
Romney, who governed like a Clintonian Democrat, now speaks in ways that appeal to his base, which continues to drift rightwards a la Tea Party.
As Governor of Massachusetts, Romney implemented what would become the blueprints for Obamacare, and offered generous subsidies for those in his state who couldn’t afford it. He embraced a pro-choice position, favored gun control, was pro-gay-rights. He opposed the flat tax, was critical of Bush tax cuts. He believes in global warming, and has supported ‘cap and trade’ policies.
Whereas Romney has been forced to move rhetorically to the right, Barack Obama, who himself has governed from right-of-center, needs to reestablish his own cred with his liberal base, and is thus, only too happy to accommodate Romney in aligning their fictions.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle that both candidates have had to overcome with regards to their respective bases is in trying to convince them that there actually are fundamental differences between their visions for America’s economic model.
The Obama campaign was the first to seize on a distinction when it released a video showing Mitt Romney at a Boca Raton fundraiser expressing disdain for Obama voters, suggesting they are “dependent upon government” and feel entitled to handouts.
But this video revelation actually enhanced the far-Right cred that the Governor had been so desperate for. You might think his own campaign planted the video. In fact, he proudly wore the video revelation around like a medal. The Tea Party won’t see me as a RINO anymore, he likely surmised.
Seeing this as the perfect red meat issue needed to re-energize his base, Romney pivoted to the hot-button ‘Socialism’ charge. He charged Obama with being another Socialist-minded liberal who wants to take money from those who work hard and succeed, to then redistribute it to those who don’t.
“He [Obama] really believes in what I’ll call a government-centered society. I know there are some who believe that if you simply take from some and give to others then we’ll all be better off. It’s known as redistribution. It’s never been a characteristic of America,” Romney said Wednesday at an Atlanta fundraiser. “There’s a tape that came out just a couple of days ago where the president said yes he believes in redistribution. I don’t. I believe the way to lift people and help people have higher incomes is not to take from some and give to others but to create wealth for all.”
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus seconded that description of Obama, and now all GOP surrogates are on message, making the ‘redistribution’ buzzword the central theme in Romney’s campaign.
But of course this depiction of Obama couldn’t be further from the truth. Obama has actually governed like a starry-eyed Milton Friedman disciple. Bloomberg News decided to investigate Romney’s ‘redistribution’ charge, and here is what they found:
If President Barack Obama is trying to spread the wealth, he doesn’t have much to show for it. […]
[S]ince Obama took office in January 2009, wealthy Americans have continued to pull away from the rest of society. In the aftermath of the recession, income inequality in the U.S. reached a new high in 2011, Census Bureau data show.
Even as the president has decried the hollowing out of the middle class, the fortunes of labor and capital have diverged on his watch. Quarterly corporate profits of $1.9 trillion have almost doubled since the end of 2008, while workers’ inflation- adjusted average hourly earnings have declined.
“At the very high end, people got a whole lot wealthier whereas income stagnated at other levels,” said Anne Mathias, director of Washington research for Guggenheim Securities LLC. “Fifty years ago, people talked about the other half, how the other half lived, and now we’re talking about the other 1 percent.”
But, forget reality — back to the fantasyland that is our Presidential Election.
Knowing his progressive base sees the U.S. economy through the 1% vs 99% prism and views his last 3 1/2 years as a monumental sellout to the 1%, Obama likely sees an opening in Romney’s ‘redistribution’ charge. This Republican accusation may be exactly what he needs to energize his own base. Perhaps it can help him to get his populist mojo back.
And the theater just continues on and on …
But make no mistake about it, whichever candidate wins — be it Obama or Romney — things will continue right along this Neoliberal road we are on, and the firmly-entrenched 1% will have their man.
Edit: In response to reader who questioned the validity of statement re: Mitt Romney’s alleged support of gay-marriage when Governor of Massachusetts, and after further review myself, I have decided to remove the statement: (he implemented same-sex marriage by executive fiat).