Sunday, July 08, 2012

The Chameleon Who Would Be President

Inadvertently, Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania has cogently demonstrated the fair and balanced myth.   She asks "So can an honest candidate, who doesn’t distort his opponents’ records or rhetoric, win the presidency?"  She answers  "Yes. Now more than ever, with a public highly anxious about the economy and worn down after years of promises that things would get better, the time is ripe for a candid candidate."

Even-handedness seems to be a fetish with the well-meaning Jamieson.    She writes

When they can lure candidates into interviews, the Sunday talk-show anchors reliably tie rhetoric to reality and promise to performance. Obama has been interviewed by each of the Sunday anchors, albeit not recently. But in September 2009, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos persisted while Obama denied that the individual insurance mandate in his health-care legislation was a tax, even though, as Stephanopoulos noted, it forces “people to spend money, fining you if you don’t.” 

How is that not a tax?” Stephanopoulos asked. At issue was whether Obama had violated his 2008 campaign pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class. Recently the Supreme Court agreed with Stephanopoulos.

With similar tenacity, last month Bob Schieffer on CBS’s “Face the Nation” asked Romney about his plan to lower income-tax rates: “When are you going to tell us where you’re going to get the revenue? Which of the deductions are you going to be willing to eliminate?” When the candidate answered that “we’ll go through that process with Congress,” viewers could surmise that he considered a candid answer politically costly and therefore chose to be evasive.

Let's make it a little clearer for the Professor.    Romney pledges to increase defense spending, cut taxes, and move toward a balanced budget.    He cannot do it without cutting the heart out of tax deductions which largely help the middle class.    He won't tell us that.

While political considerations probably played a role in President Obama's insistence that the fee for healthy individuals refusing (until when needed) health care is not a tax, there was another reason.   It is not a tax.   It is a fine, notwithstanding whatever rhetorical gymnastics Chief Justice Roberts had to perform to claim the penalty is constitutional under Congress' taxing authority.    

While lamenting the lack of candor from Obama and Romney, Jamieson contends

When voters are anxious about the well-being of future generations, they also are more likely to tune in to longer forms of political communication — such as debates and other televised presentations — that are conducive to honestly explaining more complex topics.

There may be a problem with that, professor.      The New York Daily News' Thomas DeFrank reports 

It’s 13 weeks away, but Mitt Romney has already begun quietly prepping for his high-stakes inaugural debate with Barack Obama.

Romney sources told the Daily News that during a three-day retreat he hosted late last month for big-time Republican contributors and party mandarins at Park City, Utah, the candidate also found time to squeeze in the first two rounds of what staffers call “debate prep.”

Romney convened six to eight campaign aides around a conference table at the elegant Chateaux at Silver Lake. They sorted through a variety of topics sure to come up in the three Presidential debates, like the state of the economy and the war in Afghanistan, and kicked around the best “test responses” to questions they expect Obama and debate moderators will toss at the ex-Massachusetts governor.

It's not enough that Mitt Romney is frightened of offending the right wing of his right wing party.    Now, during the debates the GOP candidate will have, his answers evidently will have been vetted by focus groups.    Romney not only will not give honest answers or broach the hard truth as Jamieson sees it, he'll tell the American people the believes what his handlers have found the electorate believes.

Still, Jamieson believes "Sunday talk shows and fact checking columnists" can keep candidates honest.  She concludes

The victor’s reward for treating his opponent fairly and being faithful to the facts could be a majority that trusts its president and his administration — and awards him an enhanced capacity to govern. He might even earn a place in the history books for shepherding the country through a challenging time.

And that’s a prize more enduring than four years in the Oval Office.

The "reward for treating his oppponents fairly and being faithful to the facts,"  Jamieson rightly notes, "could be a majority that trusts its president and his administration."    Could be, but won't be.    Unfortunately, while Barack Obama is not completely faithful to the facts, Mitt Romney is faithful only to the determination to avoid saying what he believes about anything.

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