Obama Debates Romney: “Can You See The Real Me? Can You?”*

We’re all social creatures in the end, responding to rational and irrational, often subconscious cues every day of our lives. Obama’s calamitous first encounter with a Mountain Dew-amped Romney a case in point.

We all saw the real Obama. It explains much about his tepid first term, his inability to engage in actual politics, his passive enabling of the Movement’s unnecessarily swift resurrection. In other words? Every single post here ever about him.

Let’s dispense with canards. Of course, Obama is rusty for debates. So too, sitting presidents are unaccustomed to challenge. The ephemeral opinion cycle (why bother calling it ‘news’ anymore?) minutiae offers other transient tidbits about Obama’s alleged debate’strategy’, etc. None really matter.

The True Obama Is Frankly Not Appealing

Obama as man and president doesn’t like practicing politics. Or deigning to talk with people to win their support. Obama has two modes: aspirational bromide salesman and the reclusive decider, judging other people and policy. Otherwise, he’s oddly more artificial than Romney.

People intuitively sense when someone wants to win their support with passion (Clinton, in a compulsively needy but successful way). Or even Romney. Last night, Romney came across as someone doing a well rehearsed offering roadshow. (We’ve done them with The Blackstone Group). He was selling. As they say in the movie, “Always be closing”.

We don’t respond well as social animals to being told it’s rational to do this or that. Remember that relative from Hell at a holiday dinner? Without aspirations, what does Obama really have to sell? Beyond he’s a good compromiser?

Mitt, It’s President Kerry On Line Two

One debate doesn’t necessarily an election make. Look at President Kerry. Obama is bright enough to be coached to better performances. As Lee Atwater famously said, “Once you fake sincerity, you’ve got it made”. We’ve a race over who’s the most plausibly inauthentic.

Will the debates matter? Only to the extent they alter the few battleground states. Romney’ll gain ground in both Ohio and Virginia at least. Both candidates fluctuate within 47% to 51%. We still think it’s Obama’s to lose but now with less margin for error.

What disturbed us most about Obama’s debate performance? What it means for Obama’s second term. We saw last night Obama unleashed. Feel the excitement?

Neither do we. But then, placeholders are rarely memorable.

* At maximum volume.

P.S. We’re loathe to remind the netroots and so-called progressives ‘We told you so.’ But we did. Daily in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Obama AWOL – Get Used To It

The Walking Dead

We always liked working with Jim Moran. He’s like all of us, imperfect (yes, yes, we know). For all of that he’s a straight shooter. So when The Hill says “This is a lack of leadership on the part of Obama,” Moran (D-Va.) “I don’t know where the f*** Obama is on this or anything else. They’re AWOL”, we sympathize.

We also smiled seeing Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) declare “Our caucus will not submit to hostage taking and we will not submit to this deal.” Inslee is a class act and walks the walk. We worked with him and his office on legislation during the Clinton years to overcome the usual Clintonian deference to financial service interests at the expense of consumers. Both Moran and Inslee have seen this movie before, having been in the minority 1994-2006.

But both also know far more than pundits that House Dems are the real Walking Dead. They got bit. Sure, they got bitten in large measure after carrying Obama’s water for two years with no political cover from him. Obama was worse than absent; his political abstinence actually galvanized the Movement’s rise. So House Dems got screwed twice over. Remember how easily Gibbs tossed off losing the House this past summer. Like complaining about remembering to rotate car tires.

To survive the Walking Dead the rules are clear. Self-preservation is the new good, especially if one strikes a moral pose. As Atwater said, once you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made. Obama knows Moran, Inslee — any of them — are gone. Toast. Like any Walker, they’ll just stagger around aimlessly, lifelessly and pose no threat. Walkers are dangerous only gathered en mass. Like say, a House majority. Even then, as we saw, he didn’t really care anyway.

Over at Kos they’re noting per NYT that Obama’s EPA is already postponing new regulations to please corporate interests and climate change deniers. The Kos folks express a desire for policy based on science. Touching, that hope. How’s that audacity tasting now?

Obama Does Have A Napoleon Complex, Just The Wrong One

For Obama to flog audacity in 2008 like a Taco Bell jingle, we can be pardoned thinking we’d see some kind of Napoleonic fire. Audacity changed history at Austerlitz. At Marengo. Even Dresden in the end game. Napoleon’s domestic reforms audaciously modernized the French civil code and transformed Europe as a whole. (Obama’s a constitutional scholar, didn’t you know?).

Alas, no. Wrong Napoleon. Audacity? We got a 2 year-long Michael Cera movie. Turned out we got Napoleon III. You know, the one whom von Moltke and Prussia crushed at Sedan in 1870. After capturing that Napoleon, Bismarck went on to forge the new German Reich dictated in Versailles. The Movement didn’t show such military or political genius crushing Obama’s ‘audacity of hope’. But it’s hard not to see Obama today in his own Sedan, surrounded by enemies, surrendering to circumstances of his own making, economy aside.

Of course, permanent government types see Obama’s steely disregard for the Democratic Walking Dead and Rightward lurch as the smart play for 2012. Let’s assume that Obama’s problems are really the economy, not his political abdication and disengagement. Krugman plays it out as a thought experiment. Conceding the initial political premise, he deconstructs the actual economics and timing:

Unemployment benefits aside, all of this is very much second-best policy: consumers would probably spend only part of the payroll tax break, and it’s unclear whether the business break would do much to spur investment given the excess capacity in the economy. Still, it would be a noticeable net positive for the economy next year.

But here’s the thing: while the bad stuff in the deal lasts for two years, the not-so-bad stuff expires at the end of 2011. This means that we’re talking about a boost to growth next year — but growth in 2012 that would actually be slower than in the absence of the deal.

This has big political implications. Political scientists tell us that voting is much more strongly affected by the economy’s direction in the year or less preceding an election than by how well the nation is doing in some absolute sense.

When Ronald Reagan ran for re-election in 1984, the unemployment rate was almost exactly the same as it had been just before the 1980 election — but because the economic trend in 1980 was down while the trend in 1984 was up, an unemployment rate that spelled defeat for Jimmy Carter translated into landslide victory for Reagan.

This political reality makes the tax deal a bad bargain for Democrats. Think of it this way: The deal essentially sets up 2011-2012 to be a repeat of 2009-2010. Once again, there would be initial benefits from the stimulus, and decent growth a year before the election. But as the stimulus faded, growth would tend to stall — and this stall would, once again, come in the months leading up to the election, with seriously negative consequences for Mr. Obama and his party.

Obama in that case screws himself — and all Non-Rightists, again. There goes the Senate to boot. He will have no one else to blame. Not the Walking Dead shuffling in the House minority. Not his volunteers. Not his financial supporters. Ultimately, not even the voters.

Just him.

The Boy King (And Democrats) Want Us To Follow Them Into The Desert

You know you’ve been thinking the same thing.

If only a primary challenge was more than a sophomoric reflex. The Democratic ‘Party’ as political construct is a dysfunctional, dissipated golem. 6 more years? Who wants to contemplate just another 2?

n.b. Another blank on your iGadget? Kvetch to Steve Jobs per usual.

Markos Is Optimistic

Boehner will fail, and Democrats will pounce in 2012. If only things were so.

Now, this new GOP-led House will make sure that nothing of note passes, and will try to gum up the works further with investigations into President Obama’s birth certificate and other such insanities. There’s nothing Democrats can do about that, but with power comes responsibility, and presumptive Speaker John Boehner will be under pressure to walk the line between the ideological purity his tea party base demands, and the pragmatism of governing. When he fails (and he will), Democrats need to be ready to pounce.

The last three cycles have proven that the House can swing wildly from extreme to extreme. We truly have an angry, downright schizophrenic electorate, ready to take out its frustrations on whomever is in power. The Democrats took the brunt of that anger in 2010. Unless they help turn things around in America, Republicans shouldn’t get too comfortable in their new congressional digs before 2012. Especially in a year when the Democratic base will turn out.

Most of that paragraph is boilerplate. The calculus that Boehner faces risk almost all pollsters commenting on 2010 would find unexceptional. The rationale behind his conclusion, however, seems built on sand. He assumes that Millennial turn out in 2008 is a baseline and not what it is, an exceptional outlier. Second, it’s premature to assume those Millennials who actually bother to vote will break the same way. Most pointedly, his assurance that the same Obama coalition including independents will somehow re-materialize and ‘pounce’. . .

Markos as AgitProp field commander needs to ride the horse, waving the cap before troops-of-the-line to boost morale. That’s a given. Objectively, it’s at best wishful thinking. The netroots experiment to us was one part of a possible solution to the Dark Years. A reason is that republics in decay show disintegration of functioning organized, coordinated politics based around institutional concepts and devolve into coalitions around personalities. To us the netroots interest in working through pluralistic institutions hinted at tangible, possible re-vitalization. Even if their journey might end differently than they envisioned now it would still herald a great service to restoring a working Dahl-esque pluralism. We just thought they would have more time.

Aftermath – Barack Hussein Kerensky

The rotting amalgamation of disparate interest groups called the Democratic Party can’t preserve the tattered remnants of a liberal democratic republic. Our hopes and dreams were held hostage by craven cringers, flinchers and the inept. So many today rationalize their political malpractice as ‘it [the Democratic collapse] was just on the economy.’ And still act bewildered.

The Boy King’s shoe gazing today? Repulsive in its habitual accommodationist weakness. If they weren’t dragging us all down into the abyss with them, one would say they deserved their fate.

Overheard: Undecided Voters From An Undisclosed Location In Nevada

Grey Alien Type A #1: She’s [Angle] got a point. He’s pathetic. Has to man up and grow a pair . . . You look kind of Asian to me, too.

Grey Alien Type A #2: Don’t harsh your unmotivation on me. Any Democratic Senate Majority Leader jabbers meaningless insider geek stuff. It’s smart Democratic GOTV strategy to praise Anton Scalia as a masterful mind and admire Gee Dub. Dude, you just don’t understand how Washington works.

Alien # 1: Oh, really, Know It All? Gotta give her props about market forces, too. We’ve been stuck down here since 1947. We give them an iPad 60 years ago. This raving lunatic in California NOW claims all the credit. What did we get? A Will Smith movie.

Imagine our own company. Without Death Panels, red tape, high marginal tax rates and regulations. We’d be getting some every night. We’d pull so much hotter than all those Web 2.0 dweebs combined. [starts humming ‘I Like It’ (mumbling) ‘Shout it out, scream it loud Let me hear you go’].

Alien # 2: [Heavy sigh] OK, Aqua Buddha, if you want to go there. Who’s the jackass acting all 5 feet tall, strutting around promising Truman we came in peace? Hmmm? Gave them the 411 on our Master Plan?

Don’t tell me Democrats never did anything for you. JFK got her to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to you, too. Like you could ever touch that back on Zeta Reticula. And who tried to shoot you in the face? Cheney thought you were a quail? And hit that bozo by mistake? As if.

Here, just try another of the red ones [drops bottle]. Ooops. And maybe some nitrous with a tequila bomb. It’ll help. Joe Klein said he heard once Garcia was into it. Worked for me. You won’t feel a thing when you vote Democratic.

Alien # 1: [Wistfully] Yeah . . . that ‘Happy Birthday’ thing was the kick. Frank even signed the Meta-Fusion-Transmuter Panel . . . But Bobby would have disemboweled Reid just on principle, yanno?

Besides, the rent really is 2 damn high . . .

Pardon The Light Posting – Democrats Bring Sexy Back, Joementum 2010 Style . . .

Desperation does odd things to people. Usual Suspect blog and cable dopplegangers now clutch at new generic Gallup poll numbers with only a 3% gap between Republicans and Democrats. Just as we remember the bugged eyed, ambitious but very minor McCain bundlers feverishly asserting in mid October. Eerie.

To maintain this folie a deux that Steiner The Boy King Van Hollen will burst through and avert doom with a last minute relief offensive, Democrats must ignore inconvenient reality. You, Dear Reader, know well the difference between ‘likely’ voters and a generic choice. (No worries, we won’t foist upon the world yet another over-used ‘Downfall’ parody video. It was an amusing pop-culture riff maybe the first 5 times (especially the X-box Live cancellation) years ago. The 200th version? When old, clueless guys like Howard Fineman email their friends about ‘discovering’ a ‘new’ hilarious video, well, you know).

Wiser operational and pundit heads are focusing on banked votes in addition to ‘likely’ – i.e., some states permit early voting – anyway. Republican operatives we spoke with after 2008 saw the huge flaw in Roves’ vaunted GOTV focus on last minute surges. Too many votes and way too much intensity potentially left on the table should passions peak too soon. Their obsessive example? The practical operational implications if they could have ‘banked’ votes after Palin’s Convention speech.

As for November, the fate of this feeble crew no longer interests us. They were are useless in the majority. Irrelevant as a minority. Their irreversible decay and degeneration are so profound they mirror their Movement adversaries. Both are apart from a commitment to purposeful, pluralistic political participation. Only one of them doesn’t know it.

The Cat Inside The Box