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.

Power And Politics

Much is being made of Ron Paul’s failed effort to infiltrate the Republican Convention by trying to insert their preferred delegate candidates. Using Roberts Rules of Order and acting out, Paulites seek to maneuver around perceived election results and local establishments to gain delegates — ala Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

They failed. Local Republican establishments will resort to almost any means to run roughshod over Paulites. Chaos, arrests and the like notwithstanding.

It turned into a little food fight within the caucus, between the caucus chairman trying to control the caucus and certain elements, I guess with Ron Paul, trying to be heard.

So why do it? Merely stunt politics? Especially when the Paul campaign candidly talked about its delegates strategy? More than a few note Paul’s candidacies resemble an Artistic Installation. Designed to mainstream his libertarian memes for the son’s future.

Arguably, de-legitimizing process and institutions in 2012 furthers that goal. Except Movement-controlled Republican consensus rarely acknowledges process-generated legitimacy except as rationalization. (See generally, Movement reaction to First Obama Administration).

In an age of demotic theater, who played pantomime to their constituencies the best? We’d call it a draw so far.

Granted there’s surely a certain Quixotic, mischievous glint in Paul’s eye, poking the elephant with Roberts Rules of Order. Still, it’s getting late in this excruciating political season. At some point meta-political theater becomes so recursive it folds into itself like a black hole.

One increasingly dreads October.

Florida GOP Primary – The Post Nuclear Aftermath

And it still won’t end. Neither Romney nor Gingrich left any rhetorical or robo call tactical nuclear device undetonated. Every canine in the American Southeast has tinnitus from the whistles. There’s no ’11’ on the dial. It’s astonishing.

In one sense it’s 2008 again but not HRC/Boy King. Huckabee recall took his grudge match with McCain to the bitter-most end. And he got a sweet TV deal and a new Florida bling-worthy crib out of it. Not bad for a few months of real work.

Newt Gingrich,Mitt Romney, Florida GOP Debates

Newt’s already outside the Huckabee zone, denouncing justifiably the (remarkably feeble) ‘Republican establishment’. Besides, Fox wouldn’t be the end goal. Newt’s closing in on 70 and got ‘F U’ money already. And Ailes for his part has Glenn Beck’s rise and fall as fresh, cautionary memory. Although, Newt probably could rock a blackboard into Salvador Dali territory.

So how far can pique take Newt? He declared in his defiant (but undeniably weaker from exhaustion) election night he’s going on to every state. The New Newt MK XX’s a populist now. And wants moderates and Democrats (?) to join him. It’s so ON with the ‘Establishment’.

Veteran Newt watchers can place bets on how soon he petulantly turns on ‘Republicans’ in general. A small line, easily crossed any morning with a low sugar balance. From there, Americans themselves are unworthy of his genius? That only he can reclaim ‘American Civilization’ by ‘revolution’? He’s already thinking that right now.

What we wonder is what’s left for Romney or Gingrich to say? What attack left unsaid? What sleezy robo call unmade?

The Romney and Newt Florida election nite speeches make clear it’s Newt who retains the initiative to further radicalization. He alone would unhesitatingly hand out gasoline with glee. To burn his last bridge behind. How embarrassing should he discover he’s down to his last match. And simply whiffs out.

What do you think? Will Newt bow to traditional political realities? Or pursue his radicalism to its internally logical end?

Not A Bet We’d Make

Has Obama indeed reinvented the art and science of winning elections, or will 2008 turn out to have been a unique moment that suited the particular gifts of one politician? The Democrats are about to lay down $50 million to find out.

It may take a tough man to make a tender chicken as the old tv commercials advised. It takes real cajones (or desperation) for Democrats to drop $50 million this Fall on the Twilight vampire generation hoping to save their congressional hides. That’s the sum Democrats will spend trying to turn out 2008 first time voters and the youth demo responsible in part for ‘Brand Obama’.

Seems a misfire. To us, America electorally embraced Obama but also rejected Bushism. Either way, never in 2008 did we see people clamoring for more of that DNC mojo. How many signs did you see demanding “UNLEASH HARRY REID”? Yeah, same here. It’s a huge risk not only because Obama’s not on the ballot. His coat tails are truncated by circumstance and his decisions as made clear in several elections already. Gallup notes Obama’s personal approval is trending up yet remains below 50%.

Back over at DailyKos, there is bewilderment at some Movement direct ‘mail’ fund-raising. For a sophisticated site it’s surprising they don’t get direct ‘mail’ is irrelevant to actual political positions let alone actual governance. It’s all designed for two things only: (a) to get noticed; and (b) acted upon. Back in the day (before Interwebs, FaceSpace and ‘tweets’) when we did a conservative (sometimes Republican) direct *mail* piece, if 1.5-2% responded, the mailing was a success. Out of maybe tens of thousands. It’s the same now but made harder because people are in IMs, Farmville, reading email, watching video and panicking that the co-worker sexted again after everyone agreed to call it off.

To cut through direct ‘mail’ must impact like emotional dynamite and galvanize someone to write a cheque or better yet, click ‘donate now’. Sound policy, rational dialogue and reason are *right out*. The stuff DailyKos complains about is exactly what a group seeking money (or later get-out-the-vote) needs to do: piss people off in the most lurid ways imaginable.

When we used to mail actual letters (yes in the Dark Times, before Netscape, Whitesnake, Human League or skinny ties) a successful direct mail artist knew the key: it’s all in the P.S. People – if they bother to even read the thing – will skip to the end almost immediately. A true artist concocts a ‘closing’ P.S. of staccato raging threat, palpable fear and tantalizing hope. A good close and P.S. could make or break successful yields.

Which brings us back to the $50 million. This crude stuff works with both parties’ bases. Like Mad Libs, one could do a noun and verb switch between each other’s outreach and likely get fairly harmonious results. Substance aside and all that. Sure would be nice if all of us here could get a chunk of that change. Still, hard to see a soft ‘Brand Obama’ like operation (without Obama on the ballot, no less) that mobilizes young and first time voters in 2008 pulling Democratic levers in November.

Bureaucratically, it may make sense in as a CYA post-election prophylactic. When the finger pointing begins, one can go on MSNBC and say ‘Hey, look we did everything we could to keep the majorities (except govern – ed). We even took ads out on Maxim.com. That’s being aggressive.” We can also see it going the other way. One wonders. An extra $50 million could help get committed but dispirited Democrats and opponents of Movement Revanchism to hold their nose and vote for this crowd again. As the least worst alternative.

Unless people see something we missed (not for the first time).

The Conservative Movement Elites Pine For Thermidor

How odd to see the Movement Establishment fragment so. Some dig in for their Stand against the tea bagger sans culottes. Just a year ago *they* were Jacobins. Now they are bewildered, revealed wearing Versailles finery, muttering about the divine right of Original Direct Mailers. Others want to throw down their handkerchiefs and join the ‘rabble’ (at the front, naturally).

CPAC 2010 — to switch revolutionary references — also reminds one of Stalin’s victory against his internal opposition 1924-1937. Recall he maneuvered first against Trotsky from the right and then against Zinoviev, Kamenev and Bukharin from the left. How? Stalin was an organization man. He knew he had to destroy the Old Bolshevik Guard who controlled the Party. They remembered Lenin and more importantly knew the truth about Stalin and his marginal achievements before, during and after 1917. One of Stalin’s weapons? Open Party membership flood gates to the vast masses. He overwhelmed and diluted the Old Bolsheviks until they were nothing. And the new Party owed Stalin personally everything.

We know the analogy is a caricature. The Movement Establishment’s not there yet. And more importantly, there is no single malevolent will orchestrating events. The sua sponte dilution still wreaks havoc. Some ‘Left’ [sic] and progressive blogs noticed the unusually large youth contingent. It’s true. It’s also more than twenty somethings on a ‘most excellent’ road trip. This wave of new cohorts destabilized CPAC’s club psychology and sensibilities. We’ve attended CPAC on and off since Reagan’s early years. The Movement Establishment is rocked on its heels. Values wedge entrepreneurs suffered unheard of irrelevance and the indignity of an openly gay presence. The Movement Establishment’s gagged silence provoked bitter recriminations among many CPAC old timers. Only one obscure figure really ranted, and then unwisely before a Ron Paul audience. (Talk about not knowing his demographic).

Paul’s ‘f u’ straw poll win underscores the Movement Establishment’s dismay. CPAC hijacked from within. They may not quite feel Zinoviev and Kamenev’s bewilderment at their expulsion from the CPSU. After all, it’s still their institutions the party crashers want to join. But the uncertainty is real. Even as some like Newt try to ride the tiger for all it’s worth others want to put the rabble in their place.

Some conservatives we know point to the pre-CPAC ‘Mount Vernon’ kumbaya manifesto, seeking to paper over differences in the anti-Obama factions. The scrap of paper/html code refers in part to a more sane, rational conservatism. This, we are told, shows conservatives can be content to participate in liberal democratic pluralism. It’s doomed.

Upon reflection we think our earlier seemingly flippant comparison of the tea partiers to punk rock does apply. A Movement dedicated to nihilism and social destruction find themselves as out of touch, self-indulgent, insufficiently radical or nihilist. They are now, to quote Dr. Evil, ‘the Diet Coke of nihilsm.’ Spitting indeed. Amid all his incoherence, that was Beck’s clarion call. If the tea partiers are to be more than punk’s flash in the pan they will need that single will (or collectively single) to put their dilution to practical political effect.

Some famous Movement figures say to us quietly they wait for their own Thermidor. Even as they hedge bets and praise the new era. A time for ‘reaction’ to tamp down, er . . . Reaction. It’s a 360 degree firefight. All still despise the James Bakers, the GHWB’s ‘we have mortgages, not ideologies’ RINOs (and one supposes Carly’s FCINOs). If history is any guide, their Thermidor is still a ways off. Radicalism must overreach its climax. CPAC 2010 suggests we’re not even close. And who in the Movement Establishment has the spine to act in any event?

The Democrats deservedly face a political nightmare of their own making. Their problems are so much more pervasive and systemic than the Movement schism (so far). Americans are being treated to the spectacle of two disintegrating political forces grasping for power. But there is one difference. One of them is totally energized, consciously craving power for an admittedly incoherent, eliminationist, zero-sum Manichean agenda. The other? They’re playing badminton waiting for a third party referee.

‘How’s that bi-partisanshipy thing working out for ya, Mr. President?’