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.

Establishment Republican Fantasies Of Fall 2012

Dreams of returning to glory in 2016 on a wave of . . . Jon Hunstman-mania? More common than you might think, Dear Reader – at least in some benighted quarters.

Here’s the Cliff Note version: Establishment Republicans (what’s left of them) tire of feigning allegiance to the Movement to escape cannibalization. So the dream begins with a Movement-Romney car wreck in 2012. To pave the way for radical moderation in 2016. Moderation of course is relative. But that’s marketing.

Does every dream star Huntsman? No. But he’s a convenient reference. A placeholder for full throated moderation unleashed. That he failed so completely in 2012 is a minor quibble.

Republican Fantasies Require Democrats Do The Heavy Lifting

This dream’s highlights? Obama and Democrats (note the distinction) do all the hard, dirty work: absorb Movement punches, tire them out and stagger to be last man standing in 2012. These dreaming Republicans lack the spine and commitment to take back their party the old fashioned way, on the ground, from local to state and federal levels, think tanks, etc. They’re actually more feckless than their rootless Democrat counterparts. Which says a lot.

You might well ask how a militantly moderate figure could ever navigate base-controlled primaries. Or whether 2012 failure might merely further radicalize the Movement, excusing failure with Romney as convenient scapegoat. Can militant Republican [sic] moderation survive in a Citizens United world?

You’re right to wonder. We’ve posed the same questions. Already, for example, Scott Walker in Wisconsin is calling for “Let Ryan Be Ryan” and to Ryan-ize Romney. The blame game goes both ways.

Dreamers answer that their money-shot (if you will) is 4 more years of political and economic stagnation. Obama’s just a nice guy but a flawed political figure. Leaving the door open for Americans desperate for seemingly practical, across-the-aisles solutions. From ‘a uniter, not a divider’. As dreamers get more excited telling this tale, they imagine [Hunstman/Jeb/Your Name Here] surging through the primaries riding a tidal wave of agreeability and common sense. USA! USA! But with BMWs and Volvos.

The Script Needs Work

Implausible? We agree with you. The Establishment Republicans sound so much like the Bourbons in exile. They’re essentially passive. Obama will stop the Movement now. Events, fate, Providence then will deliver circumstances in 2016 ripe for them.

Establishment Republicans themselves do nothing. As they have since 1993. These dreaming Republicans are like lilies in the field (per Ecclesiastes). Worse, they have no ideas of their own. In fact, to hear their laundry list of what Republicans should campaign on, it’s often Newt without Newt. Simply because those ideas are already out there – national prestige programs are the rage, like the Moon again for some reason. Their own version of Prague Spring – Newt with a ‘human face’.

Complicating matters? Both Biden and HRC already embody the marketing space these Republicans dream about. True, fatigue with Democrats in 2016 is a real possibility, and a referendum on a third Obama term tricky. Yet they and other national Democrats can actually practice politics now and then.

We enjoy reading La Noonan’s latest catty column on the Romney campaign. Or Kristol’s despair. Car wrecks command attention. Although the election’s still close. But the long game? For these dreamers, 2016 is no longer idle salad fork chatter but now with the main course.

Rightist Collective Narcissism And Why Obama’s Own Fantasy Of Rational Dialogue Is Doomed

(N.B.: this originally was posted in the comments section but upon reflection think it deserves its own post. No worries, no effort to impersonate Krauthammer or a certain Senate Majority Leader with the deliberately stylized prose. Just some observations).

Narcissism is an occupational hazard for political leaders. You have to have an outsized ambition and an outsized ego to run for office.

Stanley Renshon

The Right’s compulsive need to maintain its Narrative within which all adherents can act out their own form of idealized Self is essentially collective narcissism. That’s offered as a lay person’s experience working, talking, and socializing with them over decades. From the Newts of the world to the most vicious ‘unknowns’ (except today the latter likely have so many Facebook ‘friends’ they have their own ‘fan’ page).

Narcissistic need to support a fantasized, grandiose self-image within a larger heroic Narrative explains alot. Not just the daily evidence of disconnect between actual behavior and the projected idealized (often censoring) personality. The post 2008 purge and radicalization are inevitable consequence. A complimentary analytical framework from a conventional political/historical perspective of Movements here and on the Continent.

Narrative radicalization and escalating vehemence through cant and acting out must — by internal logic — treble when fantasy can not surmount the limits imposed by Objective Reality (say Nov. 2008). Obama’s victory is a crisis threatening the ability to segregate their disassociated fantasized self-image with their often fragmented and undeveloped self. Why anyone remotely close to the Movement who said after defeat “now is the time for introspection” was doomed to be mau maued and kicked off the island. And Lord help you if there was a photo with you hugging Obama . . .

On one extreme one gets birthers. Another? Secession. And so on. They’re really the same. Their commonality is an irrational imperative to retreat to a safe Narrative that protects their idealized, fantasy Self. From that Barlett-esque non-emprical world adherents safely can continue to use the objective external world as a mere prop in their own internal movie.

This is in marked contrast with more normative modes of collecting and processing input, cognition and productions of ‘knowledge’ below:

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It’s Under The Bed . . . I Saw Fox! Don’t Turn Out The Light, Please Mommy And Daddy!

What’s worse? The Movement in amoral full flight or mewling and whining on ‘the Left’ [sic], with tiresome gnashing of teeth and typing in dismay? Always despairing the [Senegalese?] referee’s failure to pull a Red Card, to make clear To The Whole World the score a blatant, invalid Rightist foul?

Josh Marshall’s swan dive into the victimization pool is rather typical:

Still, you just have to back up from that and realize that as disappointing as Tom Vilsack’s first crack at this was, the idea that he or Obama is the bad guy in this story is not only preposterous but verging on obscene (emphasis added). It’s like the NYPD as the bad guy in the Son of Sam saga because they didn’t catch David Berkowitz fast enough. Or perhaps that the real moral of the story is that the woman with the stalker should have been more focused on personal data security. Not for some time has something so captured the essential corruption of a big chunk of what passes as ‘right wing media’ (not all, by any means, but a sizable chunk along the Breitbart/Fox/Hannity continuum) and the corruption of the mainstream media itself as this episode.

Marshall’s diversionary examples are sophomorically inapposite. And irrelevant. Notice how the Administration’s premature panic, collusion and later attempt to brush it all away is literally acknowledged as just ‘disappointing’ (with Vilsack alone holding the bad)? The real story, according to TPM? Fox made them do it. (Note the perpetually passive psychological construct?)

Kos was wrong lamenting about this phenomenon (pathology?) 6 years ago. It’s not at all like he said – they [Dems et al.] always bring knives to a gunfight. ‘The Left’ [sic] bring nothing. And then scream for Mommy and Daddy. We wouldn’t want to give Dr. Krauthammer an idea for a column (without residuals) but there is something deeper going on.

What exactly has to happen in Marshall’s world for non-Righists to function effectively? He doesn’t know. We like TPM and have from day one when it was a simple blog. This is a friendly reader’s exasperation. TPM and its readers need an intervention. We’ll leave that to the pros. But in the interim, here’s free advice. Stop flinching and stop ‘enabling’ flinchers. Be careful what you wish for, too, re getting a ‘ref’. Maybe Josh never played competitive sports. Or had a different experience. In ours, even referees get tired of premature flinchers and secretly despise them.

Can you imagine the coup d’etat that would have happened somewhere along 1992-2000 with this crowd? By what year do you think Rush or Newt would have driven Clinton into house arrest at the Streisand Estate? And seized the (newly enlarged) crown out of the Pope’sAiles’ hands and put it on his swollen head? Recall Tweety *and* Hitch shoulder-to-shoulder cheering Newt and Ken Starr on like high school cheerleaders. Notwithstanding Clinton basically *was* a good Republican president, to boot.

On such gossamer thin strands hope rests.

The Declaration Of Independence Written With Today’s Mentality

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to execute this END-USER LICENSE AGREEMENT WITH {subjects, citizens *customers*} for the decent respect of Delaware Chancery Court precedent:

We hold these truths to be self evident and IMPORTANT. PLEASE READ THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF THIS AGREEMENT CAREFULLY BEFORE CONTINUING WITH THIS DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE (“The DECLARATION”). The Continental Congress’ End-User License Agreement (“EULA”) is a legal agreement between you (either an individual or a single entity) and the Continental Congress.

Use of the Continental Congress’ DECLARATION incorporates by reference any associated product(s) including written components, media, pamphlets and pictographic or printed materials, or other information encoded in binary form for copying, storage and distribution by any other means, physical or otherwise from or to Chinese devices. By reading, copying, or otherwise using the DECLARATION, you agree to be bound by the terms of this EULA.

This EULA represents the entire agreement concerning the ‘revolution’ product and related marketing materials between you and the Continental Congress (also referred to as “Licensor”). The EULA supersedes any prior proposal, representation, or understanding between the parties. If you do not agree to the terms of this EULA, do not read, copy or talk about the DECLARATION.

The DECLARATION is protected by all applicable copyright and intellectual property laws and international copyright and intellectual property treaties. The DECLARATION is licensed, not sold.

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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).

Jonathan Chait And Battered Pundit Syndrome

Seeking perhaps to maximize page views and SEO optimization (the boy’s gotta eat), Jonathan Chait goes contrarian and affirms the Boy King’s Rooseveltian greatness. He condescendingly diagnoses the ignorance of Obama’s critics thusly:

Part of the reason for liberal dismay in [sic] an ahistorical understanding of how progress works. In the liberal memory, political success is bathed in golden-hued triumph. In reality, it is a grubby, stop-and-start process that looks pretty ugly up close . . .

A second reason for liberal despair is the cult of the presidency. Few people follow the arcana of Congressional debate. They attribute all political outcomes to the president, and thus when the outcome is unsatisfactory, the reason must be a failure of presidential willpower.

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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?’

Another Dispatch From The Edge

Ideological/charismatic Leadership States (whether Caudillo, Teutonic, Iberian, Hungarian, Mediterranean, Slavic or Asiatic) share many fundamental characteristics. One is that each regime energetically seeks to project a mythos of dynamic, in control and (in our parlance) ‘forward leaning’ presence. (These States differ somewhat in form and function from Wittfogel’s “oriental despotism”/Weber’s “hydraulic societies”, i.e., for our purposes their legitimation and existance depends on an ism/abstract ideology/charisma). Another myth common to them is the claim of “efficiency” — the trains on time thing, and “decisiveness”.

As we have long noted here, control of social consciousness and political narrative is the primary goal and tool — as we saw with the hyper-real U.S. based AgitProp 2001-2007. Reality is just another “brand”. Moreover, because of the Leader model, court politics seep down into the lowliest of functions; all know success and reward goes towards those who “work toward the Leader”, i.e., mold their decision-making, actions and statements to fit into the perceived regime “brand” values. In almost every case, this means that effective government collapses. Internal disarray, confusion, competition and counter-productive function are the order of the day.

There’s a simple test that works almost every time. When such regimes encounter a real world objective problem that can not be absorbed into the regime’s narrative fiction? 9 out of 10 times, the regime’s first response will be to embrace further ad hoc solutions, just hierarchically adjusted. More confusion on top of confusion. These in the States take the form of “special commissions”, “Super Cabinet Secretaries”, “Czars”, etc. But the process is the same elsewhere. All signs of internal decadence (clincally defined).

Which brings us to the Joint IED Defeat Organization, JIEDDO.

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