Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

2012 debate II: Mitt Romney can’t keep up with his multiple personalities

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If you were following Twitter and Facebook during the debate, you saw the rise of “binders full of women.” In watching the second presidential debate live, the line sneaked past me. When I saw “binders full of women” on social media, I realized I had missed something that was there all along.

John McCain had drafted Sarah Palin in part to appeal to those women frustrated by Hillary Clinton’s loss in the primary. Whatever you might think about McCain, Palin, or the McCain campaign, they were trying to get women to vote for them.

Soccer moms, security moms: these were the focus of past elections. Often ignored in the focus on women were single women. Married with children? Politicians cared. Single women? Uh, never mind.

President Barack Obama’s campaign has focused on single women with its policies, but the campaign people must realize that they are capturing single women by default. Transvaginal probes. Backlash against Sandra Fluke. The Mitt Romney campaign and the GOP have been driving away single women for the last two years. So even if you might wonder why “binders full of women” became such a big deal, this wasn’t about one comment in a debate; this has been building.

We found out later that Romney fudged when he said that this was his idea. An organization approached the Massachusetts gubernatorial candidates with the idea of employing more women. Yes, it could get even worse.

The second debate spotlighted Romney telling Americans that he doesn’t believe in something and that isn’t his position. Then again, the accusations against Romney are his positions. This would be the sign of a particularly bad candidate, but there may be something more.

Three Faces of Eve, Sybil, depending on your generational perspective: Mitt Romney has many signs of multiple personalities. And the second debate proved conclusively that he is having trouble keeping them straight.

Romney says positions such as employers should have the right to deny women contraception through the insurance program (Blunt Amendment). In fact, Romney went out of his way to confirm that stand earlier this year. In the debate, when confronted with the reality of this stance, his reply was that of course he wasn’t in favor of that.

After the debate, the Romney campaign ran an ad from a former Obama supporter saying that she researched this and found out that Romney is in favor of contraception. To be fair, you can find that online. And you can also find that he doesn’t. The “doesn’t” speaks louder than the “does.”

The woman in the ad points out that Romney supports abortion exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. Paul Ryan does not, and Romney said he would sign into law a provision that doesn’t allow for exceptions. Yes, we are dealing with multiple personalities at work.

“Moderate” Romney has shown up during the debates, and can’t believe he would be accused of doing what “Conservative” Romney has been doing behind “Moderate” Romney’s back. As soon as the TV lights go out, he’s back to being “Conservative” Romney.

This isn’t funny, not just because Romney might be president, but because he comes across as sincere when denying his own stances. This is really sad.

Speaking of women and debates, Candy Crowley and Martha Raddatz proved their gender strong in hosting debates. Crowley was the first women to host a presidential debate since Carole Simpson hosted the town hall debate in 1992.

You might remember that Katie Couric was supposed to host a Democratic primary debate in North Carolina in 2008. Hillary Clinton agreed to the debate, but Barack Obama said no to the April 27 date. To be fair, the objection from the Obama camp centered around doing a date before the Pennsylvania primary (April 22). The original April 19 date fell on the first night of Passover, so that idea was scrapped. And the original original date of December 2007 in Los Angeles fell through because no one wanted to cross the picket line when CBS journalists threatened to join the Hollywood writers strike.

Regular readers know of my strong dislike for Katie Couric’s attempts at real journalism. If Couric had done a debate, unfortunately for women, she would have set their gender back a decade.

The flaw with the current debate mode is that four people control what gets asked and what doesn’t in the presidential debate format: Jim Lehrer, Martha Raddatz, Candy Crowley, and Bob Schieffer. Having women in the mix offers some representation. You have an African-American man on stage as the incumbent president, and yet no journalists of color get to ask debate questions.

Having journalists correct obvious mistakes in a televised scenario would be an obviously good thing, especially when democracy is on the line. The situation is bad enough when obvious lies hit the transcript without so much as a bat of an eye. I remember covering politics with three GOP operatives hit the airwaves saying that George W. Bush wasn’t in charge on September 11, 2001, and none of them were corrected on the air.

We wish this nuance applied to minutia that comes down the pike, but when the lie is obvious, journalists have an obligation to speak up.

Candy Crowley did the right thing in the right moment. I wasn’t thrilled that she let Romney bully his way through the early part of the debate, and cut off President Obama in the middle of his answer. But at that moment, Crowley did what a journalist is supposed to do.

Not to take sides, but the GOP counts on journalists not doing their job more than Dems do. And Republicans freak out louder when journalists don’t act like a bullfighter as the charging lies — olé — pass by.

After not running on his record as governor of Massachusetts, Romney has decided to suddenly run on his record, but again only during the debates. Since Romney had not mentioned his record and Obama’s team didn’t say much about that, we don’t know much about what Romney did as Massachusetts governor.

The man has been running for governor for 5-6 years and we don’t know much about his stint as governor. The alternative press has done some digging, but the MSM is slow on this point. If Romney gets elected, he may set a new precedent for burying part of a candidate’s record: just don’t talk about it and see what happens.

The MSM has to react to a bell in order to chase the cheese. Remember how little effort they put into searching for George W. Bush’s DUI in 2000.

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