With one presidential debate left to go, the high-stakes race of 2012 has reached an ear-shattering crescendo. The race is wildly dynamic, and for very good reason. A lot has transpired in recent years. We have entered uncharted, anything-goes territory. Pressure has been building, and it will not stay pent-up forever. It is finding points of release at every turn. Even the smallest opening could be the one that seals the deal.
At the heart of the race, perhaps more now than ever, are perceptions. Just days before the election, perceptions have been incredibly volatile, and are creating nearly seismic shifts across the election landscape. Nothing is nailed down. Everything is up for grabs. There’s a hair-trigger sense that anything is possible.
If you are like most right-leaning types, you have been consumed with perception issues for some time, peeking behind the curtain and wondering when “the rest of America” would “catch on” to the “real” Barack Obama. If you are a liberal, you have likely been wondering what the “big deal is,” and why conservatives are so determined that you “get” what’s behind the stinkin’ curtain.
None of that matters now. The big “reveal” is happening, and neither conservatives nor liberals had a thing to do with it. To my friends on the right, you can now fold your tray table and repair the head-shaped dent in the living room wall. To my liberal buddies, you can grab a bag of granola and come to grips with what is unfolding in plain sight.
What a difference a debate makes! Not that the pundits thought it could. They broke out their best jargon and assured us that debates rarely “move the needle.” They said that with rare exception, debates were “baked into the cake,” and Romney’s best hope in the debates was to “do no harm.”
Not that their opinions were unfounded or anti-historical. They weren’t. But they were wrong…dead wrong.
Mere minutes into the first debate, the “reveal” was underway. All the straw men began falling dead and two candidates were left standing, not as the men they claimed to be or were described to be, but as the men they really are. For better or worse, all was laid bareon the unfiltered debate stage.
Barack Obama had stood on such stages before. Back then he was a blank slate, or was portrayed as such. In Denver, there was a very public record to contend with. The suave, cool, and collected President who seemed to have an eternal wind at his back had dodged his record deftly, almost magically. It seemed as though he would slink past it yet again, and maybe forever…
But this was a different kind of night in Denver. The Greek columns were gone and the Mile High City smacked of Waterloo. Against all presumption, the untouchable President fell under the weight of his own house of cards. With the help of the Democratic machine and other forces behind the curtain, he’d built that paper palace word by word and image by image. The media tweaked it perfectly. For years, they made mortgage payments, and kept the place in fresh coats of paint.
On October 3, 2012, the paint began to peel. The “pretend” Obama withered, and Jim Lehrer did nothing to prop him up. Over the course of 90 minutes, the once-dazzling hologram fragmented—in front of 140 million dilated eyeballs.
Thanks to the Obama campaign, viewers got twice the bang for their buck. The “reveal” was twofold: Not only did we watch with some sorrow as the real Barack Obama was exposed, but we watched as another hologram faded. It was the one cooked up by the crack reelection squad in Chicago—the image of a filthy rich, out of touch, hardhearted, lying, scheming, cold-fish, tax-cheating, woman-hating, unlikable stiff named Mitt Romney.
The wizards working for the smartest guy in the room had blundered. They peddled the idea that only the President was smart enough. They imparted the belief that intelligence was synonymous with vision, competency, transparency, success, and a genuine love for the poor/women/little guys/and every other “victim” of the evil rich.
Team Chicago had staked everything on a single false data point: next to George W. Bush, Mitt Romney is the biggest creep ever to walk the planet.
Issues of truth and integrity aside (if that were possible), who can blame them? What else could they say? The economy’s fixed? The rising of the oceans has been tempered? The planet is healed?
No way. So they said, “We’re the good guys. We don’t like money or success or exceptionalism or leading from the front. That other guy is an old-school windbag with nothing to offer and everything to gain from your hard work. He kills women, deprives needy children, and eats the common man for lunch. He’s a mollycoddled cretin incapable of functioning on the “higher” plane we’ve carved out.”
Enter the “cretin windbag”—minus the media filters and far from the teleprompters. Almost in an instant, the Obama oxygen was sucked out. The pretense, so carefully crafted and maintained, was eviscerated on live TV. We saw the unadulterated product and decided for ourselves.
Living rooms were abuzz: “Wow. Who is this guy? That can’t be Mitt Romney! This guy’s no creep. He makes sense. He gets it.”
The cat was out of the bag. All cover was blown. The President and his alchemists could offer no antidote. Not even the media could help them, especially with the scandal in Libya forcing their bony hands. Nor did the people need the talking heads’ two cents. They saw the candidates through their own eyes and came to their own conclusions.
The tide had turned. Chicago was up against the mess they had created. They had built a very fine house of cards, but it gave them no cover now. The Obama posters had faded. False narratives fell dead to the debate floor. Overnight, stricken pols dug deep into their bag of tricks hoping to find something—anything—that could mask the unfolding reality.
They came up with precious little. They called Romney’s debate presentation a performance, a sales pitch, a heap of lies. They were up the creek without a paddle and they knew it. The needle not only moved; it had punctured the once impenetrable membrane of the Obama-Media conglomerate.
At the Alfred E. Smith Dinner (another stellar refutation of the administration’s version of Mitt Romney), the President quipped that Chris Matthews had a “stroke” over the debacle. In subsequent debates Martha Raddatz and Candy Crowley swooped in to stanch the hemorrhage. It was not exactly journalistic résumé-building stuff, and it made the administration look like a bunch of sissies, but you work with what you’ve got.
And what they’ve got is nothing.
Not many believed Romney would be the guy with enough grit to blow up the President’s paper palace. But he was and he did, in spite of the forces arrayed against him. Who can deny, in all honesty, that he did it like a mensch?
Yes, the needles have moved. But this thing is far from over. This administration has proven itself enslaved to results. In the swirling waters of Benghazi-Gate, their options may be fewer, but they will try rebuilding their palatial house of cards by whatever means necessary.
Here’s to Monday night. There is an awful lot at stake.
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