A Not So Slow News Week
How slow a news week has this been, given the fact of the London Olympics? It has been such a slow news week that Maureen Dowd devoted her weekend column to Marilyn Monroe, who made only one good movie, ďSome Like It HotĒ, and that was only because her director in the movie was that genius, Billy Wilder. But, in fact, it has not been such a slow news week. This Week, on ABC, spent a lot of time talking about the Olympics covered on NBC, but it also took note of Harry Reidís unsubstantiated charge that for many years Mitt Romney had paid no income taxes, which Republicans dismissed as McCarthyism. Iíll cry when the Republican Party officially decries the Birthers. Reid kept the Romney tax story going another week, and also demonstrated the old truth, well known to Joe McCarthy, that if you tell a lie, tell one the voters are going to believe. Otherwise, there is no purpose in doing so. People in 1950 were perfectly prepared to believe that there were a few hundred Communists in the State Department. People today are very willing to believe that Romney paid little or no taxes for a number of years. The character attacks against him have been successful to the point that Reid can credibly make his accusation.
There was also the job news. New private hires were up to pre-springtime levels and the so-called increase in the unemployment rate was just a rounding error. That puts Romney in a pickle. He can go on saying he is the one to create jobs, even as he continues to refuse to say how he is going to do that. But if jobs are being created anyway, if things arenít getting worse, why take the unattractive candidate when there is an incumbent who seems Presidential? Romney would not have accepted spread sheets at Bain Capital that did not show trends, even if he is perfectly willing to deal just with unemployment figures without providing an explanation, but the American people will be able to tell that there is no beef in his statistics.
Now that the Olympics are just about past, America can shift its interests back to what is truly the national pastime: electoral politics. Just about everybody has a horse in that race and those few who donít are being begged to with advertising budgets that break records every Presidential year. The real story of the day may be that Obama so frontloaded his campaign that he wonít have enough money in the fall to counter the Romney advertising budget.
There is much talk of who will be Romneyís Vice Presidential pick. The more Romney sinks, and everybody agrees that this has been a good month for Obama, the more valuable the Vice Presidential nomination is. It gives whoever gets that the inside track on 2016. And everybody agrees that now is the time for a game changer nominee, but I donít think Romney has it in him. Moreover, the two names touted for resetting the race are Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan. The first of those has a questionable track record with the truth and appeals only to Cuban Americans, not to Hispanics as a whole. And Paul Ryan is too vulnerable as a spokesman for Draconian cuts in entitlements. He really means what his budget says. He would not be able to defend the indefensible: making wholesale changes in Medicaid and Medicare while pushing us into even greater deficits because of tax breaks, new and old, for the well to do. Obama is very fortunate that the issues the Republicans choose to pursue, when they are not simply lamenting the fact that the economy is not very good, are loser issues. Remember when W. tried to sell the privatization of Social Security? It made no sense, and neither does the Ryan budget plan.
Never has a candidate painted himself into so narrow a corner than when Romney endorsed the Ryan budget plan, and never have the possible choices for a Vice Presidential nominee been so narrowed by the demands of the Tea Party. Sure, they would have voted against Joe Lieberman, and that put the kibosh on that choice, but there were other possible candidates than Sarah Palin. Now, the bench seems to be weak. Condoleezza Rice is unacceptable to the Tea Party and Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie have taken themselves out of contention and Bobby Jindal sounds funny when he talks, as opposed to Joe Lieberman, whose Yiddish intonations by the time he was nominated as Vice President had become one of the ways Americans are allowed to sound. Nikki Haley, on the other hand, sounds right. Why not choose her? Maybe because it only gives Romney a state he already has.
There was another event that took place on television this weekend that should be noted. It joins the Olympics as something that makes a viewer feel good about humanity, even as the present Presidential campaign does not, given as it is to sliming a President for not doing enough to counter the conditions which the Republican Congress prevented him from dealing with. That was the successful arrival on Mars of the Curiosity, a land rover the size of a small car. It is the sort of event that should be seen live because that enhances the sense that something is really happening, that a moment has taken place that reverses what had come before, and that you were there for it, as we all were for the attacks on the Twin Trade Towers and some of us, in the past, had been there for the assassination on camera of Lee Harvey Oswald and the just off camera assassination of Bobby Kennedy. A person is galvanized by such events, such an engagement and not just involvement in history. It happened more positively when I did see live the first step Neil Armstrong took on the Moon, even though that program had been flawed in that it was the basis only for a few missions to the Moon rather than extended space exploration through the gradual development of better engines and space craft, which is what a continuation of the X-1 program that would have put Chuck Yeager into space would have meant.
The present program of unmanned exploration is not conceptually flawed. There is a lot to be done with this form of exploration. We can get to Jupiterís moons a century before we could do it with human exploration. ď2001Ē made space exploration much too easy. And here we are doing something amazing, as jaw dropping amazing, as an Olympic event. They donít award enough medals for engineering. And now back to politics where our President, who already has a Nobel medal, is busy trying to survive an opponent who will give no credence to the multiple things Obama has already accomplished. In politics, there is rarely the awe that comes from seeing two distinguished competitors make their sport shine to the point that you go beyond caring who wins, as happens in a great World Series or in the Ali-Frazier fights. Can you think of a Presidential campaign when that was the case? George H. W. Bush versus Bill Clinton was a race between two relatively capable gentlemen, but for the most part Presidential races are between someone who should win against someone who shouldnít even if that is not the way it turns out. That is why politics is hardly a noble sport, just a very, very important one.