We Americans love to be cynical about the “integrity” of politicians; jokes about lying baby-kissers are a staple of what loosely passes for late night entertainment. Most Americans take as settled the question of corruption as a politician graduates from local into state and federal office. I don’t, however, think the dishonesty of politicians is native to them, I believe it is demanded by us.
Voters don’t like it when their elected (or campaigning) officials tell them the truth.
Every 2 years, just about 900 people (give or take the number of third party candidates on the ballot) run for the U.S. House of Representatives. All of them, inevitably, talk about the difference they will make when they go to Washington. None of them speak about the limitations placed on them by party platforms, and precious few make even the slightest attempt to speak critically about the details of the change they presume to make.
Voters don’t like promises of incremental progress, generally hate mathematics, and typically don’t have the time to “kick the tires” on every candidate before them.
Political strategists have become so certain of the minds of voters, that political strategy is now openly built on the notions of truth-stretching and fact-creating. Rovian principles, in fact, are built on the simple idea of identifying a candidate’s strength, and then attacking it as if it were a weakness. Karl Rove’s campaign philosophies got George W. Bush elected twice, and gave the Republicans the House of Representatives in 2010. In 2012, those techniques have been matched up with a candidate with no obvious qualms about saying whatever his handlers feel will get him to the Oval Office; Mitt Romney.
Famous for his monumental (even for politics) flip-flops and ever-changing facts; Romney is the man who was for ObamaCare (when it was RomneyCare) before he was against it. Late last Spring, as tensions with Iran reached a boil, Romney told voters at a rally in Virginia that he would be tough on Iran, unlike President Obama. Mitt’s idea of toughness was to deploy a carrier in the Mediterranean and another in the Persian Gulf, to “let Iran know we mean business.”
President Obama already had two carrier strike-groups off the coast of Iran (one in the Persian Gulf, and a second in the Gulf of Oman), and a third en route. He also had a substantial force in Kuwait, plenty close enough to Iran to make the regime there a little queasy. As the bumper stickers are starting to remind everyone, including foreign heads of state with questionable resumes:
Bin Laden is dead, GM is alive
It isn’t immediately obvious that anyone who matters thinks Obama is soft, and tough talk from a man who needed to bring a posse with him to beat up a young classmate he judged to be homosexual isn’t going to be impressing anyone with his strength anytime soon. But Romney must attack Obama’s strength, and so he will, with little regard for the truth, and no regard for the consequences internationally (Bush and Cheney used to chastise Democrats that political strife should end at the water’s edge).
Most important for this election, however, is fiscal policy. President Obama passed a large tax cut for the working class as a part of the Stimulus, and has continued to press for an extension of the Bush ta cuts as they apply to the working class. This would seem to be (and is, actually) a popular notion; it would allow for continued lower marginal rates on folks who have real jobs (no, Wall Street is not as difficult as, well, almost any other job anywhere), while cutting our national debt.
This is a strength, so Romney must attack. Where Obama has pledged to increase annual revenues by $80 billion per year, Romney has pledged to reduce them by $450 billion per year. Of course, the how in Romney’s plan is sketchy, or vague…actually, there is no how. Mitt Romney and The Men Behind The Mannequin have concocted a budget plan that is almost Paul Ryan-like in its departure from reality. Romney simply can’t cover the gaps in his promises through any other method outside of the destruction and/or privatization of programs the working class demands.
It doesn’t require a boring and painful lecture on economics to see the truth of the Romney sorta-plan; President Obama and House Republicans shed buckets of blood to come up with a plan the cuts annual spending by perhaps $400 billion per year. They did the deal, and now Republicans are trying to undo it because it cuts too much of the spending they like. Democrats don’t like their side of the spending cuts anymore than the conservatives. That is $400 billion in annual fat-trimming that will probably end up cut itself, and Romney promises he can cut $450 billion?
Our politicians have to lie to get elected because we don’t call them when their bull-spit is obvious. Campaign 2012 could be different.
The Rational Middle is listening…