Yesterday, Alana asked a perceptive question about President Obama’s self-image as portrayed in Game Change. I think we have the answer. My favorite thing about Game Change–the book about the 2008 presidential campaign that was made into a much-maligned HBO film–is the index. Whoever created the index at the book’s publishing house assumed no one would read it from cover to cover, but instead that its target audience–people who are portrayed in the book–would scour the index for the references they were looking for. So the structure of the index is quintessentially Beltway.
What do I mean? The index entries are organized according to mainstream media conventional wisdom. So under “Obama, Barack Hussein,” there is an entry marked “calmness and self-possession of.” You know, just to help nudge book reviewers in the right direction. But the entry under Obama’s name that takes the cake is the one marked “conventional politics disdained by.” In case you haven’t heard, Barack Obama is a new kind of politician. With that in mind, it’s worth noting that accusing Mitt Romney of murder has become something of a central theme in the campaign to re-elect the president.
Obama’s refusal to disavow the first ad in the death-by-Romney series was an indication that there would be more to come. And now there is. Today, several outlets have reported on the new AFL-CIO ad, which you can see here. Because of an item in a budget Romney hasn’t voted for and didn’t have anything to do with (Romney is not a member of Congress), Obama ally Richard Trumka is accusing Romney of eventually causing the deaths of many coal miners from black lung disease.
The media is getting in on the action as well. CNN went searching through its archives for footage of leftwing pundits describing Paul Ryan’s budget, and found a doozy: Paul Krugman telling CNN, “To be a little melodramatic, the budget would kill people, no question.”
“Melodramatic” is indeed one way to describe such a statement. Though perhaps Krugman isn’t the best pundit to make that accusation. The New Yorker profile of Krugman revealed that he and his wife threw an Election Day party with a strange theme: guests were directed to a fire pit into which they threw effigies of their most hated politicians. And then there was the Krugman column that opened thus: “A message to progressives: By all means, hang Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy.”
And of course, the addition of Paul Ryan to the GOP ticket practically guarantees the return of the Democrats’ ad in which they dress up as Ryan and throw an old lady off a cliff. But you can hardly blame the Democrats for being so “melodramatic.” It turns out the Ryan proposal is not so easy to attack honestly, especially because it doesn’t impact current retirees. Kirsten Powers tried to get around this yesterday on Fox by simply designating the entire country senior citizens, which led to the following exchange with Charles Krauthammer:
POWERS: It will affect old people, just they’re not old right now. So they will eventually be old.
KRAUTHAMMER: They’re called young people.
Powers says they’ll “eventually be old,” but according to Democratic talking points, Romney won’t let that happen. In any case, where is Obama the intellectual in all this? What happened to the disdaining of conventional politics?
It turns out that if you follow those entries in Game Change, you don’t get examples of Obama practicing a new kind of politics so much as examples of Obama saying he wants to practice a new kind of politics. And that is the most damaging part of the contrast between a Romney-Ryan ticket and an Obama-Biden ticket: the polite charm, policy expertise, and gutsy new politics of real reform in place of the status quo are on the GOP side. Obama’s opponents are everything the media pretended he was. He may have encouraged the flattering depiction, but it’s doubtful he fooled himself into believing it.