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War of the Late October Gaffes

Last night while appearing on the Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, President Obama should have considered how to phrase his feelings on the deaths of four Americans in Libya a bit more carefully. Here is the exchange in full context:

Stewart: I would say, even you would admit, it was not the optimal response, at least to the American people, as far as all of us being on the same page.

Obama: Here’s what I’ll say: If four Americans get killed, it’s not optimal.

“Not optimal” is, obviously, an understatement, when discussing the deaths of four Americans, including the first American ambassador to die in the line of duty since 1979. It’s clear from the context of the interview, however, that the president is using Stewart’s phrase to make clear that he agrees that what happened in Benghazi on September 11 of this year was unacceptable.

What this exchange showcases, however, is the lack of scrutiny Obama’s gaffes seem to elicit from the media.

The media narrative for this campaign has, in large part, become set by the talking points of the Obama campaign and young, liberal Tumblr creators. The latest Romney “gaffe” has become, as Alana mentioned earlier, an absolutely exhausting display of liberal faux-outrage, a desperate attempt to drag down Romney’s soaring poll numbers. The media has had an incredible ability to beat to death any real or imagined Romney gaffes while ignoring far more egregious ones from President Obama.

This media focus solely on gaffes, however, may end up hurting the Obama campaign in the long run. The Romney campaign is forced to set its messaging and imaging as precisely as possible, focusing on incredibly minor details in order to avoid a media firestorm. The Romney team knows that any minor misstep is a potential catastrophe, while the Obama campaign has the security in knowing that they abide by a different set of rules. Romney joked about the double-standard last night at the Al Smith dinner, telling the crowd: “And I’ve already seen early reports from tonight’s dinner, headline; “Obama Embraced by Catholics. Romney Dines with Rich People.”

Does this mean that during Monday’s foreign policy debate Romney should mention this Obama statement for an American public that hasn’t heard about “not optimal” in the mainstream media? In a word: No. The Romney campaign has spent the time since the debates began focusing on real issues, not binders and Big Bird. Romney’s success since the first debate can largely be attributed to the fact that before this, Americans had only passing glimpses at the Republican nominee. The night of the first debate many voters realized, for the first time, that Romney is more than a rich, robotic white male. During the first debate he unquestionably performed better than President Obama, and during the second, on the issue that matters to most voters most, the economy, Romney again appeared more capable according to viewer polls. The media’s attempts to paint a caricature of Romney post-debates will certainly be met with far less success than earlier this summer, when Democratic attacks on a “War on Women” actually gained traction among voters, especially females. Now that the American people have seen the candidates speak unfiltered, they understand just what an exaggeration Romney’s supposed gaffes on Big Bird and binders truly are. Only one of the men on stage is running a presidential campaign. The other is, at best, running for student council.



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