The nation pauses for a weekend in the center of Hurricane Political National Conventions. The general consensus seems to be that the Republicans made a less than premium showing of themselves. According to the Sunday morning pundits, highlights of the affair were the efforts of Mrs. Romney, Mr. Eastwood (with props), Mr. Ryan, and Mr…..wait, go back! Mr. Ryan? Paul Ryan? The same Rep. Paul Ryan whose intellectual prowess had brought that quality to the Republican ticket that we, in century past, so blithely referred to as gravitas?
Yes, I heard comments to the effect that national conventions don’t seem to have to hold hard with the truth much anymore. Comments from nationally known television journalists trivializing the fact that Congressman Ryan allowed his hopes and wishes for what he might have wanted President Obama to do to overpower his memory of what President Obama actually did do during his 43 months to date in office, not once, but four times during his world-wide broadcast speech…to applause in the house that just might have caused the walls of Jericho to come tumbling down. (But nobody expects Rep. Ryan’s audience to be as knowledgeable as the man who wrote “The Path to Prosperity: A Blueprint for American Renewal”.)
One person who did not trivialize Mr. Ryan’s speech was Ms. Sally Kohn, in an opinion piece which showed up August 30, on (Get this!) FOXNEWS.COM (look for it under the Opinion tab). She divided her critique into three parts [not unlike Caesar divided Gaul]. As for “Dazzling”, she rated his performance something like a 17.4 (as per the so-soon forgotten beloved Olympic gymnastics] and awarded him a 16.9. Reasonable. Her next section, “Deceiving” delivers back to him the four blows he delivered to the truth-seeking integrity of the American people August 29:
1. The downgrade of the United States’ credit rating was not caused by spending under President Obama, Mr. Ryan, but by the Republicans’ prolonged and needless threat to not raise the debt ceiling.
2. The GM plant in Janesville, WI was closed down under President Bush, not President Obama. (Want a bit of preserves on top? Rep. Ryan asked for federal spending to save the plant.)
3. President Obama simply did not say, ever, that federal government deserves all the credit for success of anyone in the private sector, no matter how badly Paul Ryan wants him to have said it. [Wantin ain’t getting.]
4. This one involves math (Rep. Ryan’s specialty, I think, so it’s a tough one): Even though Mr. Ryan wants the president to have taken $716,000,000.00 out of Medicare, the president didn’t do that. Never. What he did do was make $716,000,000.00 the amount in savings in reimbursement rates (which was coupled with Medicare recipients’ out-of-pocket costs) in his proposed budget plan. And guess what! Rep. Ryan used the same formula for savings in his proposed budget plan. [Easy to get these things confused in front of a huge live audience.]
Sally Kohn ends her review with a section on all the things Paul Ryan didn’t talk about. But I’d rather talk about some of the things nobody talks about: not the candidates, not the pundits, not the reporters, not the media opinion heads, not your friends.
We are in the throes of a presidential campaign season and everybody talks about the candidates, who are, Praise Jesus! down to two in number. But even since those pitiful days when the Republicans had, what, 39 people running for president, the national conversation was about one thing and one thing only:
WHO IS THAT MAN?!
WHAT CAN HE DO FOR ME?!
WHY CAN’T HE DO WHAT HE SAYS HE CAN DO FOR ME?!
WHAT HAS HE ALREADY DONE WRONG?!
HAS HE EVER DONE ANYTHING RIGHT?!
DON’T WE ALREADY KNOW WHAT HE WAS THINKING
WHEN HE DID ALL THAT STUFF WRONG?!
During a presidential election we all, every single American, talks about the election, the candidates, the whole damn thing, as if these two guys had complete control of everything, as if they had the power to make pigs fly, as if they were running for Emperor.
Every single one of us stops talking about these other minor impingements on the capacities of the presidency, for example, a Republican House of Representatives that backed Idea X for a period of time, then learned that President Obama also favored it, and immediately opposed it full force. And not that this happened in the past four years, but that it happened over, and over, and over…Or that for, what, a year, a full session, Republicans in the Senate forced every vote—every vote—to be taken under the rules of filibuster, which means a majority of 60%, not the usual 50%. This was an action unprecedented in American history. How do these minor impingements affect the ability of the president and his party to enact their vision for the future of America into the reality of law and order?
But NO! for this season in politics we discuss whether the President himself was able to turn his agenda into reality…people come out of the woodwork to discuss whether President Obama was able to keep his every 2008 campaign promise. This British nut job who happens to teach history—or some version thereof—at Harvard, Niall Ferguson, somehow got a cover article in “Newsweek” last week in which he revealed how President Obama singlehandedly turned the country inside out seemingly state by state over a mere 43 months. No Senate. No House. No Supreme Court. No DOD, for the love of God! Really quite remarkable.
How is it that such a journalistic luminary as Tina Brown can suddenly become so amnesiac as to allow this kind of print idiocy to happen? How is it that WE ALL apparently voluntarily throw out the daily rules of play, as if we are quite happy to throw our heads to the side and laugh as we hear the little tinkle of I.Q. points as they fall out of our heads and hit the sidewalk?
Do we really need for a season to regress to our idea of Jack and Jackie’s Camelot and pretend that our president, the invincible, can save us from every manner of strife, indeed, that he must? We know in our frontal lobes that he cannot singlehandedly make his way from the White House to the Capitol Building, much less put his agenda into reality. But for this season, we will continue to play by the rules of our limbic systems, which means that not a single one of us, not the reporters, not the editors, not the debate panelists, not the voters will ask the simple, practical questions…those same logical questions to which we will all turn our attention the day after Inauguration Day.
HOW DOES THE COMPOSITION OF CONGRESS AFFECT THE PRESIDENT’S
CHANCES OF PASSING HIS AGENDA?
HOW DOES THIS QUESTION APPLY TO EACH CANDIDATE?
WAS THE LAST CONGRESS SO VENAL THAT NO SOCIAL OR FINANCIAL
TRULY AMELIORATIVE LEGISLATION COULD BE PASSED?
WOULD IT BE TRUE OF THE NEXT CONGRESS?
WHAT WERE THE MEANINGS OF THE SUPREME COURT’S DECISION
AND OPINIONS ON ACA?
HOW WOULD THEY AFFECT EACH CANDIDATE AS PRESIDENT?
HOW WILL THE INTERPLAY BETWEEN CONGRESS AND THE PRESIDENT
DIFFER IF THEY ARE OF THE SAME PARTY
OR OF DIFFERENT PARTIES?
I am not much bothered that the voting masses may be single minded, or that the campaigns themselves will carry on with this moneyed monstrosity of one note theme. But that I cannot find anyone, at any level, who is willing to entertain a rigorous, diligent discussion of the current presidential election in its full context saddens me deeply. These are not questions for the history books. These are questions to be asked of the candidates, or at least about the candidates in order to inform the electorate. These are the questions of this season. How could we have possibly forgotten?