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Presidential Debate: Governor Romney Caught in the Bubble

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Each week Bill Maher runs a feature on his HBO show Real Time called “In the Bubble.” Maher’s premise is that the Right lives in this hermetically sealed bubble in which all they hear and all they know (and endlessly repeat in the hope that everyone will believe it too) are Republican and Tea Party fantasy facts: things they wish were true, but don’t stand up to even mild scrutiny. “Obama is a Muslim.” “Obama isn’t an American.” “Obama is a socialist.” “The economic problems we continue to have are all Obama’s fault.” To name but a few. 

Occasionally the in-the-bubble people get called out by savvy newspeople, but far too often, they are allowed to spout this nonsense with impunity by a broadcast media that tends to label everything as a subjective opinion with no clear “right or wrong.” HBO’s The Newsroom, created by Aaron Sorkin uses this sad fact of modern broadcast media as its basic premise. 

Usually, the bubble-speak spouted beyond the bubble’s boundaries is confined to cable television politics shows, stump speeches and fundraisers. The candidates often have the self-control to understand the extent to which they can spout bubble-speak without it being immediately thrown back in their faces. Such a slip happened to Todd Akin earlier this year in his comments about rape. And it happened again last night in the debate between President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney. But this time he was called on it, not only by the president, but by moderator Candy Crowley of CNN. Facts are, it seems, facts, and you can’t alter the words of a speech just because it doesn’t fit the inside-the-bubble narrative constructed about your opponent. Especially face to face, and especially with something as recent at the assassination of our ambassador to Libya.

Perhaps believing the Right Wing myth that it took two weeks for President Obama to call the attack on our embassy “an act of terror,” Mr. Romney hammered the president, insisting that Obama was lying during his debate response in stating he’d called it the very next day in the Rose Garden. On camera. In front of reporters. Had Romney gotten hold of some real red meat? Had he caught a classic gotcha moment? You could literally see Romney frothing at the mouth, positively salivating. He was practically rubbing his hands together in glee, thrilled that this exchange is now on the record. He was triumphant! The victor! 

Ummm…not so fast, sir? 

Kudos to Ms. Crowley for doing an on-the-spot, spot-on fact check to support the president’s statement, and for Mr. Obama for not letting Mr. Romney get away with it. The president did, in fact, call it an act of terror, and Ms. Crowley as well as the president called Romney on it. It was a gaffe that made all other gaffes gaffed by Governor Romney pale in comparison.

See, this is the problem with listening without a critical ear, and to only what’s said inside the bubble. It’s worse than only listening to what’s said “inside the beltway.” It was a bad moment for the former governor, and a cast a harsh light on his general attitude last night of badgering and bullying, trying to subvert the moderation and intimidate. Crowley did a great job of minimizing Romney’s overt rudeness.

I’m not going to talk about Romney’s condescending non-answer to the question about equal pay for equal work. Binders full of women? Really? That’s so liberated of you, Mr. Romney to have looked so hard to appoint women to your cabinet. 

But I will say something about his response to the question of how he plans on paying for his proposed tax cuts. When asked directly how he was going to “do the math,” he got testy and gave another condescending and incredibly arrogant answer that suggested that because he’s a successful businessman, his numbers are inherently trustworthy. If he says it will add up, it will add up, and how dare anyone (anyone) question it! But that’s exactly how he sounded. Indeed? Trusting the math of successful businessmen was how we ended up in such a financial mess. 

How anyone can still be undecided at this point, two weeks before the election, is beyond my comprehension. The choice cannot be clearer.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."
  • John Lake

    Romney, some feel, is a likable enough guy (well, I don’t see it that way, but…) but, he lacks the ability to think. He still doesn’t quite understand the very basic and very simple concept of “trickle down economy.” With the help of a room (binder, perhaps?) full of think-tank, he was able to cover on Tuesday evening his inability to grasp that concept with the invention of “trickle down government.” He spent some time explaining it. It would have been easier just to explain “trickle down economy.” The mind boggles.
    Here is a strange thing. Romney doesn’t object to contraception. Great. I find it hard to criticize contraception, but some are agin’ it. But we have come to find, on at least one point in his strive toward the presidency, Governor Romney took a hard stand on abortion, not for far ranging philosophical reasons, but rather because at some early point an unborn baby becomes able to feel pain. It mattered not at that epiphany for Romney that some Doctors take the 70, 80, 90 years of living from a specific yet-to-begin person, but he felt bad about the likelihood of a poor baby feeling a few seconds of pain. Again, the mind boggles.
    Do you know what I think? Governor Romney is intent on gaining the presidency just so he can utilize for profit all that federal land that he keeps mentioning, for drilling. When pinned down, Mitt always goes back to the federal lands and the pipeline. They seemed again Tuesday night to be his main and highest raison d’être. Maybe it’s just me. The mind boggles.
    Maybe Monday will give the Governor another chance to accuse the President of “Leading from behind”, a few sentences later he can declare that in his presidency he will follow Benjamin Netanyahu in any course the Prime Minister chooses to take.

  • Igor

    Not just Romney, but also VP candidate Paul Ryan stand to profit personally from oil land holdings.

    Check it out.