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.