Presidential campaign could be ugliest and silliest ever
Get ready for the 2012 Presidential campaign to be one of the ugliest -- and possibly silliest -- ever.
Actually, the campaign has been unofficially underway. It's all but completely launched now that Mitt Romney is the last Super PAC standing and presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has finally folded a campaign that recently seemed more a pretext for staying in posh hotels and dining in fine restaurants accompanied by Secret Service agents than a serious campaign. Perhaps Gingrich wanted them there because those Secret Service agents sure know how to party.
But in one week we got a glimpse of what to expect in Campaign 2012. Electing a president in 2012 promises to be as uplifting and beautiful experience as watching sausage being made with live baby animals.
The first glimpse in the silliness department was underscored by the durability of "Doggate." Late night comedians had fun making jokes about how years ago Romney strapped a dog cage to the top of his station wagon where his Irish setter Seamus rode on a now infamous vacation. Democrats and pundits referred to it often in swipes at Romney. Then GOPers had a field day when they discovered Obama had tasted dog meat as a boy in Indonesia.
How to handle it? At the White House Correspondents Dinner, Obama, in a masterfully written (by a comedy writer) and delivered routine, joked about his youthful dog meat eating but also got in a lot of digs at Romney's treatment of Seamus.
Wasn't Obama taking a risk? By making dog-eating jokes he raised all kinds of possibilities for future jokes. Like these:
What are they serving at the White House tonight? Poached Pekingese, German Shepard's Pie, Collie Flower, Roast Rottweiler and Hushed Puppies.
If Barack Obama owned an Italian restaurant what would he serve? Cocker Spaniel Cacciatore... If Obama owned a kosher deli what would he serve? Beagles and lox... I had a sandwich with peanut butter at the White House: it was OK but the Jack Russell stuck to the roof of my mouth... How was the food at the White House? It tasted like Shih Tzu.
But wait! It was later reported that Campaign Obama was utterly delighted about Obama doing dog-eating jokes since it gave Obama an opening to make lots of jokes about Romney and Seamus.
Any day now we can expect an Obama anti-Romney commercial to blare Carol King's "Up on the Roof."
Meanwhile, as some conservative talkers pooh-poohed the difficulty of Obama's decision to get terrorist chief Osama bin Laden, the Obama camp, aided by former President Bill Clinton, went after Romney for his past position on bin Laden ("It's not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person... It's more than Osama bin Laden."). Democrats suggested that while Obama answered his 3 a.m. call, Romney would have said, "Call you back later."
Republicans -- who in the past repeatedly exploited 9/11 and accused Democrats of being soft on terrorism -- went into outrage mode, accusing Obama of politicizing Bin Laden's killing. Romney said he would have given the get bin Laden order -- and that "even Jimmy Carter" would have given it.
The GOP outrage was best put into perspective in a Tweet by CNN's David Gergen: "WH exploiting Bin Laden death? Sure. But not a new practice and GOP as guilty as Dems."
Enter another issue. The Republicans seemingly abandoned attempts to make Romney more likeable (he's actually not as unlikeable as partisans and the media suggest) so they've now they've turned cool into an issue. GOPers and Karl Rove's PAC are suggesting Obama is TOO COOL to be president.
So those who thought the Romney campaign would be about restoring Republicans to the White House were wrong.
The Romney campaign isn't "The Empire Strikes Back." It's apparently "Revenge of the Nerds."
The danger for both parties is that as independent voters watch this medley of silliness, predictable partisanship, and phony outrage in a country facing massive problems and needing a serious discussion about them, they'll feel they're watching a political version of "Titanic" -- or, perhaps more accurately, "Apocalypse Now."
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.