By Tom Kozlowski
In the wake of Wednesday’s presidential debate, the 24-hour news networks have taken the liberty of ravenously picking winners. Their conclusions are far from objective; they’re more accustomed to shaking fists atop soapboxes (or FOX’s Tower of Babel). But the majority consensus has dubbed Romney’s rhetoric the winner; elsewhere, Obama lounged on the defense, thoughts aloof on the misery of spending his anniversary next to a man believing it possible to buy NASCAR teams.
Who the news networks choose to crown king is of little concern to me — I’ve chosen my own selective losers. The first is Jim Lehrer, whose debate moderation was encroached upon by the elderly desire to sleep by 8 p.m. The other is the collective dismemberment of facts, those treasured gems in debate speak that are used second and needed first. They fall in line behind spontaneous statistics and mass-appeal maxims. As a result, neither candidate is clean of bloodying the truth. Yet, one is a fonder murderer of logical argument than the other. Romney may be praised by the news networks for his aggressive oratory, but that does not resurrect his greater share of exaggerations, misconceptions and missing, dead facts.
Where to begin? Finding justified beliefs here is more like seeking hay in a needle stack. Perhaps we should look at Romney’s frontline conclusion — that his economic plan will cut the deficit, lower taxes, preserve the military and on the side, save the American way of life. Of course, much of this takes “too long to explain.” So, we’ll pour through the Cliff Notes given to us on Wednesday.
The initial claim that the Romney plan proposes $5 trillion in tax cuts is stretched; it’s actually $480 billion by calendar year 2015, a 20 percent tax cut for every American across the board. Alongside this are his proposals to maintain military funding at current levels, if not exceeding them during his patriotic presidency, and offset all of these expenditures with cemented loopholes. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough loopholes in the system to make this plan feasible. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center phrased it a tad stronger too — “mathematically impossible,” and without any additional clarity, that’s all the Romney plan will ever be.
Yet, despite his fear of personal specifics, Romney saw no harm in fabricating details on the President’s economic record. One would imagine savvy business experience accounts for quantitative accuracy. Like many a Romney figure, you’d be wrong again — behind the podium, you can hardly notice when figures are pulled from the ass.
Amidst heated facial expressions, Romney touted that Obama had doubled deficits and increased unemployment to 23 million Americans. For those endorsing math this election season, the Congressional Budget Office illustrates that Obama inherited a deficit of 1.2 trillion in 2008 and ended fiscal year 2012 on a familiar number of, notice, 1.2 trillion. As for the unemployment rate, August’s figure only measured about 12.5 million Americans, half of what Romney espoused on stage. Granted, this isn’t quite a favorable estimate in an economy still slumping forward, but at least it’s not a lie.
Evidently, then, Romney’s prime tactic is still a barrage of negativity against his opponent. The emptiness of this approach, both in facts and new material, inevitably recycles cobwebbed statements and turns them into propaganda of mouth. Sometimes, it’s even a scare tactic. Take Obamacare’s healthcare payment board: it assesses savings strategies for Medicare. On Wednesday, Romney falsified its rep as a panel of treatment-dictating medicine mongers (again). Yet, however many times he reiterates this, the more ridiculous it becomes. And the more the candidate claims this, the more it enflames him as unreliable. It’s a flood of passionate babble filling the heads of gullible viewers. Ultimately, we don’t need both audiences and Mitt Romney truly believing what he says.
Have I exceeded my time limit? My apologies, Jim Lehrer hasn’t stopped me. But, if we are to make any conclusions about Wednesday’s debate, it’s that Romney too can form assertive opinions. The catch is that on many occasions, they’re raining down from a high horse with no ties to logical ground below. There’s little evidence; there’s even less elaboration to fill in the credibility gap. If that’s what news networks prefer to slap the winner label on, then they’re just as factually mistaken as Romney’s debate performance.
Not to mention that when you plan on cutting Big Bird from the federal budget, you can expect national egg on your face.