Monday, May 21, 2012

Lies, Damn Lies, and Distractions

“Do not swallow bait offered by the enemy.”
—Sun Tzu, The Art of War

This one’s for all the birthers, anti-gay marriage zealots, and neo-Nazi conspiracy theorists out there:

Stop it.

For the last two weeks there has been much hand-wringing over the whole gay marriage thing.  In fairness, that was more fueled by the Left falling all over itself with joy over Obama’s coming out, er, announcement of his support than it has been from the Right, but I see last Friday even Charles Krauthammer was still perpetuating the narrative.  Meanwhile, Breitbart, RedState, and Drudge are all aflutter over new evidence of Obama and his surrogates spending decades claiming he was actually born in Kenya, and although he claimed he was only pointing out that Obama has lied in the past when it was to his advantage to be thought of as an exotic foreigner, Hannity spent all afternoon Friday on the subject.  It’s also been brought to my attention that there are stories making the rounds on the internet about Obama preparing a Nazi-style Reichstag fire event—supposedly involving a staged assassination attempt that will be blamed on white supremacists and instigate widespread black rioting—that will enable him to institute martial law and postpone the election.

Gay marriage.  Kenya.  Reichstag.  Let’s take a deep breath and get ahold of ourselves. 

Look, I don’t like Obama any more than you do, and we can all agree that getting him out of office is jobs 1, 2, and 3.  But even if you’re right that he’s a gay-loving Kenyan neo-Nazi, this isn’t helping.

In baseball pitchers with a 0 ball, 2 strike count often throw a pitch or two in the dirt.  The idea is he loses nothing by doing so, and he may be able to entice the batter to offer at a pitch he can’t hit, thus gaining a cheap out when the hitter either misses it completely, or taps it weakly to a defender.  In other words, the pitcher is trying to advance his position while avoiding the risk of a direct confrontation in the substantive field of play.

We see the same tactic any number of places.  Magicians use “misdirection” to get you to look at an irrelevant show move and thus miss the key move in the sleight of hand.  Boxers feint” to get you to defend a false attack in one area, thus exposing yourself to the real one in another.  Mystery writers use “red herring” clues to hide the real ones.  In every instance the idea is the same: to get you to miss what’s important by focusing your attention on what isn’t.  As with the pitch in the dirt, they're trying to sucker you into going somewhere other than where you should.

That’s what we let Obama do if we go after these issues.  If you’re talking about his birth certificate, or the Reichstag, or gays, he’s got you right where he wants you.  Not that he’s up 0-2 on us, but his home field advantage is in irrelevant non-issues like birth certificates, marriage licenses, and conspiracy theories.  In that way, he avoids substantive scrutiny of his actual record in office.

But here's what I want you to understand:  even if you’re right about all these things about Obama, we’re not going to get him out of office on these issues.  We're just not.  

Anyone for whom gay marriage is a deciding issue—whether for it or agin it—is already committed to one camp or the other.  If Obama is planning a Reichstag event, there’s no real way to stop it, and once it happens, the groundwork has already been laid to expose it for the BS that it is.  I agree he shows dictator-like tendencies, but it isn’t necessary to equate him with the greatest mass-murderer (or second, depending on how you come down on Stalin's numbers) in history in order to make the point.  And it doesn’t matter whether Obama was born in Kenya—I don’t buy that anyway—because even if you’re right you’re never going to convince enough people of that for it to make a difference.  Independent voters in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Michigan, and Pennsylvania—the people who will actually decide the election—don’t believe Obama was born in Kenya, and they don’t care. 

We’re not going to gain any traction by focusing on these things.  What we are doing is distracting from the real issues that matter and can actually turn the election:

1.  It’s the economy, Stupid.  Even the gerrymandered “official” unemployment rate remains above 8%, and the reality is that 22.5 million Americans—14.5%—are out of work, underemployed, or have simply given up.  Net job creation during the Obama administration has been zero.  More than half of all college graduates can’t find work.  Every breath we spend howling at the Kenyan moon is one we could have used to repeat this message.

2.  It’s the deficit/debt, Stupid.  Candidate Barack Obama chastised President Bush for being “irresponsible’ and “unpatriotic” to have accumulated $4 trillion in debt during his eight years in office.  Obama exceeded that figure in less than three.  Our total debt is north of $15.5 trillion—more than 100% of GDP—and climbing with no end in sight.  And even still he met over the weekend with European leaders to urge them to forego austerity in favor of continuing to join him in an unending orgy of governments spending money they do not have.  Yet Obama’s last two proposed budgets were so out of control that they failed to garner a single vote in either house.  That’s right, Obama’s last two budget proposals have failed in Congress by a combined 196-0 vote.  Even Democrats get this.  Surely it will resonate with Independents better than gay marriage.

3.  It’s national security, Stupid.  Obama can disingenuously claim personal credit for killing Osama bin Laden all he wants.  Everyone but the most die-hard of his sycophants sees through that.  The plain fact is his combination of naivete, anti-American apologism, and global conglomerate worldview is decidedly undermining our security.  His open-mic gaffe with outgoing Russian President Medvedev spoke volumes, as he all but promised to cave in on Russian demands concerning our European missile defense systems.  What else has he promised off-mic to give away in a second term that we just don’t know about yet?  Meanwhile, knowing it will see nothing more than empty finger-wagging from our spineless and impotent commander-in-chief, Iran has plodded doggedly ahead with its nuclear program.  We are likely 18 months or less away from a serious military crisis in the Middle East that could have been avoided with a more decisive peace-through-strength policy; this is far more realistic and dangerous than the prospect of a Reichstag event to cancel elections for the first time in our 223 year history.

4.  It’s the Constitution, Stupid.  If Obama is, as he claims, a former constitutional law professor, he has a funny way of showing it.  His administration is about to lose in the Supreme Court in its challenge to Arizona’s border defense law, and apparently lose big.  All indicators are that he’s likely to lose on the constitutionality of Obamacare, his signature achievement.  The administration lost in trying to enforce the Clean Water Act to stop private landowners from building a home on their own land.  The administration lost twice in federal court on its self-declared moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico following the BP Macondo fire.  And his personal record disregard for the boundaries set by the Constitution on the powers of his office is lengthy and well-documented.  This is a bigger deal and an easier sale than birth certificates and conspiracies.

These are the issues—not gays, or Kenya, or Nazi flashbacks—that will make a difference with the voters who will actually decide the election.  Not only is focusing on irrelevancies distracting from the real game-changing matters, it also gives Obama the necessary ammunition to cast the election dynamic as a choice between rational moderate adults on the one hand, and extreme, racist, bigoted, fanatical nutjobs on the other.  If Independents in swing states see this as the choice they face, they’ll vote Obama every day of the week and twice on Sunday (which, coincidentally, is how often Obama’s supporters will vote for him, too).  We have to resist the temptation to take that bait, and keep this election narrative focused on the substantive issues that not only matter, but that will make a difference.

Hall-of-Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry, famous for his use of the illegal spitball (actually his lube of choice was K-Y, but who wants to throw a "K-Y ball"?), says he got a lot more mileage out of people worrying about him throwing spitballs than he ever did out of actually throwing them. 

Let’s try to keep our eye on the ball, people.

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