Storm Sandy just may have blown Obama back in the White House. His charitable impulses running riot at this stage in the campaign, the president visited an emergency shelter in submerged Atlantic City and said all the right things.
‘You guys are in my thoughts and prayers,’ stated Obama, without specifying the confessional provenance of said supplications. ‘We are going to be here for the long haul.’
What more would the newly homeless, or indeed the electorate at large, need? A little show of sympathy, and suddenly Obama looks presidential. Looking is of course more important than being in the virtual reality of all modern democracies, and in America especially.
Even New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie, who usually feels about Obama the way a lamppost feels about dogs, was effusive. He and the president had a ‘great working relationship’, presumably meaning they toured New Jersey together without trying to push one another out of the car. ‘I cannot thank the president enough for his personal concern and compassion for the people of our state,’ said Mr Christie, who harbours his own presidential ambitions.
Obama’s lead in the swing states of Ohio and Iowa instantly widened to five percent, which probably means his re-election is in the bag. Never mind the economy, feel the compassion.
It is of course the state of the economy that’s supposed to decide US elections, but in order to do so it must be communicated to the electorate truthfully. Most Americans can’t be bothered to peruse long-term trends, indices and indicators – they expect the media, especially the three major TV networks, to do it for them and tell them what’s what.
Now these organisations lean so far to the left it’s amazing they still haven’t toppled over. Compared to CBS, NBC and ABC, our own ghastly BBC is a paragon of objectivity and even-handedness. For example, at the time Ronald Reagan was winning by a landslide, about 98 percent of the networks’ staff voted Democratic, what with Communist Party USA not being an option on offer. So naturally Obama, the leftmost president in history, is their boy.
This is not to say they’re lying about the dire state of the US economy. They would if they could, but alas there are regulations against that sort of thing. Instead they deceive – by omission, spurious analysis and general tone of benevolence towards their ideological comrade.
It is, for example, instructive to compare how the networks are covering the economy now and how they did so at exactly the same point in 2004, when George ‘Yo Blair’ Bush was fighting his re-election campaign.
In September, 2004, the US economy wasn’t doing well, and the federal debt stood at $7.4 trillion, making one wonder exactly how Americans define fiscal conservatism. In this, old Dubya followed the path charted by his ‘conservative’ predecessor Reagan, under whom the debt had tripled. Still, at the end of Bush’s first term the economy boasted a growth rate of 3.3 percent, an unemployment rate of just 5.4 percent and petrol prices at a manageable $1.82.
Such indicators are a cause for commiseration but, compared to Obama’s dismal performance, they are grounds for jubilation. At exactly the same point in the current campaign, US unemployment stands at 8.1 percent, almost 3 percent higher than under Bush. Economic growth is at 1.3 percent and going down. Petrol costs $3.84 a gallon, almost $2 dollars higher. And the federal debt has more than doubled to $16 trillion.
Yet, while in 2004 the networks depicted the economy in apocalyptic terms, today they either hush up or downplay its plight. Then an NBC commentator was saying ‘I really think Bush has ruined the economy. We’ve lost so many jobs, and I haven’t seen him do anything to really fix it.’ More than 25 million Americans are looking for work now, but this is either ignored or described as a sort of natural disaster, on a par with Sandy.
Meanwhile ABC’s George Stephanopoulos let White House adviser David Plouffe get away with bragging that the administration had ‘cut over $3 trillion in spending’. Such a drastic cut would hardly explain a federal debt ballooning to $16 trillion unless we remember that Obama hasn’t really cut anything by $3 billion. He merely proposed such a cut in his budget, knowing full well that it would never in a million years get through either House, where not just all Republicans but even most Democrats oppose it. The cut, in other words, represents political cynicism, not fiscal prudence.
To be fair, these desperate whitewashing efforts are matched by our own leftwing press, which category now lamentably includes The Times. According to today’s issue, Obama ‘deserves a second term’, and his compassion tour of New Jersey ‘rose above politics’. Any unbiased observer would know that, on his economic and overall performance, all that Obama deserves is to be run out of town. And as to his cheap political stunt, it falls not so much into the ultra range above politics as into the infra range below it.
None of this is to suggest that Romney would make a better president. He could conceivably be the lesser evil, but an evil nevertheless. Yet one almost wishes he could pull off a miracle and get elected – if only to spite the rancid alphabet soup of American TV networks.