Obama came out fighting this time and the debate was a slug fest. The media folk who for the past week had been telling us that undecided voters were dismayed by Obama’s lackluster performance in the first debate, now tell us those same voters are worried about the nasty alpha-male behavior of the candidates. Frankly, we’re getting tired of being told what voters are thinking. About half favor Obama and about half favor Romney. We think we’ve got that right. And then there are the undecided voters. We think those famous undecided voters must be stupid or willfully ignorant. Can’t they tell the difference between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama? Maybe the undecided can tell the difference but can’t make a choice. In either case, we suggest they stay home and not to go the polls on election day. And, yes, we’re feeling grumpy.
As for the consequences of this second debate — Yes, Barack Obama showed there’s still fight in him, that he wants the job, that he’s still “presidential.” Mitt Romney had done a remarkable job of establishing himself as a plausible president in the first debate, and he wasn’t knocked down in this one. But you knew all that already. Other democracies have electoral campaigns that last a few months. You’re probably getting tired of this everlasting presidential contest and scandalized by the billions being spent on advertising. So are we. Let’s talk about the painting above this post.
The painting above is Stag at Sharkey’s by George Bellows. Bellows was a member of the “Ashcan School,” a group of eight painters who painted realistic scenes of urban life, focusing especially on the poor. Stag at Sharkey’s was painted in 1909 when boxing in New York was tolerated but not quite legal – nicely suggested by the black background and the darkness surrounding the starkly illuminated fighters. Bellows also made a lithograph of this same scene, and in that work musculature of the boxers is clear and correct, whereas in this painting the bodies are represented by raw slabs of paint with only a minimal attempt at anatomical accuracy. But that rawness, our visual recognition that the paint has been slapped and smeared violently onto the canvas, gives the painting the stunning immediacy and violence of the fight itself. Of course, George Bellows didn’t violently smear the canvas with paint — he merely made it look that way. You’ll also notice the dynamic imbalance of the boxers stance is made visually stable by the depiction of the referee, the three figures combining to make a solid pyramidal structure. Boxing in New York gained legal status and a firm set of rules in 1920 with the Walker Law which established an athletic commission to oversee the sport and to regulate the boxing matches.
The first debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is now history. For liberals – or, for that matter, lovers of common sense – it wasn’t a pretty sight. The governor was at ease and vigorous, he spoke fluently and insisted on delivering his message; the president appeared withdrawn and at times even passive, he often spoke hesitantly, and when he answered an attack from Romney – and it was Romney who had the air of a man moving swiftly forward – his answers were often fragmentary and allusive. In a strange way, he even looked smaller, thinner, a man of less weight.
Romney was the man asserting his view of things and his smartly delivered assertions carried the day. Consider their disagreement on taxes. Romney announced that he wasn’t going to raise takes on anybody (on the contrary: he would cut individual income tax rates by 20 percent) and that his tax plan wouldn’t add to the deficit. Obama wants to raise taxes on the wealthy so they would be paying about as much as they did during the Clinton years. Obama said that Romney’s tax plan was a 5 trillion dollar tax cut which would either enlarge the national debt or, on the other hand, require an increase in taxes on the middle class.
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Mitt Romney has complained, rightly, about being quoted out of context, of having what he said twisted around so it comes out wholly different from what his words actually meant. Romney has forgotten that just a few weeks ago he quite carefully took Obama’s words out of context and twisted them around in order to misquote the President.
In this most recent incident, Romney’s Republican opponents jumped on him for having said, “I like being able to fire people.” What he said was in answer to a question on health care, and he replied that he liked the option of choosing among competing health insurance companies. “I want individuals to have their own insurance. That means the insurance company will have an incentive to keep you healthy. It also means that if you don’t like what they do, you can fire them,” Romney said. “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.
Of course, when Romeny distorted Obama’s words it was for the high-minded purpose of making a political point — at least that was the excuse offered by his campaign office. Romney’s ad uses an audio of Obama campaigning in New Hampshire in 2008, Obama’s voice saying, “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” In actual fact, in that 2008 speech it’s clear that Obama is quoting an aide to his opponent, Senator McCain. But in the 2011 ad, Romney makes the listener believe that it’s Obama who doesn’t want to discuss the economy. [Critical Pages has a post on that event.]
In a curiously base and twisted way, Romney struck back at his Republican opponents’ out-of-context attack by blaming President Obama. Complaining to reporters that his words had been taken out of context, Romney said, “Things can always be taken out of context, and I understand that’s what the Obama people will do.”
Romney has already launched his first television ad against the President and — good grief! As has been pointed out by Democrats and Independents and anyone who cares, the ad distorts what Obama actually said. What’s even more astonishing, Romney’s Republican confederates agree it’s a lie. They say they want it that way.
The ad uses an audio of Obama campaigning in New Hampshire in 2008, his voice saying, “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” In actual fact, in that 2008 speech it’s clear that Obama is quoting an aide to his opponent, Senator McCain. But in the 2011 ad, Romney makes the listener believe that it’s Obama who doesn’t want to discuss the economy.
Romney’s people distributed a press release admitting that the words are not Obama’s and Romney himself, in Des Moines, proudly told reporters, “There was no hidden effort on the part of our campaign. It was instead to point out that what’s sauce for the goose is now sauce for the gander,” By no hidden effort Romney apparently means that since his press release admits the distortion, there’s no hidden effort to deceive.
Having attempted to fool the public once, with the deceptive ad, his campaign now tries to fool the public a second time by saying they’re not trying to deceive.
“It was instead to point out that what’s sauce for the goose is now sauce for the gander.” That old expression is another way of saying that what’s fair for one person is fair for the other. How in the world does that apply here? Obama wasn’t putting words into McCain’s mouth. Romney is. His run for the presidency should be quite a spectacle
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Gene Mirabelli writes most of the posts here, so we're very pleased to announce that his recent novel, Renato, the Painter, has won a first prize for Literary Fiction in the 2013 Independent Publisher (IP or "IPPY") Book awards.
The Awards program was created to highlight the year’s most distinguished books from independent publishers. Award winners are chosen by librarians and booksellers who are on the front lines, working everyday with patrons and customers. Some 125 books competed for the literary fiction Gold Medal. These books are examples of independent publishing at its finest.
Publishers Weekly says "In prose as lusty and vigorous as Renato himself, Mirabelli captures the feeling of coming to terms - ready or not - with old age." For more about the writer and his book, turn to our contact page or to the author's web site.
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