By Bob Cesca: It happened for the first time today. The thought occurred to me that President Obama could lose in November. I was watching Paul Krugman's appearance on This Week, and the disconnect between what is true and what is fantasy -- dreamed up by the Romney campaign and the Republicans -- is massive enough that Romney could slip through the breach.
I enumerated a long list of positive economic indicators here yesterday, but I don't get the sense that it matters much from a thousand feet. In other words, the economy is growing slowly enough, the unemployment rate is just high enough and the (inconsequential -- for now) deficit is large enough that a campaign as cynical as Romney's can get away with all varieties of lies and misleading claims.
The inability of the press to adequately debunk these claims opens that breach even further.
And what can the president do about it? What are his options? Certainly it's impossible for him to say the economy isn't strong enough and needs more of a kick in the ass to get it moving. It would be a political blunder of epic proportions. The president would be featured in every Romney ad lamenting the weak economy. He also can't pass any new spending programs to create the aforementioned ass-kicking. The congressional Republicans won't let him. They won't pass any new spending he's requesting, while simultaneously blaming him for not doing anything about jobs. Meanwhile, they held the world hostage by refusing to increase the debt limit, forcing the president to cut spending far beyond what should ever have been done in a slower-than-usual economy. The sabotage strategy.
The reason the economy hasn't totally back-slid is because of the success of the president's pre-midterm policies.
It doesn't matter, though. The successes, regardless of whether they're weak successes or wildly powerful ones are, sadly, irrelevant.
When Karl Rove famous said he's building a non-reality based empire way back in 2004, that's precisely what he's done.
"That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
It worked for years. It gave us sideshows like Birthers and Teleprompters and the notion that President Obama, an African American man who was raised by a single mother and his grandparents and who worked his way up from nothing to become president, is somehow a man of privilege and celebrity. It's also given us the reign of Fox News Channel and the Mitt Romney campaign, both of which are based on twisting voter/viewer perceptions and injecting the opposite of that which is true.
One thing we've learned from Mad Men is that Americans will buy whatever they're told to buy, no matter how dangerous or artificial. Taco Bell just reported that they've sold 100 million Doritos tacos. Only 15 percent of Americans agree with evolution science, while the rest either believe Creationism or Intelligent Design. So-called "reality shows" are almost as scripted as regular shows. And President Obama is running around spending money like an escaped mental patient who picked up a pillow case full of cash on the median strip of a highway. While that fakery is being pumped into your gourd, he's another lie about Romney's plan to reduce the deficit (it won't) and stimulate more economic growth (it won't). And by the way, aren't you tired of all the drama and weirdness and racial talk that's accompanied this black president experiment? Let's go with someone who looks like a creepy CGI president from a crappy Robert Zemeckis movie. He "looks" like the presidents you remember from the good ol' days -- what could possibly go wrong?
I'm not generally this pessimistic about the American voter. After all, they elected Barack Obama in 2008 -- winning states like Indiana and North Carolina. They can't all be ignorant easily-led automatons. But let's face it, Americans are suckers for the Big Lie. If it's on TV or plunked into their email in-box, it must be true. We're jittery and impatient at a time when calm and patience is required otherwise people like Mitt Romney and John Boehner will feed us more deregulatory Reaganomics and bubble economies and, consequently, beg many more deep recessions with no options to repair them. (Imagine trying to pass a stimulus or, worse, another bank bailout after Mitt Romney's tax cut plan adds $5 trillion to the deficit.)
So if you're thinking about becoming complacent about this election, take another look at what's going on. There's much to be done between now and November in order to sufficiently counterbalance the suckers.