Bob Franken

King Features Column

(Same preface: This shows up here a week after newspaper release because the syndication deal says so)

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About winning presidential elections: It doesn’t happen. They are lost, not won. One side or the other puts up such a stiff that the other candidate waltzes into the White House. The overglorified campaign professionals don’t like to hear that because it threatens their golden goose, but after decades of covering this stuff, I consider that conclusion inescapable.
Proof? How about John McCain and Sarah Palin? We have made a lot about the historic significance of Barack Obama’s victory, as well as the media lovefest he enjoyed, but by this reckoning, the greatest factor was the stumblebum opponent he had in McCain — actually, two of them when you count Palin.
In case those two don’t seal the argument, let’s look at nonpresidents John Kerry and Al Gore, or one-timer George Bush the elder, who came across AS so out of touch that he blew his race for a second term. the was only elected the first time around because the Democrats decided to forfeit by nominating Michael “Tank Helmet” Dukakis.
Again, both sides are fielding candidates with major weaknesses. President Obama has the dreary economy, to say nothing of his inability to roll over dug-in enemies, which calls into question his leadership. And Mitt Romney has, well, Mitt Romney. 
Every time he opens his mouth without a script, he shows himself to be so tone-deaf that his rendition of “America the Beautiful” sounds like a virtuoso performance by comparison. Now he’s blaming the media, the self-pitying GOP default position. Relations with reporters have gotten so sour that a top press aide told one of them to “kiss my a**” (otherwise known as “kiss my asterisk”) and another one to “shove it.”
It was just the profane exclamation point at the end of a week in which the boss seemed hellbent on offending as many people as possible. His comments about London and the Olympics unleashed such a torrent of snarkiness that it was Romney who had to maintain the stiff upper lip. Same for his stop in Jerusalem, where he volunteered a mind bogging,y offensive comment  about the superior “culture” of Israelis compared with the far less prosperous Palestinians. The world gasped at the revealing combination of insensitivity, misplaced values, outright racism and total disregard for the realities on the ground. 

One would think that the journey to re-election would be a cakewalk for Mr. Obama, but he keeps throwing a pie in his own face with his awkward rhetoric. When he spoke at a recent fundraiser, for instance, he went through a convoluted explanation of his robust government approach to the economy compared with the GOP’s insistence on unraveling the social safety net combined with even lower taxes for the wealthy. He concluded the ramble by saying “We tried our plan, and it worked. That’s the difference. That’s the choice in this election. That’s why I’m running for a second term.”
As sportscaster Keith Jackson used to shout, “Whoooaaa Nelly!” It “WORKED”!? How about 8 percent unemployment? That one sentence begat a barrage of anti-Obama ads. Granted, the line was taken out of context, but both sides do that, and candidate Obama should know better, certainly after suffering the same fate a week earlier. In that case, it was a Virginia speech in which he was making the obvious point that even the most successful, innovative entrepreneur in this country relies on public services. “If you’ve got a business,” he declared, “you didn’t build that. Somebody else made it.”
By now, you’ve seen the artless snippet on GOP ads ad nauseum. It begs the question: Is Obama that careless, or does he somehow think he’s immune? Whatever,  Polls show he’s only tied with a clumsy self-parody, someone he should be hammering. Both are apparently competing to lose. And the real losers are us.

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