Andrew Sullivan, as you probably know by now, is very upset about the president throwing the election at last week’s debate. As Scott Shackford pointed out yesterday, Sullivan responded to criticism of his analysis of what he rightly described as a “devastating” Pew research poll by noting that while he was an Obama supporter, he wasn’t on the Obama campaign team and wouldn’t spin for anyone.
Andrew Sullivan is horrified because the polls show Mitt Romney might become president, and that, he says, would mean “reality-based government is over in this country again. We’re back to Bush-Cheney, but more extreme.” He ends his piece by warning "much more than Obama’s vanity is at stake.”
But the claim that President Obama leads a “reality-based government” any more than George Bush did or Romney might is rather spurious.
Just yesterday, the State Department acknowledged there were no protests prior to the terrorist attacks on the consulate in Benghazi. Yet the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations described the incident as a “spontaneous protest” the weekend after the attack. She denies making misleading statements because they were based on the best information available at the time. Signs that the assault was not spontaneous, of course, emerged within days. For two weeks, the president and other government officials went about a campaign linking the protests at and attacks on embassies in the region to simple furor over an anti-Islamic film, culminating in a speech at the U.N. where the president both defended free speech and condemned some of its purveyors. Reality?
Yet at the same time, the president adopted much of the Bush strategy on counter-terrorism. Is torture any less connected to reality than extrajudicial killing? Is a military commission more divorced from reality than a due process consisting of conversations?
Not to mention government healthcare reform that included the penalty that wasn’t a tax before it was that had to be passed in order to be understood that America’s still trying to understand, or the drug war that isn’t or might not be or any of a number of false policy positions still attributed to the president by supporters.
Politicians will keep lying as long as we don’t punish them, Jack Shafer explains in a Reuters column. And failed policies will be what’s on offer as long as partisanship and fear and compromised principles drive the political process. Politicians will keep operating in fantasy lands as long as voters and supporters do, too.