If Romney's Losing, Why Do the Media Act Like He's Already the President?


At Breitbart.com, Joel B. Pollak makes a powerful case that the media have "treated [Republican presidential candidate Mitt] Romney as the incumbent," in the process overlooking any responsibility President Obama may have for the current state of the country. 

Some of Pollak's claims are pretty dubious. Unless spending more on Medicare somehow saves us money, it's hard to see how Romney "took on the entitlements crisis head-on." Ditto the howler that Romney has a "practical plan for the housing crisis," given that Romney is not proposing that the government stop printing/spending money, leave deadbeats to get out of their borrowed homes and allow real estate values to continue the long-overdue decline that began in 2006 and needs to continue. (The word is practical, not practicable.) And come on: Romney "set aside time to visit victims of Hurricane Isaac"? If anything we need presidents who will do a lot less of that stuff. 

Still, his media critique is on target: 

Romney's so-called "gaffes" have one thing in common: they are all statements of fact. He is being held to a presidential standard–for presidents should know better than to tell all–while Obama's outright lies to the nation (on Libya, the debt, etc.) are ignored by the media.

Obama's failures as the actual incumbent are also passed over–or spun into positives. We reached 2,000 dead in Afghanistan? Hey, Obama "ended the war." Unemployment still above 8 percent? Oh, that jobs report was "better than expected." We were attacked by Al Qaeda on 9/11, and Obama lied about it? Don't worry, "bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive." Growth down to 1.3%? Say–"No one could have done it better." 

That last canard came to us courtesy of former President Bill Clinton, who returned to the political scene to disown his own political legacy after Obama had spent the past four years destroying it, and his entire political career fighting it. The expansion of the welfare state, the proliferation of opaque regulations, and the explosion of debt were all things Clinton resisted. No longer–not when 2016 may be a new opportunity for Hillary.

Romney is also the incumbent in a cultural sense–he is the old, rich, white guy that 45 years of higher education and Hollywood have inveighed against. He has a stake in the system and values that two successive generations of elites have been taught to hate. And so an election that ought to have been a referendum on Obama, and which Obama hoped to turn into a choice between him and Romney, is now a referendum on Romney alone. 

I am unyielding in my belief that this election pits Obama against Obama Jr. Given the chance to run against a president whose most lasting offense against the country was signing a mandatory health insurance law, the Republicans chose to run the inventor of mandatory health insurance. It's like an old Syrian election, where the obvious lack of a choice is the point of the election, where the real goal is to show that power can force the citizens not just to accept preposterousness but to cheer for it. 

"A loss for Romney means Obamacare is forever," Pollak warns, neglecting to say what a win for Romney would mean along that line. His description of what a second Obama term will ratify is mostly depressing: "A Romney loss also means America will have accepted persistent high unemployment and slow growth as the new normal, creating a lost generation and destroying both our entitlement system and our future prosperity." 

That's true, and it sucks. But what really sucks is that the Republican option is Mitt Romney. Certainly the media have been relentless in their anti-Romney carping and their extraordinary deference to Obama's gang that can't shoot (or talk, or send email) straight. That just proves that in addition to being biased, reporters are dumb enough to think there's something at stake in this election.