Dick Cheney says he worries that terrorists could kill him by hacking into his artificial heart, which can be controlled via a wireless Internet connection.
Conventional Wisdom Is Wrong. It’s Romney’s To Lose.
Catching Barack Obama in a rare moment of candor, an open mic found the president confiding to his Russian counterpart that he expects to win this fall. “This is my last election,” he told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
Last, yes. But I wouldn’t bet on Obama winning.
The corporate pundit class has largely conceded the general election to Obama, already looking ahead to 2016. The mainstreamers have their reasons. Their analysis is based on good, solid, reasonable (inside the box) logic. All things considered, however, I would (and have) put my money on Mitt Romney this fall.
This isn’t wishful thinking. I voted for Obama last time and wanted him to succeed. He failed. His accomplishments have been few and have amounted to sellouts to the right. Even so, the prospect of watching Mitt Romney move into the White House fills me with as much joy as an appointment for a colonoscopy. And I think he’s going to win.
For me, the D vs. R horserace is a parlor game with minor ramifications for our daily lives. Whichever corporate party wins, unemployment and underemployment will continue to worsen, income disparity will widen, and most of our taxes will fund the worst approach to international affairs since a former Austrian corporal blew out his brains out in a bunker under Berlin.
Thanks to the Occupy movement, real politics is back where it belongs—in the streets. That’s what I’ll be watching and working. With a lot of luck (and even more pepper spray) this will be a year of revolution rather than more electoral devolution.
Revolution is inevitable. But we don’t know when it’s coming. So the 2012 campaign may still matter. Besides, handicapping elections is a game I enjoy and am good at. During 17 years of syndication my pick to win has only lost once (for the 2004 Democratic nomination). So, on the off chance that you’re one of those who still cares about our husk of a democracy, who hangs on every meaningless development of a political process devoid of politics—or you’re just a betting person, here’s my thinking.
Barring an assassination or a scandal, Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee.
Obama currently leads Romney by about four to five points. But that’s not nearly enough of a lead to carry him to November. History shows that Republican nominees steadily increase in popularity throughout the summer and fall of an election year.
In April 2004, for example, John Kerry led George W. Bush by eight points. But Swift Boating erased that lead, and then some.
In order to win, a successful Democratic nominee has to begin with a big margin. That early lead must be large enough to wind up in the black, after months of being whittled away, when the votes get counted in November. I can’t see Obama pulling far enough ahead soon.
Incumbency is a huge advantage. If the election were held tomorrow, Obama would prevail. But the election is not being held tomorrow. It’s being held in November.
By the time they head to the polls this fall, voters’ brains will be drowning in months of hundreds of millions of dollars of slick, demographically targeted, pro-Romney attack ads. Republican campaigns are more effective at this sort of thing, and as Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum can attest, Romney’s consultants pull no punches. Obama’s current lead will be a faded memory.
Every political campaign comes down to a contest of narratives. In 2008 Obama developed an effective sales pitch: Hope and Change for a nation exhausted by eight years of Bush, 9/11, war, taking off your shoes at the airport, and a full-fledged global economic crisis to boot. Obama’s advisers turned his biggest weaknesses—his inexperience, race, unusual name and foreign background—into assets. Here was a new kind of president. Just the guy to lead us out of the Bad Old Days into something better. McCain-Palin’s narrative—a cranky old ex-POW paired with a zany housewife-gone-wild—didn’t stand a chance.
This year the narratives favor Romney.
Romney is already pointing to the biggest issue on people’s minds, the economy, and claiming that his background as a turnaround artist qualifies him to fix what ails us. His prescriptions are Republican boilerplate, vague and counterproductive, but at least he’s doing something Obama hasn’t—talking a lot about creating jobs. Voters prefer useless attentiveness to calm, steady golfing (Obama’s approach). And—despite its illogic—they like the run-government-like-a-business narrative (c.f. Ross Perot, the Bushes).
Obama is boxed in by three-plus years of inaction on, well, pretty much everything. He’ll argue that he’ll be able to “finish the job” during a second term, but that’s a tough sell when you haven’t tried to start the job—in 2009, when Democrats had huge majorities in both houses of Congress. His single signature accomplishment, healthcare reform, is disliked by two-thirds of the electorate. The recent “good news” on the economy has been either insignificant (net positive job creation of 100,000 per month for two months, less than one-tenth of one percent of the 25 million jobs needed) or falsified (discouraged workers no longer counted as unemployed).
Despite what Obama tells them, Americans know things are still getting worse. Similarly, Obama’s recent, feeble, impotent rhetorical attempts to shore up his support among his Democratic Party’s disappointed liberal base will probably not generate enough enthusiasm to counter other factors that favor Romney.
You can’t vote for the first African-American president twice. Unless he picks a woman as vice president, a vote for Obama will be a vote for the same-old, same-old. The history-making thrill is gone.
At this writing the Republican Party appears to be in disarray. No doubt, Romney is emerging from the primaries battered and bruised. His awkward and demented soundbite stylings (“corporations are people,” “the trees are the right height”) will provide fodder for countless YouTube parodies. But Romney hasn’t been damaged as much as the official political class seems to think.
Republicans are a remarkably loyal bunch. United by their many hatreds (liberals, blacks, gays, poor people, Mexicans, Muslims, foreigners, etc.), they will set aside their comparatively low simmer of anti-Mormon bigotry this fall. Picking a standard-issue white Anglo Christianist thug as veep will cinch the deal.
The GOP enjoys a huge fundraising advantage, especially via the new-fangled SuperPACs. Romney has raised $74 million against $151 million for Obama, but look for that ratio to flip after he locks up the nomination. Cue those vicious, potent ads mentioned above.
About the only major factor working for Obama is the presidential debates. Romney doesn’t stand a chance against the cool, articulate Obama.
Of course, it’s a long way to November. A lot can happen. It’s very possible for Obama to win. But that’s not how it looks now.
(Ted Rall’s next book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt,” out May 22. His website is tedrall.com.)
Confessions of a Phony American Peace Negotiator
For much of the year now drawing to a close, U.S. and NATO bigwigs conducted secret peace talks with Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the #2 Taliban official. They paid him tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of dollars to show good will. NATO planes delivered him to the presidential palace in Kabul, where he met with Hamid Karzai.
“But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all,” reports The New York Times. The phony Mansour, Afghan intelligence agents say, was actually “a shopkeeper from the Pakistani city of Quetta” who looked nothing like the real guy.
You can’t sugarcoat this debacle. L’affair Mansour instantly transformed the United States, previously reviled as the world’s most brutish bully, into an intergalactic laughingstock.
Yes, our government and military are headed by dumb-as-rocks hillbillies. But the Taliban can be fooled too—as I learned during my own top secret mission deep in the deepest valleys between the highest mountains of the Hindu Kush.
I found myself short of cash while traveling in Afghanistan in August. So I devised an ingenious scheme. Call it Operation Turnabout: Why not present myself to the Taliban as a high-ranking American official eager to end the war? It could be fun. It could be lucrative. And who knows? If they fell for it, I’d be up for the Nobel Peace Prize!
Finding Talibs didn’t take long. I walked up to two guys planting an IED. Or they were stoning some chick. I don’t remember. Anyway, it isn’t important.
“Salaam,” I greeted them. “I am American Vice President Joe Biden. Take me forthwith to your leader, Mullah Omar, he of one eye, and see that you are quick about it.”
The rogues chucked me into the back of their Toyota Landcruiser, wrapped in duct tape. Off we went. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear they hit every pothole on purpose.
Eventually, we stopped. They ripped the tape off my face. “American dog!” they cried in unison. “Time for dinner!” A kebab vendor glared at me from the side of the road. As did the goat head on the grill.
My animal cunning was too much for the two undereducated brutes. “Alas, my good fellows,” I replied, “my White House Amex card is not accepted by yon locals. Might I ‘borrow’ some money? You know—as good faith?”
Soon I was 17 afghanis richer. My plan was working!
A day or two later, my bound form was carried into an empty poured-concrete room in a complex somewhere in The Remote Tribal Areas Along the Border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and dumped on the floor. A bearded man with an eye patch walked in.
“I am Mullah Mohammed Omar, Head of the Supreme Council and Commander of the Faithful of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” he said.
“Hi there,” I said. “I am American Vice President Joe Biden of America.”
“How do I know you are who you say you are?” he asked.
“Ask me anything,” I challenged. “The combination to the safe where the Oval Office porn collection is kept. Vladimir Putin’s cell number. I can even identify most of the American states.”
“Of course you can,” he said. “But you could say anything. We have no way to check it out. The United States is a distant, remote country. Its leaders have never been seen in public, certainly not by Afghans. We don’t even know if there is a ‘Joe Biden.'”
“We must trust one another,” I purred, “if there is to be peace.”
I had him there. He chuckled. “Yes,” he said.
“Of course, travel between my country and yours is very expensive,” I pointed out. “As you may have heard, we Americans have spent all our money on bonuses for bank CEOs and hedge fund managers. So, if our quest for peace is to have a future, you must front me some cash.”
Sated with watery tea and partly-cooked goat parts, I headed for the Peshawar bus terminal. Where I reserved two full seats in coach. So I could ride, legs spread. American style.
Before long the media reported that the Taliban was conducting secret peace negotiations with “a high-ranking U.S. official.” Naturally, the Americans denied the leaks. President Obama spat: “The cunning enemy is trying to expand its military operations on the basis of its double-standard policy and wants to throw dust into the eyes of the people by spreading the rumors of negotiation.”
No one believed him. No one ever believes Americans.
My brilliant ruse continued throughout the month. Sometimes the two cartoonists with whom I was traveling asked me where I was spending nights. “With Mullah Omar!” I wanted to shout. “Eating his nan and blowing through dozens of his afghanis!” But I couldn’t. “I was in the bathroom,” I lied.
Yes, we are a dumber-than-dumb people led by a stupider-than-stupid government. But the Taliban aren’t much smarter.
(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)
COPYRIGHT 2010 TED RALL