According to a BBC report, the word “omnishambles” has been named “word of the year” by the Oxford English Dictionary: “The word — meaning a situation which is shambolic from every possible angle — was coined in 2009 by the writers of BBC political satire The Thick of It.” Putting an American spin on it, we get Romneyshambles: Any political project with Mitt Romney at its helm. Which explains why the most telling parodies of the campaign have Romney, not Obama, as their target.
Mitt Romney’s claim to superiority over Barack Obama consisted almost entirely of the fact that he had business and managerial and financial expertise that Obama presumably lacked. Yet, in truth, Romney emerged from his ineffectual campaign as a demonstrably unqualified administrator of an enterprise doomed to failure by its many terminal flaws, most significantly Romney’s own incompetence at organizational oversight, human resource management, fiscal strategy, product branding, public relations, and leadership in general.
Despite his pampered upbringing and privileged whitebread life, Romney proved himself less capable at all of those basic executive tasks than a mixed-race street-smart guy 14 years his junior who’d never run even a small business. (In this I share the opinion of Frederick E. Allen, Leadership Editor of Forbes.) In short, in his role as senior executive of a project that he had to build from the ground up (rather than tear down), Romney couldn’t cut it. In every verifiable way, Willard Mitt Romney is Barack Hussein Obama’s inferior.
Project Orca vs. Project Narwhal
To see how this played out in terms of digital technology, click here for a detailed analysis of the Romney campaign’s disastrous “Project Orca,” the election-day “killer app” that wasn’t. This poll-monitoring web app was endorsed by Zac Moffatt, Digital Director for the Romney campaign and co-founder of Targeted Victory. The app wasn’t deployed to its intended 30,000 users until November 5 in beta release. It required familiarity with and printing out of a 60-page PDF training manual plus voter rolls that also wasn’t delivered to them (via email) until the evening before Election Day. After which it crashed.
This massive fail didn’t doom Romney and Ryan; their cause was already lost by dawn on November 6, when they awoke to a shitstorm they didn’t see coming because they wore blinders. But it certainly put the last nail in their coffins.(Which they can blame in part on know-nothings like Peggy Noonan, who in July 2011 derided Team Obama’s hiring of specialists in predictive modeling and data mining as “politics as done by Martians.”)
They’d named their effort Project Orca, after the killer whale for which the Narwhal (the codename of Team Obama’s robust, successful counterpart IT program) is natural prey. If you want some laughs, click here for a video of the overconfident Gail Gitcho, Communications Director for Team Romney, explaining on November 5 how far ahead of Team Obama this software put them. (Here’s Romney, who knows nothing about IT, boasting in-house on November 1 about how Project Orca gives him an “unprecedented advantage on election day.”)
Obama, by contrast, not only ran the country with relative adroitness during his first term, but assembled and supervised a brilliantly successful reelection campaign at the same time. Click here for insight into the IT wizards behind the can of whup-ass he opened on the hapless Romney. Click here for a report on the Obama-Biden campaign’s involvement with behaviorial scientists. Click here for an overall analysis of how those combined to forge the November 6 triumph. And click here for a PDF file of VoteBuilder, the user manual for the Democratic Party app used by Team Obama, built on open-source code.
Romney Shafts His Staff
Yes, I’m gloating. Again. Still. Not an admirable character trait, I acknowledge. But Mitt Romney made this very personal for me with his “47 percent” speech, so I’m finding it deeply satisfying to know that all his money couldn’t buy him the one thing he wanted most in life, that swivel chair behind the desk in the Oval Office. Oh hubris, where is thy sting-a-ling-a-ling?
Peggy Noonan got one thing right in that July ’11 screed, though she mistakenly applied it to Obama. Certainly it fits Romney better: “He is a loser. And this is America, where nobody loves a loser.” So the Mormon answer to Richie Rich has gone off to sulk en famille in some of his many mansions, starting with the one in San Diego, we’re told. But he and his cronies continue to lie, to themselves and everyone else.
For the record: The fact that Willard Mitt Romney was a sucker for the lies fed to him by his support system doesn’t make the blow that knocked him out a “sucker punch,” in the words of an unnamed Romney adviser. As a headline at the Daily Kos put it, “Romney lost because Obama beat him.” Fair and square. Not with a sucker punch (with its insinuation of trickery) but with a roundhouse right that flattened him. No chicanery, no “voter suppression” (pace the flatulent Karl Rove). Just effective political campaigning, U.S.-style.
Worth noting that, as he was delivering his hastily cobbled-together concession speech early on November, in which he fervently thanked all those who’d worked on his behalf, his campaign was pulling the plug on them. As RawStory.com and others reported, “Campaign workers were left to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when they found that all the credit cards issued by Romney/Ryan 2012 were canceled as soon as the nominee finished his concession speech.”
That’s what you call a sucker punch. And that’s what you get for lovin’ Mitt.
Playing the Long Game
Speaking of which: Jon Stewart and John Oliver did a funny bit on November 8 about Obama deliberately throwing the first debate with Mitt Romney on October 3, 2012, “taking a dive” in Denver in order to lose the election, leaving Romney stuck with the looming fiscal crisis. A cute piece of shtick, which I recommend to you.
Reviewing that debate in my head while taking a hot shower a few nights later, a thought occurred: Suppose Stewart and Oliver were right, for the wrong reasons?
Obama could anticipate a hard time in the first debate, concentrated on domestic issues. Letting Romney beat up on him had a number of useful effects:
• It shifted the narrative from those troublesome domestic issues to “What happened to Obama?”
• It made Obama the automatic underdog in the next debate, a “town hall” format in which the personable Obama was likely to appear more appealing than the stiff, unlikable Romney.
• Thus it moved the larger narrative from Obama sailing to victory to Obama making a comeback, David to Romney’s Goliath. Which meant that he’d go into the third debate — on foreign policy, a slam-dunk for him — on a best-two-out-of-three basis, predictably victorious in the final showdown.
• Even more importantly, it confirmed for the Romney campaign and the right that Obama was on the ropes in early October, defeated, lacking the heart for the campaign’s final rounds.
• That fed directly into the addictive dominant narrative on the right (of which Team Obama cannot have been unaware) regarding what the demented Peggy Noonan called “Romney rising,” encouraging them to mainline even larger doses of their faith-based analyses of the polls and double down on their lunatic predictions of a Romney sweep.
• It’s a classic tactic in many forms of contest to throw the first game or give your opponent an easy victory in the first round, hiding your own strength and building a false sense of confidence before the demolition job begins.
So I’m saying it’s plausible that, playing a long game, Obama purposefully let the first debate go to Romney, setting the stage for the key moment in the second debate when the emboldened contender would push in all his chips and Obama would calmly say, “Please proceed, Governor.”
Team Obama ran one of the most acutely calibrated and micromanaged election campaigns in history, otherwise free of exploitable slip-ups. I see no reason to assume that the drama (or deliberate lack thereof) of the first debate wasn’t strategically scripted — possibly by Team Obama, possibly by Obama himself in private, playing his cards very close to the vest. In either case, I doubt we’ll ever know. Fine with me.
America: Love It or Leave It
Click here for a funny clip of Jeff Brucculeri, the Tulsa, Oklahoma traffic reporter for Fox News, instructing refugee Romney supporters on the quickest route to Canada on November 7. Canada, a hotbed of socialized medicine and other components of a sturdy social safety net plus more European ideas, not to mention progressive income taxes, will surely welcome an influx of rabid U.S. nativists with stashes of assault weapons and a hostility to all things French.
Brucculeri has his tongue in his cheek, methinks, though he keeps a straight face throughout. I believe our northern neighbors have enough smarts to keep these wannabe expats out, and don’t wish them on anyone. But if they opt to leave, and Canada will have them, good riddance to bad rubbish. I won’t bother to see them off; I’ll just wave from my home office on Staten Island.
No Smart People Here
Rick Santorum nailed it: The Republicans will never have “the smart people” on their side. That’s because smart people so often consider it incumbent upon themselves to reconcile and/or remove blatant contradictions in the beliefs they hold. For example, as Thinkprogress.org reports,
“The recession has pushed more lower-income Americans to rely on government assistance like food stamps, but ‘nearly 70 percent of all benefits of these programs go to white people.’ Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that the overwhelming majority ‘of counties with the fastest-growth in food-stamp aid during the last four years voted for the Republican presidential candidate in 2008.’ These included Republican strongholds like King County, Texas, where 96 percent of voters supported Romney.”
Doh! White people who “want stuff” voted for Romney!
I often quote Richard Kirstel as saying, “Ignorance is a condition; dumbness is a commitment.” It’s a distinction with a difference. But of course the two often go hand in hand. On that basis, I can appreciate the November 11 analysis by The Denver Post‘s Rich Tosches of the statistics related to the educational level of Obama voters versus Romney voters.
- The states with the lowest national per capita averages of high-school graduates — West Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Texas, and South Carolina — went for Romney, with the lone exception of Nevada.
- The top 15 states for per capita college graduates (which of course means high-school graduates as well) — Massachusetts, Maryland, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Minnesota, Washington, Rhode Island, Illinois, California and Hawaii — all voted for Obama.
Quelle surprise! (That’s French for “No shit, Sherlock.”)