Yeah, yeah. Obama won last night’s debate. Everyone says so. In fact, he killed it. The same CBS poll on the “who won the debate?” question that gave Romney a 23-point advantage after the first debate — and thus started the ball rolling among pundits that Romney had knocked it out of the park — had Obama winning last night’s debate by 30 points. Romney tried to come off looking calm, cool, and presidential. Instead, he looked meek and reminded me a bit of Sarah Palin, rattling off facts like an encyclopedia without knowing much about the meaning behind those facts.
But I’m not here to gloat over an Obama victory. I’m here to talk about Romney. Because while he got crushed last night, what few things he did say were cause for deep concern. I mean, agreeing to a 2014 withdrawal in Afghanistan? Romney has spent the entire campaign hammering Obama for setting a timetable for withdrawal from the country. His criticism has multiple parts, including that we should be listening to generals, not setting arbitrary timetables, and that it doesn’t make sense to tell the terrorists when we’re leaving the country — pretty much the same reasons the Bush administration gave for why we can never, ever leave Iraq under any circumstances whatsoever.
And yet, last night, Romney threw out everything he had been saying about the withdrawal from Afghanistan and agreed that we should be out by 2014. What. The. Fuck?
This was not the only example of Romney rewriting his entire campaign history, not to mention the out-and-out lies, which have become de rigueur on the Romney-Ryan ticket. Romney said Obama was silent during the Arab Spring. This is, of course, patently ridiculous to anyone with even a half-decent memory, who will recall Obama speaking out in favor of the protestors in Tahrir Square and in several other democratic movements in the Middle East. (That he didn’t go to bat for every democratic movement in the area, especially in allied countries such as Bahrain, is a worthy criticism, but it’s not the point Romney tried to make.) Even Obama’s best one liner of the night came off a Romney half-truth. When Romney remarked that under Obama, the U.S. Navy had fewer ships than at any time since 1916, Obama replied that the army also had fewer horses and bayonets. Ho ho! But lost in that line is the fact that the navy has increased the amount of ships in its fleets under Obama. In fact, under George W. Bush, the navy had fewer ships than at any time since the 19th century.
If Romney wins this election — and that is a very real possibility, though certain still much less than 50/50 — the pundits are going to make a big deal about money and how it affects modern presidential campaigns. They’ll talk about Citizens United and Super-PACs, Sheldon Adelson and Crossroads GPS. What they won’t spend a lot of time talking about is this: Despite modern technology allowing journalists to fact check politicians practically in real time, it is possible to be elected president of the United States based on a campaign almost entirely consisting of bullshit. And that will affect future presidential campaigns even more than the oceans of cash that will flow into them. Even the perverting effect of unlimited corporate dollars flooding political campaigns will be nothing compared to the knowledge that one may be elected president by promising to cut taxes by one-fifth on everyone will increasing military spending by $2 trillion over ten years and not increasing the debt by a penny. It is wrong, it is stupid, but if Romney wins, it will be the future.