The words of that old Jimmy Durante song came to mind in recent days as I watched the two presidential campaigns go into overdrive mode for the final days. Mr. Romney has been emphasizing his ability to work “across the aisle” by citing his history of cooperating with a heavily Democratic Massachusetts legislature during his governorship. This is a strong selling point with independent voters – especially women – who dislike the extreme political polarization and enmity of recent years that has prevented any real progress on the country’s serious problems.
The Obama campaign has taken a different tack, however. Two examples are instructive. One is a recent ad in which Lena Dunham, creator and star of the TV show Girls, compares losing her virginity to her first vote for Barack Obama. Her seductive, double-entendre delivery (“You should do it with a great guy – one who understands women…”) has caused another political uproar and occasioned a furious barrage of commentary. Most of it notes that the ad belies Mr. Obama’s posture as the defender and helper of women. In a special to the Washington Times, Emily Esfahani Smith wrote:
“To Miss Dunham, women really are just sexual objects, after all. They make important decisions, like voting for president, by consulting what goes on between their legs rather than by what goes on between their ears. As she advises in the ad, ‘You want to do it with a guy who cares whether you get health insurance and specifically whether you get birth control.’
“Translation: The kind of guy you should have sex with (or vote for) is someone whose primary concern is not with who you are, what you want, or what you think, but with you not getting pregnant with his kid. To me, this guy sounds like a jerk. To Miss Dunham, this guy sounds like Barack Obama. This must be a joke right?”
If this ad’s purpose was to divert attention from Mr. Obama’s economic record, I should say it was definitely successful. But if the creators of the ad – or, indeed, the Obama campaign’s leadership – thought the ad would actually appeal to female voters, I seriously doubt that its purpose was achieved. The ad seems to be aimed at girls in the 13-15 age-range. Unless something has changed, they still can’t vote at that age. (But perhaps an effort has been launched to get fake IDs for young girls so they can vote. Nothing would surprise me now.)
Then there is the new video from a group called the Future Children Project, which promotes its pro-Obama message in a song performed by a children’s choir. The lyrics are these:
Imagine an America
Where strip mines are fun and free
Where gays can be fixed
And sick people just die
And oil fills the sea
We don’t have to pay for freeways!
Our schools are good enough
Give us endless wars
On foreign shores
And lots of Chinese stuff
And the chorus:
We’re the children of the future
American through and through
But something happened to our country
And we’re kinda blaming you.
In response, columnist Mary Beth Hicks writes:
“You people must be joking. Really.
“This agitprop is so bad I thought it was political satire. It didn’t seem possible that anyone would seriously expect American voters to be swayed by a song filled with lyrics that lament the unemployment of Big Bird, warn of dead polar bears and threaten a guilt trip for moms and dads if they don’t pull the lever for Barack Obama on Tuesday.
“No, while worthy of a segment on the ‘Colbert Report,’ [it] is meant to be a sober glimpse into the minds and hearts of the next generation...”
To echo Miss Hicks: “Really?” Is this the re-election campaign of a sitting president – the leader of the Free World? A sleazy appeal to get young women to think of voting for the president as something like first-time sex? Kids singing a foolish, unmusical ditty celebrating the Obama presidency while trying to shame grownups into voting for him (since kids can’t vote – not so far, at least)? If a single voter has actually been swayed by either of these ads, we should demand to know his/her name. Such a person should not be trusted with the Franchise.
These end-game ads evoke a scene in the film Back to the Future, where Marty (Michael J. Fox) calls at the home of Dr. Brown (Christopher Lloyd), after arriving back in the year 1955 via the doc’s time-machine. The doc answers the door wearing a weird-looking headgear by which he hopes to read the minds of others. After several unsuccessful tries he says earnestly to Marty, “Do you know what this means?” Then he throws the headgear off and exclaims, “It means this damned thing doesn’t work!”
This is a perfect metaphor for the Obama campaign. They have tried every imaginable tactic to scare voters away from Mr. Romney, while trying to divert voters’ (and reporters’) attention away from Mr. Obama's ruinous record as president. First, Mr. Romney was a ruthless corporate raider who cared nothing for the people who worked for companies handled by Bain Capital. Then he was a “felon” – according to an ad intimating that he was still with Bain Capital well after he said he had left. He was also accused of being responsible for the cancer-death of the wife of a man who had worked for a company that Bain closed up. (A report later emerged that the man’s wife had her own health insurance up to the time of her death. She did not lose health insurance coverage because of Bain.)
On and on went the smearing of Mr. Romney as a wicked, rich, white man who cared for nothing except money. He was supposedly up to his neck in ill-gotten profits; he had accounts in the Cayman Islands; he hadn't paid any taxes for 10 years; he was invested in Chinese companies; he couldn’t possibly understand the lives of ordinary Americans. He hated women; he hated minorities; he was a religious nut; he had been a bully as a teen; he put his dog-cage on the roof of his car; he was the worst man in America; yadda, yadda, yadda…
Then, on October 3rd, about 15 minutes through his first debate with Mr. Obama, Mr. Romney knocked down that entire pile of rubbish when he showed up on stage as the intelligent, articulate, engaging, reasonable man he really is. 70 million Americans saw the real Mitt Romney, not the ugly-filtered caricature the Obama campaign had created. It was a turnaround moment in the 2012 campaign that historians will talk about for a long time. Democrats saw that their entire strategy was junk. The “damned thing” just didn’t work.
These latest, totally ridiculous ads are the final, desperate attempts – as the days dwindle down to a precious few – by a failed campaign to find something that will “stick to the wall.” But they won’t work, either. Mr. Romney is a good, competent man. He has shown himself to be a plausible prospective president. He wants to help the country and its people. He has the skills and the knowledge to do it. All we have to do is give him the job. My prayer is that the American people will be too smart to be snookered again. If you’re a praying person, I hope you’ll pray for that outcome, too.