Election 2012: The First Debate

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, head-to-head in the first debate of the year

The last couple of weeks have been unfortunate for Mitt Romney’s Presidential campaign: Economic recovery combined with a bad PR day over the so-called “47% remark”  have given incumbent Barack Obama a significant lead in the ten or so states that will decide this election. Even the predictions of some news networks that tonight’s presidential debate could turn around the election seemed implausibly optimistic in the light of the President’s frightening lead, but over the course of one and a half hours this past night, those journalists turned out to be right. Romney came out swinging tonight, giving his campaign just the spark it needs to have a fighting chance at victory this November.

The debate was conventional in many respects; it hit upon key issues such as jobs, education, and healthcare, but it was novel in that it allowed people all over the country to view both candidates’ plans and promises in a more factual light than could ever be seen in the propaganda ads launched by campaigns and PACs. Romney was forced to bite the bullet and respond to Obama’s complaints that his healthcare plan does not cover those with pre-existing conditions; Obama could not avoid being interrogated by over the debt that his administration has accrued. It was politics at its most direct, its most objective, a contest in which the winner gains not only a victory of public support, but also a victory of logic and sensibility.

Both sides were armed with ample statistics; obviously, neither candidate wanted his spending proposals to look bad, but even before the crossfire started, it was clear that Obama was going to end up playing on the defensive. He had almost no way to cover his poor track record with debt and unemployment, yet even though his challenge was the more difficult during the debate, the President failed to pounce upon several opportunities for a counter-attack that the 2008 Obama would have been more likely to tackle.

The aforementioned “47% of all Americans depend on government” remark ties in perfectly with the President’s earlier campaign ads portraying Romney as a job-killing demon, yet Obama failed to expound upon that weakness, wasting a potentially excellent opportunity to convince voters that he is the “hero of the common American” that he has been trying to sell for the past 4 years.

This is not to say that Governor Romney’s successes in the debate were merely due to a situational advantage and the blunders of his opponent. For each minute spent decrying the follies of massive government spending, Romney spent another minute preaching the good word of the free market, of the efficiency of private enterprise, incidentally highlighting the broad fundamental differences between the two candidates’ plans for America. The Republican ticket recognizes that private enterprise is the engine that spurns economic growth, whereas the Obama faction possesses little more than blind, idealistic faith that the bureaucracy, given enough money, can fix anything.

This is an oversimplification of both sides’ stances, but at the same time, it is exactly what they boil down to. Romney can be a wild card at times, but he at least recognizes that a federal government that sits at 25% of our GDP can’t reduce our debt by continually increasing its spending. The Republican ticket proposes a sensible alternative, to eliminate wasteful government spending and do away with stifling regulations that hurt businesses and slow down our economy, and they hit the message home over the course of the debate.

On In-Trade, the country’s leading prediction market, Romney’s chances for election have jumped from as little as 23% last week to over 32% today, and if Romney and Ryan continue what they started today, they could carry the day this November. It’s not clear at this point whether the Republicans will recover its reputation among battleground states, but this debate was a key step towards victory. Integrity and reason have returned to Governor Romney’s campaign to restore the confidence that they will need on Election Day.

Liberal Hypocrisy

Liberals have an impeccable record of being civil libertarians when a Republican is President. During the Bush years, the left cried out against George Bush’s usage of “enhanced interrogation tactics” and wiretapping of US citizens, however, once Democrat Barack Obama came into office in 2009, their moral opposition to torture and drone strikes turned into support.

Regardless of how many people he kills or extralegally arrests,  Obama’s supporters seem to faithfully line up behind him like ducklings so long as he continues to promise them more government entitlement programs, but when fast-food restaurant Chik-Fil-A declared its opposition to gay marriage, the left erupted in a wave of protest. Apparently, to most people in the Democratic Party, party allegiance is more important than morality.

Triple-Jumper kicked out of the Olympics: PC Syndrome strikes again

For the past 50 or so years, the scourge of racial bigotry has been dying. Unfortunately, a new (albeit weaker) wave of illogical thinking, one of extreme idiocy, sensitivity, and taboo, has been emerging at the same time. Last week, these two terrible trends met, right before the Olympics, as  triple-jumper Voula Papachristou was kicked off of the Greek team for tweeting the following:”So many Africans in Greece…at least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat homemade cooking”.

Her comment seems hateful and xenophobic at first glance, especially given her association with the racist, Nazi-sympathizing political group known as Golden Dawn. On the other hand, such a remark, even copied word-for-word, need not necessarily be construed offensively. Intent is key, and a remark of this caliber may have been meant as a joke appealing to a somewhat dark sense of humor. The intent of the actual comment is not unequivocally clear, there is probable cause to believe that she harbors xenophobic, possibly racist views, but we cannot be certain.

Throwing ambiguity aside, let’s assume for the sake of argument that Voula Papachristou is a bigot, a fascist who wants all Africans (and possibly all immigrants) out of Greece. Regardless of her stance, the Greek Olympic Committee made a big flop by throwing her off of the team.

Let’s think this through: This woman was a triple jumper for the Greek Olympic team, not a politician. If she was sitting on a jury, then her comment would be grounds to boot her off. However, that wasn’t the case. She was tasked with performing in an athletic competition designed to a) foster international competition and b) profit off of ticket sales and TV revenue. Athletic ability is the only sensible criterion for selecting contestants for an Olympic team. If a team selects an individual with bigoted views, it likely does so because he/she is a good athlete, implying in no way that it approves of those views.

Following that logic, it only makes sense to expel players who violate the rules of the Games, perform poorly, or violate some other contractual obligation made by the athletes. Papachristou has done neither of those. She has likely trained, trained, and trained for years, made a stupid comment, and would not likely have been any worse an athlete for it. The best excuse the Committee could come up with for kicking her out was that her views “go against the spirit of the Games”.

Bullshit excuse, people. The Olympic Games are a sporting competition, and the expulsion of this already qualified athlete was nothing less than a shameless bow to the legions of politically correct (PC) crybabies who would call the team “racist” to no end were she not removed. Perhaps, on that note, the Greek team removed Papachristou merely because it did not want a public relations situation on its hands rather than because it could not tolerate undesirable views on the team.

This is not to assume that the Olympic Committee would not have kicked her off were the public not involved, (it probably would have), but politically correct people are very real. The PC will go up in arms over the smallest infraction upon their sense of emotional security, and when “I’m offended” becomes a legitimate excuse for people to come to the aid of the self-proclaimed “victim”, rational thought is the first thing to be thrown out the window.

Take the Anthony Weiner scandal, for instance. Last year, scores of Americans demanded (and eventually prompted) the resignation of a US Congressman over a few half-naked photos that he sent to consenting adult women over the Internet. Was Weiner doing anything illegal? No. Would Weiner’s actions have been considered highly abnormal for the average Joe? No. Did Weiner’s critics recognize their double standard? Hell no. Stupidity is powerful in numbers, and powerful objects tend to go wherever the hell they want.

Granted, we didn’t see the double standard of the Weiner affair in the Olympic expulsion, nor did Papachristou receive the same level of media coverage. The Olympics are on, and soon, nobody will care about Voula Papachristou. Regardless of the significance of the individual incident, however, it is but another symptom of the expanding taboo culture that I like to refer to as PC Syndrome.

Political correctness creates nothing more than more and more ridiculous taboos, ranging from people suffering public relations hellfire to losing their jobs, all for insignificant offenses. PC is stupid, and fighting stupidity requires common sense. People like Papachristou say stupid and bigoted things, but a mere statement like deserves little consequence or recognition. So, fine, reprimand people for hateful comments, but there’s a limit to what qualifies as a reasonable response.

Ignorance is bliss…until they send you to Gitmo

“First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.” -Martin Niemöller

I’m going to go ahead and assume that most American adults aren’t very involved in or informed about politics, given that more of them can identify the Kardashians and whatever the hell they’re up to (I wouldn’t know) than our own vice President, Joe Biden. Scary, huh? What if I told you that the public knows more about The Simpsons than our own rights? More Americans can identify them than our 5 First Amendment rights, so tell me: How can you protect your freedoms if you aren’t even aware of them? 

“Oh, but the government would never attack my Fir-”

Not true. Take the recent case of Tarek Mehanna, who was convicted of “conspiring to kill U.S soldiers in Iraq” just 12 days ago. What were the charges brought against him? Discussing the morality of suicide bombings online and with his local Islamic community, translating texts from Jihadi websites from Arabic to English (we all know that translation means endorsing), and researching the 9/11 attacks. The ACLU’s attempts to dismiss the case on the basis of Tarek’s First Amendment rights were met with a sound rejection by a District Court. Whether the case will be appealed in the Supreme Court has not been determined yet, but that’s beside the point. You probably didn’t know about this until just now, neither do majority of people, whether they follow the news or not. Hell, I didn’t know about this until 20 minutes ago, so why am I blogging about this? It’s not simply because it’s an attack on freedom (those have happened and will continue to happen all across history), nor is it because there is a chance that the courts won’t serve justice in the end. It’s because mainstream society doesn’t realize the danger our freedoms are continually in, nor does it particularly care.

You could argue that big-time news stations such as FOX or MSNBC don’t pay enough attention to civil liberty-related events such as Snyder v. Phelps, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, or the passing of the NDAA bill (well, there is some concern for NDAA going around, but it’ll have to be handled by the courts at this point), but that’s only because what the news shows reflects what the people want to see. And what do the people want to see? Apart from whatever crawls out of Hollywood, the issues with the most attention given to them are all about the budget, debt, and jobs. Those are critical issues, but why are people paying more attention to Hollywood when Congress is trying to turn the President into a dictator? Especially in a democratic country, it is part of our duty as well as part of our power to monitor and defend our freedoms, because who else will? Our system of checks and balances was created to counterbalance the ambitions of elected officials, but when we, as a people, let down our guard and trust the government, don’t expect officials to be Mahatama Gandhi when it comes to unchecked power. The government may say they are only fighting terrorism today, but when checks and balances are replaced by trust and complacency, and liberty is sacrificed to preserve safety, nobody will run to your defense when the FBI comes to your doorstep and takes you away for crimes you never committed.