Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Obama believes in "insourcing"

Know what's missing from this campaign? The usual blather--from both sides--about not wanting to go negative, McCain-esque pledges to run a positive campaign. Guns have been blazing since day one. And that's probably a good thing. The whole "not go negative" stuff was a pretty recent development. Go back fifty or one hundred years and you'd find Presidential Campaigns that had no problem attacking the other side, no problem latching on to any bit of information to make the other guy look bad.

Of course, there was no internet fifty years ago and no television one hundred years ago, so campaigns did have to pick their moments. Attacks were more localized, as a matter of course. The positive stuff--the campaign sloganeering and the like--was reserved for national attention. But even then, digs at opponents were commonplace.

And yet, such campaigning was itself new one hundred to one hundred and fifty years ago. In the first decades of the American Republic, Presidential candidates assumed more stoic positions, allowing most "campaigning" to be done via editorials and broadsides. Things started to change after the Twelfth Amendment was ratified in 1804 (which changed how the President and Vice-President were chosen by the Electoral College). In the Election of 1828--between President John Quincy Adams and challenger Andrew Jackson--mudslinging abounded. Still, it was almost all third-party stuff. Especially infamous were the Coffin Handbills, broadsides that attacked Jackson on various issues, most of them personal.

The Election of 1840--pitting President Martin Van Buren against Whig challenger William Henry Harrison--was probably the first "modern" election in terms of campaigning, however. Unlike past candidates, Harrison actively campaigned for the office of President, fashioning himself a "man of the people" and his opponent an "elitist snob." His campaign's slogan--Tippecanoe and Tyler too--became known throughout the land, thanks in no small part to a song of the same name. The lyrics of the latter were hardly vicious, calling Van Buren a "little man," but not much more. Still, the slogan and the song set the stage for a campaign that emphasized differences between Van Buren and Harrison, to Harrison's benefit. Whenever it would appeal to the average voter, Harrison portrayed himself as the opposite of Van Buren; whether or not this was true was inconsequential.

Fast forward to today, to current and recent Presidential Elections. The theme is now commonplace, from issues of personality to issues of policy. One candidate is the "insider," the other is "of the people." One candidate is beholden to special interests, the other is his own man (or woman). One candidate is stupid, the other is very intelligent. One candidate is overly academic, the other lives in the real world. And so on.

One of the Obama Campaign's latest ads is a perfect example of this, and of "going negative":

Romney believes in outsourcing, Obama believes in insourcing. Got it? Romney doesn't believe in American jobs, Obama does. Romney cares about profit, Obama cares about American workers. The ad makes a lot of hay with a WaPo story, supposedly showing how Romney helped "pioneer" outsourcing American jobs while at Bain Capital:
Mitt Romney’s financial company, Bain Capital, invested in a series of firms that specialized in relocating jobs done by American workers to new facilities in low-wage countries like China and India.
WaPo--after the Romney campaign questioned the "facts" being used in the story--clarified what the story said, as noted at Breitbart:
The actual article, in fact, does not say that transfers of U.S. jobs took place while Romney ran the private equity firm of Bain Capital... 
The Obama campaign moved quickly to define what the article said, claiming that this transfer of jobs took place while Romney ran Bain. That’s not what the original article said.
As John Nolte of Breitbart notes, that's some serious--and rather pathetic--spin on the part of the Washington Post. It's clear in reading the original article that Romney was being targeted, that the point was to show how Romney had played a significant role in the outsourcing of American jobs. It was perfect campaign fodder for the President. The claim has appeared in other ads for the Obama Campaign prior to the one above. And FactCheck.org already determined it was false:
But after reviewing numerous corporate filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, contemporary news accounts, company histories and press releases, and the evidence offered by both the Obama and Romney campaigns, we found no evidence to support the claim that Romney — while he was still running Bain Capital — shipped American jobs overseas.
Yet, the Obama Campaign is proceeding with such ads as the one above, fully aware that it's completely untrue. Ahhh, politics...

Cheers, all.

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