Romney wins the debate, cheers the Valley
By nearly all accounts, Mitt Romney decisively won the first presidential debate last week,* and on the very next day he came right here to our own neck of the woods in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I had learned about the big event several days in advance, on NBC-29's late night news. Almost immediately I registered online to get admission tickets. I had been hoping he would visit somewhere nearby, and I could hardly believe that he would be coming so close to our fine community. The rally was held at at the Augusta Expoland in Fishersville, where the county fair was held in August, just a few miles east of Staunton.
After my classes on Thursday morning were done, I drove back toward home, crossing the Blue Ridge from the east as is my custom. It was a beautiful day, with skies that turned clear blue as the afternoon progressed. I expected there to be heavy traffic, so I astutely avoided the bottleneck at the Fishersville exit, and instead took the western Waynesboro exit, then driving along Ladd Road, which parallels I-64. I could soon see that cars were backed up for miles along I-64, and even after I reached the vicinity of Fishersville, I had to wait in line for 45 minutes before I could actually park. Apparently, many people never even made it in. I passed through the security gate about 5:20, well ahead of the scheduled start time.
It was hard standing up for so long, but it was worth it. I noticed campaign workers passing out a variety hand-written signs, as well as the pre-printed "Romney-Ryan" signs. The formal proceedings began about 6:30, as Congressman Bob Goodlatte welcomed the crowd. He introduced Del. Ben Cline, who gave the invokation prayer and then introduced Del. Dickie Bell, who in turn introduced Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, who is running for governor next year. Former Virginia First Lady Susan Allen also spoke for a few minutes; her husband George, who is running for U.S. Senate, was elsewhere that night. Then came the featured musical entertainment, country singer Trace Adkins. His band rocked the valley for about a half hour, with as many a six guitars (including bass and pedal steel) on some songs. (I saw another free country music concert three weeks ago: Dierks Bentley, who performed after a Washington Nationals game.) Afterwards, Adkins spoke to the crowd about freedom and respect for military veterans for a few minutes. He then welcomed to the stage National Rifle Association head Wayne LaPierre and an associate. The NRA had a major presence at the event, passing out lots of bumper stickers, orange hats, and "Fire Obama" cardboard fans. Then came the number-two attraction of the evening, Rep. Paul Ryan. In contrast to the Paul Ryan rally in Harrisonburg last month, this time I managed to get within 25 feet of the stage, which is how I got such good photographs.
Just after 8:00, Gov. Mitt Romney finally stepped on stage to join Paul Ryan. The crowd, estimated at over 10,000 people, cheered long and loud for the man who had done so much to revive their spirits by virtue of his debate performance the night before. Romney spoke for about 15 minutes, explaining why this election is so important for the cause of freedom. He was clear, in command of his facts, and very convincing. Whether or not you agree with him on the issues, he does seem to have what is called "presidential timber." After his speech, he and Ryan clasped hands in a victory salute, amidst a fireworks display. Then all the other Republican leaders gathered on the stage for a series of hand-shakes and bear hugs. It was quite a spectacle!
Those photos and several others can be found on the Autumn 2012 photo gallery page. While searching for other photos of Ben Cline with Mitt Romney on the Internet (none others to be found), I came across this blog about a visit to the big event: Adventuring with Oliver and Nicole.
In sum, that rally was a moment of jubilation on the campaign trail, and I was privileged to be part of it. The momentum seems to be swinging in Romney's favor right now (he has a 49%-46% lead, according to Pew), but anything is possible in the next three and a half weeks before election day, including some sort of "October surprise."
Did Romney give up on the 47%?
From the infamous secret video of Mitt Romney's chat with donors last May, you might think he had lost all hope of getting the votes of anyone who receives government benefits. I think it's pretty obvious that if he had paused to reflect a few seconds, he would have phrased that comment in a much better way. You can read a full transcript of the the secret video at motherjones.com.
In retrospect, it's odd how so many people thought that 47% gaffe would be fatal to Romney's campaign. Perhaps they underestimate just how pernicious the Obama administration is, and how many Americans are beginning to realize it. For example, Josh Barro wrote "Today, Mitt Romney lost the election" at bloomberg.com (link via Bruce Bartlett) and Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei wrote "How Mitt Romney stumbled" at politico.com. Everybody makes mistakes, but only winners know how to pick themselves up and continue the race. Here was my early response on Facebook to someone who asked whether I thought Romney's proverbial goose was cooked:
Sure, it's possible, but I'm skeptical about the talk about Romney's campaign imploding. His lack of discipline in conveying a consistent campaign message is a matter of concern, but I can't believe he would have come this far without a rock-solid management ability. If he can't at least make a very close showing in the election, of course, there will be hell to pay, and the GOP as we now know it will come to an end. What I'm curious about is how all those bastards who hounded out anyone for being disloyal to Dubya are going to rationalize the catastrophe that the Bush-Rove approach to politics brought about. They'll be spinning and rewriting history faster than anything.
The GOP Base vs. Romney
The last part of that comment in turn calls attention to a certain weakness on the Republican side in this race. Much like the situation with Sen. John McCain four years ago, Mitt Romney has weak ties to the hard-core conservative "Base" of the Republican Party. That, of course, is one reason he chose Paul Ryan to be his veep, no doubt a wiser selection than Sarah Palin. So far, Romney seems to enjoy greater leeway in his campaigning than did McCain, which means he can devote greater energy to attracting independent voters -- especially the ones who voted for Obama four years ago. James Atticus Bowden warned on Facebook that if Mitt Romney wins, he should be put on "probation" from the get-go. My response:
I think the way it works is that you give your own side's newly elected leaders at least a couple months of honeymoon. Mitt is clearly not ideal from a conservative point of view, but he has some admirable qualities and deserves the initial benefit of the doubt, especially given the alternative. I distinctly recall that those of us who spoke up when Bush Jr. strayed from the path were cast aside, and I'm still not convinced that most Republicans have really faced up to the disaster he helped bring about. Those who are still in denial should hold their own feet to the fire.
I hope that is sufficiently clear.
My recent op-ed columns
I have been busy writing columns for the local newspaper again. "Life, liberty and the pursuit of entitlements" appeared in Wednesday's News Leader (October 10). That generated a fair amount of response -- mostly positive -- via e-mail, the News Leader comment system, and Facebook.
And before that, "Mendacity, mendacity, mendacity: Do all politicians lie?" appeared in the Sunday, September 16 News Leader. I received a couple of compliments on that one.
Much more fact checking
Speaking of mendacity, Facebook friend Clifford Garstang, a local left-leaning Democrat and author of What the Zhang Boys Know (cliffordgarstang.com) is among those who keeps accusing Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney of lying. On September 28 he cited Rachel Maddow's blog post, "Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, Vol. XXXVI," at msnbc.com, Here's my response:
I just wasted a half hour trying to see if something in there qualifies as a deliberate, demonstrably false statement. #2 (fewer ships) was a stupid beside-the-point remark, but even Maddow's source did not refute the technical accuracy of it. All those arguments about which side's plans will save money in the future are inherently unknowable, based on a wide variety of assumptions, and there's no use in calling someone else's forecast a "lie." As for what Romney said Obama said: 'If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Someone else did that.' Maddow said, "That's not even close to what the president said." In fact, it was almost a verbatim quote. Romney has a tendency to speak inappropriately off the cuff, but Maddow seems to stray from the truth much more often. It's an awful shame when intellectuals become partisan shills.
Of course, many accusations of falsehood has been directed at the President himself. In the 2008 campaign he talked about how his father received government benefits after serving in World War II, which is not true, but he may have been referring to his grandfather on his mother's side. I was appalled by the lame "fact-checking" at snopes.com, which says that Obama's "complicated family tree encompasses multiple fathers." (So why was his first book not entitled "Dreams From My Biological Father"?) Sheesh. Clearly, Obama grew up in a very disordered household, and one can only guess at the psychological effects all that had on his character and personality.
With regard to Obama's 2008 claim about an uncle who helped liberate Auschwitz, which I mentioned on May 28, 2008 and in the "Mendacity" column cited above, Obama apparently did have a great uncle who served in the division which helped to liberate the Buchenwald concentration campaign in April 1945, but obviously not Auschwitz, in Poland. For more on this, see Byron York at nationalreview.com. If I were going to make a public speech about an ancestor's military service, I would want to get the facts right. For example, my great uncle Chuck Clem was shot down while piloting a U.S. Navy fighter plane during the Battle of the Philippine Sea. It would be ridiculous to call him my uncle.
Perhaps one of the boldest misrepresentations by President Obama in recent months was the TV ad in which he calls for (among other things) "asking the wealthy to pay a little more so we can pay down our debt in a balanced way." [Emphasis added.] See for yourself at youtube.com. During Obama's nearly four years of office, the budget deficit has remained over a trillion dollars each year, not even close to his pledge to cut it in half, so the idea that we are actually going to have a budget surplus and therefore start to "pay down our debt" any time soon is absolutely ludicrous. Here's my take, on Facebook:
I'm starting to think that all the uproar over "lies" by Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney were a tactic to confuse and distract people, so that the President can get away with lies of truly monumental proportions. "Paying down the debt" is a real whopper.
On the other hand, I think Mitt Romney's campaign aide Matt Rhoades was quite wrong to blame the Obama administration for the Federal Reserve's recent "QE-III" monetary expansion; see factcheck.org. I know the Federal Reserve comes under heavy political pressure from time to time, but I'm pretty sure that there remains at least some degree of autonomy in its policy-making.
* This is obviously a rather "tardy" blog post, reflecting my preoccupation with the baseball postseason, teaching duties, involvement with church and the bird club, as well as writing columns for the newspaper. I hope I can do better as this campaign season winds to a close.