Am letzten Samstag hat Thomas Adcock ein paar Lebenslinien der politschen Geistesgeschichte Amerikas umrissen, heute startet, exklusiv bei CULTurMAG, seine wöchentliche Kolumne rund um den Wahlkampf in den USA . Diese Woche:
By Thomas Adcock. One of two men vying for the office of president of the United States has evidently decided that imbecility and deceit are effective strategies in his campaign to evict a black family from the White House. Perhaps the candidate is influenced by the wisdom—dubious versus merited—of two very different but quintessentially American personalities: Sarah Palin, a political curiosity turned media celebrity, and the late author and satirist Mark Twain.
Ms. Palin ran for vice president in 2008 under the Republican Party banner. She has an annoying albeit cheerful voice, limited erudition, and the courage of her limitations. Accordingly, she is perfect for Fox News, the right-wing radio-TV network. In her frequent commentaries, she holds forth on a variety of global concerns and crises. Reflective of an ill-informed worldview was what she had to say in the context of military hostilities between the two Koreas, and their impact on American national interests: “Obviously,” Ms. Palin chirped, “we’ve got to stand with our North Korean allies.”
In his day, the droll Mr. Twain (1835-1910) was at the opposite end of punditry, which is to say he was a thinking man, aware of a world beyond his wardrobe mirror. Among his observations: “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Lies, he said further, have enormous appeal for stupid people, who constitute “the grand overwhelming majority of this and all other nations.”
Now comes Willard Mittington “Mitt” Romney, this season’s Republican presidential standard-bearer, whose bald dishonesty and cunningly dim remarks—“Corporations are people” and so forth—have caused disappointment among his campaign staff, according to reports this week in the New York Times and the Washington Post. But regardless of philosophy, campaign staffers tend to be imaginative people; like so many cognitive individuals, their weakness lies in assuming others are likewise critically minded.
On the other hand, the constituency to which Mr. Romney has aimed his pitch—corporatist true believers, bigots of all persuasions, climate change deniers, bible thumpers, conspiracy theorists, war mongers—are not likely to be subscribers to the Times or the Post; many may be unable to read newspapers.
And so, the question begs: Will the cynicism of feigned stupidity, wrapped up in a pack of lies, win the day for the post-truth party?
I, for one, am optimistic that cynicism will fail this time around. I stake my prediction on what Abraham Lincoln said of the American electorate during his first campaign for the presidency, in 1860: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time. But you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.” Several friends, including the estimable Bill Semans of Minneapolis, dissuade me by quoting the late H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), journalist and cultural critic: “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”
No matter the eventual outcome on November 6th, election day, we have boffo theatre now in Mr. Romney’s numerous stumbles and gaffes. James Chapman, political editor of Britain’s Daily Mail, calls the Romney campaign “a total car crash,” and Mr. Romney himself “Sarah Palin without the personality.” Among left-leaning American bloggers, the Republican hopeful is universally labeled “Sarah Palin in pants.”
Mr. Romney’s vice-presidential running mate, the hyper-conservative ideologue and provincial Congressman Paul Ryan, fares no better in the departments of aptitude and veracity. Following his address before delegates to the Republican national convention in late August, which even the right-wing press found replete with error, Fox News contributor Sally Kohn said: “Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech.”
Steve Benen, who writes for the Washington Monthly, publishes a tally of mendacity, Romney-style. He counts five hundred and thirty-three lies this summer alone. A few random examples:
• Mr. Romney repeatedly alleges that his Democratic Party opponent, President Barack Obama, travels the world “apologizing for America.”
• Of White House economic policy, Mr. Romney claims, “The president’s put us on a path to Europe. Europe doesn’t work in Europe. It’ll never work here.” The irony being a matter of self-refutation: European nations are attempting to expand their economies through austerity—the very scheme Mr. Romney advocates for the U.S.
• Mr. Romney insists that President Obama has “launched an all-out attack on small business.” To the contrary, the president has cut taxes for small business owners, eased the incorporation process, and streamlined patent filing procedures.
Neither Mr. Romney nor Mr. Ryan has confessed to lying. Nor do they go out of their way to dispute the many crackpot beliefs of their enthusiasts, among them: President Obama is a secretly gay Muslim born in Kenya, abortion causes cancer, the sun revolves around Earth, homosexuality can be cured, people are being kidnapped for purposes of medical experimentation by government agents flying around by night in black helicopters.
But why should mere politicians confess their lies, or correct the fevered fantasies of their followers?
As it was said by Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805), the German poet and philosopher, „Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.“ (Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.)
Tidbits from the Campaign Trail
Women’s Wear Daily, the New York-based chronicle of the garment industry, took note of how President Obama’s wife presented herself, clothing-wise, during the Democratic national convention in the first week of September versus the ensemble of Ann Romney, wife of challenger Mitt Romney, during the Republican convention during the last week of August. Mrs. Romney’s gown, by Dominican designer Oscar de la Renta: $3,800 (€2,896). Shoes by British designer John Galiano: $1,400 (€1,067). Mrs. Obama’s dress, by American designer Tracy Reese: $850 (€648). Shoes from J. Crew: $120 (€91).
The highly regarded Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll found that a significant number of white voters in the American South, considered vital to Mitt Romney chances for election, are bothered by the Republican’s vast wealth and Mormon religion. Thirty-eight percent said they were less likely to vote for a wealthy candidate, and that Mormonism is a cult.
Las Vegas and Macau casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who says he will donate $100 million (€76 million) to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, stands to see a windfall of $2 billion (€1.5 billion) should his candidate win and execute his stated policy on income tax. Mr. Adelson is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for possible violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars American companies from bribing offshore government officials for business gain.
Copyright © 2012 by Thomas Adcock
THOMAS ADCOCK is a novelist and journalist based in New York City. Winner of the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award, given by Mystery Writers of America, his books and articles have been published worldwide. Writing as Tom Dey, he is currently completing a new novel titled “Lovers & Corpses.” Mehr zu Thomas Adcock hier und hier.