Two things about the Obama campaign seemed to pop out of the debate – and its aftermath – last week. Both represent intensifications of patterns that have persisted throughout this cycle from that campaign.
First was the screaming that “Romney’s a liar!” from the Obama campaign. That was instructive enough, as the Obama campaign has called Romney a liar since the very beginning; in fact, that accusation is virtually all they’ve offered save for their mischaracterizations of his plans.
And it’s funny, because one of those mischaracterizations was the use of a bogus “study” on Romney’s idea for a 20 percent across-the-board tax cut which would be made revenue neutral by simplifying the tax code through eliminating or capping exemptions and deductions would necessitate a middle-class tax increase. When Romney cut that to pieces in the debate by explaining that he will not raise taxes on the middle class and that his aim is to maintain the same share of the tax burden by the highest earners, the Obama campaign’s response was to construct the ultimate straw man argument. Namely, to insist that Romney’s tax reform plan was precisely as they presented it and any alternative explanation was a lie.
That has fallen flat, and the loss of momentum and morale in the Obama camp is palpable. If you’re Obama, you know that when you’ve lost Andrew Sullivan, you’ve lost everything.
But the second reaction is the grasping at distractions. In this case, a seizing upon Romney’s statement in the debate that among the federal expenditures he’ll be cutting is the subsidy to PBS. “I like Big Bird,” Romney said, but declared that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting just isn’t a high-enough priority that it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for.
Just like that, Big Bird became the next Romney’s-dog-on-the-roof story, or Romney’s-car-elevator story, or Romney-doesn’t-care-about-his-garbage-man story.
And naturally, this ad resulted…
But even the Big Bird ad is falling flat. Because Big Bird just took a big, sloppy dump on the Obama campaign for having appropriated him into the service of the re-election effort…
Sesame Street wants President Obama’s campaign to take down its latest attack ad against Mitt Romney, which features footage of Big Bird.
“Sesame Workshop is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization and we do not endorse candidates or participate in political campaigns,” a Tuesday statement on Sesameworkshop.org reads. “We have approved no campaign ads, and as is our general practice, have requested that the ad be taken down.”
But it gets better. Here’s the Obama campaign’s reaction…
The Obama campaign said it would review the request.
“We’ve received and will review their concerns,” said an Obama campaign official.
What are they going to do? Fight Big Bird?
The old line applies, one supposes: Big Bird might not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in Big Bird.
Of course, the fact is that Sesame Street is a $50 million operation. It doesn’t need the federal government’s support. Sesame Street could put itself out in the marketplace and Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel, the major networks, HBO and whoever else might want to play would bid that property up through the sky. What’s more, advertisers would clamor to sponsor that property.
PBS has other programming which would survive in the marketplace as well. Lord knows the History Channel, which has devolved into a sea of reality shows, could use the Ken Burns historical documentaries.
Or maybe PBS would survive without the 12 percent of its budget which comes from the feds. Maybe that can be recouped with more underwriting and sponsorships, and its programming could be kept from escaping into the private sector.
The point being, it really doesn’t matter. And with a trillion-dollar annual deficit, we can’t fund Big Bird anymore. That PBS is a drop in the federal bucket isn’t a good argument; that bucket is full of drops, and a whole lot of them need to be emptied.
Obama’s campaign knows a lot about empty buckets these days. Their reaction to the candidate getting his pants taken off at the debate shows that quite well.