A while ago I picked up George Lakoff’s book Don’t Think Of An Elephant!, and if there’s one time when I’m glad I read something that had to do with political discourse that wasn’t a history book, it was tonight when I checked the headlines.
In Google News, nestled just underneath Mitt Romney is the sidebar’s Top Stories, was Joe Biden’s name, obviously still the victim of his own words from his comments about Ryan putting the chains back on Wall Street. The context of what he was saying aside, there’s a clear and obvious relationship between the top-cited news stories that are getting all the attention.
From headlines like “Paul Ryan articulates, while Joe Biden gaffes” and “Is Joe Biden a liability for Obama?” to “Is Joe Biden dragging Obama down?” and “Joe Biden is the Problem VP Candidate, Not Paul Ryan,” we can dig through the drudge to find a simple strategy being played out: counterattacks on level playing fields. In other words, since the media outlets are and poll numbers are being very critical of Paul Ryan, opponents of the incumbent president are trying to turn the attention on Joe Biden.
What’s interesting to me is that each article mentions that Biden will not be removed from the ticket (duh), and that this decision by the White House is going to come at a cost. Whether that’s true or not will be made public during the debate in October, but history is on the side of the Democrats because vice presidents are generally attack dogs and don’t produce the visceral response that a president does.
Unless you’re a Republican, that is. Somehow, someway, voting for Mitt Romney became a good idea because Paul Ryan was the VP pick. As a professional political commentator I have to ask: Who the hell cares about Paul Ryan? Obviously everyone who was trying to use this new image to breathe life into Romney’s campaign before the election.
But nominating Ryan did come at a huge cost. His track record for voting against social programs and for tax breaks may be in line with what Republicans want but it’s hardly the position that Romney has solidified as a candidate for office. The link between the two of them is more symbolic than operational; on Fox News, Ryan admitted that they didn’t even “run the numbers” when it came to his ridiculous path to disparity budget.
Go to your news reader, though, and tell me how many people are still bad-mouthing Ryan and criticizing his budget and political history. Go on. See how many headlines are now being soaked up with Joe Biden commentary in a sort of synthetic carte blanche for your brain, where outlets have shifted the focus off of Paul Ryan by literally telling people to focus on Joe Biden instead.
It’s a classic move straight out of Lakoff’s book but I think it will fail. Try as they might – and I know Fox News is doing their best – the faux pas that is Paul Ryan’s budget of smoke and mirrors is going to be torn to shreds at the next debate. Even though Ryan recently received roaring applause from a crowd of seniors because he brought his 78 year old mother with him, the facts of his budget – which is the only thing that the Romney campaign has in its toolbox, besides anti-Obama cliches – paint an all too familiar picture. After all, the bailouts, the housing bubble, and the start of this last recession wasn’t all that long ago.