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Arnold Ahlert / Oct. 5, 2012

A Media Meltdown of Epic Proportions

The New York Times and Obama campaign exchange talking points.

To be blunt, Mitt Romney cleaned President Obama’s clock in the presidential debate Wednesday night. It was such a lopsided victory that 67 percent of debate watchers questioned in a CNN poll gave it to the Republican challenger. But it gets worse for the incumbent Democrat. “No presidential candidate has topped 60% in that question since it was first asked in 1984,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. Yet as bad as the president was, the freak-out by leftists and their media enablers was the stuff of legend. More subtly, the media establishment is busy softening Obama’s failure via absurd excuses and anemic acknowledgement of Romney’s victory, studiously avoiding utterance of terms like “defeat” or “loss.”

Taking the lead was the seismic tantrum of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who apparently no longer feels the same thrill up his leg he once felt over the president several years ago. "I don’t know what he was doing out there,“ said Matthews. "He had his head down, he was enduring the debate rather than fighting it. I don’t know how he let Romney get away with the crap he threw out tonight." Yet Matthews’ most remarkable quote of the night was the inadvertent admission that MSNBC’s lineup of hosts are little more than shills for the Democratic party. "Where was Obama tonight?! He should watch, well not just Hardball, Rachel [Maddow], he should watch you, he should watch the Reverend Al [Sharpton], he should watch Lawrence [O'Donnell]. He would learn something about this debate,” said Matthews. These folks had their “knives out” for the president’s left-wing policies.

Uncharacteristically, Matthews left it up to MSNBC colleague Ed Schultz to play the race card. “It was just very frustrating to watch a guy lie to the American people and not be counter-punched because we’re afraid he’s going to be called an angry black man,” said Schultz. Schultz was backed up by yet another hack at MSNBC. “Obama has just been subject to the Fox News treatment of Angry Black Man, again,” said “Now with Alex Wagner” panelist Michael Eric Dyson during the next viewing hour.

A couple of tweets by the Daily Beast’s Andrew Sullivan and HBO’s Bill Maher were equally apoplectic. “How is Obama’s closing so f**king sad, confuse.d lame?” tweeted Sullivan. “He choked. He lost. He may have even lost the election tonight.” Maher joined right in. “i can’t believe i’m saying this, but Obama looks like he DOES need a teleprompter,” opined Maher. Corpulent filmmaker Michael Moore tweeted several disparaging items as well, the highlight of which was blaming Obama’s debate coach for the president’s lackluster effort. “This is what happens when u pick John Kerry as your debate coach,” said Moore.

Blaming moderator Jim Lehrer for Obama’s performance was an integral part of the mix as well. "Regardless of who is winning this debate, Jim Lehrer is losing,“ tweeted Dan Abrams of ABC News. "I wondered if we needed a moderator since we had Mitt Romney,” whined Obama campaign manager Stephanie Cutter. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow contended that Romney “spent much of the night battling not just President Obama, but also the moderator of the debate, Jim Lehrer. And Mr. Romney won every exchange,” she added.

And then there were the excuses. "The President had to be the President, and had to be a candidate, and so he didn’t have nearly as much prep time,“ said Politico editor Jim Vande Hei. The New York Times echoed that sentiment, noting that "Mr. Obama’s advisers went into the debate recognizing that incumbents often lose their first debate while seeking re-election in part because they have less time to prepare and in part because it is the first time a challenger is onstage as a peer with a president.”  Former Al Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile also jumped on that bandwagon. “Well, he was a little rusty. After four years, he hasn’t been in a one-on-one kind of debate setting in a long time,” she said on Good Morning America, to a bewildered George Stephanopoulos, who himself wondered, “where was the president? Where was the fight?”

Speaking of Al Gore, he should get a prize for the most creative – and bizarre – excuse offered up so far. "I’m going to say something controversial here,“ Gore said on Current TV. "Obama arrived in Denver at 2 p.m. today, just a few hours before the debate started. Romney did his debate prep in Denver. When you go to 5,000 feet, and you only have a few hours to adjust, I don’t know …" Co-host Cenk Uygur echoed Gore’s Obama-was-out-of-it idea. "You know what I did? I drank two cups of coffee before coming out here,” he explained.

It took former environmental jobs czar and 9/11 “truther” Van Jones, who thought Romney managed to “out-Obama Obama,” to get to the essential reality. “I think [Obama] took Romney too lightly,” said Jones. “I think he did not expect Romney to throw that kind of heat.”

Top Obama campaign strategist, David Axelrod, isn’t even pretending. In a conference call with reporters he urged them to start making the points the president himself failed to make. “All of you who travel on the road with Governor Romney know that he just a few weeks ago stood up and said we didn’t need any more teachers. Last night he couldn’t be more enthusiastic about teachers and more teachers. And so today, as the day after, I think the question for you [the media], for the American people is really one of character, and whether or not a candidacy that’s so fundamentally rooted in hiding the truth and the facts from the American people and deception, is the basis of trust on which you assign the presidency to a person,” he said. He continued:

So that is what we are going to focus on moving forward. We’re going to hold Governor Romney accountable for the things that he said last night and we’re going to make him justify those claims – as I hope you will make him justify those claims.

These are breath-taking statements from a man whose own candidate has made an unrelenting effort to keep substantial portions of his past completely off-limits from public scrutiny – even as the ever-doting media were more than willing to play along. Furthermore, if Axelrod wishes the media to hold a candidate accountable to the truth, perhaps they should begin by holding Barack Obama accountable for the ever-evolving story surrounding the murders of four Americans in Benghazi or the administration’s numerous investments in failing green companies owned by top Democrat campaign donors or the top-secret security leaks surrounding the Bin Laden execution, or the invocation of executive privilege in the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal – just for starters.

Nonetheless, mainstream media were happy to answer Axelrod’s entreaties. Obama’s Pravda, The New York Times predictably rose to the occasion. Headlining Times coverage of Romney’s domination of the debate and Obama’s disaster was muted at best. There were no hand-ringing analyses of the future of the Obama campaign as there are for essentially every Romney camp mishap; for instance, when video was released a few weeks ago of Romney assailing the “47%” of American voters in Obama’s pocket. In fact, the Times declared war on Romney in an acrimonious post-debate editorial, which seemed to interpret Axelrod’s pleas as direct orders.

The Mitt Romney in the debate, the paper said, “seemed to be fleeing from the one who won the Republican nomination on a hard-right platform of tax cuts, budget slashing and indifference to the suffering of those at the bottom[.]” Romney was the exclusive purveyor of “mendacity.” In turn, Obama’s fault was that “he missed repeated opportunities to challenge Mr. Romney on his falsehoods and turnabouts.” Among Obama’s few other failings noted by the Times included that he “chose to be polite and professorial” and failed to be aggressive.

“Virtually every time Mr. Romney spoke,” the writers bemoaned, “he misrepresented the platform on which he and Paul Ryan are actually running.”

For a paper that excoriated a debate that “quickly sunk into an unenlightening recitation of tired talking points” it is remarkable that its entire screed was virtually identical to Obama campaign talking points issued the next morning. As the President himself said, “I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney. But it couldn’t be Mitt Romney, because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The fellow onstage last night said he didn’t know anything about that.” Yes, the Times dutifully regurgitated this last point as well.

If there was anyone onstage Wednesday night who appeared not to “know anything” about a great many things, it was the president himself. Moreover, he demonstrated a toxic combination of semi-detachment, hesitation and tenuous grasp of specifics in front of 63 million Americans, many of whom in poll after poll, declared Romney the winner.

Yet what scares the leftist media the most, what has driven them into paroxysms of rage and excuse-making, is not the feeble performance of the president in a single debate. It is the nerve-rattling possibility that Obama did not have a bad night. It is the possibility that the real Obama, when stripped of his media filter and teleprompter, is always as small, unprepared, self-conscious, and as lacking in substance as he seemed Wednesday night. And if the president himself is a fraud, despite every media effort to anoint him as a brilliant demigod, then they are equally culpably for maintaining that facade – not only during Obama’s time in the Oval Office, but for most of his political career.

In short, being in-the-tank lapdogs for their Messiah has suddenly acquired a terrifying aspect for the leftist media – one that could get a lot more terrifying in the days leading up to the next debates, and onward to the election. Most people know that an animal is most dangerous when it is wounded. The president and his sycophants were wounded Wednesday night. What they all do going forward to put this president across the finish line in November could be unprecedented in its nastiness as a result.

Arnold Ahlert is a columnist for FrontPage Magazine.

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