September 23, 2012
Under President Barack Obama, the national debt has ballooned past the $16 trillion mark — a number once inconceivable — and is growing by the second as the federal leviathan feeds on borrowed money.
And as the debt grows, devouring future liberty, you might consider a future America transformed, into a plate of flaming Hellenic cheese. All that's left is for Obama to shout "Opah!" and we'll be Greece for sure.
The president doesn't talk about the debt, but neither do most of us. It's a number so huge we can't put our minds around it. Some might see our children and grandchildren — their backs stooped in mindless labor — carrying that debt forward upon their shoulders. But most of us would rather talk of political gaffes.
Gaffes are easy. They're fast, lively and entertaining. One tribe or the other feigns outrage and casts the other guy as its fool. So with the first presidential debate scheduled for Oct. 3, please let's talk of important things, like gaffes.
Republican Mitt Romney sure let loose a huge gaffe recently — when that fundraiser tape was released — saying 47 percent of voters will cast their ballots for Obama no matter what, because they feed on the government.
It was what it was, a bunch of rich guys complaining about folks on hard times.
"He just told all those Pennsylvania coal miners what he thought of them, that they're victims, whiners," a conservative Republican lawyer told me. "It was dumb."
What was worse was Romney's squirming immediately afterward, cementing the perception.
In that viral video from that fundraiser, Romney said that the 47 percent "believe they are victims. Who believe government has a responsibility to care for them. Who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. And that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what."
Confronted, Romney at first cringed, his default position. A conservative would have embraced it, to argue that government dependency is morally wrong, a way of buying voters, then subjugating them, like the Chicago machine has done for almost a century.
But Romney isn't a conservative. And while he complains about Obama's spending on social programs, he wants to spend an estimated trillion on the military.
Romney is a blue-state Republican establishment suit, just another rich guy in a parade of all those white-shoe moderate GOP Gumbies you see in Obama's Illinois. When Romney speaks conservative, it sounds forced, an odd foreign dialect tangling the man's tongue, as if it were a language he hated studying at school.
Let's admit it. Romney is a stiff, the guy in the Kohl's Father's Day catalog, the fellow with the hard grin and the hard crease in the pleated khakis.
Conservatives spent last week making wonderful arguments for Romney, but the fact is that they make a better case than he does. And so, going into the first debate, Romney is on defense, a one-legged man in a sprint.
With the continuing economic news, with millions and millions of Americans out of work or underemployed as the result of his policies, Obama should be trailing by 12 percent. But he's about even with Romney. Why? He's not a stiff. He's cool. People like him.
He sings. He laughs. He plays golf. He even held a fundraiser with the Middle East in turmoil and a U.S. ambassador killed and got away with it. After days of insisting the turmoil was the result of that stupid anti-Muslim video, the Obama White House finally admitted Ambassador Chris Stevens' death was the result of a planned terrorist attack Sept. 11.
But there was little immediate political cost. Why? Because Romney was on the defensive over that 47 percent crack, and because American journalists are still tingly about Obama.
How confident is the Obama campaign? Last week, with American embassies under siege in the Middle East, team Obama tweeted a remarkable 2009 White House photo. Obama was sitting and chatting with a man in a pirate costume. Yes, a pirate costume. It was a cool way to celebrate International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Romney couldn't get away with talking like a pirate. Obama? Yes he can.
And on Letterman last week, a bromance if ever there was one, Obama was asked about the debt when he took office.
Letterman: Do you remember what that number was? Was it $10 trillion?
Obama said he didn't remember. He added that we don't have to worry about it right now. Later, but not now.
But as a presidential candidate, Obama was horrified at the debt of then-President George W. Bush, charging that Bush had taken out a credit card from the Bank of China.
The first 42 presidents had driven the debt to $5 trillion, he said, but Bush "added $4 trillion by his lonesome, so that we now have over $9 trillion of debt that we are going to have to pay back — $30,000 for every man, woman and child."
"That's irresponsible. It's unpatriotic," said candidate Obama.
Under Obama, in just over three years, the debt has ballooned to $16 trillion. He spends and spends. But he sure looked cool talking to the pirate.
Numbers don't cringe. Numbers don't have bromances with talk show hosts. Numbers don't make gaffes.
And all that $16 trillion debt does is grow.
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