For those who make a living by covering the political horse race, the minutia of the campaign with it’s daily vicissitudes becomes too important.
They struggle to see the woods from the trees.
Particularly as digital media evolves, it becomes easier for campaigns to create double narratives, this is, one for the base and one for the nation.
We saw this quite clearly at the Democratic National Convention, where much of the first two days were spent deriding the right for its policies on controlling vaginas and uteri.
Once the bright lights of primetime came on, however, we saw a party talking about the American Dream, national security, even foreign policy. You almost thought you were watching the wrong party’s convention.
But this has relevance for breaking news as well, when the political machine doesn’t have much time to craft the proper narrative.
Those machines were in overdrive two nights ago when protesters in Libya committed villainous crimes against America, murdering four, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
You know now what followed: the embassy sent out a pathetic apology, as did Hilary Clinton, and the Obama administration remained silent. Romney vehemently condemned the attacks, while going on his own offensive against President Obama for his failures to stand up to threats abroad, choosing instead to apologize for America.
This politicizing of a tragedy was met with disbelief in some circles, even some GOP groups, but it was mostly from the left and the media (like I said: the left).
Lefties defended the president’s inaction like he was just “waiting for the facts,” which would be all well and good if the embassy and the State Department hadn’t both issued apologies for a YouTube video that officials now believe wasn’t truly the cause of the Libyan attacks.
Accomplices in the media were quick to flagellate Romney for his apparent short fuse (because when I think Mitt Romney, I think of a hot head) on the issue.
Some pundits even considered this a disqualifier for the Romney campaign (I’m not linking to it because it’s such sincere partisan hackery that I don’t want to waste your time).
Here’s the problem for the left: the Beltway story isn’t the same as the national story.
Political strategists may disagree with the tact Romney took, but the substance of the attack resonates with the country.
As Romney aid Richard Williamson argued yesterday on MSNBC, if you don’t have the facts, you argue process.
Even the U.S. government agrees that the embassy release was ridiculous, and Obama as an apologist for America fits in with one of Romney’s central themes as a candidate: He will not apologize for America.
This has been the drumbeat of his campaign for months. As attacks in Yemen and further violence in Egypt erupt, the president will look impotent, weak, unable to stand up to the challenges of the world because he’s too busy making excuses.
The national narrative here isn’t going to be that Romney jumped the gun criticizing Obama. The average person will have heard the news about Libya, but is far less likely to have heard about the Beltway politics of Romney’s response. If they do, the average undecided or independent voter will likely agree with the substance of what Romney had to say.
Furthermore, the statement Romney made was less political and more cultural. Obama has gone around the world trying to make friends, but has never put the fear of God in anyone (ironically, it’s a fear of God in the extremists which lead them to commit unspeakable acts of terror).
No one buys Obama as the compromiser because we know that’s just not the case. He’s demonstrated no ability to broker deals (particularly not favorable trade agreements for America) and no ability to bring people together, but rather divide.
He has been flaccid as a leader in terms of creating and maintaining our strength abroad, particularly by weakening our allegiances with Israel and Pakistan (if another country was sending drones up in my country and killing my citizens, I wouldn’t be too happy about it either).
In other words, the substance of what Romney said about the President, the heart of it, most people know to be true. That’s the narrative that matters, not the semantics of at what hour he delivered the remarks.
The policies of this administration speak for themselves, and Romney’s statements have worked to bring that message and broadcast it to the nation.
Here’s hoping people listen.