- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2012

One good thing about a media pile-on is that the phenomenon typically has a fairly short shelf life, something that can benefit Mitt Romney as he endures the latest negative narrative surrounding his “47 percent” video, which has generated about 5,000 news accounts in the past 48 hours, according to a casual Google News count. Most of it frames him as a rich guy out of touch with America, a theme that grows tiresome to a voting public anxious for facts and red-meat issues. But the press has an appetite for wealth-related criticism; it is convenient and easy to craft, and the theme will reappear until Election Day like clockwork, along with claims that Mr. Romney’s campaign is in “disarray,” his policy is muddled and the Republican Party is divided for one reason or another.

And the “47 percent” pile-on? The damning video was 4 months old when it suddenly went public, and at a timely moment. Mr. Romney’s campaign has described the ensuing media frenzy as a “bump in the road”; the candidate himself has admitted his comments were “inelegant,” then used the criticism to clarify his fiscal policy. Meanwhile, the press is upping the ante with melodrama. A few of the many headlines:

Mr. Romney’s 47 percent fantasy” (The Washington Post), “Half Hearted Mitt” (Slate), “Romney struggles to steady campaign” (Reuters), “Romney’s 47 percent insult” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram), “Did the 47 percent video sink Romney’s campaign?” (U.S. News & World Report), “Mitt’s 47 percent attack: 100 percent wrong” (Salon).

FOR THE LEXICON

“Rodeo clown media.” Yes, it’s an addendum to the list that includes terms like “drive-by media” — a phrase invented by American Thinker editor Thomas Lifson, who identified an emerging genre in press bias, wherein gaudy but deft journalists distract the public from evidence of possible failings in the Obama White House.

“Rodeo clown media frantically distract from Obama’s foreign-policy disaster,” Mr. Lifson says. “As Obama’s national security strategy lies in smoldering ruins just like the Benghazi consulate, his outreach to the Muslim world a dismal failure, the media claim that the biggest story of the day is Mitt Romney noting that nearly half of the country pays no income tax, that they are not likely to find high taxes a problem, and that a similar number are dependent on the government.”

MASK THE FEELING

As a small panacea to the doldrums of the presidential race, one major Halloween retailer is charting public sentiment about President Obama and Mitt Romney based on nationwide sales of their respective vinyl presidential masks. Oddly enough, Spirit Halloween has correctly forecast the outcome of the elections since 1996 using this method and takes its political prowess seriously, joining forces with Rock the Vote to engage the elusive youth voting bloc, not to mention those who favor disguise.

“Our presidential index has proven to be a consistent and accurate predictor of the next president for nearly two decades,” says Steven Silverstein, CEO of the New Jersey-based costumery, which is hosting a voter-registration drive and, of course, an online poll.

Yes, one can cast a vote for the Obama or Romney masks, or the proverbial “other” candidate, which in this case could be Batman, Ironman, Freddy Krueger and Ted, the bear from the movie of the same name. So far, Mr. Obama is in the lead, but not by much — followed by Mr. Romney and, uh, Mr. Batman. The company sells 43 politically inspired costumes for presidents past, first ladies, hopefuls and enemies of the state and charming elephant outfits for the littlest members of the Grand Old Party. See it all here: www.SpiritHalloween.com/Vote.

THE ARNOLD INSTITUTE

Along with re-establishing his Hollywood roots as an action hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger is in thoughtful statesman mode. Next week, he stages his first fancy, comfy forum at the University of Southern California’s brand-new Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy.

“During my time as governor of California, I learned that the best solutions to the challenges we face come only when all sides are willing to meet in the middle and engage respectfully. That’s why I am so excited about the group of leaders we’ve assembled from across the spectrum,” Mr. Schwarzenegger says. “These are some of the most thoughtful and respected individuals I know.”

Who will be there Monday? Well, Mr. Schwarzenegger, of course, along with Sen. John McCain, former Govs. Charlie Crist and Bill Richardson, Tom Daschle, Tom Ridge, film director James Cameron and BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith, among many others.

Their topics, according to Mr. Schwarzenegger: “political leaders on the importance of post-partisanship,” “local solutions to global challenges” and “perspectives of media/Hollywood leaders.”

HOLA AMERICA

The viewing audiences could be in the millions. President Obama and Mitt Romney get their chance to woo the much-coveted Hispanic vote via Univision, the Spanish-language network that often draws more viewers than its American counterparts. Both journey to Miami for their 10 p.m. appearances, Mr. Romney on Wednesday, Mr. Obama on Thursday.

“Hispanics will play a key role in electing the next president of the United States,” says Cesar Conde, president of Univision Networks, noting that 20 million people are expected to vote, many in key swing states. Needless to say, both candidates will tuck private fundraisers into their itineraries. Mr. Romney will head to Sarasota, Mr. Obama to Tampa.

POLL DU JOUR

• 78 percent of Americans say American debt held by China is a “very serious” problem; 87 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of Democrats agree.

• 71 percent overall say loss of jobs to China is very serious; 76 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats agree.

• 61 percent overall say the U.S. trade deficit with China is very serious; 71 percent of Republicans and 54 percent of Democrats agree.

• 45 percent overall say the Obama administration is “not tough enough” with China; 65 percent of Republicans and 35 percent of Democrats agree.

• 39 percent overall say the administration’s deals with China are “about right”; 27 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Pew Global Attitudes Poll of 1,004 U.S. adults conducted April 30-May 13 and released Tuesday.

Murmurs and asides to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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