- - Tuesday, October 9, 2012



“When I got on the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney. But I know it couldn’t have been Mitt Romney.”

— President Obama explaining the walloping he took in last week’s debate.

So this is the real Barack Obama. The post-change Barack Obama. The post-hope Barack Obama.

After getting thoroughly trounced by Mitt Romney on the debate stage, Mr. Obama did not look inward. He did not consider that maybe his tenure as president really just might be indefensible. He did not signal any kind of willingness to learn from his mistakes.

No, he chose to trash his opponent, call him a liar and accuse him of being some kind of duplicitous, two-faced snake-oil salesman.

And to the legions of viewers across the political spectrum who watched the debate and saw Mr. Romney destroy Mr. Obama, the president said: Do not believe your eyes. That was not Mitt Romney. That was someone else.

Talk about a snake-oil salesman.

In the throes of desperate delusion, his campaign got even loopier.

David Plouffe told reporters: “Romney’s performance was one that’s probably unprecedented in its dishonesty.” Mr. Obama’s porky Chicago hitman David Axelrod stayed on the same message accusing Mr. Romney of playing Elmer Gantry, the oily evangelist from fiction. Other campaign aides snidely tipped their hats to Mr. Romney’s “masterful theatrical performance” and gave him “style points.”

These are the same people who four years ago authored the most brilliant, pitch-perfect hopeful campaign in modern history. It was such a bright and unifying campaign that many voters forgot to ask even the most basic questions about the candidate with whom they had fallen in love.

It turned out to be such an easy glide to victory that we never saw them desperate. We never saw them fight. But now the knives have come out and it is some kind of ugly.

Watching from afar, voters who still actually support Mr. Obama sound even more desperate as they take their cues directly from the president and accuse Mr. Romney of being some kind of lying shape-shifter.

In Virginia, an Obama supporter was snapped stealing Romney signs and stuffing them into his Volvo sedan. In Florida, Obama supporters hired a plane to drag a banner over a Romney event that said: “Most dishonest debate ever.”

The media leapt onto a thoroughly ridiculous story about how Mr. Romney had somehow cheated by bringing notes into the debate. Those “notes” turned out to be his neatly folded handkerchief.

Nowhere can you find the campaign’s fingerprints on that story, and they have long since quit taking my calls or pitching stories to me. But I know how it works. Stories like that do not move on their own.

Under the protection of anonymity, it was most assuredly Obama campaign operatives calling up reporters and pushing them to follow that bogus story.

If this is the new kind of politics that Mr. Obama promised us four years ago, then I am starting to miss the old kind of politics.

Charles Hurt can be reached at [email protected].

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