On Sunday’s Meet the Press, little was said about the candidates that hasn’t been said yet this far in the election season.
Obama’s failure to articulately outline a plan for his next term was brought up again. Republican strategist Alex Castellanos summed it up — rather aptly I think — when he said, “he’s not trying to get re-elected; he’s trying to keep Mitt Romney from getting elected.” Obama has indeed been relying on the “don’t interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake” school of political strategy, a bit too heavily so close to the election.
The question of authenticity in relation to last week’s vice presidential debate came up, an important element of the Paul Ryan-Joe Biden match-up. Interestingly, there wasn’t much disagreement from the Republicans at the table when Mayor Kasim Reed (D) said people like Joe Biden “because he is authentic.” Senator Granholm (D) made a similar point at closing, saying that “the American people will pick who they want to go to bat for them.” Alex Castellanos drew a contrast when he said the American people will pick someone who can solve the “big, practical problems” we face.
Tom Brokaw, who could remove himself from partisan loyalty more than the other participants, brought in the freshest ideas. Some of his most salient points dealt with the shortcomings of both campaigns: neither is talking about immigration or the impending crisis of unfunded public pensions (900 billion dollars that have been guaranteed and cannot be paid). He went a step further and called it a failure of both campaigns that neither is taking the warnings and prescriptions of the IMF more seriously. “[T]he IMF has been telling us we need to get our act together,” said Brokaw, noting that “we’re all going to have to give up a little more,” referring to both candidates’ reluctance to raise the tough choices that could cost them popularity.
Regarding Benghazi, which has recently moved to the forefront of Romney’s campaign, Granholm brought up a point that has been obscured in the concerns over embassy security. In the vice presidential debate Thursday night, Paul Ryan was incredulous (and seemed rightfully so at the time) at the lack of a security team and marine detachment at the consulate in Benghazi when these measures are taken at our embassy in Paris. Benghazi, though, is not the official U.S. Embassy in Libya, Granholm countered; the official U.S. Embassy in Libya is in Tripoli. She did not mention, though, that security standards were low in Benghazi due to the fact that it was technically a temporary location.
The show ended with David Gregory’s interview with Stephen Colbert. Though disorienting at first to watch him out-of-character, he delivered some of the most honest insights of the show. When Gregory asked if the outcome of this election would significantly change anything, Colbert answered without the panicked tone typical during an election season: “I don’t think there’s no difference [sic]. I don’t know what the difference is, though,” he admitted.
He expressed hope for more reforms that Obama failed to deliver in his first term and confusion about how Romney would govern — as a technocrat perhaps, which may explain his hesitation to give details about his tax plan. “He can’t tell us what he wants to do because he hasn’t seen the books yet,” Colbert said. This may be an explanation the Romney campaign should adopt — it reinforces the image of Romney as a no-nonsense numbers man, a man who will inject our recent pipe-dream spending habits with a healthy does of realism.
Colbert’s answers are particularly refreshing in the era of modern campaigning when this election has been exaggerated into a high-stakes choice between economic recovery and economic collapse — and who represents which possibility, just depends on whom you ask. Meet the Press began with a quarrel over just this choice, and Stephen Colbert came in to refocus us on what this choice actually means; perhaps ironically, he reminded us of what exactly about this election is serious.