Welcome to Behind the Lines, a weekly conversation with Salt Lake Tribune cartoonist Pat Bagley and BYU economist Val Lambson.
Lambson: The conventional wisdom seems to be that Romney looked presidential and Obama looked vaguely overwhelmed, relative to expectations. Is anyone’s vote going to change as a result?
Bagley: After a truly horrible month where it seemed like 47 percent of whatever he did was wrong, Romney performed unexpectedly well in the Wednesday debate. Perhaps it was all the fasting and prayers. In any case, I think he’s back in the running and we may yet have a Mormon president.
Lambson: Do you think he would really do away with Big Bird?
Bagley: If there were a way for Romney to leverage him with debt, charge management fees, and outsource him to China, then, yes.
Lambson: I wonder where those Big Bird dolls are made. I suspect that Big Bird is already Big Business and could fly on its own. But we digress. ... Do you care to make any predictions about the upcoming debates? The candidates are both talented politicians who can learn from their mistakes. And then there is the vice presidential debate.
Bagley: I imagine we just saw the biggest impact that the debates are likely to have. As the cartoon shows, the debates are about style: Obama was horrible and Romney scored points while playing fast and loose with the facts. What I find fascinating is the Madonna-esque way Romney reinvents himself to appeal to popular taste. Just the other day he repudiated the Romney who made the 47 percent comments and is now a compassionate compromiser. Horse pucky.
Lambson: An interesting phrase, “compassionate compromiser.” Compassionate seems to mean “willing to do good with other people’s money.” and compromise is the stuff of politics. Almost all politicians are compassionate compromisers, so I suppose you are right that it appeals to the popular taste. I have much more respect for people who do good with their own resources, without compromise, and there are many such people in our country. Most of them do not run for president.
Bagley: While watching the debates I recalled a Groucho Marx quote: Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies. The biggest threat to America’s future growth and the freedom of its people wasn’t even mentioned by either candidate; the widening economic divide which is beginning to make us look like a banana republic.
Here’s a nice take on the problem from The Washington Post’s Steven Pearlstein: “I am a job creator: A manifesto for the entitled.”