A binder full of memes

Trap Her, Keep HerWe’ve established my left-leaning bias, but I think that President Obama did a great job last night at the debate. He connected personally more than in past appearances and elections. He was smart. He was ready to engage Mitt Romney, to point out where the Governor’s plan didn’t add up, and then explain what his own plan was. He came ready for a fight – to the point that my own mother e-mailed and said that she had to watch a Liam Neeson movie because the violence was just too much.

The debate touched on a few things that hadn’t been discussed in previous debates, or not in depth. There were job questions, but there were also questions about immigration, women’s rights, energy, foreign policy, and gun rights. The Libya timeline goof in particular was a hot topic on social media last night and this morning.

But when I scrolled through my Twitter feed on the metro today, there was nothing about Mitt Romney opposing Lily Ledbetter. There were no mentions of gun control and automatic weapons, or the DREAM Act and immigration. Aside from Think Progress replaying the Libya goof, the thing I saw most often was Mitt Romney’s “Binder full of Women” comment.

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"Binders full of women": Mitt finally lands a zinger for the ages

Remember back before the first debate when Mitt let us know he was working on his zingers? Yep. Clearly he wanted to land a punch that would push him over the top in the public consciousness, score the iconic rhetorical knockout blow that people would still be pointing to decades later. He wanted to be like Ronnie:

There you go again.

He wanted to be like Lloyd:

Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.

Finally, after so many months on the campaign trail, Mitt landed his zinger.

Frankly, I was staggered at how quickly Mitt’s iconic “binders full of women” remark caught fire. Within an hour or two we had #BindersFullofWomen on Twitter, BindersFullofWomen.com, the hysterical Binders Full of Women Tumblr pageMittsBindersFullofWomen.com and several Facebook groups, one of which had 70,000 likes by the end of the debate. It happened so fast I found myself wondering how these people had known it was coming, because clearly they had the sites locked and loaded and were just waiting for Romney to utter his instant classic.

The problem, of course, is that when Mitt finally pulled the trigger, he had the gun pointed at his own balls. Which is fitting, I suppose, given how much time he had dedicated in recent months to debating with his own positions.

This is all funny, and yeah, check back in 50 years. If you’re still around, do a Google search (or whatever the equivalent is at that point in our future) for “memorable presidential debate moments.” You’ll certainly find Ronnie’s dismissal of Jimmy Carter and Lloyd Bentsen’s famous VP debate bitch-slap of Dan Quayle. But you’ll also find Admiral Stockdale:

Who am I? Why am I here?

You’ll find Dick Nixon sweating like a hog in the afternoon sun on an especially warm August day in Tucson. You’ll find Jerry Ford explaining that Poland is completely independent of Soviet influence.

And you’ll find binders full of women, the awkward moment where a candidate who has lived his entire life out of touch with regular men and women tries desperately to show that he really does get it. And only proves, ever more conclusively, that he doesn’t. Turns out Hofstra was merely the latest stop in the long and comical Mitt Romney, Man of the People® Tour.

This is what happens when an election process is driven by style instead of substance. Meticulous attention is devoted to appearances, to how the candidate looks, to how he or she appears to be in command (or not) of the stage. Abraham Lincoln might be carved into Mt. Rushmore, but his ugly ass couldn’t get elected dog catcher in 2012.

What is actually said matters, but not because of its relationship to facts. No, every potential word is tested for how it might be perceived, for its emotional charge, for its effectiveness with key demographics. Words are uttered not because they’re true, but because they persuade. And we have fully abandoned any notion that persuasion is a function of truth. If we cared about facts and the truth, we’d subject candidates for Leader of the Free World® to considerably more pointed questioning, wouldn’t we? We wouldn’t let their handlers dictate the process top to bottom.

But we don’t. Campaign 2012 isn’t about policy, it’s about pwning.

Meanwhile, outside the debate hall, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, a woman who actually does have some substantive ideas to discuss, was arrested. Because she didn’t have the proper credentials. One ought to wonder why somebody who will be on 85% of the ballots in the election couldn’t score the proper credentials.

So congrats to the Romney camp for finally getting of a zinger that’s destined for immortality. And good for us, the dumbass culture picking our leaders using process that looks like it was designed by Kardashians.

Or not. This is how Cartel Democracy works, I guess…