The premise seems ridiculous. Preposterous, even. And yet, here we are.
Where, oh, where are you, G. Dallas Horton? When might I gaze once more on your oil-slicked hair or hear your slightly sinister Texas twang as you vow to make mincemeat of anyone who causes a traffic accident by yakking on a cell phone?
It feels like months since I have glimpsed Mr. Horton’s TV pitches. Ditto for the perky blonde from Courtesy Motors. And whither the ultra-tanned receptionist who carefully over-enunciates every syllable for Abb-Bee-Denn-Tal? Did she skip town?
I’ll just say it outright — I want John Barr to sell me a car. For Pete’s sake, Jan Paul Koch, can you once again let me know how much dough your law firm’s contingency fee will save me?
Fact is, I find myself yearning for the days of yesteryear, and by that I mean the bygone, halcyon era known as February or March. You know, when a person could watch TV and see the full slate of familiar, sometimes-zany characters who felt like members of your extended family. We’d laugh together, cry together. There’s a reason these folks rarely pop into my home anymore. They have been squeezed off the airwaves by politics. Nevada’s status as a supposed swing state, one that is still “in play,” means there is little room on local channels for auto dealers or furniture stores. Instead, we are forced to endure an unprecedented slime-fest, a truly evil round-the-clock onslaught of distortions, outright lies, personal attacks and mud mixed with bovine excrement.
I’ve been reporting on political races in this state for more than 30 years, and the campaigns have all been nasty to one extent or another — but I’ve never seen such a vile and stupendous eruption of Godzilla-sized political turds. Campaigns always play fast and loose with the facts, but what makes this year different is the absolute audacity in telling lie after lie, steaming dingleberry after steaming dingleberry — with no apparent downside for the liars. Most voters don’t seem to mind when their guy is caught telling an out-and-out lie.
Mitt Romney’s transparent whopper a few days ago about Jeep moving to China is an example. He was trying to scare the crap out of Ohio workers by telling a spooky story that was an exaggeration based on a false news story from a slanted newspaper. But, after getting caught, Romney doubled down by turning the fib into a somewhat less-onerous TV ad. He has changed every position on every major issue, denied saying things that are captured on video, refused to give simple answers to fair questions and, though we are just days away from the election, I have no idea where he stands on almost anything. I’ve never seen anything like it.
The only issue on which his position is clear is the one that makes it impossible for me to give him my vote — taxes. Romney will not say which loopholes he will close for middle-income folks like me, won’t back down from his ridiculous, discredited claim that cutting taxes for rich people will trickle down to help the rest of us, and, most important, will not release his tax returns for the years when he was not running for president. I don’t think he’s done something illegal or that he didn’t pay taxes at all, as Harry Reid has alleged, but it’s a pretty safe bet he’s stashed huge piles of money in offshore accounts, invested in foreign conglomerates because they don’t have to pay taxes here, and took full advantage of tax-dodge schemes that are not available to folks like us. Asking to see Romney’s finances is not an invasion of his privacy or an unfair request. It’s part of his audition for the job. He is asking the public to hire him, but wants to dictate just what we’re allowed to ask about his personal history. He’s already declared to his future employers that it is none of our business, and that he will tell us only as much as he thinks is appropriate. The fact that Romney and his wife do not believe the American voter has a right to know about his finances is enough of a reason for me to vote against him.
The problem is, I am having real trouble working up much enthusiasm for Romney’s rival. This will get me kicked out of the Liberal Media Club, but on so many issues, there isn’t much difference between Romney and Barack Obama. In my conspiratorial gut, I suspect that the same folks who pull Romney’s strings also have considerable influence with Obama, and by that I mean bankers and Wall Street. I firmly believe the stuff that Obama says, that we are all in this together, that policies aimed at strengthening the middle class make more sense than tax cuts for fat cats like Sheldon Adelson or Steve Wynn. But the Democrat who seems so fired up on the campaign trail has been absent for too long for me to get enthused. Obama’s insistence on pie-in-the sky, nonexistent bipartisanship was simply a waste of time and political capital. Republicans were honest about who they are and what they were going to do. Bipartisan cooperation was never on their short list.
I like a president who plays it cool, but for crying out loud, what does it take to get Obama fully engaged once in awhile, to see him throw some punches, not just block them, for him to mix it up? I liked the fiery guy who ran for president in 2008 and wish the same person had pulled up a chair in the White House once in awhile. Now, in the thick of another campaign, the fiery guy has resurfaced, but I have no idea if he will stick around if re-elected. And, given the state of the deficit, it sure seems like pandering for both of these gents to talk about tax cuts for anyone, including the middle class. Tax cuts? Really?
We don’t get to see as many bail-bondsmen ads these days, but the airwaves are packed. Tens of millions of dollars invested by rich guys, without fingerprints, have meant an unprecedented bombardment of ads that have little connection to truth. Billionaires and corporations can now pump unlimited resources into political races, forever changing whatever semblance of balance we had. This week, I received an anti-Shelley Berkley hit piece that was an astonishing 43 pages long. I’ve seen commercial breaks wherein three spots in a row pounded Berkley, different ads from different sponsors, but all with the same central message. If the next ad told me that Berkley kidnaps little children and eats their fire-roasted organs, it would hardly be a surprise. Say anything. Do anything. There is no honor, and no shortage of money.
Are we ready to formally hand over control of everything to the corporate giants and grinning banksters of Wall Street? Is hatred of Obama enough of a reason to turn over the reins of government to someone who has flipped, flipped and flopped again on every single policy position? Is there any lie too egregious for us anymore … or do we somehow look at the whole exercise as if it is yet another scripted reality show? Like many of you, I am thoroughly disgusted by the bitterness of the campaign and deeply disappointed with the major candidates. I’m sick to my stomach at the vitriolic ads that pummel us 24/7. I want to see Jim Marsh and his funny shoes. I miss Mordechai from The Jewelers. I’ll test drive every couch at Walker Furniture just to catch a glimpse of Larry Alterwitz — an honest pitchman for once.
GEORGE KNAPP is a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter for KLAS Channel 8. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org