As the 2012 presidential election campaigns enter the final month, Mitt Romney faces a daunting, almost omnipotent adversary totally dedicated to his personal and political destruction. But that adversary – in the debates, in the election and in the contest for the minds of the American people – is not his onstage and on-ballot opponent.
His real adversary is the “They Said Committee.”
LET ME EXPLAIN. For decades my dear sister-in-law labored faithfully in the vineyards of her Methodist church in Atlanta. She served diligently, obediently and without complaint on nearly every imaginable committee – music, worship, youth, Sunday school, missions, education, sick and shut-ins, benevolences, rummage sales, building and grounds, membership, outreach and in-reach, or whatever.
One day she called us in a state of extreme excitement. “Guess what?” she gushed. “ I have just been named to the ‘They Said Committee!’”
We asked for illumination.
“For years, in every committee I ever served on, every time I asked why we had to do a particular thing, or do something a particular way, the answer was always, ‘They Said we had to.’ Finally, I am on the They Said Committee!”
The resources of the Democratic Party and the bulk of traditional national media constitute a virtual They Said Committee that defines what the public hears, sees, knows and should think about issues, politics and politicians in the United States.
It is, because the They Said Committee says it is.
The They Said Committee is not some organized, vast left-wing conspiracy – though glimmers of that were clearly visible in the recent ambush of Romney by reporters following the Egypt and Libya attacks – but more often just consistent, coherent acts by folk who share a common ideology, purpose and zeal. Like bird dogs pointing one another, they take their cues from one another.
Through acts and omissions both subtle and overt, they continually tell us what is fact and what is not, what is important and what is not, what is acceptable and what is not, who won and who lost in every instance of the political day – the aggregate effect of which is an attempt to create self-fulfilling prophecies.
MITT ROMNEY and running mate Paul Ryan are not on the They Said Committee.
No matter what Romney and Ryan say or do; no matter how sound, logical, documented, factual or irrefutable their statements or ideas; no matter where or how often they say or do it; no matter how clear, concise and eloquent they say it – even should Romney deliver the combined political equivalent of the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, the Gettysburg Address and the preamble to the Declaration of Independence rolled into one – the They Said Committee is the arbiter of their efforts. They determine his fate and declare what the ensuing facts shall be for the record and public wisdom. Selah.
If Obama misspeaks or his administration errs, and Romney, Ryan or the janitor at the Republican National Committee headquarters take notice, it’s “out of context,” “unjustified” or “politicizing a tragic incident” – never “an Obama gaffe.” If Romney or Ryan opine something objectionable to the left – no matter how true – it’s aggressively challenged or declared a gaffe. Who arbitrarily determines what is or isn’t a gaffe? The They Said Committee, of course.
EVERYONE KNOWS that Romney is not likeable, but Obama is very likeable. How do we know this? The They Said Committee says it’s so.
The economy is in shambles, with the Gross Domestic Product at an anemic growth rate of 1.2 percent, unemployment at more than 8 percent for more than four years, debt up more than 50 percent to $16 trillion-plus in less than four years – all non-starters for the They Said Committee.
The Mideast is in an anti-American frenzy, including the murder of an ambassador and three embassy staff members in Libya – but Obama characterizes such things as a “bump in the road.” The ever-apologetic They Said Committee sees nothing remarkable in either the comment or the cavalier attitude revealed.
The list goes on – but the story is always the same: The Close Relatives of Solomon in the They Said Committee salivate at the thought of a Romney misstep and micro-dissect every opportunity to declare one. Obama missteps receive a yawn, a blind eye or an encouraging nod.
And the polls apparently show the public more often than not buys into it.
Romney and Ryan can deal with the real Obama effectively. Countering the They Said Committee is much more difficult. The only real remedy is a less gullible and more truly informed, demanding public.
Where can we get one of those?
(The writer retired as publisher and editor of a twice-weekly newspaper, The Post-Searchlight, in Bainbridge, in 2008, after 46 years in community journalism. He is a former president of the Georgia Press Association and the National Newspaper Association. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)