Immediately after the election, the US public was bombarded with two petulant stories masquerading as questions. One was about the election — “What went wrong?” The other was about Gen. David Petraeus — “Why is this coming out?” or coming out now, or “Why is Gen. Petraeus really resigning?” or words to the same effect. Turns out the two stories are related. They didn’t know the electorate, and they didn’t know Petraeus either.
The rejoinder to questions about the election — “what went wrong” — is simple. It didn’t go wrong. A majority of voters chose one guy over the other, and — unlike 2000, when thousands of votes went uncounted — that guy won the White House. This is not “wrong”; this is how elections should work. The election was also decisive. President Obama won, Grover Norquist lost. President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden won re-election by 61 million votes to 58 million, and won in the Electoral College 332 to 206, pulling in all but one battleground state. Obama-Biden again cleared the 50% bar, replicating a feat last achieved by Franklin Roosevelt.
The US Chamber of Commerce, which spent at least $28 million against Democrats, lost. Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads, which spent $1 billion against the president and against Democrats, lost. Karl Rove lost. Grover Norquist lost. Donald Trump lost. Rudy Giuliani lost. Rush Limbaugh lost. Charles Krauthammer lost. George Will lost. Bill O’Reilly lost.
Media grotesques lost. Sean Hannity, Dick Morris and Sarah Palin went over the side with Krauthammer, Limbaugh, O’Reilly and Will. The rightwing noise machine lost. Fox News lost. Rupert Murdoch lost. The Wall Street Journal lost. The Chicago Tribune lost. A host of auxiliary right-wing pundits installed by large media outlets lost. Many or most pollsters, except for Nate Silver, lost.
Democrats gained both Senate and House seats. Some Democratic senators who endured an avalanche of expensive negative advertising won anyway — Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Joe Manchin in West Virginia, Bill Nelson in Florida, Jon Tester in Montana. Also, Elizabeth Warren won in Massachusetts, Claire McCaskill won in Missouri, Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, Mazie Hirono in Hawaii. The Senate is better off. So is the House, which will now have Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) back and Allen West (R-Fla.) gone, and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) instead of Joe Walsh. The swing from awful to good is bigger than the outcome, but Dems also stand to gain eight seats.
Lackluster corporate ally Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan, who authored the Ryan budget plan, lost. Ryan did win re-election to the House, where Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio ) has chosen him to negotiate for the GOP on the federal budget. The string of candidates who lost the GOP nomination lost again. Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann cannot claim to have enhanced GOP credibility in the general election. Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) lost. House Republicans lost their two ugliest members, they lost part of their ‘base’, and once and for all establishment Republicans’ distance from anti-abortionists was clarified for all to see. Incidentally, that last phenomenon could be better reported.
Big money lost. The Koch brothers, who spent tens of millions on the election, lost. The super-PACs massed on the pro-corporate, pro-tax haven, anti-union side of the aisle lost big. Wealthy self-funding candidates almost all lost, too; the national political press could have seen an augury for fall 2012 in so many self-funder losses.
There is often a disconnect between actual elections and some of what passes for political reporting. While individual stature always makes a difference, it is a sad truth that the political writers best-paid by the publishing or infotainment industry tend to fall into patterns comfortable for corporate media outlets. Throughout 2011 and 2012, a media campaign insisted that the election was going to be close, a nail-biter, a fight going late into the night, into the courts, even into the House of Representatives. The national political press asserted that the election was Mitt Romney’s to win rather than the popular incumbent’s to lose. Strangely, numerous media figures insisted that ‘the economy’ was an issue that would work in Romney’s favor.
Turns out the public was less prone to amnesia than they assumed. Like some billionaire and millionaire candidates (though not all), corporate executives who stepped off the sidelines to bully the political process through their workplaces lost. Corporate managers who tried to throw their weight around instead of improving their companies were rebuffed. The political press could have seen that one coming, too.
Now it turns out that, with regard to Gen. Petraeus, there were a few more blind spots. There are indeed unanswered questions about the Petraeus matter—questions not asked by the right wing. For example, when Petraeus took individuals in right-wing think tanks along with him overseas, or gave them offices, did the US taxpayers fund the activity? When biographer Paula Broadwell accompanied Petraeus in Afghanistan or elsewhere, was any of the activity funded publicly? How much of Petraeus’ entourage over the years, or Petraeus’ careful cultivation of the media, was supported by taxpayer dollars?
Then there is Congress, where some prominent members are huffy over not being told about Petraeus earlier and investigations are underway. However, it turns out that Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was clued in on the Petraeus matter by an FBI agent, a friend of Tampa socialite Jill Kelley, before the election. Will congressional investigators call in the FBI agent for questioning? If not disclosing the investigation to House and Senate intelligence committees beforehand is an issue, will they call in Cantor? Reportedly Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) also knew of the affair. Will they question Reichert?
Following the above, here are some questions the right wing could ask Reps. Reichert and Cantor. Dear Mr. Reichert and House Majority Whip Cantor: Why didn’t you go public when you learned of the matter? Why didn’t you go public before the election? If disclosing the Petraeus investigation was the name of the game, why didn’t you hold a press conference and issue public statements?
Did the two of you (Reichert and Cantor) discuss the matter? Did either of you ever meet, or talk with, the FBI agent? Did either of you go to the head of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.)? If not, why not? Did you get in touch with the Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)? If not, why not? Did you apprise the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), or the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.)? Why not?
There are more fundamental questions. Why would keeping the Petraeus investigation secret protect President Obama? Wouldn’t secrecy protect Petraeus? That seems to have been the general’s own view, after all. Petraeus made no move to disclose his affair, let alone to resign his (highest-clearance) position, until prodded to do so by higher-ups and by publicity. Petraeus had a period of months in which to choose the honorable course, yet by all accounts he did not draw away from Broadwell until after she had published the glowing biography of — by some chance — Petraeus.
So, another question, this one for the publishing industry: what if anything are you going to do, to set the record straight on the relationship between this book’s author and its subject?
Margie Burns is a Texas native who now writes from Washington, D.C. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2012
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