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October 01, 2012 9:27 AM Romney’s Debate Strategy: Beavis and Butt-head Meet Charlie Brown

By Jonathan Zasloff

When I was a child, “Zingers” were a kind of packaged pastry made by Dolly Madison. They weren’t very good, but because they sponsored Peanuts specials, they had Charlie Brown, or Snoopy, or Lucy, or (my favorite) Linus on them. I desperately wanted to eat them more often.

Mom was smarter than that. “They really aren’t all that good even a dessert,” she told me. And I realized she was right: they weren’t very good, they gave me a sugar rush, and of course had no nutritional value at all.

So when the New York Times reports that Romney’s debate team has concluded that “debates are about creating moments and has equipped him with a series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August,” it just couldn’t be more appropos.

Quite literally, there is no there there: it’s policy as empty calories. That’s the entire Republican strategy: avoid all substance and just work on perfecting your put-downs. It’s the Beavis and Butt-head version of politics.

It shows something about the clown show in Boston that, faced with a candidate that the public has concluded is a jerk, devises a strategy to make him look like a jerk, and then announces to the media that its strategy is to make their candidate look like a jerk.

Basically, this is an attempt by the Romney campaign to replay 2000, which was essentially this strategy. Avoid specifics, lie about what you try to do, insult the opponent, and pretend that you are tough. That’s what happened 12 years ago, and to some extent, that’s what happened in 2004 as well. But it isn’t working this time, for the three reasons:

1) Mitt Romney isn’t nearly as good of a candidate as was George W. Bush;

2) Barack Obama isn’t nearly as bad of a candidate as was Al Gore; and most importantly;

3) The public has seen the results of eight years of Republican mis-rule. The GOP strategy is predicated upon the voters being idiots, but the electorate is not playing by the script. (This is why, of course, Republicans from Pennsylvania to Ohio to Florida are trying to replace it with another one, as Bertold Brecht suggested).

Better try yet another re-re-re-re-boot.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

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Jonathan Zasloff is a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles.