President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney raised and spent millions of dollars for campaign ads. They logged thousands of miles, crisscrossing the nation, speaking to millions of Americans.
And yet, when the 2012 Presidential race finally ended on November 6, 2012, history recorded the contest was settled with a single video.
It was the infamous “47%” video of Romney speaking–for once, truthfully–at a private fundraiser:
“Well, there are 47% of the people who will vote for the President no matter what. All right? There are 47% who are with him.
“Who are dependent upon government. Who believe that–that they are victims. Who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them.
“Who believe that they’re entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it. But that’s–it’s an entitlement.
“…These are people who pay no income tax. 47% of Americans pay no income taxes. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich.”
A great deal of speculation has centered on: Who filmed it?
And in April, 2013, history repeated itself–with another Republican caught telling the ugly truth behind closed doors.
In this case, it was Kentucky United States Senator Mitch McConnell. A microphone (probably stationed outside his Senate office) caught him discussing how to attack Ashley Judd’s mental health if the actress decided to challenge him in 2014.
“She’s clearly, this sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced,” a McConnell aide said. “I mean, it’s been documented….She’s suffered some suicidal tendencies. She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the 90s.”
“I assume most of you have played the game Whac-A-Mole,” said McConnell. “This is the Whac-A-Mole period of the campaign…when anybody sticks their head up, do them out.”
McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, refused to answer reporters’ questions about whether an opponent’s mental health or religious beliefs are fair game in a political campaign.
Instead, he accused “the political left” of mounting “quite a Nixonian move.” An ironic charge, considering that Nixon and McConnell rose to power within the same political party.
As in the case of the Mitt Romney videotape, the focus of the press quickly turned to: Who recorded it?
But this totally missed the point.
It doesn’t matter who provides vital information. What does matter is: Is that information accurate?
In Romney’s case, it opened a window into a world seldom-seen by voters: The world of big-league donors and their money-grubbing political solicitors.
In McConnell’s case, it cast light on the how entrenched politicians ruthlessly defend their turf.
It should be clear that money-grubbing politicians have two versions of campaign speaking: One for donors whose money they seek, and another for the public whose votes they seek.
Rich and greed-obsessed donors (unlike poor and ignorant voters) are too smart to be fobbed off with appeals to their fears and prejudices. They expect a tangible return for their support–namely:
- Lower (preferably no) taxes
- Freedom to pollute
- Freedom to pay their employees the lowest possible wages
- Freedom to treat their employees like serfs
- Freedom to churn out shoddy or even dangerous goods
So what a candidate says in private, to his wealthy donors–or his campaign strategists–reflects what he really means and intends to do.
A similar frenzy of speculation centered on the identity of “Deep Throat”–the legendary source for Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward during the Watergate scandal. For decades, this proved a favorite guessing game for Washington reporters, politicians and government officials.
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein working on Watergate
In the end, “Deep Throat” turned out to be W. Mark Felt, assistant director of the FBI.
Commentators have endlessly debated his motives for leaking crucial Watergate evidence that ultimately ended the corrupt Presidency of Richard Nixon.
And, in the end, despite all the theories, it didn’t matter.
Felt provided Washington Woodward with the evidence necessary to keep the Watergate investigations going–by both the Post and the FBI.
W. Mark Felt
Thus, the question making the rounds about the McConnell discussion shouldn’t have been: Who taped it?
It should have been: How can more private fundraisers and political strategy sessions be penetrated and recorded–so voters can learn the truth about those who would become our elected rulers?
Definitely, those who specialize in “opposition research” should be thinking hard about this.
Private investigators–who regularly unearth secrets others want to keep secret–might also take an interest in this line of work.
And news organizations should offer financial rewards to those who provide such secret information.
With the advent of billionaires trying to buy the Presidency, and the unwillingness of Congress and the Supreme Court to stop the flow of unsavory money into politics, this may be our only chance to preserve what is left of the Republic.
Anyone who’s ever turned on a light to find roaches scurrying quickly over a kitchen floor knows the truth of this.
Turn on the lights–and watch the roaches scurry away.