Battlefield Gaffe

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Battlefield Earth

Paul Krugman has some outrageous notions about what the press should focus on in its interminable coverage of this interminable election season.

In Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate, Mitt Romney completely misrepresented how we ended up in Iraq. Later, Mike Huckabee mistakenly claimed that it was Ronald Reagan’s birthday.

Guess which remark The Washington Post identified as the “gaffe of the night”?

I guess Mr. Krugman didn't get the memo about the 2008 election being a referendum on which candidate is the most Reaganesque.

Asked whether we should have invaded Iraq, Mr. Romney said that war could only have been avoided if Saddam “had opened up his country to I.A.E.A. inspectors, and they’d come in and they’d found that there were no weapons of mass destruction.” He dismissed this as an “unreasonable hypothetical.”

Except that Saddam did, in fact, allow inspectors in. Remember Hans Blix? When those inspectors failed to find nonexistent W.M.D., Mr. Bush ordered them out so that he could invade. Mr. Romney’s remark should have been the central story in news reports about Tuesday’s debate. But it wasn’t.

Well, I suppose we could focus on the minutiae of how we wound up in a conflict which has so far cost us over 3500 American lives -- or on the fact that we broke the 3500 mark this week -- but it's so much more interesting to focus on gaffes about a dead President.

Romney is probably heaving a sigh of relief that his rewrite of history hasn't added to his gaffe quotient, because he's assembled quite a record of bizarre ramblings. Ana Marie Cox provides a rundown of statements that give the lie to his boring, white-bread exterior and expose him to be an SF geek with an odd penchant for praising Hitler. National spokesman Kevin Madden explains:

He spends "23 hours, 59 minutes a day avoiding's the one minute in the day where something is either lost in translation or he strays from conventional wisdom that reporters or opponents will pounce on."

And you thought being mind-numbingly dull was easy. It's actually a very carefully developed skill set. In a campaign focused entirely on image, bland is fine. Aping Tom Cruise isn't.

It's remarkable enough for a serious Presidential contender to name a book of genre fiction as his — or her — favorite novel. (The primary season reading list tends toward the classics and more serious contemporary literary fare.) But naming Hubbard's "Battlefield Earth" on Fox News raised a host of questions Romney could have avoided if he'd named something by Ray Bradbury. First of all, many Americans already view Romney's own faith as suspiciously cultlike in some respects — so why draw personal attention to Hubbard's religion, Scientology, which has a more sinister reputation? Putting religion aside, "Battlefield Earth" is almost universally regarded as a terrible book, even by the standards of science fiction junkies.

Equally embarrassing is confusing the SF universe of Mormon author (and Curmudgette fave) Orson Scott Card with the policies of the real world French government.

Romney's blinding hatred for the French may have played a role in that merry mix-up. He also, apparently, considered "Hillary=France" bumper stickers. I think it's a bad idea, but if after the primaries, these two hyper-sanitized candidates face off, we could be seeing them on bumpers all across red state America. If they can expunge enough of their troubling personalities to make them media bullet-proof, who knows.