When desperation strikes incumbents

posted at 8:31 am on October 20, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

It’s been a while since we’ve had an incumbent President lose an election.  In fact, it was 20 years ago, when George H. W. Bush lost in a three-way fight to Bill Clinton.  What made that election remarkable was that Bush had enjoyed some of the best-ever job approval ratings of any modern American President just a little over a year earlier, into the 80s — unthinkable these days for anyone, Republican or Democrat.  Bush, a decorated veteran of World War II and a longtime player in diplomacy and national security, lost the election to an upstart Governor when the economy turned somewhat sour.

I recall the moment when I realized for the first time — not feared, but realized — that Bush would lose the election.  Bush was campaigning in Michigan at the end of October, trying to whip some energy back into his campaign in the home stretch, a task that would fall far short just a few days later.  Then-Governor John Engler told the Warren, MI crowd that the Bush campaign was “hot” and the Democrats “dead in the water,” which was merely the kind of fantasy all campaigns spin toward the end.

Bush then spoke, and went after Clinton and Al Gore in a personal, demeaning way I’d not heard from the President before then:

At a midday GOP rally at Macomb Community College, the president unleashed a rhetorical fusillade on Bill Clinton and running mate Sen. Albert Gore Jr., attacking their fitness for office, their character and charging, “My dog Millie knows more about foreign policy than these two bozos.”

In particular, Bush targeted Gore, whom he now calls “Ozone Man,” or just plain “Ozone.” “You know why I call him Ozone Man?” Bush said. “This guy is so far out in the environmental extreme, we’ll be up to our neck in owls and outta work for every American. He is way out, far out, man.”

When I heard that, I thought to myself, “What President talks like that?”  Part of the advantage the office gives an incumbent is its gravitas.  Bush’s own history as a diplomat, intelligence executive, and war hero gave him plenty more of that.  Bush abandoned that in the final week in schoolyard name-calling. That’s not why Bush lost the election, of course.  It was, however, the moment that I knew he’d lost it — and was pretty sure he knew he was losing, too.

Keep that in mind when you hear Barack Obama on the stump talking about “Romnesia.”  Those elementary-school attacks using people’s names are something one usually farms out to surrogates (and is pretty lame regardless).  That comes with the grasping of “binders,” literally grasping in Joe Biden’s case (and literally literally, not Bidenesque “literally”), as a major campaign theme. When the President himself starts using attacks like this, it speaks to his desperation more than his opponent’s positions.  It adds more heft to the argument that the first debate wasn’t a fluke, but demonstrated an actual gap in presidential stature between the two men.

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And speaking of DESPERATION …

“Sandra Fluke … spoke Saturday in front of about 10 people at the Sak ‘N Save in north Reno.”


Pork-Chop on October 21, 2012 at 8:07 AM

PatriotGal2257 on October 20, 2012 at 9:16 PM

The only people I know who are voting again for Obama are members of the teachers’ union or retirees on a teacher’s pension. They’d vote for Charles Manson if the union told them to.

petefrt on October 21, 2012 at 8:09 AM

Whenever a you say “retard,” little Trig Palin cries.
urban elitist on October 13, 2012 at 2:26 PM

rogerb on October 20, 2012 at 5:20 PM

And… I’m still unsure of your point. I don’t think you have one.
urban elitist on October 20, 2012 at 6:52 PM

Really? Weird. It’s like another poster said:

(don’t you know anything about politics?). It’s about defining _______ publicly before the 10% of the voters who will decide the election start paying attention and make up their minds…
Will it be enough? Not by itself. Is it doing what it’s supposed to do right now? As Saracuda would say: “you betcha.”
urban elitist on July 19, 2012 at 9:40 PM

Say, do you know that guy?
Neat how this last one mentions the same specific family as the other two unrelated posts, too. Thankfully no jokes at the expense of their special-needs child, though.

Whenever a you say “retard,” little Trig Palin cries.
urban elitist on October 13, 2012 at 2:26 PM

It’s almost like it’s defining you/your party publicly before the undecideds make up their minds.

rogerb on October 21, 2012 at 8:24 AM


…in a desperate attempt to find the President saying something as stupid…
Constantine on March 7, 2012 at 10:07 PM


Conservatives are desperate to draw the most tenuous connections between Iraq and 9/11…
Constantine on April 22, 2009 at 5:31 PM

New hotness:

Thanks for underlining how effective the President’s message is proving to be. Labeling it “desperation” is pretty much the Hot Air equivalent of saying “ouch.”
Constantine on October 21, 2012 at 1:14 AM

rogerb on October 21, 2012 at 8:36 AM

Whenever a you say “retard,” little Trig Palin cries.
urban elitist on October 13, 2012 at 2:26 PM

The president had been making an attempt at self-deprecating humor in his appearance on Jay Leno’s show by saying that a recent 129 he scored in the White House bowling alley had been “like Special Olympics, or something.”

The Left is all about compassion. Feel the liberal love.

Akzed on October 21, 2012 at 10:46 AM

Actually, Bush lost the election for two reasons, and your example had nothing to do with it. I suspect that if he had really gone after Bubba and AlGor (and that other guy) aggressively through out the campaign it would have been different.

He, in fact, did not campaign aggressively because he thought it beneath the dignity of the office.


Ross Perot siphoned off 15% of the vote.

Oldflyer on October 21, 2012 at 1:54 PM

…Ross Perot siphoned off 15% 19% of the vote.

Oldflyer on October 21, 2012 at 1:54 PM


NightmareOnKStreet on October 21, 2012 at 2:35 PM

The Failed President is a narcissist liar, socialist, and is destroying America. He is a very dangerous man and ignores the law in general, the will of the American people, Congress, and the Constitution. Obama has never stood for individualism, capitalism, or liberty. He is symbolic of a man who has downgraded the White House, the Constitution, human life, foreign policy, race relations, and America herself.

The majority of Americans are sick of his condescension, his policies, his racist bigotry, and his incompetence. This is the most corrupt, incompetent, dangerous tyrannical Administration in American history. His character is arrogance, conceit, egotism, vanity, and rank amateurism. His campaign is a platform of Division, Diversion, Anger, Hate, Defaming and Demagoguery.

Barack is a far left radical, anti-American, and plain old Chicago THUG politician. This Administration is an enemy of the American people and his presidency is a disaster. Obama’s legacy is one of economic ruin and looming national bankruptcy. Let us, then, grant this traitorous fool one last wish, and with a landslide vote, relegate him to the garbage dump of history, to become a forgotten footnote, a bump in the road leading us back to the Shining City on the Hill that we were before was thrust upon us.

It is a complete and utter disgrace that Barrack Hussein Obama has lied to the entire nation regarding the cover-up in Libya which resulted in dead Americans, truly disgusting. He is the most unqualified man to have ever been elected President and the tenor of his tenure has proven this to be true.

Brushjumper on October 22, 2012 at 10:11 AM