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(As alway, this column appears here a week after its newspaper release thanks to the syndication

       CUSTOMER SERVICE: (800) 708-7311 EXT. 236
       PLEBIFRIGHT 2012
       Now that Labor Day has passed -- or, as Mitt prefers to call it, Outsource Day -- we move into the final throes of the election season, the autumn of our discontent. Instead of Shakespeare’s glorious language, this play will feature a bomb blast of bombast. We will be assaulted by rhetoric and ads that pound us with ugly distortions that are blatant attempts to confuse. They are the handiwork of people who are shameless about lying.
       Anybody who tries to set the record straight will be immediately demonized as a partisan. That is standard operating procedure. In the midst of a Republican deception blizzard, Romney pollster Neil Newhouse blithely declared, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.” Note the term “dictated.” It’s a focus-group-tested buzzword, in this case, designed to inflame the fears of some sort of journalistic despotism. It’s a variation of that time-dishonored demagogue cliché, “If you don’t like the reflection, break the mirror.”
       So welcome, my fellow Americans, to Plebifright 2012. We can look forward to a scary, “pick your poison” choice that has left so many simply nauseated. It’s not that there aren’t clear-cut differences. The two sides present widely different roads for this country to travel. If you scrape away all the platitudes, you have Barack Obama advocating more government involvement in economic matters and less in social choices. Mitt Romney has been captured by the hard-liners in his party who demand just the opposite: a market system virtually free of regulation and an enforcement of stern moral values.


       Romney and his newly adopted running mate, Paul Ryan, make it clear their line of attack will relentlessly picture a President Obama too inept to repair our broken economy, as evidenced by the dreary unemployment. “If there’s a coach whose record is 0 and 23 million” Romney declared in Ohio, “you get rid of him and get someone new.” The Obama side will just as single-mindedlessly picture Romney as someone from a team with a game plan that already produced a disaster, what Obama called “an agenda that was better suited for the last century.” Actually, some of those on his side would have preferred a less-timid Barack Obama, someone who would pillory the right wing as a force that would tear down the past century and reverse all its social and economic progress.
       So once he and his Democratic cheerleaders finish their convention with all its contrived gusto, it’s time for the slog to November. Along the way, we have four official debates. Alas, there has been little enthusiasm for the idea of adding one more, featuring Clint Eastwood as a moderator questioning two empty chairs. Fear not, though, because these four confrontations sometimes have a huge impact if one candidate or the other can come up with the memorably scathing sound bite. Think of that: The complex issues of today can be swept aside if the scriptwriters create a devastating 20-second catch phrase. It can work in reverse. Sometimes, the candidate mortifies himself with a goofball comment that provides a feast to us predator pundits just waiting to pounce.
       And let’s all get ready for an “October surprise” or two. Those are the last-minute thunderbolts that the campaigns always carry in their dirty bags that are designed to shock the voters and deal a death blow to the enemy. If the polls continue to reflect a national ambivalence about the two teams swimming in this disgusting muck, that last-minute torpedo can sink one of them.
       The November surprise will be that we’ll have survived all this and be ready to move on. The chosen will claim a mandate to improve the hard times his way. Whoever he is, he will be working under the burden of truly hard feelings.
       © 2012 Bob Franken
       Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


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