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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Ann Romney and Creating Spin

This week we’ve been bombarded with spin, and I’m having trouble assessing what to believe. But I’ve been guilty of spin myself (more on that later.)

            I watched little of the convention. I heard Michelle Obama gave a great speech, but I didn’t see it. Between single-parenting and adjusting to a new semester of teaching, I collapsed into bed every night as soon as the kids were down. I did see Bill Clinton’s address and the ensuing bro-hug between him and Obama, on YouTube. But I had already heard what a wonderful speech it was, so the spin had been spun. This is why I stayed up past my bedtime to watch Obama on Thursday night; I wanted to form my own opinions before the news media got a chance to tell me what to think.

            And I thought it was a brilliant speech. No, it wasn’t as specific as Clinton’s, or as inspirational as Obama’s own convention speeches were in ’04 and ’08. However, I thought he answered to his critics, was hard on Romney without attacking his character, and he still inserted his unique brand of passionate rhetoric and patriotism.

            But the spin was this; it was a fine speech, not his best, and not as good as Clinton, Michelle, or Joe Biden’s. And the job report the next day tampered any fervor of positivity it may have inspired anyway, so we’re back to where we were before the conventions, more or less.

            Sometimes I wonder what’s more important: the actual event, or how the media reports it. In this age of tweets, 24-hour news cycles, and constant access to any and all sorts of information, we’re never asked to actually digest what’s happening. It’s all done for us.

            Unless we refuse the offer. This is where my own spin comes in, and my three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Abby, who is too smart for me.

            “When’s Daddy coming home?” She asked me this over and over, all week, sometimes in a petulant voice, sometimes in an angry one, and sometimes (and this was the worst) she just sounded defeated.

            Each time I’d say, “Not for a long time. Remember, he’s far away right now. For work. But he loves you and he’ll be home before you know it.”

            It was my attempt to put a positive spin on the situation that got me into trouble. After she asked me the same question for the zillioneth time, I lost my patience and I snapped at her. “Abby! Enough! He won’t be back for a long, long time. So stop asking!”

Her response?

            “But you said he’d back before I know it. When is that?

            Who does this girl think she is? Here she was, asking for specifics when she ought to just accept the feel-good half-truth I was offering up. Monty and I explained his trip to her many times, but she obviously didn’t understand that he was really leaving until after he was gone.

            I shouldn’t be surprised. Since she was around two, Abby prefers me over Monty only when she’s sick or needs someone to comb her hair. She lights up every time Monty walks into the room, and the two of them only have eyes for each other. It used to bother me. I wanted to sit her down and explain; I was the one who suffered through pregnancy and child-birth to bring her into this world, so show me some respect already.

            She’s not buying my spin. It would help if we could Skype with Monty, and we will eventually, but between the seven hour time difference and the poor phone reception in Northern Ghana, opportunities are limited. But Abby blames me, and acts as if I’m forcibly keeping her father from her.

My situation actually makes me feel bad for Ann Romney. This week she was being interviewed by a reporter in Iowa, and although she was adamantly only talking about the economy, the reporter kept inserting questions about women’s issues and same-sex marriage. As reported by the Huffington Post, when pressed, Ann Romney said this: “You're asking me questions that are not about what this election is going to be about. This election is going to be about the economy and jobs,” and "You know, again, I'm going to talk to you about the economy and about job creation, and about how my husband is the right person for the right time. This is going to be an election that is very important for women, and we are going to make sure that their economic prosperity is more certain under a President Romney."

I don’t agree with her. The election is about the economy, but it’s not only about the economy. However, I don’t think it’s okay for that reporter to hound her. Ann Romney isn’t running for president, and why should she be criticized, when all she’s trying to do is support her husband?

However, as good as reporters are at creating spin, they’re terrible at accepting it from others. Perhaps Abby has a future in journalism.



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