While it may be true that we’re unlikely to see another election in which the issues are more clearly drawn, it’s probably not too soon to declare dysfunction the likely winner, when we take account of the splurge of Super PAC dollars, the nature of our checks-and-balances system (which might be shortened to read simply “checks system,” or perhaps “check for checks system”), and the obsession of the media with the latest stumble rather than the underlying commitments of candidates.

Joseph Lelyveld, The Likely Winner

(Mitt Romney and Barack Obama drawing by John Springs)

While it may be true that we’re unlikely to see another election in which the issues are more clearly drawn, it’s probably not too soon to declare dysfunction the likely winner, when we take account of the splurge of Super PAC dollars, the nature of our checks-and-balances system (which might be shortened to read simply “checks system,” or perhaps “check for checks system”), and the obsession of the media with the latest stumble rather than the underlying commitments of candidates.

Joseph Lelyveld, The Likely Winner

(Mitt Romney and Barack Obama drawing by John Springs)

Two long reads on the campaign from our correspondents:

At the Republican convention, Jonathan Freedland found “a brand of raw Social Darwinism, a cult of the winner that believes the success of the few renders the system legitimate, even sacred, regardless of the fate of the many who are less fortunate. ‘I’—or more accurately—‘my parents have made millions,’ the argument seemed to run, ‘so that proves the system works and is just.’ Scarcely a word was said about the plight of the many millions of Americans who have seen their wages stagnate or decline over several decades.… The Republicans seek a world in which the fittest will be free to run fastest, and as for the rest, well, the success of the strong will somehow help them too.” — The Republicans: Behind the Barricades

While at the Democratic convention, Joseph Lelyveld saw a president who “seemed to have been caught flatfooted by the gall of his opponents, unable to find plain language to do a Harry Truman and give ’em hell, irritated on occasion by the need to spell out obvious facts and knock down obvious distortions.… He needed to find a way in Charlotte, finally, to recapture ‘the narrative’: to stand on his record without sounding defensive, to offer a believable future consistent with past promises. He needed to be memorable again.” — What the Democrats Have to Show

(Drawings by John Springs)

Two long reads on the campaign from our correspondents:

At the Republican convention, Jonathan Freedland found “a brand of raw Social Darwinism, a cult of the winner that believes the success of the few renders the system legitimate, even sacred, regardless of the fate of the many who are less fortunate. ‘I’—or more accurately—‘my parents have made millions,’ the argument seemed to run, ‘so that proves the system works and is just.’ Scarcely a word was said about the plight of the many millions of Americans who have seen their wages stagnate or decline over several decades.… The Republicans seek a world in which the fittest will be free to run fastest, and as for the rest, well, the success of the strong will somehow help them too.” — The Republicans: Behind the Barricades

While at the Democratic convention, Joseph Lelyveld saw a president who “seemed to have been caught flatfooted by the gall of his opponents, unable to find plain language to do a Harry Truman and give ’em hell, irritated on occasion by the need to spell out obvious facts and knock down obvious distortions.… He needed to find a way in Charlotte, finally, to recapture ‘the narrative’: to stand on his record without sounding defensive, to offer a believable future consistent with past promises. He needed to be memorable again.” — What the Democrats Have to Show

(Drawings by John Springs)

Andrew Hacker, Can Romney Get a Majority?

40 percent: Number of Republicans who support a social safety net, according to a Pew study.

"In 1987, fully 62 percent of Republicans favored some kind of social safety net and 58 percent saw some good in unions, signs of a then moderate majority. Today, only 40 percent and 43 percent hold those views. As recently as 1992, a hearty 86 percent were saying they favored environmental regulation of some sort. Today, with a purer party, it’s down to 47 percent."

Mitt Romney drawing by John Springs

Andrew Hacker, Can Romney Get a Majority?

40 percent: Number of Republicans who support a social safety net, according to a Pew study.

"In 1987, fully 62 percent of Republicans favored some kind of social safety net and 58 percent saw some good in unions, signs of a then moderate majority. Today, only 40 percent and 43 percent hold those views. As recently as 1992, a hearty 86 percent were saying they favored environmental regulation of some sort. Today, with a purer party, it’s down to 47 percent."

Mitt Romney drawing by John Springs

Garry Wills: Why Is This Man Laughing?

Everyone has noticed by now the non-laugh laugh of Mitt Romney, a kind of half-stifled barking. But what does it mean? It is blurted out as abruptly as it is broken off. Is it a kind of punctuation, part comma, part full stop, part interrogatory mark? What, if anything, is it trying to convey? Why does it seem more like coughing or burping than laughter?

Image: AP Photo/Stephan Savoia

Garry Wills: Why Is This Man Laughing?

Everyone has noticed by now the non-laugh laugh of Mitt Romney, a kind of half-stifled barking. But what does it mean? It is blurted out as abruptly as it is broken off. Is it a kind of punctuation, part comma, part full stop, part interrogatory mark? What, if anything, is it trying to convey? Why does it seem more like coughing or burping than laughter?

Image: AP Photo/Stephan Savoia