Mitt Romney’s Long Fixation On Big Bird And Public Arts Funding

In tonight’s presidential debate, Mitt Romney took aim at Big Bird, the friendly Sesame Street character who Romney cited as an example of public broadcast financing that he would cut. It’s been one of the few clarifying moments in a swampy debate, and one that prompted some snark on Twitter: the Roots’ Questlove tweeted “#SaveBigBird” and a raft of jokes followed. But neither the fundamental unseriousness of taking on arts funding as a way to attack the deficit*, nor Romney’s threats to Big Bird, were new. In fact, Romney’s answer about the deficit tonight, including his litmus test for what is so valuable it makes sense to borrow money from China to continue funding were an almost verbatim repetition of what he said at an appearance last December in Iowa:

“We’re not going to kill Big Bird,” he said at the time, “but Big Bird’s going to have advertisements.” And that’s the essence of the Romney campaign: Big Bird in a sandwich board as a distraction from an actual conversation about the state of our economy and our deficit.

* President Obama’s FY 2013 budget asks for:

-$154 million for the National Endowment for the Arts
-$154 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities
-$660 million for the Smithsonian Institution
-$22.3 million for the Kennedy Center
-$120 million for the National Galleries of Art
$445 million for two years of funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting