Friday, October 5, 2012

Mr. President…nice guys finish last

Mitt Romney was the winner in Wednesday night’s debate hosted by Jim Lehrer because apparently Barack Obama left his debating skills back at the White House.  Obama was constantly looking down at the lectern with an expression I could not define, nor is it one I have seen from him in earlier debates.  If he was pre-occupied with his 20th anniversary, which was Oct. 3rd, romanticists might forgive him a bit, but hard core political analysts are anything but romantics.

Jim Lehrer, Debate Host
I don’t think it was that because the Commander in Chief can separate himself from his personal life when the big decisions are necessary, as he has shown before.  He was described in the media as “less than engaged” and “lethargic,” at times rambling through issues and facts like he has before.  In one report the President’s performance was described as a “far cry” from when he was on the campaign trail first running for office.  So where was Obama Wednesday?

To begin with, he let Romney come on strong in the very beginning, as he was predicted to do, and take over the debate literally from his first words.  CNN said, “The crucial and tone-setting first 30 minutes of the debate belonged to Romney.”  As an example, the President should have hammered more on Romney’s tax plan that refuses to raise taxes while making deep budget cuts in areas like education, with no specific clue to where revenue will come from.

But here’s what he said on Thursday the day after the debate: "If you want to be president, you owe the American people the truth.  So here's the truth: Governor Romney cannot pay for his $5 trillion tax plan without blowing up the deficit or sticking it to the middle class. That's the math."  Something he did mention a couple of times on Wednesday but not forcefully enough.

And I was astounded that Obama never refuted Romney’s repeated claims that the President would cut $716 billion from Medicare, inferring that it would come out of benefits to retirees.  In fact, Obamacare makes this cut from insurance companies and hospitals, not beneficiaries, and in many cases involves cost-saving measures.  Medicare Advantage recipients will be affected by reductions but that is a private plan, by choice, not through the government.

You can see a complete transcript of the debate here.

Not only did Romney start with the strength of his convictions—although many probably won’t stand a fact-check—he continued showing a confidence that just didn’t seem to be there for the President, except at certain times.  Mostly it was missed opportunities like the $716 billion remark above, but from more recent gaffes by Romney, Obama didn’t challenge the challenger with his comment about the 47% of Americans who thought they were “entitled” to benefits.

Mitt Romney-Pres, Obama
Yet another miss, not bringing up the Romney Bain Capital fiasco when outsourcing jobs was mentioned.  How about just why Romney refuses to release additional taxes from the 2 years already released?  Obama should have been more prepared to show exactly why Romney will have to raise taxes on the middle class when refusing to raise them on the wealthy.  And what about the latter.  Any one of these could have put Romney on the defensive.

At times I thought Romney looked flushed, reminiscent of the Kennedy-Nixon debate in 1960 when Nixon looked very tired and sweated profusely,  Romney suffered from neither of these but the redness in his face seem to come and go, coming on while Obama was talking then lessening when he was at the helm.  Barack Obama just seemed detached from his surroundings while Romney was speaking, which could account for his lack of attacks on Romney untruths.

Who gets the Pinocchio award?
In a couple of fact-checks, Seniors will pay less under Obamacare rather than Romney’s claim they will pay more.  Obama’s administration did not create 5 million jobs as he spoke, but rather 4.4 million, but with a net gain of 125,000 jobs during his administration.  Romney said health care costs are going up, which they are, but they are rising under Obamacare at the slowest rate they have in 51 years.  If you are interested, go to FactCheck.org

There are two more Presidential debates and one Vice Presidential debates still to go, and the whole picture will no doubt change somewhat with each meeting of the candidates.  I did a post recently, “The debates may not make a difference but we’ll watch them anyway,” which addresses whether Presidential Debates have changed the course of the elections over the years.  In most cases, no, but with Romney’s Wednesday strengths, Obama must find himself before Oct. 16.

Missing was to question the candidates what they would do about gun violence and more firearms regulation.  Lehrer was asked by top gun control advocates to do this but not even a mention if it might be coming up in future debates.  And my final thought, Romney did not beat the President in this debate, Obama beat himself.  I am still curious why it happened.  What are your thoughts?

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