Friday, October 5, 2012


        The first debate usually goes to the challenger, and the initial response of most commentators, Democratic and Republican alike, was that Mitt Romney won the opening round. The general consensus was that he was energetic, aggressive, confident, and well scripted.  Many expected him to be the attack dog, and he did not disappoint his followers.
        Though he sounded specific with his one-two-three point style, he was no more detailed than he has been throughout his campaign. The President’s supporters were disappointed and frustrated that the President let his opponent off the hook time and again. They felt that the President was not forceful enough in his responses, and that he missed or ignored opportunity after opportunity to call out his opponent on his misstatements and contradictions.
        But hold on. The President did not say anything wrong. He is being faulted not for what he said but for what he didn’t say, not for being too aggressive but for not being aggressive enough. Maybe restraint was the wise course to take, at least in this first debate.
         To those who have been so quick to hand the debate over to Romney, I want to say, “Wait a minute! Have you forgotten Mr. Etch-a-Sketch? We didn’t hear the real Mitt. We heard the well rehearsed Mitt! Romney scored on style, not on substance. A non-observer might have a difficult time picking a winner from a written transcript of the debate, especially if the non-observer was informed enough to recognized Romney’s complete reversals of many of his campaign positions, as well as his departures from the Republican Party platform.

       "This is the same Mitt Romney who said he couldn’t care less about the 47% of Americans who pay no income taxes and consider themselves to be victims, who expect everything to be handed to them, and whom he could never expect to take charge of their lives. And here he is talking about how he wants to help the middle class! Have you forgotten the Mitt who opposed the auto industry bailout, who wants to give a 20% tax deduction to the wealthiest Americans, of which he is one, who said he would repeal the Affordable Care Act the first day he’s in office?”
        How is all that going to play out as the campaign moves forward? The President was easy on Romney in this debate for who knows what reason, but Mitt is not going to get away with the things he said in the first debate. Even his own surrogates are already having to reinterpret their candidate’s remarks, and the President is hitting back hard on the campaign trail. Let’s not forget that there are two more debates yet to come, and I have a feeling the President will be taking the gloves off in the next two. There is also a Vice Presidential debate coming up next Thursday night, and Joe Biden will not be as easy on Paul Ryan as the President was on Mitt Romney. Mr. Biden will represent the President forcefully and well.
       In this debate the President was calm, cool, and collected, though perhaps too calm, cool, and collected for those who wanted him to blast his fast-talking opponent right out of the ballpark  Who knows whether that would have been a better approach? I like the fact that our President is thoughtful, and careful about what he says. That might not work in a debate, but it sure works in his roll as President of the United States! He has represented our country superbly in the international community.  I am confident in his leadership, but the thought of Mitt Romney as President scares me, and his performance in the debate only increases that fear. If we can’t trust him as a campaigner, how could we trust him in as President? He has put his foot in his mouth too many times!
        In this first debate President Obama was typically reflective in his style, which made him seem less energetic and involved. He allowed his opponent to get away with the same lies he has been saying throughout his campaign (e.g. that the President robbed Medicare of 716 billion dollars). He didn’t point out Romney’s flip flops and inconsistencies, or the Republican obstructionism that prevented the passage of the American Jobs Act, and the Dream Act, and the extension of the tax cuts for the middle class because they don’t want the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.
        Nor did he call attention to Romney’s personal tax problems, his overseas bank accounts, his tax shelters, and foreign investments. When Romney, who has studiously avoided talking about his record as Governor of Massachusetts, brought up the subject, the President did not quickly point out that Massachusetts ranked 47th among the states in job creation during Romney’s  administration.
        Romney did have a few zingers, but they were more or less lost in his overall rhetoric. One example would be his anecdote about his sons, ending with his karlrovian charge, aimed at the President, about repeating a lie often enough until people believe it, which is exactly what Romney has been doing throughout his campaign.
        So what’s the fall out? Romney may get a boost in the polls, but if he does, I predict it will be only temporary. Why? Because the fact checkers will point out his flip flops and his lies. The President is consistent. He is the same person in private as he is in public. There is nothing phoney about him. He can be trusted. He is obviously not as comfortable as Romney in attacking his opponent, but, as I have said, maybe for this first debate that was a good thing.
        And, have we forgotten which Party Romney represents? The Party of No!, the Party that is waging war on women’s rights, on voters’ rights, on union rights, and on the right of thirty million Americans to affordable health care.
        So what if the initial reaction of some people or even most people was that Mitt Romney was the “winner” of a very poorly run debate? So he can memorize his prepared script and deliver it with zeal. Does that change his character? No. Does it qualify him to be President of the United States? No. So he was better at criticizing his opponent than his opponent was at criticizing him. Does that make me like him or trust any more than I did? Not at all. If anything I trust him less.
       And I’m certainly not going to vote for him!  

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