Wednesday, October 17, 2012

“The Debate – Act II”

Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“The Debate – Act II”
October 17, 2012

The President did what he had to do. He stopped the bleeding. Mr. Romney also did what he needed to do. He remained poised and confident. Pundits have given Mr. Obama a slight edge, but my sense is that it was more of a case of “the most improved.” I would score the debate a tie. At one point, when talking about drilling (or not drilling) on federal lands they came face to face, each pointing a finger at the other and talking over one another. For those of us that have been watching and reading about the campaigns there was not a lot of new material. Mr. Obama brought up, as expected the 47%, Big Bird and used the refrain, “Osama bin Laden is dead.” He also proclaimed, in case we had forgotten: “I am the President.”

In the first few minutes, Romney distinctly seemed to have the edge, but as time went on Mr. Obama seemed to relax and once or twice pulled a Joe Biden, with a toothy smile, while shaking his head, as though reprimanding a naughty but not bad child, though I thought he was looking a little testy at times.

This was the second of the three Presidential debates, and was conducted in the manner of a town meeting, with questions coming from the audience as well as the moderator, Candy Crowley. Four years ago, the town hall-style meeting was held at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee on October 8. At that debate, moderator Tom Brokaw unabashedly (and without bias!) set the stage by stating that since the first debate ten days earlier a lot had changed in the world, “and for the worse.”

In my opinion, Mr. Romney missed a couple of chances to score. On a question regarding Libya, Mr. Obama, in response to a question, said that it was he, not Hillary Clinton, who was responsible for the diplomatic corps – that ambassadors were his personal representatives, which they are. And he added that he had spoken of terrorists the day after the attack. That was, at best, a stretch. What he actually said was: “No act of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation.” Mr. Romney could have then asked why, two days later, his Secretary of State blamed the YouTube video, with no mention of terrorists, while standing over the coffins of the four who had been killed. And why did his Ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, blame the attack on the video when she spoke on five Sunday talk shows, or why did he (Mr. Obama) never use the word terror or terrorist when he spoke before the U.N., yet mentioned the YouTube video five times.

Another missed opportunity, in my opinion, was when the President unnecessarily, and somewhat patronizingly, brought up the fact that Obamacare would provide free contraception to women. The image of Sandra Fluke flitted before my eyes, fortunately dissipating quickly. While women were a targeted audience last night and contraception is important, the issue of “free” has raised questions with Catholic organizations and, in a world facing critical financial concerns, the question of birth control pills, which are important but not especially costly, seems trivial. But perhaps, in a politically correct environment, the issue is too sensitive to contest – an indictment of our society.

Where Mr. Romney did score with this audience was when he iterated the many failures of four years Of Obama policies, including the fact that there are 3.5 million more women living in poverty than four years ago, that 50% of college graduates cannot find jobs, that there are 23 million under and unemployed, that GDP growth in 2012 is slower than 2011 and that 2011 was slower than 2010, and that 12 million have been added to food stamps.

At one point I thought that the President’s nose would, like Pinocchio’s; noticeably lengthen when he straight-facedly proclaimed: “I believe the free enterprise system is the greatest engine for growth the world has seen.” Mr. Romney’s proboscis might have experienced something similar, as he was talking of increasing Pell Grants.

Last night was Barack Obama’s second trip to the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex at Hofstra University on Long Island for a Presidential debate. This time they debated before 82 allegedly undecided voters. Four years ago the debate at Hofstra was the third debate, in the traditional format. That debate took place in the midst of recession; the DJIA that day were down 733.08 points. Incredibly, in spite of the financial collapse and the unpopularity of then President Bush, a Politico poll of undecided voters conducted over a 15 minute period following the debate showed Obama winning by only three percentage points, 49% to 46% for John McCain. While it may have been indicative of Mr. Obama’s weakness when it comes to debating, McCain’s showing may have been helped by several references to Mr. Obama’s somewhat embarrassing encounter with Joe Wurzelbacher, aka “Joe the Plumber.”

Toward the end of last night’s debate, the President seemed to get under Mr. Romney’s skin when he mentioned that he (Mitt Romney) had investments in China. Mr. Romney replied that his investments have been managed by a blind trust for eight years and that Mr. Obama also likely had investments in China. The President, grinning broadly, retorted that Mr. Romney’s pension was larger. There was something embarrassing about the whole exchange. Unlike many politicians from opposing parties, it seemed quite apparent that these two do not like each other.

Over the weekend, Victor Davis Hanson wrote a piece, “The Obama Breaking Point.” He concluded that the country is largely finished with its love affair with Mr. Obama. The reasons are many-fold. There were absurdly high expectations – “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” There have been disingenuous comments about economic progress – the “recovery summer,” “shovel-ready jobs” and “millions of green jobs.” There are the “400 rounds of golf and 200 hundred fund raisers.” There was the decision to hang with Jay-Z and Beyonce, rather than meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu. Liberals appear to have just quietly accepted his adoption of the Bush-Cheney protocol regarding Guantanamo. And they never interfered with his decision to use Predator missiles to legally vaporize American citizens suspected of terrorism.

Whether Mr. Hanson is correct we will know on Election Day. Certainly the President, after last night’s performance, is in the game and mainstream media will trumpet his performance. While most pundits gave the edge to the President, as I wrote at the start, I suspect the award he really won was for most improved. The bar had been set low for Mr. Obama (surprisingly for a man who the media had proclaimed as being “the one”), while expectations were high for Mr. Romney. In an op-ed in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, William McGurn questioned Mr. Obama’s alleged brilliance. He wrote: “In Denver he didn’t just lose a debate – he lost the carefully cultivated illusion of a larger-than-life figure” Time will tell as to whether the illusion was restored last evening.

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