The Second Presidental Debate

I didn’t post following the Vice presidential debate, so I will include some thoughts from that as well.

Let me first state clearly and concisely (before I get long-winded and vague) that last night was as clear, decisive and powerful a win in a debate as perhaps we have ever seen in national politics. If Mitt Romney won the first debate, Barack Obama won last night in a landslide. Going into last night, the President needed to regain some momentum and put a halt to the progress that Romney made in the weeks following the Debacle in Denver (if you read my thoughts, I still disagree with the narrative coming out of that debate).

I used this analogy on Facebook this morning, and I will repeat what I wrote here:

This is my analogy and I am sticking to it: Going into the first debate, the President was up a touchdown with 5 minutes to go in the game. Much to the frustration of his supporters, he went into prevent defense, which is agonizing for the winning team to watch. Romney drove the field and kicked a field goal closing the score to four. He recovered the onside kick when the media decided that the President’s performance in the first debate was the worst thing that has ever happened to this country. He once again drove the field with the support of polls showing a surge in support. He brought in Tebow (Paul Ryan) on the goal line thinking he would put it away. The Biden-led goal line defense forced a four and out with their backs to their own endzone. Last night, with first and ten from his own one yard line, the President methodically moved the ball down the field baffling the Romney defense and with one minute on the clock, scored the 47% touchdown that effectively puts this game out of reach. Despite what Fox News (and Morning Joe) has to say this morning, last night was a decisive win for the President and a reminder why this man was able to beat both the Clinton Political Machine and the Republican Party in 2008. It was no accident.

That is what I posted to Facebook this morning and I stand by it. I was in a time crunch before work, so I had to rush through what I wanted to say.

I teach a Participation in Government (PIG) class where we watched the first hour or so of the debate this morning. I spent the first 10 minutes of class discussing the concept of bias and the importance of my students feeling empowered to disagree. I was a high school senior taking PIG in the fall of 2000 when Bush beat Gore. My teacher (who was female) was an unabashed Bush supporter. I did not feel like I had no voice in the class simply because I disagreed with her. I understood then, and I hope my students understand now, that she was a human being with her own personal biases. We all view the world through the lens of our experiences. I bring into my classroom the collective experiences of my life. So when President Obama states, in regards to the Arizona “Papers-Please” law, that some police officer will have the power to stop his daughters because they might look “illegal”, and that Mitt Romney supports that law, and in fact, has the author of that law on his campaign committee, how am I, the fiance of the daughter or Ghanaian immigrants whose children with that woman may very well end up looking like Sasha and Malia Obama, the uncle of an inter-racial niece, the brother-in-law of a Chinese-American immigrant NOT supposed to react strongly. I bring those bias with me everywhere I go. Including my classroom.

There were any number of moments from last night that I could highlight as the moment that Obama won the debate (and in my opinion the election) but I am going to focus on two. The first is the question on the response to the attacks in Libya on September 11th of this year. Here is the video:

This gets really good at about the 1:00 minute mark. The President, clearly pissed at the accusation that he has not taken responsiblity and that he doesn’t take his job seriously, turns to Romney, looks him right in the eye and calls his behavior offensive. Look at the look on Mr. Obama’s face when he says “That’s not what we do.”

Romney, thinking he had backed the President into a corner jumped up (or as close to “jumped” as he can, why does he walk like he is squeezing a tennis ball between his ass cheeks?) and said that the President waited two weeks to declare it an act of terrorism. Romney says: “you said in the Rose Garden that it was an act of terror?”  and he raises his eyebrows and sticks his chin out. Obama, with a sly smile on his face says: “Please proceed Governor.” Romney should have known something was up (I will say more on this later). The moderator then reminds a clearly flustered Romney that the President did in fact refer to the Benghazi attack as an act of terror on September 12th when he gave an address from the White House. He wasn’t at a political rally in Nevada as Romney stated. And lets remember, it was Romney who went on TV the night of the attack, before any of the details were released and attacked the President, during a national incident. You simply do not do this in national politics. The crowd actually cheered the on-the-spot fact checking of Romney.

Romney was left reeling after this and never recovered.

The second moment I want to hit on here (and like I said, I have watched the debate twice now and there are any number of these moments I could highlight from the “Binder full of women” to tax-cuts etc.) is the President’s closing remarks. Romney went first and put the ball on a tee for the President. Romney said that he wants to be President for the 100%, opening the door for the President:

Romney put it on a tee and the President hit the ball out of the park, across the street and through the parking lot. This is the clearest explanation of the President’s view on the role of Government and his vision for this country that I have seen him make. I have no idea what Mitt Romney was thinking saying that (actually I do, and I will get there in a minute). This was the President at his finest and in my opinion it effectively ends this campaign. Everything that Romney thought he left in September, the 47% comments, the disaster with his response to the Benghazi attacks, everything came crashing back on top of him last night. And while it was happening he was becoming increasingly irritated, red-faced, and aggressive with both the President and the moderator.

Let me jump to two points that I want to make and this leads me right into the first one. I paused the debate this morning to remind my students that agree or disagree with the President, he is more than simply Barack Obama from Chicago Illinois. He is the President of the United State of America. He represents the most important office we have in this country and perhaps the world. You will notice as you read through this post and others that I capitalize “the President”. There is a certain level that is acceptable when it comes to (and I shutter to use this term) disrespecting the President during a debate. Romney clearly doesn’t like him, and I don’t care. What I do care about is when he is disrespectful both of the man himself and of the office. When John McCain pointed at then Senator Obama and called him “That one” it was bad. When a red-faced, tennis ball squeezed between his ass cheeks Mitt Romney tells the President of the United States of America “Sit down, you’ll get your turn”, I start to become not just annoyed because I disagree with the policies (I am open to a policy debate on any topic, I am not right about everything and I never claimed to be). I start to become annoyed with Mitt Romney the man for his disregard for the office that Mr. Obama holds. I thought Obama was pitch-perfect in how he handled these kinds of outbursts from Romney, including when he looked him in the eye and called his behavior on the response to Benghazi offensive. John McCain would not have behaved like that. Hell, I don’t think George W. Bush would have behaved like that. John Kerry certainly didn’t.

And my second big point, and I think this was an overarching theme. A number of my student’s pointed out that Romney was evasive in answer direct questions. I was sure to point out that the President also pivoted off of topics that were difficult for him to answer, but that yes, it did appear that Romney had a script in his head, and that he was going to stick to it.

I have a theory. I think Mitt Romney is Ron Burgundy. Mitt Romney is clearly talented when it comes to memorizing lines and delivering them. He did it for 90 minutes in Denver two weeks ago and cheered as a conquering hero, regardless of the blatant untruths he was spouting. Last night, Mitt Romney had a script. He was going to nail the President on Benghazi and the response, no matter what. No matter whether or not the line he memorized was true or not. No matter whether Candy Crowly told him, uh actually, Governor…. he did call it an act of terror the next day. In the clip above, right before the end of the video, Romney repeats the lie, even as the crowd is cheering and clapping the fact that he was wrong. Mitt Romney is Ron Burgundy:

The same thing happened in the closing remarks. Romney had clearly scripted that line about the 100% and he was going to use it. Well, use it he did. What he did was put his entire candidacy for the office of the President of the United States on a tee for Barack Obama to drill out of the park. He can’t think on his feet and he cannot respond effectively if he doesn’t have a pre-packaged line memorized for the occasion.

Mitt Romney was out classed, out matched and out debated last night. It is that simple. I watched Morning Joe this morning where Joe and Mark Halperin were trying to collect themselves and claimed that the President failed to lay out his plan for the next four years.

Watch the debate again gentlemen. What Barack Obama did last night was politely, forcefully and energetically debunk the entire candidacy of Mitt Romney, call him on every lie and untruth that he continues to spout on the stump and in debates, lay out exactly how we got where we are, and what he intends to do in the next four years. Obama was sprinting laps around the track smiling over his shoulder like Usain Bolt while Mitt Romney was limping behind him, shuffling like he was squeezing a tennis ball between his ass cheeks.

The Democratic Party is fired up and ready to go. We saw last night the man we voted for in 2008. As I referenced above, this was the guy who dismantled the supposedly unbeatable Clinton Political Machine in the spring and summer of 2008. Go back through the archives of this blog and read what I wrote then, it’s all still true. This is the man who despite his name, his background, the color of this skin and the fact that his former pastor said “God Damn America” beat a respected member of the Republican party, a war veteran, and a man who appeared to be more than qualified to run this country. We all freaked out in 2008, and Obama reminded us:

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The First Presidential Debate

I am not going to go into a long explanation about my feelings concerning the two candidates. Use the archives.

I will admit that in the minutes after the debate, I felt exactly as Chris Matthews and Ed Schultz did. I felt as if the President should have more aggressively defended his policies as well as attack Romney on both his previous statements and lies as well as the ones  he was saying last night.

When Mitt Romney made a statement that was patently false, which he did more times than I could count last night, the President flashed that awesome smile of his and moved on. What he was banking on, I think, is that American people to be smart enough to know when  used car salesman is lying his ass off to get you into the driver’s seat of the bucket he his trying to pitch to you.

I will say this. I wish the President had been more energetic and aggressive. A little.

However, the only universe that Mitt Romney “Won” that debate last night is the alternative universe from which Mitt originates. One where facts do not matter. Basically, Mitt Romney “etch-a-sketched” his way through 90 minutes last night. Nearly everything he attacked the about the President was something that he previously supported. And everything that the President has done that has worked, well… That’s in his plan. Everything is apparently in this “Plan of his”. The problem for Mr. Romney is, in this universe, there are things like fact checkers, who have stated both last night and today, that Romney either lied or misled on a number of occasions last night.

I am (now) teaching Participation in Government and U.S. History and Government (yes, this liberal is shaping young minds). So of course we discussed the debate this morning. I was really pleased to hear that many of the students not only watched the debates, but watched some of the coverage of it, and were able to articulate what the pundits had to say. What I said to my students this morning was this. If you put the TV on mute, and watched but did not listen. Mitt Romney won that debate last night in a landslide. He looked directly at the President, was forceful and energetic. I don’t know what the smile/grimace thing is that he does, but it is terrible. But aside from that, Mitt “Looked” strong. The President in comparison looked down a lot (was taking notes I think), nodded when Romney was talking as if he agreed with him, and looked at the camera, not at Romney when he was talking.

If, however, you were to read the transcript, i.e. take away the visual and just have the words, the President won this thing going away. Romney only wins when you suspend disbelief. The substance, as has been the issue for him from day 1, was not there. I don’t know what the polls will show following this debate. The general consensus is that Romney “won”, big. I suppose that means the polls will tighten. If however, the electorate is smart enough to know when they are being lied to, repeatedly, I don’t think their will be much change.

I am disappointed that this is the post I am writing today. I think the President had the opportunity to shut the door on Romney last night. If he hit him on the 47% comments, on the Ryan budget, on the lies and distortions, on the etch-a-sketch nature of the Romney campaign etc., if he put Romney on the defensive, it could have ended this campaign.

I do think that the incumbent is at a disadvantage. There are four years of Obama policies, some successful, some not, from which to attack. Romney has the benefit of sitting back and saying, “this failed, that failed, I’d keep that, I’d replace that, I do this and that”, but never had to actually say how he would do so. Meanwhile, the President is in the position of defending the record while simultaneously stating what he is going to do better. It is a tough spot. One that in a lot of ways President Obama put himself in, but still tough.

ADDED:

Pay particular attention to the part about the ’84 election at about 10 minutes in:

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