Weathering a rough night

By Oliver Kendall

The result of the Presidential debate last week was not what I expected. Somewhere deep down I must be a starry-eyed optimist, because I thought President Obama would trample the perpetually awkward and generally dishonest Mitt Romney. Instead, the historical pattern of the incumbent being trounced by his challenger in the first debate continued. Romney looked polished, prepared and presidential, while the Obama looked tired and distracted—it’s almost as if he’s been too busy leading the free world to log as many hours on debate prep as Mitt. There’s also been speculation that the President was off his game for other reasons—perhaps he was sick. Whatever the reason, it will be denied by few people that Obama did not bring his A game, and that the governor with the hair came out looking pretty good. Part of this had to do with the way arguments in the debate were made. President Obama made points correctly, but in a way that was long-winded and somewhat disorganized. Governor Romney showed a level of dishonesty that should shock the minority of Americans who are aware enough to have noticed. While the vast majority of what he said was BS, it was pithy, well-organized BS. My statement about Mitt’s mendacity brings me to another point about the failure of President Obama to win the night. It must have been difficult to have a real debate when much of what Romney said at the time was in direct contradiction to his previous positions and statements. Obama joked about this at a rally the morning afterwards, but missed the chance to point it out on the national stage the night before. President Obama’s failure to capitalize on the fact that reality was on his side came to a painful climax when Governor Romney told him that “he may be entitled to his own house and plane, but not his own facts,” a statement so ironic that my mouth hung physically open for several seconds. In addition to his failure to hold Governor Romney to the truth, the President neglected to hit the Governor on his record at Bain Capital, his investment in certain shady Chinese business ventures, his comments about the 47%, and his mysterious tax returns. On this in particular, Romney gave Obama a golden opportunity to strike when he repeatedly mentioned the importance of being open and forthcoming, yet another tremendous irony from a man refusing to release either his tax returns or the names of his big donors. Finally, there’s the issue of Jim Lehrer. This will likely be the end of his long (and largely distinguished) career of debate moderating. On the one hand, you have to feel sorry for him. He tried to enforce the rules of the debate and to hold his ground, but he ended up spending a fair amount of time as a doormat for the Governor. On the other hand, while I approve of this new debate format, he failed to raise several key domestic policy issues. This debate was supposed to encompass all domestic policy, and he allowed Romney (with the help of President Obama, who also failed to bring up issues that would have given him the advantage) to make it all about the economy. This debate should have included several questions about social issues, which were of huge importance during the primary, and which people ignore at their peril. In conclusion, this debate was a debacle. The President lost, Jim Lehrer lost and the Truth lost. But Governor Romney looked alright overall. Democrats can only hope that once the fact checkers start working, people’s opinions shift in the same way they did following Paul Ryan’s convention speech, taking the path from “what a breath of fresh air” to “my goodness, what a liar.” refresh –>