When President Barack Obama opened the first presidential debate of 2012 with a 20th anniversary shout-out to his wife, Michelle Obama, I knew we were in for a long night.
Charm can only get one so far. And tonight, that mega-watt smile contrasted with the aloof demeanor that draws people to him with expectations of deeper waters, fell flat. More importantly, the fact that he came out seemingly dependent on his wife’s popularity did not bode well and exposed his underlying nervousness about the debate.
Mitt Romney is the expert on the economy and that came through tonight. He’s comfortable and secure in his knowledge of money — how to lose it, make it and manipulate it for his purposes — whereas Obama came across as a student who crammed all night for a final exam. It was painfully obvious that he came prepared for a different ball game and did not have the finesse to improvise on command. He was the professor, unused to being interrupted while class is in session and that did not serve him well. Still, this debate wasn’t about politics, it was about votes. No one voting for Romney was swayed and no one voting for the POTUS was swayed. Independents, however, may be another story.
The president looked down at his notes, doodled around the edges, nodded absently as Romney struck blow after blow. Romney went so far as to compare President Obama to one of his sons:
“Look, I’ve got five boys — I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true but just keep repeating it and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it. But that is not the case.”
I won’t even entertain the racist tinge of an elitist, white male calling the first black president of the United States one of his “boys.” In whatever way that it was intended, it was terribly disrespectful and how did Obama respond?
It didn’t end there. When Obama attempted to hit Romney with a left hook on outsourcing companies reaping tax benefits, Romney smirked and not only touted the aforementioned experience, but stomped all over Obama’s borrowed Clinton quip about the “arithmetic” not adding up:
“I’ve been in business for 25 years. I have no idea what you’re talking about. Maybe I need to get a new accountant, but the idea you get a break for shipping jobs overseas, is simply not the case.”
Bain Capital anyone?
From social security — many liberals were stunned to discover that the POTUS believes that he and Romney share some common ground — to education and Wall Street, Romney’s lies went unchecked and the president missed opportunity after opportunity because of it. Even on his signature Obamacare, the president failed to mention GOP obstructionism, even when Romney managed — with a smirk on his face — to accuse the president of partisanship. The former Massachusetts governor was unlikeable, aggressive, disdainful, dishonest, presumptuous and elitist, which makes the fact that he outshone President Obama even more astounding. He bullied the moderator, Jim Leher; he basked in his 1 percent status and played heavily to his base. He positioned himself as a wealthy, moderate, small government alternative to a big-spending president…and it worked, because the opposition remained muffled.
Moreover, this was supposed to be about domestic issues; but apparently that’s code word for economy. There was no talk of reproductive rights, Lily Ledbetter Act, DOMA, marriage equality, immigration, voter suppression or poverty, among many other issues. Instead, Romney lassoed the momentum and never let it go. He flip-flopped mid-debate several times. First, he voiced support for energy independence, then criticized the president’s extensive financial investment in going green. He claimed that the United States was founded on religious tolerance; then 30 seconds later, he said that all Americans have the same God. He even said that raising taxes was a good way to heal the economy and that he had no intention of providing tax cuts for wealthy Americans — and President Obama just let it all ride, even as his own positions were misstated time and time again.
Amazingly enough, not one word was mentioned about the 47 percent of Americans that Romney claims plays the the victim card and will vote for President Obama because they feel entitled to things like healthcare, food and housing. Those elderly that he said he would help as president are in the 47 percent. Those college students who should just “get a loan from their parents” are in the 47 percent. The fact that President Obama stood there, appearing completely unprepared and uninterested, was not a good look for him. It would have been more effective to replay President Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention and run it at pivotal points in the debate to rebut Mittens, because the president was not present tonight.
When the dust has cleared, Mitt Romney will not have gained much, if any, ground from this debate. His lies were too obvious and the fact-checkers will have a field day. To paraphrase Rev. Al Sharpton, he gave good testimony, but he perjured himself, leaving those who are fighting for a second term for President Obama with enough ammunition to spin this performance on it’s head in the coming days.
The question remains: Will President Obama come out next time ready to fight for himself?