In the run-up to the first (official) presidential debate of the 2012, I couldn’t help but be reminded of this line out of the mock vp-debate Saturday Night Live showed four years ago:
“Due to the historically low expectations for Gov. Palin, were she simply to do an adequate job tonight, at no point cry, faint, run out of the building or vomit, you should consider the debate a tie.”
President Obama didn’t faint, run out of the building, vomit or cry (at least not on stage), but I’m sure plenty of Obama supporters will have. From the too rehearsed, unnatural intro that Obama delivered, to his final lackluster statement, the debate went almost entirely Romney’s way.
The first of three presidential debates between Obama and Romney focused on domestic and economic issues. Faced with a huge debt, both candidates talked about what they would do about the trillion dollar national debt. Romney, for once, gave specifics. For instance, and maybe most memorable, he said he would cut subsidies to PBS, including scrapping the moderator’s job and that of Big Bird. He further said that he would send the good programs, such as medicaid to the states. The interesting point here is that Romney’s plan involved sending at least the same amount of money that is being spend on Medicaid right now to the states. In fact, he would adjust it to inflation.
So the question is, how is giving over control over a program, but still picking up the check, going to help lower the deficit?
Even more importantly, Romney also said that he had no knowledge of a tax-cut for the wealthy, even though it’s been in his speeches since 2010.
Obama, however, never went on the offensive and stayed lackluster in the face of all those inconsistencies and lies. I couldn’t believe my ears as I heard Romney claim that his (and Paul Ryan’s) program didn’t include vouchers. He also didn’t want government to dictate what kind of care would be available or was proper for people. I guess he would leave that kind of decision making power in the hands of the insurance companies, because we all know that companies are so much better in determining what kind of treatments get coverage and should be paid for.
But all in all, the first section of the debate could clearly be called a win for Romney. Obama never really got into it and he seemed taken aback by Romney’s lies and blatant reversals of previous stated plans, so much so that it may have rendered him somewhat speechless.
As the debate continued on to healthcare, Obama seemed to regain some of his past glory. The president still stayed on the defence, however, as Romney kept hammering at Obamacare and the so called death-panels that would limit choices for Americans. Again, however, Romney stated that he would leave the good things about Obamacare intact and pre-existing conditions would still be coverable under his repeal.
Though Obama didn’t really push the fact that medical boards only define best practices and nothing else, he did score big towards the end of the section. He asked Romney what his plans were, because all we were hearing was that ‘all good things are in it,’ he went on to suggest that maybe Romney was keeping his plans about healthcare a secret because they were ‘too good’ for the middle class.
As the third and final section (the candidates completely ran rough shot over the moderator, whom had prepared four sections of equal length) came into play, both candidates discussed their views about the role of government with Obama coming strong out of the gate with a reference to Lincoln and the killing of Osama bin Laden in his first statement of the section.
Romney again found his more liberal roots in this section as he praised the work of teachers, a democratic voting bloc by default, and even said that the Department of Education had done some good things on the national level by helping the states and local boards in their work.
Obama, still glowing from his small victory in the final part of the healthcare debate, tried to further tackle Romney by bringing up the GOP’s reluctance to extent student grants programs. Romney however, again flat out denied this and said that he would keep student grants intact or raise them.
All in all, it was a good debate to watch. Romney came of as a great speaker, very spirited, though not always very specific. Obama on the other hand, lacked energy and was mostly unable to rebut Romney’s charges. Now, even though everyone agreed that Romney had won the debate, it hadn’t escaped the media that he had done so by being very liberal with the truth. Politifact already debunked several statements from both candidates as being not entirely truthful in real time and CNN’s post-debate analysis also classified several of Romney’s statement as false.
But none of that matters I guess if you just lie convincingly and your opponent is too busy playing a poor defence to call you out on it.
For all those Obama supporters, you need to remember one thing about tonight’s debate. There are only a couple of thousand undecided voters and most of them aren’t swayed by one debate. Not only that, it’s electoral votes that count, not popular, and those battlegrounds states still lean mostly to the blue side.
Personally, I do hope that the next debates, and the VP-one, will be more exciting. Maybe it will help if candidates limit their lying and the moderator, you know, opens his mouth and moderates a bit more, without reducing the debate to 60 second soundbites that is.