Unlike the primary debates or the conventions, this was not a huff-and-puff show – this was a true idealogical battle for the presidency, and I encourage anyone who hasn’t watched it to take the time to do so.
They start out with Jim Lehrer asking what their differences are. Keep in mind that this is a domestic policy debate. President Obama gets the first word and starts out by wishing his wife happy anniversary, and assuring her that next year they won’t celebrate in front of 40 million people. It’s a cute moment, but he seems stressed and doesn’t even smile at his own punchline. This is definitely a “style over substance” quibble, but it seemed to shadow much of the debate, so I think it’s worth noting. Mitt Romney also mentions the Obama’s 20-year anniversary, and says, “congratulations, I’m sure this is the most romantic place you can imagine, here with me!” It got a chuckle from the audience, and Romney seems honest and cheerful.
Obama’s opening: I think we need more taxes and regulations, I inherited a mess, now it’s better.
Romney’s opening: This is like “trickle-down government”. It doesn’t work and hasn’t worked. People are hurting.
Obama claims Romney has stuff in his plan that isn’t paid for, which is pretty rich coming from the guy who thought it was fine to pass Obamacare and call it paid for with future tax hikes and accounting tricks. Romney talks about balancing the budget and gives an example: there are 47 job training programs reporting to eight different agencies in the Federal government – it’s bloated, wasteful and expensive. Obama points out that domestic oil production is up under his tenure, and Romney grants him that, but insists that it’s in spite of the Obama administration, not because of it. (The Gulf is still not in production and much of the drilling has happened on private land.)
One interesting note is that Romney speaks much of his answers directly at President Obama, while Obama spends much of his time looking either down or at Jim Lehrer.
Obama says that he has given oodles of tax cuts to the middle class, and they should be so fat and happy, while Romney is going to be nice to fat cats and rich folks. Aren’t you, middle class? Don’t you just love the higher gas prices, medical costs, food prices and taxes? I am just so pleased with his policies, I’ve got money jangling in my pocketses. Romney says, “Look, I’ve got five boys. I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true, and just repeating it hoping I’ll believe it.” HA!
Romney says he has to lower rates because he wants to create jobs. Obama says math won’t let him do that, and that we can’t “pay for” these tax cuts. So, this is something that really gets my goat. The Federal Government doesn’t pay for tax cuts. The PEOPLE pay for bad policies. The people are not the Government’s personal ATM machine, and we don’t have to justify keeping the money we’ve already earned – the government has to justify spending our hard-earned money.
Romney rightly points out that putting more people back to work and paying taxes is the way to get more revenue, not by taxing job creators. Obama says his policies are just like Bill Clinton’s, I scratch my head in disbelief. Romney says that going forward with the status quo is not good enough.
Mitt says the deficit is a moral issue, and his generation can’t keep spending the next generation’s money. Mitt says if it’s not worth borrowing money from China to pay for, he’s going to cut the program. No more funding to PBS, or Obamacare, although he does like Big Bird, so that’s a relief. Obama starts into telling us that when he stepped into the Oval Office, all he could see was stuff that wasn’t paid for, as far as the eye could see. Again, this is an amazing display of either willful ignorance or bold-faced lying. Yes, Bush was fiscally irresponsible, but it’s rather like if you and I both stay at a fancy hotel – you get a double garden room and I spring for the penthouse, and then I blame you for our big hotel bill at the end of our stay. The national debt has grown more under this president than any other in our history. If we’re going to talk straight math, that’s kind of a serious issue.
President Obama talks about the teacher he met in Las Vegas, and my head explodes. WHY WOULD HE BRING VEGAS UP? Oh, you mean the campaign trip you took the day after our ambassador and three others were brutally murdered in Libya? I know this is a domestic debate, but good lord.
Obama’s tail is in a twist about the tax breaks to “big oil” and I’m actually behind him on that one. However, Romney replies that oil and gas receives 2.8 billion dollars in tax breaks per year, while green energy got 90 BILLION last year. Methinks somebody has a pet project? Were we talking about controlling the deficit?
Romney says “states are the laboratories of democracy”. Libertarians everywhere cheer.
Entitlements. This is a long-winded segment, and it basically boils down to this: Obama says his grandma worked hard and deserved social security, get your grubby mitts off. Romney says Obama cut $760 Billion from Medicare, and that Social Security is not going to be solvent for the next generation unless we do something. It’s called a reality check, y’all, better get used to it.
Romney talks about Dodd-Frank, and how 122 small banks have closed because of unintended consequences. OK, I know I’m a Romney fan, but he is using real facts that any real person can easily google, while Obama rebutts with buzzwords like “big profits” “big banks” “we stepped in” and doesn’t give any specifics. It’s very frustrating, and it doesn’t lead to an honest debate.
Both are challenged on how Obamacare and Romneycare are different. This is a tough question for Mitt, and one that conservatives have been biting their nails over for months. However, we shouldn’t have worried. Romney points out that in Massachusetts, he worked with 87% Democratic-controlled legislature, but Obama rammed Obamacare through without a single Republican vote. He also mentions the independent board (death panel) that can tell people what treatments they can and can’t have. Obama talks about how people with pre-existing conditions and young people need him, and Romney rightly declares that the government is not effective at bringing the costs down. Romney says that in business, he used to consult with hospitals and was always amazed by innovation and creativity and ways to let individuals make their own decisions. They bicker about the 10th Amendment for a minute and what their plans are, and Romney looks competent and confident, while Obama just seems tired.
They’re asked about the role of government, and Obama rambles about schools. Romney asks the audience to look behind him at the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, and he says that the role of government is to protect those ideals. He then quotes the Constitution, gives specific numbers for how big government has failed, and is generally awesome. Obama looks at his shoes.
They talk about education for a while, and it boils down to more than just sending money around. Next they’re asked about partisan gridlock, and Mitt says that people are really hurting, and there needs to be leadership to bring people together, and he has done it before and will do it again. Obama snarks that Mitt will have a “busy first day, since he’s going to sit down with Democrats AND repeal Obamacare”. Obama’s greatest strength is his charm and charisma, and it is lost tonight. He seems stressed, tired and a little bristly, in stark contrast to Romney’s aggressive good cheer.
Closing statements: Obama – Four years ago, we were going through a major crisis. I’m going to tell a bunch of anecdotal stories and make you believe that I am Caring McCaringson. Everybody should pay their fair share. (By the way, one of the best political drinking games, particularly when you’re listening to democrats, is the “fair share” game. Unfortunately, we only got two tonight… proof yet again that Obama is off his game.)
Romney – This is about more than the two of us. This is about two paths for America. Look not just at our words, but at our records. America is on a dangerous path and I will turn it around.
Michelle, Ann and a few of the Romney boys (and at least one Romney granddaughter) come on stage, and it’s really cute. As Marco Rubio said, we aren’t electing for firing these guys for being good husbands and fathers, but for being good leaders – but it is cute to see them with their families.
So… that’s a wrap. I think it was a good debate, and there’s no question that Romney won this one. Since conservatives weren’t expecting much and Obama is a known master orator, this is a bit of a surprise, but I’ll take it! What did you think?