Frustrating. That is how I would describe last week’s “debate.”
Let’s start with the president. Historically speaking, incumbents typically underperform in the first of the debates for two reasons. First, the president’s preparation time is limited because he still has a job to do: He is the goddamned president. Second, by virtue of the challenger appearing as an equal to the president on stage, he is lent a certain level of credibility. This explains, in part, the president’s flaccidity.
As for Romney, aside from being a dick to moderator Jim Lehrer, he proved himself a master of rhetoric. Victory in debate (or in elections, for that matter) hinges less on the specifics of a candidate’s policies and more on that candidate’s ability to manipulate the hearts and minds of an audience. This is something Romney did very well, mostly by lying. For those fact-checkers reading this, let’s run through three of Romney’s lies:
From square one, Romney has run on a tax plan that would eliminate estate taxes and lower the tax rate for top earners by 20 percent. Do the math and you get what results in a $5 trillion decrease in revenue. That is a fact. Romney claims that the revenue will be accounted for by eliminating deductions and loopholes, though he has yet to specify exactly which. Many independent analysts maintain that his plan will inevitably increase the deficit unless taxes are raised on those outside of the top percentiles, commonly (and incorrectly) known as the middle class, despite Romney’s distancing himself from the plan on Wednesday.
In discussing Medicare (public health care for seniors and the disabled), Romney alleged that President Obama had cut $716 billion from the program and that doing so lowered the quality of care. It is true that Obama cut the program’s funding by the quoted amount, but the savings were made by increasing efficiency, not in limiting the care offered to beneficiaries.
Romney also chided the president for throwing away taxpayer money, giving it to clean energy companies that later declared bankruptcy (e.g. Solyndra, who received $535 million in federal loans). Romney claimed that half of the companies granted loans from the Department of Energy went bankrupt, when in fact only three of 12 companies entered bankruptcy, two of which took very small loans. Obama deserves to be held accountable for Solyndra, but Romney deliberately lied about the severity of the situation.
Bear in mind that these are just three examples of Romney manufacturing his own reality, and I think his doing so speaks for itself. He may have convinced more people watching the debate of his credibility as a candidate or that he would be a better steward of the economy, but he did so by lying, and that is the truth.
To return to the president, I, for one, was very disappointed. He seemed jaded, wandering aimlessly in his answers and deliberately avoiding some of his most politically convenient arguments (Romney’s 47 percent comments, for instance). He failed to outline the successes of his presidency (31 consecutive months of private sector job growth, with unemployment now below 8 percent) and instead allowed Romney to put him on the defensive time after time. Given what the president inherited and what he has accomplished, reality is on his side; it is his job (and ours) to wade through all the lies.
Michael Dean made Romneybread men cookies after the debate. Just so he, unlike Obama, could have the pleasure of biting their heads off.
To read the “Right Said” article from this week’s topic, click here.
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