Wednesday, October 17, 2012
You know the drill. Listen on radio; sleep on it minus listening to any commentary (while finishing up the Tigers win #3 against the Yanks. Get out the brooms?) watch the day after, write the damn post.
1. Obama showed up for this one.
2. This was the political equivalent of a ‘big time wrestling’ cage match. Both men jettisoned worries about not looking presidential. It was a bit embarrassing for both.
3. I think the President got the better of the Libya exchange. Make no bones about it, Romney badly fumbled the point, and came off overly confrontational (even if the basics of his complaint are true, as Crowley has subsequently admitted on CNN. For nearly two weeks the President and his surrogates did peddle the ‘spontaneous demonstration gone violent’ explanation of the murder of our ambassador.)
4. Romney carried the exchanges on energy and oil production.
5. I think his discussion of taxation was good, effectively parrying the President’s criticisms. Of particular strength was his emphasis on small business stimulation.
6. Regarding personal attacks: He rightly pointed out that Obama’s investments are equal to those Romney has in terms of involving companies that “ship jobs overseas” or have ties to Chinese firms. He failed to mention present Bain Capital folks that are financially supporting the President.
7. On the matter of China, I don’t buy the tariff arguments, but did like that Romney brought up the ongoing Chinese cyber offensive, particularly the large scale theft of intellectual property, even to the point of having counterfeit I-phone Apple stores. Very important, given that this is all state sponsored activity. It should have been further explored. Crowley chose not to take them down that road. Unfortunate.
8. Romney’s clumsy later return to the matter of China during a question period that had nothing to do with China was strange, and left one with the impression that the questioner and his question were of secondary importance. Not a good move for someone that is trying to dispel the notion that he is callous to middle and lower income America. He fell into the old debater’s trap of trying to rebut every claim made by one’s scatter-shooting opponent.
9. The President did not spell out a clear vision of what he would do in a second term. Instead, he repeatedly went after Romney’s plan. One point early on was indicative, he went for sound bite bait, laying on a zinger making the claim that Romney’s ‘five point plan’ was in fact a ‘one point plan’ to help the proverbial ‘millionaires and billionaires’ at the expense of the middle class. That did not address the particulars of the Romney plan in a substantive way, but also, and more tellingly, did not do any work toward exhibiting any particulars of his own plans for a second term.
10. The question asking Romney to differentiate himself from Bush was a good question, and Romney’s answer was effective, in particular with regard to advances in energy extraction technology, and excessive government spending.
11. The question about unequal pay came down to Romney, after citing his own hiring efforts as governor of MA., claiming that a resurgent economy would take care of the alleged discrepancy (one that arguably is an artifact of averaging salaries. If you instead make more exacting comparisons, of equal jobs, at equal levels in the job market, the disparity is much smaller than the questioner stated. Instead of a figure in the 70s, women receive salaries that are in the 90th percentile range when compared to men. Still, a disparity nevertheless) versus the Obama position, that he put in place the Lilly Ledbetter mechanism for legal redress of inequalities. The President’s answer more directly addresses the question. Score that one for him.
12. The exchange on illegal immigrants was a wash. I did not discern any important difference in the two positions, other than Romney’s pointing out that giving a path to citizenship for illegals that meet certain criteria is, compassionate though it may be, still unfair, in the Rawlsian sense to people making efforts to legally immigrate. Given that admission, when push comes to shove, I’m sure he’ll adopt such a program. So, that’s a wash in terms of scoring.
13. The question about AK-47s was ambiguous enough to allow room for both candidates to appeal to their bases. Did the questioner intend to suggest we need to ban legal AKs, those that are not fully automatic, or did he mean to refer only to fully automatic weapons? He didn’t say. I immediately thought of my father in law (a very devoted Democrat and gun enthusiast). He owns a legal AK. I’ve shot that weapon with him many times. It actually is a very reliable weapon, and makes me look good when we look at our paper targets. So, I’m biased. This gun is one pull – one bullet. It seems unfair to Joe or someone like him to ban such weapons. While it is true that AKs were designed for warriors that fact holds for almost every gun in history, as a simple matter of historical truth. Using that criterion, we would have to ban most firearms. The argument from that basis is silly.
14. The more telling but tangential matter of Fast and Furious (2009-10) was brought up by Romney in response to this question, and I thought it needed much more examination. Crowley fumbled that follow up. Nevertheless, that was a score for Romney, even if a bit tangential to the original question. I was surprised the President did not mention the Bush era operation Wide Receiver, (2006-07) a gun tracing, but not gun walking, operation. Perhaps he knew there was a substantial distinction to be made between the two.
15. Obama's repeated references to the last 10 years (and at one point, the last 15 and 20!) were obviously attempts to deflect Romney’s criticisms of the last 4 years. Not effective, and at cross purposes with his own extolling of the Clinton record as somehow being a model of things to come if we give him 4 more years.
16. Romney effectively rebutted the 5 million jobs created claim, buy pointing out that it was offset by jobs lost and people dropping out of the work force. His comparison of stats during the Reagan recovery was spot on, and effective.
After watching the video (I haven’t completed this by the way) Romney was overly concerned with the Obama scattershot, he took the bait, and came off a bit like Biden did last week, in terms of interrupting, or wanting to get the last word. True he did not have the awkward laughs and smirk, but it came off badly, and militated against the image he gave during the first debate, of a more self-confident and mature individual. Obama seemed the calmer and more measured of the two this time around.
However, on substance, the President has the four years albatross around his neck, and a set of promises not kept, and Romney did provide not only substantive criticism of that record, but a clear enough vision of what he would do.
Overall, though, my impression after having listened was that Obama won by (using football analogy again) a field goal to six points. After having viewed the debate, that impression is reinforced, but I’ll up it to a 7 or 8 point win for team Obama.
Enough to move the needle? Time will tell, and given the 1-1 record, the third debate will loom large. I wonder about its ratings though, because it will be in direct conflict with my mighty Leos cage death match with Da Bears on Monday Night football. I have a real dilemma here. What do I do; Listen to the Lions game or watch the debate? It’s a wash as to which experience will be the more frustrating.
The complete second debate: