Romney’s Debate Win and a Reply to an Obama E-mail

In the wake of last night’s first presidential debate of the 2012 campaign, I got one of those e-mails from Barack Obama—simply titled, “Hey”—which said, and I quote, “I hope I made you proud out there explaining the vision we share for our country.”

Well, with all due respect, Mr. President, not so much.

I got one from ALG, too, (my friends at Americans for Limited Government) who crowed about your “debacle” in Denver, and one of the Washington Post writers, no Romney fan normally, said that he “cleaned your clock,” while Chris Matthews and the folks at MSNBC—MSNBC! for God’s sake—blew up (a regular occurrence for Matthews) at your poor performance. “Where was Barack Obama?” is what Matthews asked, and it was a good question.

Let’s tell the truth. Mitt Romney won the cosmic all important first debate between the two presidential candidates, the debate that was being trumpeted by the media as the most singular debate ever, the one that could win the election, the political equivalent of 2012 on the Mayan calendar. He took over the debate, attacked your record on the economy, had you looking at your shoes a lot, or nodding your head, and general dominated the conversation with anecdotes—those folks he met on the campaign trail—stats about unemployment, a promise that he would not cut taxes and raise the deficit, and generally had you playing defense all the way. Hell, he even stole your thunder on your own wedding anniversary by making a deft quip about it.

Romney was working on the assumption that it was do-or-die time for him, while the President appeared to think he had the grace of a lead in the polls. Romney came loaded for bear. He won the appearance war for the most part because Obama seemed to be weaving like an unsure driver through his answers, reacting often like a student to a professor.

Media types said it was one of the more substantive debates ever—there were no zingers, but lots of serious economic and domestic issues like tax breaks, tax codes, tax structures, Medicare and Obamacare, who cut what, an oft-made assertion by Obama about a five-trillion tax cut plan by Romney, which Romney repeatedly denied. He said he would cut taxes on the middle class and keep the upper class of money makers on the same rate, which seemed new at the time.

The president made no mention of Romney’s “47 percent” speech which had been used effectively against the challenger in the last few weeks of the campaign. In fact, Romney had had a rocky two weeks, stumbling and losing momentum. If his job in the debate was to regain momentum, appear to be a viable president standing next to the current one, stop the bleeding in his campaign and energize his followers while making independents take a serious look at him, he did his job.

Obama on the other hand seemed to be merely trying to stay in place, and his counter-punching—while sometimes effective—did not save him in a battle of appearance.

It must be said that moderator Jim Lehrer—a Public Broadcasting System news veteran—lost control of the debate early on and never really regained it. Romney, by my count, had the last word on every segment simply because he bulled his way into it.

The debate was indeed substantive: lots of broadly discussed issues, even if the devil remains in the details. How exactly true the facts and their meanings were will be discussed by the fact-checkers, which is turning into a whole new tribe of consultants and experts who themselves may lack enough expertise.

It must be said too, that the debate itself had been so hyped by the media—especially the television media, national and local—that as an event it became something out of all proportion to what had gone before, and what is still to be settled—mainly two more presidential debates and a vice presidential debate. The hype—and its assumptions about what the candidate must do and what the debate would mean, including the possibility of deciding the outcome of the election—existed solely to make the debates yet another reality show where national pundits and anchor men and everyone involved from late night talk hosts to Access Hollywood had a stake. It was as if everything the two candidates had done, the countless money they had spent and the SuperPACs that had been created meant absolutely nothing because the debate—this debate—had become the whole enchilada.

My friend took it to heart and started thinking about getting used to the idea that maybe a Romney presidency wasn’t the end of the world. After all, it’s not listed on the Mayan Calendar.

The hype reached a crescendo on the eve of the debate, which had one local TV reporter saying, “. . . Now, it’s up to the people and the pundits.” Seriously? The people, yes, but the pundits?

Meantime, Mr. President, with all due respect, do yourself proud next time for yourself. Don’t worry about me, I’ve already gotten over last night.

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