The first presidential debate has been a highly anticipated event, and President Barack Obama‘s performance left much to be desired. It’s not that he “failed” as a debater, because he’s never really succeeded (see: Obama/Clinton primary showdowns). So many of us weren’t exactly expecting raindrops on roses, or whiskers on kittens. It’s not even that GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, gave a stellar performance. As abysmal as his numbers have been, all Mittens had to do was show up and not look like a complete idiot to feel better about himself.
The president blew it because he stood there, disengaged and uninterested. It was as if he had been coached and prepped within an inch of his life; yet, when he stepped before the crowd, he choked. With seemingly no idea of how to improvise, President Obama clung to the script as desperately as he said those red states clung to their guns and religion. Mitt Romney was allowed to smirk, lie and flip-flop his way through 90 minutes and it was a troubling thing to watch.
While many are labeling this debate Style (Romney) vs. Substance (Obama), I would argue that the style was retro-80’s Reaganomics and the substance resembled the green plant that the POTUS refuses to legalize — both as flimsy as paper and easily evaporated. In honor of one of the most anti-climatic events in recent political history, read below for 5 things that I observed during the first 2012 presidential debate.
Mitt Romney’s plan for America: “Big Bird, you’re fired.”
It’s a sad, sad day when the take-away from a presidential debate is a quip about ‘Big Bird,’ but that’s exactly what happened. Telling moderator Jim Lehrer that he would slash funding for PBS — firing Big Bird, effective immediately, and turning Sesame Street into Sesame Enterprises, LLC — showed that Romney has no concern for the average American. It takes chutzpah to tell a man to his face that he will probably be out of a job if you have your way, but that is exactly what Romney told Lehrer.
One of the last vestiges of social fairness and untainted discourse in media, PBS has been a great stabilizer in a partisan nation, in addition to providing educational outlets for children who may otherwise be left behind. Romney doesn’t care about that, though. It’s all about the bottom line. For him, it’s perfectly acceptable to have off-shore bank accounts in the Cayman Islands and dodge taxes, but borrowing money from China for the greater good of the nation is a big no-no.
Being challenged publicly throws President Barack Obama off his A-Game.
President Obama is a professor and that problem is two-fold. Some professors are too intelligent to teach their audience what they know and that was Obama tonight. It was obvious that he felt the substance was enough, stopping short of relaying it in a memorable way. As most professors, the POTUS seemed to expect everyone to take notes on the lecture, go home and study, then come back and pass the test — or in this case, the vote. That startling misstep from an incumbent was exacerbated by Cirque du Mittens performing at the podium next door. Unfortunately, many voters don’t want verbose acrobatics, they want Cliff’s Notes, and the more Romney bulldozed his way to center-stage, the more withdrawn the president seemed to become.
Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up?
According to a CBS poll of undecided voters, 46 percent thought Romney won, while 22 percent gave the win to Obama. 32 percent thought it was a tie. After the debate, 63 percent of undecided voters believed that Romney cared about their concerns. Before the debate, that number stood at 30 percent.
Keep in mind that Romney believes that 47 percent of Americans are card-carrying members of the Victims Club. From his own mouth, if you think that government should play a role in healthcare for the sick, food for the hungry, or housing for the homeless, then he is not your guy. Yet, he puts on a smiley face, pretends that those comments were never made and Johnny-come-latelys give him a bump in the polls. The man is a snake oil salesman. He gives you a discount on lies and throws in a side of bullsh*t free with purchase.
Whatever was on President Barack Obama’s notepad was apparently more interesting than the debate.
Which brings us to the president’s notes. What on earth was written in his notes? He kept his head bowed so much throughout the debate, I wanted to jump through the screen, snatch his paper and see what exactly was so fascinating that it trumped the first debate of the election cycle. He seemed transfixed. Romney was attempting to engage and the POTUS remained immersed in whatever was written there. He nodded and smiled slightly with the look of someone who wanted to be anywhere else — preferably with Michelle celebrating their anniversary.
Mitt Romney thinks President Obama is just like his “boys.”
“I know that you and your running mate keep saying that, and I know that’s a popular thing to say with some people, but it’s just not the case.”
“Look, I’ve got five boys,” Romney added. “I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true but just keep repeating it and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it. But that is not the case.”
Whoa. In 2008, McCain labeled Obama “that one;” now he’s like Romney’s “boys”?
Well, that explains the dynamic we saw throughout the debate. Romney was condescending and antagonistic — exactly like a bad parent. It was almost as if he felt that he had to lower his standards to fraternize with the natives. As Obama flashed his grin, though nothing was funny, Romney lied with the ease of a man who is used to getting away with dishonesty. For him, blatant untruths and character attacks are not wrong; they’re strategy and Obama let him slide with that approach for 90 minutes.
When Jim Lehrer walks into the office tomorrow morning, he should immediately offer his resignation. Do not stop. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. He was awful and allowed Romney to berate and control him the entire night. He sat by as the former governor decided the tempo and topics at pivotal moments and never truly “moderated” anything. Wherever Gwen Iful is right now, she is owed a huge apology.
Though the president bombed in a huge way, nothing will shift. We know there are facts that would leave Romney exposed like the self-serving politician that he is — Thank you, Bill Clinton — and the fact-checkers have already begun to dismantle the vast majority of his claims. Still, the president’s performance was reminiscent of his oddly flat DNC speech and this was just the surface of domestic policy.
When faced with questions about unmanned drones, Afghanistan and Iran, Libya and Syria, he’s going to, at the very least, have to hold his head up and look directly at his opponent.
And Romney, well, he’s such a farce of a candidate, it’s difficult to predict his performance. Being the chameleon that he is, we’ll just have to wait and see which character shows up.
Watch the entire debate below: