Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Presidential Debate: Round Two

After the first debate, I thought it went decisively for Mitt Romney.  The President looked like he was sleep-walking and had a hard time articulating his positions or countering his opponents attacks.  After last night, I feel the second debate went decisively for the President for similar reasons.  Interestingly, after the first debate, partisans from both sides seemed to have been willing to acknowledge that Romney took the day (I don't like "won").  For reasons uncertain, my Red Team friends are calling this a draw, despite some serious missteps by their candidate that may or may not be attributable to the moderator (doesn't change that it happened).  Put it this way, Green Bay is not calling that game in Seattle a W.

In order to avoid the "real-time polling" and other nonsense that gets attached to these types of events, I watched the debate on PBS.  Based on what I'm seeing on social media outlets, this may have changed my view of the debate.  I didn't get to see the "undecided voters" spike their dials when Rombama said he visited with a construction worker in Mississippi who told him his child wants to be a science teacher when he grows up.  I don't know what MSNBC and Fox News do during the debates and don't care to find out.  I just wanted the meat, no bread.

In that context, I have to note that I think Candy Crowley has seen herself out of any future debate moderator positions.  You just can't live fact-check.  Can't.  Can not.  I always liked the quip "The loser always blames the moderator", but in this case Republicans have a legitimate argument.  First, the Rose Garden speech was not as cut and dry as Ms. Crowley would have us believe regarding "acts of terror" (nor is it as much of a "lie" as Republicans are arguing).  Second, whether or not Mitt Romney once supported an automatic weapons ban is not something that needs to be addressed in the context of a debate.  All of us, including politicians, are permitted to change our views on things when presented with different facts.  That was not fact-checking.  It was a counter-argument.  If either side to a debate says "Thank you, Candy", you are doing something wrong.  I know many of you will disagree with me on that, but I was sad to see such a venerated element of our Presidential Decision Making tainted in this way.

As for substance, we didn't get much.  I don't necessarily agree with my friends on the right that President has the same "burden of proof" with regard to policies as the challenger.  He has four years of policies, which make up the bulk of why Mitt Romney thinks he should be President.  Mitt Romney offers himself as a deficit hawk, or at least someone that is seriously offended by $5 trillion added to the deficit.  Nevertheless, he has presented the shell of a tax plan that would cut rates on everyone, yet only cut deductions for top earners.  He is welcome to run his campaign on this platform, but there is nothing wrong with voters wanting more.  The President has engaged in deficit talks with the prospect of a "fiscal cliff" of cuts and tax increases in January 2013.  A cliff partly of his own making.  He has a burden of saying how he is going to get us off of that cliff.  He is welcome to run for re-election without enunciating the manner in which he will do so (hence why the deadline was put in 2013 in the first place), but there is nothing wrong with the voters wanting more.

The only area of substance that I really felt I could get my hands around last night was the question about women in the workplace.  You will see a lot of jokes about "binders of women", but that wasn't the comment that stuck out for me.  Seeing workplace equality as an employer's prerogative to allow female employees time to go home and "make dinner for their families" just seems out of touch to me.  I often brag that most of my bosses are women.  They don't emphasize the need to get home to get Hamburger Helper in the oven.  Same for my co-workers.  What we really need is reasonably priced day-care and the continued ability to let women choose when, and if, they will be taking on the additional responsibilities of a family.  And so long as we are talking about non-policy "family values", they need 21st Century men to understand that the roles of a family do not come in prearranged formats.  Romney's comment was innocuous enough, but it seemed to show and unfamiliarity with the issue leaning towards indifference.  That's fine, but I wonder how it will play with those women at or near the pinnacle of their career thinking about what would have happened if they had ever asked to go home early to make dinner.

Although the President had a counter-punch that pulled some laughs, I think we've heard the last of Mitt Romney's investments in China.  The laugh-line will be what carries the news, but the President received his comeuppance for beating his opponent up about investments through a blind trust when the President's own pension makes similar investments overseas.  Saying that our portfolios shouldn't invest in China is only a few steps removed from saying that we can control gas prices with domestic production.  We're in a global economy.  You can make an intentional decision not to invest in China, but the effect of that may only be to limit your return.

Romney's hay-maker on immigration (i.e., the lack of a comprehensive policy) may have left a bigger mark if he had put greater emphasis on the true disadvantage of anyone looking to come into this Country legally.  The current wait time for skilled workers seeking a Green Card is 5 to 8 years.  That is completely unacceptable.  I thought Mitt may lay that card down, but he seemed so focused on looking Obama in the eye and asking "Did you?" over and over again that he didn't seem interested in framing the issue.

The main reason I felt the President will leave a better impression than Mitt Romney is because the whole debate seemed to be about him.  Mitt Romney's greatest criticisms seemed to be focused on the liberal platform planks from Obama's 2008 campaign that he failed to accomplish.  The President did a good job of countering some of those criticisms, but otherwise avoided the critiques all together.  I just didn't feel like anything stuck (other than possibly the immigration critique, but Romney will have to take that up with the minority communities that he is doing so poorly with).

In closing, I realized at the very beginning of the debate that I had lost my ability, to the extent I ever had it, to view these candidates evenly.  So take this analysis with a grain of salt.  Nevertheless, I think it is fair and did my best to remove the "lower brain" pejoratives that are dancing around my head. 

Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!