Romney vs. Obama: Colorado

On style, Mitt Romney ran away with the debate. President Obama barely showed up, and seemed to be completely disengaged and bristly. Romney denied and attacked consistently and constantly, and Obama sort of repeated himself and backed off of capitalizing on huge entrees. 

Then again, debates don’t win elections – zingers and good performance don’t win debates. Dan Quayle defeated Lloyd Bentsen, you guys. George W. Bush was one of the least articulate candidates in history, with a superficial grasp of issues and he defeated Al Gore and John Kerry. 

But here’s the thing – Obama is weakest on the economy. This performance may have been a strategic choice. After all, we still don’t know how Romney will pay for his tax plan, do we? We still don’t know the details of what he’d replace Obamacare with. We don’t know how he’s going to get insurers to cover pre-existing conditions without Obamacare/Romneycare’s promise of more customers through a mandate. 

Instead, Romney started in with death panels again, and Obama meekly defended the Affordable Care Act’s advisory groups that would streamline care and make it more efficient for patients. Instead, Romney repeated the “take $716 BN from Medicare” lie. 

The Republicans are demonizing efficiency and cost-cutting. 

When Romney somehow tries to claim that Obamacare differs from Romneycare, he’s lying. When your lie is caught and you then devolve to a state’s rights argument – why should people in Iowa have worse access to care than people in Massachusetts?  If health insurance universality is worth doing, it’s worth doing universally. Obama’s failure was in not confronting Romney on his blatant lies

“I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don’t have a tax cut of the scale you’re talking about. I think we ought to provide tax relief to people in the middle class. But I won’t reduce the share of tax paid by high-income people. … I’m not looking to cut massive taxes and to reduce revenues going to the government. My number one principal is, there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. I want to underline that no tax cut that will add to the deficit.”

So who’s right?

Romney has run for months on a plan to lower everyone’s tax rates by 20 percent — an amount that independent analysts have concluded will reduce revenues by $5 trillion over 10 years.

Romney has also insisted that his plan will be deficit neutral and that it won’t increase taxes on the middle class. But according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center and other analysts, Romney won’t be able to make good on both of those latter promises.

According to TPC, even if Romney closes all loopholes and deductions for high-income earners, that alone will not account for all the revenue he loses because of the rate cut. Thus, to make the overall plan deficit neutral he’d have to raise the tax burden on middle income Americans.

If Obama had the attack line on deck, responding to the lying denial should have been ready to go in the dugout. It never came to the plate. Obama got a few good lines in, delivered sleepily. Obama asked whether Romney was “keeping the details of his plan secret because they’re too good?” Under Obamacare, insurers will no longer get to “jerk you around”.  On substance, Romney seemed to pretend that the world began in 2008, and Obama did practically nothing to disabuse him of that notion. 

Obama said, “budgets reflect choices. If we ask for no revenue, we have to get rid of a lot of stuff…severe hardship for people, and  no growth.”  It was too wonky by half. The poor economy is most people’s central issue. Selling the successes and benefits of health insurance reform is critically important. Obama whiffed on all of them. He didn’t strongly defend his administration’s record, he didn’t strongly enough rebut Romney’s lies and promises, and he simply sleep-walked through the thing. 

On a side note – Jim Lehrer also barely showed up. I have never seen a less structured debate or a less forceful moderator. At times, he was simply trying to get a word in edgewise, saying, “um…hey….guys”. Perhaps someone slipped something in Obama’s and Lehrer’s drinks. 

Twice, Romney claimed that Obama wanted “trickle-down government”. Along with his tax claims and his health care obfuscation, I suspect that this is a line that will come back to haunt him.

It’s easy to be confident and outperform your debate opponent when you’re lying. Romney tried to remake himself last night as a champion for the middle class – this is the same guy who opposed the auto bailouts and denigrates 47% of the population as victim moochers. Time will tell how this will play out, but debates aren’t game-changers.  Coming up: 

Thursday, October 11 – Vice Presidential Debate

Tuesday, October 16 – Second Presidential Debate (Town Hall)

Monday, October 22 – Third Presidential Debate

In What Respect, Charlie?

In the wake of Mitt Romney’s devastating failure to act remotely presidential in response to some international incidents, his campaign (and some in the right-wing reactionary commentariat) has shifted into “blame the media” mode, and is running now against, e.g., the New York Times, CNN, and the Washington Post.

This is a traditional Republican meme as reliable as Reagan hagiography, deficit spending, and tax cuts. 

I wondered this week whether the McCain/Palin team had begun running against the media as early as September 12, 2008. Luckily, GLOW-area Democratic activist Adama Brown was quick with some answers: 

 

Because the Republican mindset nowadays is such that any challenge – any attempt to check facts – any pointed, relevant question of anything at all is an “attack” and proof of some left-wing media cabal set on hurting Republicans and helping Democrats. 

This only works if you consider, “do you agree with the Bush Doctrine?” to be a slanted leftist Marxist attack.  This only works if you consider, “what insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity of the state [of Alaska] give you?” to be a hack job set up to embarrass McCain.  

These aired on September 11, 2008. At the time, Obama was down by a few points. The conventions had just ended, and this was Sarah Palin’s first major interview. She did not acquit herself well here, there, or anywhere. 

Making Romney Relatable

I can’t subject myself to Republican talking points for very long, and just 9 years ago, I was a registered Republican. In 2000, I volunteered for John McCain. I saw him as the last gasp of rational Republicanism against the Christianist conservative movement embodied by George W. Bush. The reasons why I can’t bring myself to watch or pay attention to gavel-to-gavel Republican convention coverage now are not dissimilar from the reasons why I don’t watch cable news anymore; we have a Democratic Party and a Batsh*t Crazy Party. 

But I watched Ann Romney’s and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s speeches yesterday. 

1. Both speakers worked from a TelePrompTer. When Obama uses one, Republicans mock it and imply that it is bad or inauthentic. What gives? 

2. Ann Romney seems like a nice lady. I have no doubt that she loves her husband very much, and that she’s very supportive of him. How odd it is, however, that in lieu of humanizing Mitt Romney, they sent Ann out to explain how human and relatable he is. She also rushed through her speech so quickly that it was as if she was allergic to words. 

3. Sarah Palin is completely absent from this shindig, and Romney’s choice to wear red – a color Palin also prefers – served almost as a subliminal message that the party will pander to the tea party – but only so much. Gone are the days when Palin would be a marquee speaker. 

4. Make no mistake: Mitt and Ann Romney never wanted for anything. They never had no money, and they never had to worry about how they would make ends meet. While Romney started her speech by talking about “love”, she quickly segued into a soliloquy about  the travails of the American bourgeoisie – a class to which she hasn’t belonged since meeting the candidate, her husband. She told us how she could relate to problems lots of mothers throughout American have – but for one. Money (or “resources”, if you prefer). These people have no idea. 

5. What I mean by the “no idea” quip above is this: Romney spoke about how humbly she and Mitt lived while together in college. I mean, they had a makeshift desk made out of sawhorses and a piece of wood! The difference, of course, is that the Romneys chose to live humbly, all the while cashing in Mitt’s stocks when money was needed. Choosing to live humbly is wildly different from having no choice but to be poor or worrying about money and jobs. 

6. A big applause line: Ann and Mitt have a “real marriage”. What’s the implication there? That the Obamas don’t? Was it a swipe at marriage equality/same-sex marriage? I have no idea, but it was a surprisingly passive-aggressive, accusatory thing to say in response to no suggestion that they didn’t. This was, as far as I can tell, nothing more than hatred.  Perhaps we should start questioning this, and demanding to see the long-form marriage certificate. 

7. Ann Romney said that Mitt didn’t have success handed to him. No, but I’d suggest that a guy whose father was governor, and the influential millionaire CEO of an auto manufacturer – a guy who attended the exclusive Cranbrook School (where he hilariously bullied the gay kids), and attended Stanford, Harvard, and BYU and went on to partner with consultant colleagues who raised millions to start Bain Capital had extraordinary opportunity – he was born on third base and thought he hit a triple. Was that handed to him? Perhaps not directly, but he was born into money and privilege, and his path to wealth and prominence was hardly steep. 

8. I happen to respect Chris Christie. I like his brash attitude, and I like the fact that he’s a bit of an asshole. I think most politicians are assholes anyway – it’s nice that he doesn’t try to hide that fact. You know where you stand with him, and you know where he stands. 

9. While Ann Romney had talked about love, Christie said we need to “choose respect over love”. That was awkward. 

10. Christie talked about how his mom had to the take the bus to various jobs – municipal bus. His dad worked at the Breyers plant – was it a union shop? Perhaps the Milk Drivers & Dairy Employees Union? Shame that people like Christie apparently came up from a working-class household that benefited from union wages, benefits, and collective bargaining, and would deny that for future generations. Unions for me, but not for thee. I think Democrats do a lousy job pushing back against union busting. If we’ve learned anything during the employment crisis of the current economic shocks, it’s that a job is certainly important, but there’s more to it than that – we’ve seemingly jettisoned any notion that the employee should have certain rights and privileges in addition to just getting a paycheck. What about a wage you can live off of? Why shouldn’t unions be allowed to represent workers to guarantee fair working conditions and labor practices? I don’t get why politicians are so proud of jobs, jobs, jobs without regard to how people are treated at those jobs.

11. Christie talked about wild spending. Ok, most federal spending overwhelmingly goes to the military. Let’s cut that in half. No administration in the last 30 years has been more spendthrift, more fiscally irresponsible, growing more government than those led by Republican chief executives.

12. Christie criticized Democrats for dividing Americans. No, this Republican Party can’t do that with a straight face and get away with it. Their entire platform is founded on class warfare, fear, and hatred. 

13. The speech Christie gave made no mention of Mitt Romney until the end. It was Christie’s opening to his 2016 run for President. 

14. Christie said America has/d the best health care system in the world. It doesn’t. Not even remotely, under any metric, and we spend wildly more than any other system on Earth. 

15. Obama leads by polls, Christie said. That sort of negates the talking point about how Obamacare is wildly unpopular, no? Cognitive dissonance and disingenuousness were everywhere last night. 

16. Shorter GOP: oh, my God, this European Kenyan usurper N0bama has destroyed America. Let’s quickly go back to the policies that led to the 2008 worldwide economic catastrophe from which the world is still hungover. 

Tonight, Mitt Romney will give his speech. Horserace-obsessed journos will breathlessly report on how big of a “bounce” Romney gets in the polls in the coming days. I will be listening to his tone, and the content of his speech. This is 1996 all over again – the Democratic President is quite vulnerable against an energized Republican base, and the GOP just picked Bob Dole 2.0 – the begrudgingly selected guy whom no one likes, but will say the right things to the right people and whose time it simply is to run. 

I’ll leave you with this scene from the season finale of Aaron Sorkin’s fantastic new series, “The Newsroom”. This illustrates the problem within the Republican Party. While the Democrats have fringe whackjobs, too, the party establishment hasn’t let them take over the show: 

Ryan, Romney, Regression

So, Mitt Romney selected Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan to be his Vice Presidential candidate. Ryan is popular among conservatives, so this should help shore up some rightist support for the wishy-washy Romney. Ryan’s popularity comes despite the fact that his policies are all about doing more for those who have everything and doing less for those who have nothing. 

Don’t say there’s no difference between the Republican and Democratic tickets this year. The difference couldn’t be starker. 

Forward!

A Democrat Not Playing Perpetual Defense?

If you thought Obama 2012 was going to be like the Democrats of yore, who would forever be on defense and let the Republicans control the message, you’d be wrong. 

For instance, this ad is now airing in Ohio.  It should be called “boom goes the dynamite”. 

And for those of you wondering whether Obama will run on his record, wonder no more.