Last night it was good to see a proper fight. It was good to see the POTUS moving less like “Sambo” the placid negro and more like Richard Roundtree’s Shaft, cool calm and deadly. Obama finally got the memo it seems. The American people don’t want a legal discussion nor do they want to be obstructed by piles and piles of substantive data. No way! If they wanted to learn something at 9:00pm Eastern, they would more likely read a book instead. So Obama brought what could only be described as his A game while Romney proceeded to do what he does best, channeling Burger King Staff by serving up Whopper after Whopper.
At the end of it all, who knows what impact this dramatic presidential “rebirth” will bring. I doubt any sort of lead since i feel that ship has sailed for the Obama/Biden ticket. It will stop the bleeding though. Of that i am certain. For the rest of us It will be at least another couple days before various flavours of political bobble heads and their respective facilitative media mouthpieces of choice begin the process of spinning and shaking the outcome into whatever “cocktail of Opinion” they decide we should drink this time around.
Whatever they say it was clear that BO learned from his mistakes. Substance aside, he looked outwardly ready not just for the more scholarly Oxford Union debates also for a down and dirty “Battle Creek Brawl” as well. With the substance I’d say he definitely beat the Republican pretender this time around. On to round 3!
Charles and David Koch
The Koch brothers’ $60 million pledge to defeat President Obama — along with their political network’s $400 million spending — make them two of the most influential conservatives this election.
Not content with their unprecedented influence in politics, the Kochs have also taken to influencing the votes of their employees. According to In These Times, Koch Industries sent 45,000 mailers to employees at Koch subsidiary Georgia Pacific, urging votes for Romney and other conservative candidates. The letter warns ominously of “consequences” for the workers if Republicans lose.
The Koch mailer is one of several recent examples of executives warning that employees may lose their jobs if Republicans do not win in November. Here is an excerpt of the letter:
While we are typically told before each Presidential election that it is important and historic, I believe the upcoming election will determine what kind of America future generations will inherit.
If we elect candidates who want to spend hundreds of billions in borrowed money on costly new subsidies for a few favored cronies, put unprecedented regulatory burdens on businesses, prevent or delay important new construction projects, and excessively hinder free trade, then many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation, and other ills.
In These Times also reports that employees are restricted in their political free speech on social media outlets.
“It’s just they can intimidate people this way and they can make life miserable for you. The law would be strong enough to protect them probably, but you could be looking at being without your job for nearly a year,” said one Georgia Pacific employee.
One of the most absurd parts of the letter is its hypocritical charges of “cronyism.” The Kochs use their money and political clout to influence elections. Charles Koch once penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed, included in the employee packet, that attacked “partisan rhetoric” and rewards for “politically connected friends.” At the time, we listed the various ways the Kochs personally profit from subsidies and government contracts and attempt to influence the political process through every means possible. Koch Industries has also played a speculative role in hiking oil prices higher for profit. And that “delay” in “important new construction projects,” mentioned in the letter refers to projects the Kochs would profit from, like the Keystone XL pipeline for shipping tar sands.
The Kochs are not the only ones attempting to influence employee votes. Two CEOs recently issued threats to employees about their jobs if Obama wins. And Murray Energy’s CEO allegedly coerced donations to Republican candidates after forcing coal miners to attend a pro-Romney rally without pay.
Despite the fact I think that the current debate format is proving to be a bit outdated for two “Alpha” type politicians umpired by inept moderators, I think “Smoking” Joe Biden really did the business at last nights Vice Presidential debates in Danville, Kentucky. Yes you’re sure to hear Limbaugh & Co complaining about Biden’s antics. Sure he rolled his eyes and laughed his ass off, but from where i sat, this behaviour only added to his aura of authenticity. He was the only one that looked even remotely human on that stage.
Look, I’m not saying that lies and obfuscation didn’t come from both sides at various points but when Joe did it he didn’t look like a used car sales man. Ryan looked like more like the product of great taxidermy…stiff and stuffed.
Where Joe used some facts Ryan like most conservatives i’ve ever seen, starts announcing how much they “love” old people, poor people, women, latinos and black people. Yaay. As Joe suggested, the Republicans need to go out and prove it.
The snap judgment I tweeted after last night’s debate was “On points (facts aside): Romney A-/B+ (shameless but masterful), Obama C+ (missed every opportunity), Lehrer D (road kill).”
After a night’s sleep and further reflection, I think I was a little generous to Obama, and a better verdict on Lehrer would have been “absent.” But the morning-after judgment is pretty much the same as last night’s.
I do not pretend to know the mind of the electorate; the polls will tell us that soon enough. But Romney did a convincing impersonation of a guy with command of the facts, a clear sense of direction, and an empathy that transcends his own privileged caste. The facts may have been bogus, the direction was about 90 degrees off the course he’s set since the primary season began, and the empathy may be the product of good coaching. But my hunch is that for voters watching – before the verdict of the fact-checkers and the pundits – he got away with it.
Will the aura of victory fade as the audience factors in the fact-checking? How many readers/viewers will bother? I don’t know. (For those of you who like to know when candidates are slinging hooey, some truth-squadding is available here and here.)
I’m not one of those who was yearning for a comeback story to sell newspapers and drive Web traffic for the month ahead. There are lots of things I’d rather write about beyond this depressing spectacle.
But a comeback story is what we now have.
“Romney A-/B+ (shameless but masterful)”
The post-mortems all observed that this debate spent a lot of time down in the weeds of regulatory detail and tax provisions. Dodd-Frank and Simpson-Bowles were lobbed into the discussion as if every voter had mastered the finer points of banking reform and deficit reduction. But where Obama rambled and mumbled, Romney stuck to a few clear points (note I do not say “facts” – see above) and returned to them relentlessly.
It’s easy to mock Romney as a guy who uses PowerPoint slides at campaign speeches (I’ve done it myself) but there’s a reason PowerPoint is the tool of choice for corporate executives. It allows you to distinguish major points from subsidiary points. It organizes your thinking and prevents you from rambling off course. On the strength of the first debate, I’d recommend Obama spend a little time working with PowerPoint. He sounded like a professor who has forgotten his course outline and grown bored with his subject. Romney sounded executive.
It was also easy to spot Romney’s rehearsed lines, but by and large the prefab stuff worked pretty well: “trickle-down government“ was a servicible preemptive answer to the Democrats’ cry of “trickle-down economics.” His paraphrase of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s great retort (“Mr. President, you are entitled as the president to your own airplane and to your own house, but not to your own facts.”) arguably did double duty as a subliminal reminder that Romney is not the only one who travels in high style.
Here are a few places I think Romney scored:
Jobs. He turned everything into a jobs argument – even the Simpson-Bowles economic bargain, which, nobody mentioned, his vice-presidential running mate helped kill.
Framing the deficit as “a moral issue.” Polls show a lot of Americans believe that spending beyond our means and passing the debt to our children is not just imprudent, but wrong, contrary to the American value of thrift. Never mind that the Bush administration was the consummate sinner.
The coddling of “too big to fail” banks. By plucking one easily grasped provision from the Dodd-Frank reforms, Romney managed to pose as a populist critic of the much-loathed big banks, while tickling voters’ suspicion of regulatory red tape.
The damning (if grossly distorted) and largely unanswered charge that Obama squandered $90 billion on green energy programs that were, Romney more than suggested, run by cronies and donors. The claim that this dwarfed tax breaks for the oil industry, and that it showed Obama’s gift for “picking losers,” was clever. For aficionados of mini-scandals, he managed a dog-whistle mention of “Solyndra.”
Milking the myths of Obamacare. Fact-checkers have repeatedly debunked that claim that a 15-member board will decide who gets what treatment, that the bill loots $700-plus billion from Medicare, that this is a “federal takeover” of health care, and that millions of Americans will lose their current health insurance. But a lie told with unwavering conviction – and ineptly answered – is a lie that sticks.
The details issue. Obama had a good (prepared?) line about Romney’s reluctance to share details of his tax plan, his regulatory plan, his health care plan. But he mumbled it, and Romney was ready with a rebuttal: like Reagan, he is campaigning on clear principles, and he is open to bipartisan discussion of the nuts and bolts. He illustrated the point with a recent addition to his tax speech: maybe you set a flat ceiling on deductions, or maybe you go through the code and eliminate some altogether, but that’s to be worked out with the Congress.
Overall, Romney largely succeeded in sloughing off the right-wing views that he wore through the primary season, moderating his anti-government rhetoric and reclaiming the role of the problem-solving technocrat.
“Obama C+ (missed every opportunity)”
Obama seemed by turns distracted, passive and irritated – a little put out that he had to be here justifying himself. He was at his most abstract: lots of “ladders” and “frameworks,” not a lot of people. More important, he seemed to have left his talking points somewhere out on the campaign trail.
Within minutes of the debate’s conclusion, the kibitzers on TV were itemizing the subjects Obama failed, inexplicably, to raise: the 47 percent, the Ryan budget plan (until half way through the debate), Bain Capital, the Cayman Islands, the obstructionism of the Republican House, the Republican war on women.
The narrative that, polls show, works for the president is that Romney represents – and as president would represent – the interests of the bosses, the owners, the investors, and that he feels some combination of indifference and scorn for the wage-earners, the working poor, the struggling. This was the narrative Romney arrived determined to revise, and Obama let him.
Obama gained some yardage with Romney’s $8 trillion in unreplenished red ink ($1 trillion in Bush tax cuts, $5 trillion in new tax cuts, $2 trillion in added military spending) but Romney held his ground by the time-honored expedient of loudly denying it.
Obama scored on vouchers for Medicare, but his appeal for “100,000 math and science teachers” sounded like small ball.
One of Obama’s biggest missed opportunities was his failure to tie Romney to the obstructionists and hyperpartisans of the Republican party. In fact, Romney pretty much got away with portraying himself as the answer to gridlock – citing his record of working with a Democratic legislature in Massachusetts (at least until he adjusted his sights toward the White House.)
You could see it and hear it in Obama’s faltering closing statement: he knew he had lost.
“Lehrer D (road kill)”
Jim Lehrer is not stupid and it’s entirely possible there was method to his laissez faire approach. I’ll assume he calculated that by getting out of the way he would let the candidates fill the space, and show us more of themselves than we’d get under the more traditional interrogation and interruption. But it sure felt like an abdication.
Left to their own devices, the candidates made the same points over and over – You did! Did not! Did too! Lehrer seemed more concerned with his format (“we lost a pod”) than with prodding the candidates past their evasions and fabrications.
As a format, it was fairly stupefying, and what it mostly demonstrated was which candidate came prepared to seize the time. (Someone calculated afterwards that Obama spoke 4 minutes longer, but Romney seemed to dominate the clock.) If what you really wanted to learn Wednesday night was which candidate could run more aggressively roughshod over Jim Lehrer, then you got your wish.
WHAT fools most of us are. What chumps. We worry about our flaws, sweat our mistakes, allow the truth to be our tether and let conscience trip us up. We tiptoe. We equivocate.
The political arena would make mincemeat of us.
It’s a place for pure bravado, a lesson we’ve been reminded of lately by politicians as diverse and diversely accomplished as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Clinton and of course Mitt Romney, who gave President Obama a special tutorial on Wednesday night.
How did he win their first debate? Let us count the ways: by homing in tight on the president’s unmet goals and unfinished business. By looking consistently into the camera during his closing remarks, which Obama somehow forgot to do. By being alert, while the president seemed hungry for, or hung over from, a nap.
By smuggling notes in? Certain hysterics on the left lofted this accusation, pointing to wholly ambiguous video snippets, while their counterparts on the right claimed that the unemployment rate’s dip to 7.8 percent — the lowest since the first month of Obama’s presidency — was some sort of statistical skulduggery by the White House. The homestretch of this bitter campaign will clearly be fertile for more than nasty commercials. A thousand conspiracy theories will bloom.
None will adequately explain Obama’s torpor when, at the debate, Romney actually made a reference to his own accountant, a ball that came in low and slow over the plate, practically begging Obama to knock it out of the park. Which he did. The following day. After the credits had already rolled and 67 million viewers had gone back to their usual programming.
Al Gore wondered whether Denver’s mile-high elevation and a deficit of oxygen had undone The One. There should be a Hall of Fame for political spin, and this bit of conjecture should be enshrined in it immediately.
Obama’s problem wasn’t altitude. It was attitude — and affect. In a format that demands certitude, he hemmed. In a vocation that rewards swagger, he wobbled.
Had he failed to take a good look around him? Not noticed that some of the grandmasters of bravado were out and about, striding across the land and showing how it’s done?
Schwarzenegger spent last week on the interview circuit, plugging a memoir, “Total Recall,” that’s a testament not only to outsize confidence — he insisted on supremacy in bodybuilding, movies and politics, three careers not previously associated with one another — but also to the peculiar talent that many successful people have for being utterly unabashed.
You’d think that he wouldn’t want to humiliate his estranged wife, Maria Shriver, any more than he already did with the revelation last year that he had fathered the son of a housekeeper in their employ. You’d be wrong. In a book that needn’t have been written — he has all the money he could want, as he bragged to Lesley Stahl in a “60 Minutes” segment that was broadcast last Sunday — he confirmed an affair with Brigitte Nielsen, his co-star in “Red Sonja,” that happened some eight years into his relationship with Shriver.
In the Stahl interview, he tersely admitted wrongdoing, but was more expansive about his new $250,000 Mercedes, a monstrous truck that he eagerly showed her. Look how mighty! How tall! In Arnold’s world, redemption is a matter of riding high and not letting anyone or anything bring you down. Bravado is the new contrition.
HARRY REID understands this. After his charge several months ago that Romney had gone a decade without paying federal income tax, he was widely (and justly) roasted. His response? To level that charge again and again. Don’t retreat, repeat. That’s the strategy of the day.
It’s Paul Ryan’s method. His selection as Romney’s running mate prompted a closer look at his Congressional record, which revealed that he had voted for increased federal spending, contributing to a larger federal debt, during George W. Bush’s presidency. Did he then feel compelled to modulate his marketing of himself as the great deficit hawk and budget truth-teller of our time?
Please. He proceeded to give a convention speech that chastised Obama for his neglect of the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan, even though Ryan himself had refused to support it.
Speaking of the conventions, the Clinton nostalgia that reached its apotheosis at the Democrats’ gathering in Charlotte has been an interesting exercise in something less than total recall. His presidency was indeed a successful one, and he’s a brilliant model for how to shape public opinion and for the glad-handing, backslapping and messy compromise that the legislative progress typically requires.
Mitt Romney’s Big Bird swipe during Wednesday’s debate raised some hackles: PBS’s, many on social media and mine.
Romney told the debate moderator, Jim Lehrer:
“I’m sorry, Jim. I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not going to — I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.”
Those are fighting words.
Social media, and others, exploded in Big Bird’s defense.
PBS itself issued a tersely worded statement on Thursday, saying:
“Governor Romney does not understand the value the American people place on public broadcasting and the outstanding return on investment the system delivers to our nation. We think it is important to set the record straight and let the facts speak for themselves.”
Exactly! What they said!
Big Bird is the man. He’s 8 feet tall. He can sing and roller skate and ride a unicycle and dance. Can you do that, Mr. Romney? I’m not talking about your fox trot away from the facts. I’m talking about real dancing.
Since 1969, Big Bird has been the king of the block on “Sesame Street.” When I was a child, he and his friends taught me the alphabet and the colors and how to do simple math.
Do you know how to do simple math, Mr. Romney? Maybe you and the Countess Von Backward could exchange numbers.
Big Bird and his friends also showed me what it meant to resolve conflicts with kindness and accept people’s differences and look out for the less fortunate. Do you know anything about looking out for the less fortunate, Mr. Romney? Or do you think they’re all grouches scrounging around in trash cans?
I know that you told Fox News this week that you were “completely wrong” for making that now infamous 47 percent comment, but probably only after you realized that it was a drag on your poll numbers. Your initial response was to defend it as “inelegantly stated” but essentially correct. That’s not good, sir. Character matters. Big Bird wouldn’t have played it that way. Do you really believe that Pennsylvania Avenue is that far away from Sesame Street? It shouldn’t be.
Let me make it simple for you, Mr. Romney. I’m down with Big Bird. You pick on him, you answer to me.
And, for me, it’s bigger than Big Bird. It’s almost impossible to overstate how instrumental PBS has been in my development and instruction.
We were poor. My mother couldn’t afford day care, and I didn’t go to preschool. My great-uncle took care of me all day. I could watch one hour of television: PBS.
When I was preparing for college and took the ACT, there were harder reading passages toward the back of the test. Many had scientific themes — themes we hadn’t covered at my tiny high school in my rural town. But I could follow the passages’ meanings because I had watched innumerable nature shows on PBS.
I never went to art or design school. In college, I was an English major before switching to mass communications. Still, I went on to become the design director of The New York Times and the art director of National Geographic magazine.
That was, in part, because I had a natural gift for it (thanks mom and dad and whatever gods there may be), but it’s also because I spent endless hours watching art programs on PBS. (Bob Ross, with his awesome Afro, snow-capped mountains and “magic white,” will live on forever in my memory.)
I don’t really expect Mitt Romney to understand the value of something like PBS to people, like me, who grew up in poor, rural areas and went to small schools. These are places with no museums or preschools or after-school educational programs. There wasn’t money for travel or to pay tutors.
I honestly don’t know where I would be in the world without PBS.
As PBS pointed out:
“Over the course of a year, 91 percent of all U.S. television households tune in to their local PBS station. In fact, our service is watched by 81 percent of all children between the ages of 2-8. Each day, the American public receives an enduring and daily return on investment that is heard, seen, read and experienced in public media broadcasts, apps, podcasts and online — all for the cost of about $1.35 per person per year.”
PBS is a national treasure, and Big Bird is our golden — um, whatever kind of bird he is.
I was really disappointed with Obama’s handling of the 1st presidential debate with Mittens the other night. Saw the dark clouds forming around Obamas campaign as haters piled on with their predictable but well earned gloating. Then…a chink of light!! All was not lost! You see while Romney delivered round after damaging round to the POTUS’s mid section there was another casualty. A bird! This bird was an unwitting victim of Romney’s vicious fiscal conservative shotgun blast. But this was no ordinary bird. This was arguably the most popular bird in the world. BIG BIRD!!
You see It just so happened that by promising to cut funding to Sesame Street Romney potentially made an implicit enemy of pretty much every American adult of voting age. As Romney blurted news of his likely gutting of Big Birds “home”, PBS, #Bigbird got tweeted over 17,000 times a minute!!
Who knew! Just when I was worried that Obama had inadvertently dampened the embers of liberal enthusiasm with a lacklustre first outing, good ol’ Mittens single handedly sets the Democratic base on FIRE!! Nicely done Mittens! Now it’s just left to the POTUS to go stick a dull fork into whats left of conservative hopes and dreams!
I hate to say it but Romney definitely brought his A game to last nights debate. Romney seemed personable engaged, enthusiastic and for a change, came with some detail, even though most of it defied the basic laws of math. Romney was so uncharacteristically animated he practically went “Gangnam” on the Podium, bowling over even hapless moderator, Jim Lehrer.
Nevertheless and regardless of the the integrity of the actual discourse although many average viewers at home must’ve gone, ” wow is that Mitt Romney?”, the really big story was, “What’s wrong with Obama?”. The president was passive, annoyed looking. No one can figure it out! Was he so surprised by Romney’s animation that he remained stunned for 90 whole minutes? He seemed like someone just woke him up. He was listless, kept looking down a lot, hardly making any eye contact with his opponent Romney or the public and moreover did not call Romney on any of his big fibs. Even more stunning, if thats possible, he made no mention of Romney 47% comment at all. What a waste of all that pre debate advertising .
Pundits of all stripes have been weighing in on what it could be. So far it sounds like the incumbent expected a walkover and got a pummelling instead. I pray that Obama-Biden wake up and get ready for the next event. Now that the GOP base is energised and the Dems are all depressed, the president is gonna have to do something stellar if he still wants to win this thing.
No more cool calm and collected Mr O. This is the big leagues! Your base is baying for blood and now you better give ’em some!