The First US Presidential Debate

Credits to DonkeyHotey

With the US Presidential election drawing nearer, the first debate certainly turned a few heads. Ben Moxey recounts what happened and what we might yet see.

On Wednesday night (Thursday morning for the GMT lovers) Obama and Romney took to the floor of the Magnus Arena in Denver for the first Presidential debate of the 2012 election, this time focussing on domestic policies of the USA. Before entering many pundits were sure that, whereas in the past these debates would be largely about immigration or crime, the main focus of tonight’s debate would be taxes and the wounded economy. How right they were.

From the off Romney and Obama traded blows over each other’s tax plans and how they would fix the economy while the other guy would screw it up faster than a Black and Decker. To the first time viewer or to the outsiders, on the face of it, it would seem that Romney ‘won’ the debate. He was erudite, charming and charismatic and he had a quality to his voice that suggested confidence in his material – either he believes that it is the cure or he deserves an Oscar. Obama on the other hand was stumbling, energyless and slow to react to barbs or comments.

On five or six occasions he allowed Romney to bend and twist the truth without calling the Governor of Massachusetts out. Romney spuriously accused Obama of cutting Medicare (healthcare for the elderly) to the tune of $716 billion. Obama never had the chance to counter Romney by saying the Republican tax plan would reward the rich and steal from the poor. Romney at one point stated that he would personally cut all programs that require the country to “borrow from China” to fund them. Programs like Obamacare, which promises healthcare to 30 million Americans who fall outside of the Medicare/Medicaid envelope, or even PBS, the public broadcaster similar to the BBC (more on this later). Obama never once interjected to call him out.

And he could have interjected, very easily. The moderator, Jim Lehrer, was weak in the face of any opposition from these two men on stage. Oftentimes Romney would start speaking over Lehrer and ignore his complaints allowing them to roll quietly by like inconsequential tumbleweed. Or Stephen Root in the outstanding movie, Office Space. Obama could have easily cut Romney off to say “You are wrong, Willard” or to ask how he would replace PBS or Obamacare and what would he say to the people employed by these plans? He did ask Romney where his promised $8 trillion tax cuts would come from but never stuck around in the argument to get an answer.

Really Barack is not a debater. He cannot survive in the cut and thrust of a debate. Sure he is a great speaker, a man who seems at ease with his stump speech and will whip up a crowd to eat out of his hand in moments. But sharing the stage with someone who is a real threat to his Presidency? No hope. He struggled to be convincing and in the end to the casual observer, to the floating voter he was second best.

I was editor of Le Nurb back in 2008 when Obama won the election and we proudly ran a cover story saying that Obama would solve all the world’s problems and we would be ok. However since then he has had a Republican House of Representatives, a bitchy print and online media, two large wars ‘on a credit card’ and the mother of all financial cluster-fumbles set up first by Clinton and his repeal of the Glass-Stealgall Act, which, set up in 1933, imposed banking restrictions to prevent a repeat of the Great Depression and then by Bush with limitless spending on defence and poor fiscal control. Now Obama is the top dog and all mistakes are his mistakes. When things go wrong, it is the President’s fault. And the Opposition? Blameless.

In fact the only real heat that anyone could find to throw at Romney (save his questionable fact checking) was his earlier promise to cut PBS. Twitter exploded with a white-hot fury that it usually does. One profile, purportedly run by Big Bird, posted a status saying, “Yo Mitt Romney, Sesame Street Is brought to you by the letters F & U!”. If there is one saving grace in the American political system it’s that American really doesn’t like it when you play fast and loose with its yesteryears. Or its food.

Back in the debate, both men agreed on job creation, believing that energy independence is the way to secure it. Although Romney believes that buying oil and gas from Canada is fiscally sound, as is drilling in ANWR, a 19 million acre, peaceful nature reserve in Alaska while Obama leans to green technology like wind or solar. And both agree that the middle classes shouldn’t get squeezed by any tax cuts. With fuel and food prices rising and wages plummeting the middle classes are in trouble. But by Thursday morning, when America returned to work many will have been saying “If they both agree, and Obama has been in power for four years, why hasn’t he just done it already?”

Maybe the only way that the Obama camp can be seen to ‘win’ these debates is to make a stand and fight for the sake of it. No-one delivers a speech like Barack. Get him to talk through Mitt, not to him. Ask questions; disagree with him for the sake of disagreeing with him. The best tactic an opponent can have is to agree with the man leading the polls and to take it further – “I think Bob is spot on there but I don’t think he goes far enough with that point”. It worked a charm for Cameron in the UK debates 2 years ago. Will team Obama find their feet and take to the stage in New York in two weeks punching? Time will tell. And if not, America could tell him the score come November.

One Response to “The First US Presidential Debate”
  1. I love it when folks get together and share ideas. Great blog, keep it up!

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