Presidential Debate 2: Lost in Debate
Here I am with the second installment of my earth-shattering, wildly popular, critically acclaimed live blog of the 2012 Presidential debates. Before we begin, though, I want to share one thought and one prediction for tonight’s debate. Updates are in italics.
Disclaimer: In judging the merits of the points made in this debate, I am looking more for effectiveness than any normative rightness. If I say Romney made a good point, it doesn’t necessarily mean I agree, but that it is valid (factually correct, reasonably supportable) and that it will strike a chord with voters.
Summary: As predicted, Obama came away the stronger candidate, but Romney did better than I thought he would. One CNN commentator made a good point when he said that, even though Romney didn’t win, he did pass the Commander in Chief Test, meaning that anyone who was holding off on voting for Mitt due to lack of foreign policy experience would probably feel a lot more confident choosing him after watching this debate. Mitt had a couple small gaffes, most notably describing Syria as Iran’s route to the sea (Iran has a lengthy coast on the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, which dwarfs Syria’s Mediterranean coast; furthermore, Syria and Iran share no land border), but few people probably knew that was a gaffe and overall he displayed good knowledge of world affairs and was able to hammer Obama effectively on his wavering-by-absurd-American-standards support for Israel. Also, I am disgusted no one mentioned the plight of the Palestinians in all this talk of Israel.
Pre-debate Thought: These debates do not matter. Here are a few articles on how presidential debates mean nothing in the broad context of the election. The good parts of these articles can be summarized as follows: 1. People who watch these debates are interested in politics and therefore already decided. 2. Historically, any swing in the polls that follows a debate is neutralized when it comes time to vote. So, the net effect of all this broo-ha-ha? Zero.
CNN even published a self-conscious article entitled, “Do U.S. Presidential Debates Matter?” and answered yes, shamelessly supporting their own overly-marketed programming by citing notable campaign gaffes that have “derailed campaigns” in the past. To this I say: Hey! congratulations, CNN – I see you also took 8th grade history and learned about Nixon’s infamous brow wipe! Now get over it.
Prediction: Obama is going to mop the floor with Romney’s Cruella de Ville coiffeur for three reasons: 1. Commander in Chief has home field advantage in any foreign policy discussion. Example: At some point in the night, Romney will attack Obama for Commander in Chief failures and when he does invoke the memories of dead Americans for a political cheap shot, Obama will play the “You’re right that this blood is on my hands and I lose sleep over it every night” card. It will humanize Obama and make Mitt look petty, cavalier, and insensitive. 2. When it comes to foreign policy, Mitt don’t know shit. The man has no experience in foreign policy and seems hell-bent on starting WWIII with China. Like Rick Perry stumbling over which federal agencies he wants to cut, everything Mitts says about foreign policy sounds like it was regurgitated from a brief he read ten minutes prior (and it is!). Couple that with the fact that Obama not only knows current foreign policy, but can reference American military history with authority and it spells bad news for Mitt. 3. What’s the name of that guy Obama shot with his own two hands? Starts with an “O”…Osama! Yeah, that’s it.
I was correct in predicting Obama would get the edge, but anyone could have predicted that, and I definitely underestimated Mitt.
A note on Obama’s Foreign Policy: Because he is such a thoughtful speaker and presents as such a benign and kind-willed fellow, many people don’t know that underneath Obama’s compassionate surface beats the heart of a stone cold killer. It pains me to say it, but Obama’s record of covert military operations is lengthy.If Obama were a Republican, Democrats would almost certainly lament his aggressive foreign policy leadership, call him a baby killer, and rally for a President that could move away from such brutal, bloody tactics. Having said that, Americans in general like bloodshed and shows of strength – or at least accept them as necessary – and Obama will win points for his record of providing plenty of both.
A note on Romney’s Foreign Policy: Part of why I say Romney is screwed for this debate is that he has no experience and an extremely poor foreign policy plan, the corner stones of which seem to be a, Build more ships (…?) and b, every other Republican line ever offered. Romney wants to maintain or expand our current budget and arsenal, while maximizing efficiency and positioning America in defense of key enemies. In typical fear-mongering Republican fashion, Mitt has identified our key enemies as…wait for it…everyone.
I could hardly have nailed this more correctly, right down to Romney’s hilarious oobsession with ships.
6:50:00 PM – And we are live! CNN is introducing members of their focus group and humiliating them on live television by telling them their questions are not germane to the debate’s topic.
6:54:00 PM – I don’t think CNN could jam the importance of these debates down our throats anymore – they even had an audience member talk about how offended she was by people who detracted from the debate’s importance by suggesting she’s dumb for remaining undecided.
6:55:15 PM – “Debate Master George W. Bush always did two things before a debate: Crack raunchy jokes and pray. Mitt Romney will definitely pray before the start, and I think even Obama might kneel towards Mecca a couple times” – Republican pundit.
6:59:00 PM – “Seriously folks, this shit matters, you should be really grateful that we are broadcasting this” – Anderson Cooper
6:59:25 PM – “Good point, Anderson, it really is incredible that CNN is airing this. Without cable news networks, we would all be lost.” – Other talking head guy
7:00:00 PM – The audience has now not only been asked to be silent but has submitted to a “vow of silence”.
7:04:30 PM – Starting with Romney on Libya.
7:06:00 PM – Romney really straining to sound concerned about dead Syrians, gets aggressive by saying he appreciates that Obama killed Osama and a- OH I HEARD SOME CLAPS!
7:07:30 PM – This is not a good answer from Obama – before I begin, let me say, he’s talking around what happened in Libya and, additionally, his sentences have way too many modifiers, and things of that nature, which detract from, what I and Michele, believe to be, in our experience, the truth of the matter, which again, is that Mitt is rich.
7:09:00 PM – How can we help the Muslim world reject extremism? It’s a valid question and Romney answers that economic development, gender equality, and other quality of life type issues are essential to bringing peace and ending extremism in the Middle East in the long term. True but no specifics.
7:11:45 PM – Obama goes on the offensive and calls Romney a hypocrite and inexperienced, brings up social and economic policies. Not totally impressed; the President is right in what he’s saying, but it’s coming off as scattered and reads like dodging the issue because he has yet to put out his own plan.
7:12:30 PM – “strong, steady, leadership” is a Ryan line, c’mon Obama, fuck!
7:13:30 PM – Tweets are coming through saying Romney looks shook – I don’t see it that way right now #hmm
7:15:00 PM – Good line from Obama on making sure other countries are protecting our counter-terrorism interests, but it was short-lived, masked by pro-Israel line, and too disguised for most people to catch. He’s getting at our relationship with Pakistan, who acted like a friend but turned a blind eye to Osama.
7:16:30 PM – Topic turns to Syria; I’m surprised Obama and Romney didn’t just look at each other and simultaneously say, “eh, we don’t really care about Syria. Next question, please.”
7:19:00 PM – I respect that Romney came out and said he wants Assad gone then mentioned the big issue, which is spill-over from Syria into the rest of the region, which we already saw this week in Beirut. He’s doing better than I thought he would.
7:20:00 PM – Ok, but how do you want to implement this “leadership” in Syria? It would be so easy to make up a plan and sound 40 times better. And why not, you’re gonna renege on all your promises anyway!
7:22:30 PM – A good pointed question from the moderator. “Romney, would you put a no-fly zone over Syria?” Romney: “No.” So the difference in the response from each is substantively the same, which is to say, none.
7:24:40 PM – “I want to help Egypt, so they can stop being such violent, corrupt, sexist, d-bags.” – Obama
7:26:50 PM – Yes, I also wish we could have predicted the future and that the world were completely peaceful. Thanks, Mitt.
7:28:00 PM – Ahmadinejad said our debt makes us weak!? He could have been the VP candidate! I wonder if there are any embarrassing workout photos of him.
7:28:10 PM – I just spelled “Ahmadinejad” right, first try!
7:30:00 PM – Mitt just feels awful for all those college kids graduating to a shitty job market. $100,000 in debt? No problem. But job searches? That’s just unreasonable!
7:31:30 PM – I, for one, am reeeeaaallllyyy glad this election has turned both parties into xenophobic protectionists.
7:34:20 PM – Please define these “language opportunities”. Like for study abroad programs?
7:35:45 PM – Oh shit! Some intern got a promotion for finding that small business statistic! Mass. falls in small business rankings during Romney’s tenure as governor.
7:36:10 PM – Hahaha, Bob’s interjection about foreign policy was hillaaaaarious.
7:38:30 PM – YES YES YES! Romney’s Navy plan – oh please please please talk about this!
7:39:10 PM – Moderator throws out a pretty Obama-friendly question, where is Mitt’s money for more military spending gonna come from?
7:40:00 PM – Seriously? Has no one in the Romney camp told him to stop saying “the poor”?? I mean, how hard is this? Mitt, I’m sending my resume along for a position as your top adviser. First lesson: Stop saying “the poor”. Second lesson: Peace I’m outta here.
7:41:15 PM – “The math simply doesn’t fucking work you fucking nitwit, goddamnit, does anyone out there have a calculator? I FEEL LIKE I’M TAKING CRAZY PILLS!” – Obama
7:42:00 PM – By Constitutional necessity, state budgets must be balanced – this is not an accolade for Romney.
I might be wrong about this and am currently looking into it.
7:43:10 PM – Hahaha, oh come on, Mitt, quit it with the fucking ships.
7:44:15 PM – OOOOHHHHH “We have less ships – yeah, we also have less horses and bayonets” BOOOOM.
7:45:00 PM – Man, I need a minute to recover from that one. Where are we? Israel? Can I get a fucking commercial break?
7:46:35 PM – That horses and bayonets line gave Obama a boost – great talking points on how Iran is significantly weaker than it was in ’09, bringing up the fact that their currency has fallen, etc.
7:47:15 PM – And now Romney is going to pledge to go to war with Iran for Israel. Awesome.
7:48:00 PM – Enough with the ships, Romney. Haha, what a fucking joker!
7:49:00 PM – Bold prediction: Iran will develop nukes; the world will not end.
7:50:00 PM – If I were Iran, and a big bully named Usa had my enemy Israel’s back unconditionally, I would hit the gym too.
7:52:00 PM – Just to be clear: I dislike both candidate’s positions on Israel. The dog wags the tail, not vice-verse.
7:55:30 PM – Agree with Obama – Iran much weaker now than it was in ’09.
7:56:00 PM – In response to Romney: We’re four years closer to a nuclear Iran because a nuclear Iran is inevitable.
7:56:30 PM – Romney sounds like a gossipy school girl – “Israel didn’t like that didn’t visit them when you were in the Middle East, AND you’re way chubbier than you were four years ago!”
7:57:20 PM – Fuck! Israel has a terrible record of dealing with the Palestinians and no one even wants to lend a sound byte to it!?
7:58:10 PM – “What would you do is Israeli PM called and said ‘the planes or on their way to Tehran’. Great question! Mitt is right that Israel would not attack Iran without our approval, but still a very interesting hypothetical.
7:59:00 PM – “I see a growing trade deficit with China, I see Iran closer to a nuke, I still see Ryan Seacrest on TV; something’s gotta give!” – Romney
8:01:00 PM – Obama makes a great point – in years past, Romney definitely said he wouldn’t talk to Iran. Or at least that’s what most Republicans were saying during the ’08 election.
8:02:30 PM – Good point transitions into very lengthy sob story about a girl who lost her dad in 9/11. I mean, compelling stuff, but this isn’t some Nic Cage movie.
8:04:45 PM – Good pointed question about what we do if Afghanistan is not ready for U.S. withdrawal at pre-determined date.
8:06:40 PM – Sorry guys, had to pee. This thing still on?
8:07:50 PM – Out of nowhere, Obama proposes a really cool idea about matching military training to civilian training, so a military electrician could transition into a civilian electrician after service. I really like that.
One reason I like this idea so much is because of an interaction I had with my high school’s security guard, Marco Sylla, when I was a freshman. He was a reservist at the time and I interviewed him for a paper on public conceptions of various careers. In response to a question about his education, he rattled off an impressive list of military certifications and courses he had received and taken, and I remember thinking, these don’t apply to anything once you leave the service – what a fucking waste! The country would be better of if smart, proactive guys like Marco could leave the military with real world qualifications. Another reason is my buddy Chad, who received almost no credit from CU Boulder for dozens of hours of military classes he had taken while a sergeant in the army. Chad also would have been better off if his in-service education had applied towards something.
8:09:10 PM – Should we divorce Pakistan? Not if it’s got mad nukes, says Mitt. Good answer, but I’m more concerned with crafting a solid Rodney Dangerfield joke.
8:10:00 PM – True, though, Pakistan’s nukes are definitely the world’s largest nuclear threat right now. Second would be poorly secured USSR nuclear sites, IMO.
8:11:10 PM – “I”m down for drones. Big ups, Barry.” – Mitt
8:13:20 PM – I’ve got this idea to keep Iran from getting nukes. So, we start by posing as a film crew…
8:14:15 PM – Here we go, China! Romney is HEATED.
8:15:30 PM – And now, the debate between the two potential candidates from PLA (Protectionist Leaders of America).
8:16:10 PM – Obama pulls out good surprise talking points on court cases and China.
Subsequent research revealed that this court case saved 1,200 jobs at a cost of about $1 million per job. Crappy, protectionist policy even from my leftist viewpoint.
8:17:00 PM – Oh, Romney, you don’t think government is what makes businesses successful? Huh! Cause I’ve been living under a rock, with my fingers in my ears, blasting Michael Jackson’s greatest hits for the last 5 years, and had no idea.
8:20:00 PM – YES! This is the Anti-China rant I’ve been waiting for from Romney all this time!
8:21:00 PM – “They’re hacking into our computers, they’re messing with our currency, they’re hacking into our computers, they’re counterfeiting our goods, they’re looking at our web history, they’re stealing our jobs, they’re reporting that we looked at porn that we totally didn’t look at…” – Mitt
8:23:15 PM – “We are trading with other countries, so that China feels left out” – Obama
8:23:40 PM – Mitt, you are so not a son of Detroit.
8:24:00 PM – Someone please find out what Mitt drives. IS IT AMERICAN?? IS IT???
8:24:20 PM – I checked, it totally is American.
8:25:00 PM – Are we really that against funding research for clean energies? I mean, I’m just saying.
8:26:30 PM – Foreign policy debate is officially over.
8:27:10 PM – This is at least the second time Romney mentioned Appleton, Wisconsin (where I was recruited to play both baseball and football). I think it’s the only place he met anyone.
8:28:30 PM – Closing remarks.
8:28:50 PM – Obama: Snoozefest.
8:31:00 PM – Romney: “I will work across the aisle. I can fix a broken Washington. This nation is the hope of the earth.” I’m sorry, does anyone really believe that? I mean, I love America because I was born here, but as far as the earth is concerned…probably better without us.
8:32:30 PM – Hahahaha, moderator: “As I always do, I leave you with the words of my mom: ‘Bob, you shat your goddamn pants again! I’m gonna have your father woop you good when he gets home from the Drunken Donkey! Thank you.”