The Second Debate

I’m writing this just a few minutes after the end of the second presidential debate. The spinners are at work, doing their job, saying the things they already planned to say regardless of the outcome. It’s such a useless exercise to bring any representatives of the candidates to the interview table after debates because they are scripted ahead of time. It doesn’t matter what actually happened in the debate; they will say what they were going to say anyway.

There are two ways people decide who wins debates: one is to focus on style, the other on substance. Substance, of course, should be the determiner, but pundits and the media types are fixated on style. So, many of them will say Obama won simply because he wasn’t comatose, as he was in the first debate. He was more aggressive. That’s true. He was. But from my perspective, his aggressiveness was primarily a cover for lack of substance. I also think his natural haughtiness was on display. He clearly despises Mitt Romney, and it shows. I’m not sure he helped his own likeability score with some of his testiness.

On the issues, he attempted to turn nearly everything into class warfare or a war on women. He kept referring to Planned Parenthood and how awful it would be to defund it. That’s because he’s the most pro-abortion president in American history. Frankly, I continue to be amazed—although why, I’m not sure—how both Obama and Biden can fabricate “facts” without any embarrassment. There’s also no shame over the continuing blame game directed at Bush. Obama’s partisans will feel like he did well, but those who understand his worldview and the policies that have emanated from it, will know better. It was style over substance.

What about Romney? He was almost as good as in the first debate, but not quite. He absolutely nailed Obama’s failed economic record. He was eloquent on the need to free the market and get government out of the way. As usual, he had a laser-like focus on creating jobs and prosperity. Yet he had to do so while dealing with some rather stupid questions directed to him while Obama got mostly softballs. These “undecided” voters sounded suspiciously like Democrats.

Romney also had a moderator problem at a critical moment. He was challenging Obama’s reluctance to call the Libya attack an act of terrorism. He noted that the president wouldn’t even call it that the day after in his Rose Garden statement. At that point, Candy Crowley, the moderator, jumped in and did her own personal fact-check on Romney, saying that Obama did indeed call it an act of terrorism in his statement. First, that is not the proper role of the moderator. She definitely took Obama’s side and threw Romney off his stride. Commentators, both during the debate on the internet, and afterwards on television, fact-checked the fact-checker. It turns out Romney was correct; Obama mentioned acts of terror, but did not apply it to the Libya attack directly. In fact [since facts are what we are supposed to be most concerned about], for weeks after September 11, he continued to blame the so-called film about Muhammad and described it as a spontaneous demonstration. He even held to that view in his UN speech.

Hopefully, the audience recognized the impropriety and heard the correction later.

All Obama has ever done in these debates and on the campaign trail is ask the voters to give him another four years to do the things he didn’t do the first four years. As Romney warned the audience last night, four more years of Obama would be a repeat of the last four years.

Another cartoonist illustrated the same point in a different way:

So are we going to be sheeple once again? We’ll see how this debate affects the polls, but always check the numbers behind the numbers when those polls appear. My prediction is that either there will be no shift as a result of this debate or that the Romney numbers will continue to climb slowly.

The final debate, next Monday, will be on foreign policy. If Romney’s smart, he’ll be unrelenting on Libya, on Obama’s dismal record in support of Israel, and on how Obama’s grandiose promises of changing the attitude of other nations toward America have utterly failed.