The 10/3/2012 U.S. Presidential Debate . . .
Why it was so Cut-Your-Throat-With-A-Butter-Knife Awful
I suppose if one is a Mitt Romney supporter it wasn’t awful at all. The Republican candidate for President did what he needed to do: look Presidential, not get rattled (except a little), squirt out squid-ink ‘specifics’, pretend that he agrees with most popular Democratic positions, and deep-six the ‘zinger’ strategy.
If one is a Barack Obama supporter, it was pretty damned awful. And here are some reasons:
--The President looked ashy (yes, that’s a specific call-out to a portion of his constituency . . . where was the oil or lotion?). He also looked old (honestly, if someone from Mars or Malawi tuned in randomly to this debate, which candidate would seem older?). One easy thing a 50-year-old candidate has over a 65-year-old candidate is that the former should appear more vigorous, more open to new ideas, more in touch with the current world (not to mention the future), which should translate into an advantage for the younger person. Uh, dial up Obama-McCain 2008 on the way-back machine. However, this easy thing did not happen.
--The President spent most of his non-speaking time looking down (At his notes? His hands? His wedding ring [it’s his 20th anniversary]? His watch [unfortunately referencing Bush Uno)?). Apart from giving the impression of being disengaged, this visual tick actually made President Obama look small, as his head was tucked into his chin and his eyes did not engage the camera. Although Obama and Romney are more or less the same height, Romney (who has a little more beef on his bones, and who uncompromisingly stared into the camera throughout the debate) looked bigger. This translates visually into more commanding. More (dare I say it – but statistics bear this out) Presidential.
--Jim Lehrer, the moderator, was a complete pouf. With the rather free-form debate format, it was up to the moderator to impose some sort of consistent protocol. This Lehrer did not do, leaving Governor Romney able to horn in on President Obama’s time and change the subject at will. To be fair, President Obama did little to nothing to counteract this.
--The questions (can one blame Jim Lehrer exclusively? – probably not) were skewed toward wonky economic issues, which are certainly important but which are also boring in the details and are whiffle balls for Governor Romney (not that his answers were all that convincing, but that his answers on economic issues were well prepared, and his comfort level addressing economics is pretty high). Where were the questions about women’s health? About the 47%? About cutting Pell Grants and Head Start? About immigration? About funding for NASA and other science and technology initiatives? [About, dare we say it, encouragement for the arts?]
--In other words, the debate was a dispirited back-and-forth about ill-defined economic goals and easy critiques about what’s wrong with the United States’ economy. There was nothing about more comprehensive visions targeting what this country should be, can be, strives to be – not to mention how we might make such visions happen.
The way this debate played out was obviously to Mitt Romney’s advantage. That he was able to seize this advantage is due, to some extent, to the moderator and the format (and, of course, to Governor Romney’s assiduous and effective debate preparation) . . . but just as much to President Obama, who seemed to me to be sleepwalking through this hour and a half. Maybe he’d been told one too many times that he couldn’t afford to appear irritated or dismissive. Maybe he shouldn’t have taken time off to visit the Hoover Dam. Maybe he just wanted to celebrate his anniversary with his lovely wife. Maybe he’s truly beaten down by a presidential term that has been stymied at every opportunity by a disgracefully recalcitrant opposition party. Maybe he’s relying on Joe Biden to save the day next week.
That must be it!
Joementum (the current version, not the 2000 version)! I’m all in! Another debate party chez moi. Good friends and political chatter make life sweet. I might not even need to move to Canada.