Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Non-debate

I debated in high school and college.  While I liked the format of 2012’s first presidential debate, this one didn’t really follow many (any?) of the protocols associated with a formal contest.

Because this wasn’t a contest. Anyone who uses “game on” or “game-changer”, anyone who talks about winners and losers or tries to score the event is doing the country a disservice and should be forced to recite the preamble to the constitution.  This is not a game.  The more politics is referred to as sport, the more combative, counterproductive and partisan it’s going to get.  And ‘more’ tough to imagine. 

What we did get last night was kind of depressing.  Neither the President nor Gov. Romney confronted fundamental truths of the office and it made for a circuitous and unsatisfying exchange.

Romney said he will cut taxes and lower the deficit and this will result in jobs.  We can all eat our cake and have it too.  All we have to do is cut loopholes.  But the loopholes aren’t big enough and it’s not something a president is empowered to do in the first place.  Congress makes these decisions and they ain’t good at closing gaps.  So it’s a lie.  The flip side of Obama’s lie.

Obama maffled because he couldn’t talk to the American public about what it’s really like to be president.  Mitch McConnell stated at the outset of Obama’s term that the number one job of the Republican party was to make sure Obama didn’t get re-elected.  They blocked everything.  Even things they never blocked before.  The President never stood and said, ‘hey it’s a miracle I got anything done.’  These guys wouldn’t even vote for a Republican health care plan or Republican deficit reduction.  He had to lie by omission so as not to look weak.  He knows, just like Mitt does, the executive branch can, in the end, only execute.  If congress does nothing, there’s not much for the other branches to do either.

What we saw last night was two men talking around the myth of the presidency.  That it is somehow filled with fiat.  That the most powerful person in the world has a great deal of power.  The office doesn’t and that’s the real fib both avoided last night leaving us with a debate that wasn’t much of one at all.

If this were highschool, both these guys would've been disqualified.


  1. Interesting perspective and on the overriding message I agree. However, I think Obama avoided saying "it's a miracle I got anything done" because, in my view, he failed in leading congress to a consensus. In my view, and, by the way I am not particularly a Romney fan, we lack leadership in the White House. The healthcare bill bearing his name was written by congress, it did not come from the White House, he had the chance to strike a 'grand bargain' last year and fell prey to his own party, rather than lead his own party. He continues to press on the issue of raising taxes for all with incomes $250,000 and above when Nancy Pelosi, the uber liberal, suggests $1 million to be the better number, failed leadership again because he can't even get his own party to agree with him. He likes to align himself with Bill Clinton when in reality he is about as much like Bill Clinton as Dan Quayle was/is like john Kennedy.

    Clinton was/is the ultimate politician and was able to forge consensus across the plethora of views. Clinton was able to align his party behind him and then to bring the other side to the table to form consensus. Obama has had nothing close to resembling that and the only way Obamacare passed was the non-partisan congress, it took zero leadership on his part.

    I really see this election as trying to pick the lesser of the evils and, as you so aptly pointed out, for the most part Presidents have little power over congress, the exception being for their legislation to become law he does have to sign the legislation and that is not inconsequential. For me, I guess as much as I dislike Romney, I think I dislike Obama's inability to lead. He is unable to find those in the middle and form consensus, and that, in my view, does as much to foster divisiveness as Mitch McConnell's rhetoric.

  2. I would agree with you if I shared your memories of last summer. Obama struck a deal with the Speaker of the House and a gaggle of Tea Party newbies lead an insurrection against John Boehner. So yeah, Obama's leadership didn't work, but that was my point. They locked arms and said it was never going to work. Even if it continued to hurt the country, which it has. Even if I wasn't an Obama fan, I couldn't fuel that kind of behavior.

    1. As I recall, and I've done this research for another such discussion, the deal was struck with Boehner having the votes to pass the bill, however, it was Obama, who in the 11th hour tossed in another 'demand' that came from thw far left. It was then, and only then, that Boehner lost the votes necessary to pass the bill. Yes Boehner refused to bend to the added demand, but it should never have been added to the negotiation once a consensus waz formed in the house. Yea, there are those on the far right who hold to voting 'anythjng but Obama, but the coalition boehner hed in the House was bipartisan and didn't require the votes of the fringes. The late expansion from the President moved the line of what the house would accept and broke the process.