Let me start off by
saying that the Obama-Romney matchup in Denver
was the worst presidential debate I’ve ever seen. I started off believing that
we have to save the popcorn for Biden v. Ryan next week, and I’ll stick with
In order to assess
the debate, it is necessary to separate the style from the substance of the
event. With regard to style, the moderator, Jim Lehrer, did a poor job
providing structure, and added little to the debate. Better to have no
moderator at all than a poor one.
Not a word about Romney’s propensity for picking at the carcasses of companies, like the vulture capitalist he is.
Governor Mitt Romney
was more assertive and hyper than his opponent, perhaps even overdone - reflecting
a candidate who has been killed in the polls due to a number of factors,
including his lack of personal appeal and the unacceptability of Republican
policies. Romney was more animated than Obama, but not unlike a slick used car
salesman trying to sell you a lemon, or in this case trickle-down Reaganomics.
president was more subdued, passive and professorial, perhaps too distant, and
did not challenge Romney as he could have. Perhaps this was because Obama did
not want to be seen as the “angry black man,” or maybe
because his handlers told him to stay cool and ride the wave of high
favorability and not rock the boat.
And with that said,
now on to substance. Romney gave a better performance because he was acting - he
lied through the whole thing, and otherwise he provided few specifics, as Obama
pointed out. I suspect that if the media are worth their salt, they will make
Romney account for the stories he concocted. The governor dealt with criticism
of his economic policy - particularly the $5 trillion price tag of tax cuts and
military spending increases - by changing his policy. Meanwhile, Romney rewrote
history by ignoring GOP obstructionism, and characterizing Obama as someone who
refused to work in a bipartisan fashion on healthcare reform. The president did
not challenge Romney on this point too much, or much of anything for that
matter. And he certainly did not pin down his opponent on his videotaped
remarks to donors, where Romney essentially wrote off 47 percent of the
candidates provided substantive differences in philosophy regarding the role of
government in the lives of people. Obama made a strong case for an active
government role, citing the Transcontinental Railroad, the land grant colleges
and the National Academy of Sciences. He embraced the Obamacare
label as his own, defended Social Security, talked about how he eliminated the
middleman in federal student loans, and railed against corporate welfare. Moreover,
he shared a vision of economic patriotism.
He must come back the next time around caffeinated, hungry and ready with his A game.In sharp contrast,
Romney shared a future for the nation in which federal responsibility for
caring for the poor is left to the states, under the assumption that the states
do a better job of those things. Regulation is an encumbrance, and investment
in green jobs is a folly in Romney’s opinion. The elderly are given coupons for
healthcare they will be unable to afford, kids borrow from their parents to pay
for college, and Obamacare and PBS are eliminated.
For a debate on
domestic issues, the evening is more notable for what was NOT discussed - for
example, fighting the scourge of poverty, women’s reproductive rights, labor
rights, a jobs program and dealing with the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Obama
chose not to challenge his rival on key issues that implicate Republican
There was no word
from the president on the GOP platform, their racist views on immigration,
their plans to gut the social welfare state, the Jim Crow stance towards voter
ID. No mention of the homophobia coming from the Republicans, or the push to
ban abortion, including in cases of rape or incest, or where the life of the
mother is in danger. Not a word about Romney’s offshore tax havens. No effort
to debunk the governor’s self-proclaimed reputation as a job creator, when the
facts point to his propensity for picking at the carcasses of companies, like
the vulture capitalist he is.
Next week is bound
to be far more entertaining, when Vice President Biden will presumably take
Paul Ryan to the woodshed, where he will proceed to open a can of whoopass on him, and deservedly so. Plus, the next
presidential debate will assume a town hall format, which is bound to favor
Obama and remind the public that they don’t like Romney.
If the media are worth their salt, they will make Romney account for the stories he concocted
So America’s first black
president went toe to toe with the whitest man in America. In the end, there isn’t
much to see here, and I call it a draw. Romney had an edge on style, but will
have to explain himself for manufacturing his own set of facts. This debate did
nothing to alter his image as an empty suit who will say and do anything to get
elected, and a corporate tool who believes in nothing in particular except
winning and being rich, and making the rich richer.
Just to be safe,
Obama must beware of low information voters who don’t know any better, and have
been in a coma throughout this election season. He must come back the next time
around caffeinated, hungry and ready with his A game. And
he needs to attack Romney like one of his campaign ads. Obama had to play
Jackie Robinson in 2008, but this is 2012 and he has a term under his belt. Sometimes
black men have to get angry, especially if they’re fighting for something they
believe in, like their job.
BlackCommentator.com Executive Editor and
Columnist, David A. Love, JD, is the Executive
Director of Witness to Innocence, a
national nonprofit organization that empowers exonerated death row prisoners
and their family members to become effective leaders in the movement to abolish
the death penalty. He is, is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. and a contributor to The Huffington Post, the Grio, The Progressive Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service, In These Times and Philadelphia Independent Media Center. He also blogs at davidalove.com, NewsOne, Daily Kos, and Open Salon. Click here to contact Mr. Love.