Cliff Notes on the Final Debate: Not a Game-Changer

Obama looked more comfortable than Romney, and overall I think Obama probably “won”.  But the election is not going to hinge on foreign policy, and both men knew it. The way they both kept pivoting to domestic policy was nothing short of comical.  Romney’s first pivot at least made a bow in the direction of foreign policy when he said America needs a strong economy to have a strong military… but then he spun off on his five-point plan.  And how the hell did they get into an argument over education policy and class sizes?

Romney spent a lot of the debate agreeing with various aspects of Obama’s policies, such as drone attacks and standing with Israel.  I thought Romney came back strong in defense of the “apology tour” meme after Obama denied that he had been apologetic.  Romney quoted some of Obama’s criticisms of America on that tour, and hit the president hard for “skipping Israel” while visiting Arab countries.  Obama took some of the punch out of that by talking at length about his visit to Israel while he was a candidate.

Pet peeve: Romney twice used “Democrat” as an adjective.  I love ya, Mitt, but Democrat is a noun; the adjective is Democratic.

Obama partisans were pumped up by the president’s zingers — “we have fewer horses and bayonets,” “the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.”  But I wonder how well that kind of obviously scripted sarcasm plays with undecided voters?

It was odd that Romney had both the first AND the last word — were those separate coin tosses?  Seems to me that one candidate should open and the other close, and the winner of the coin toss gets to pick whether he wants the first word or the last word.

The New York Times has a transcript up less than an hour after the end of the debate.  Amazing. (Fortunately I haven’t used up all of my 10 free stories this month.)  The transcript also solves my problem of what to use for an illustration — when all else fails, use a word cloud from wordle.net.

 

“Binders Full of Women”: c.f. “You Didn’t Build That,” (context behind)

Binders full of context:

“And I brought us whole binders full of — of women. I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my cabinet and my senior staff that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America.”

The context behind Obama’s “You didn’t build that” (essentially, he meant to say “you didn’t build that all alone“) makes Obama’s faux pas a bit less offensive — but Obama still clearly celebrates the government’s role ahead of, or on a par with, the individual entrepreneur.  I think a majority of Americans are more inclined to celebrate the successful individual.

The context behind Romney’s faux pas makes it clear that he has been a leader in identifying and appointing qualified women to senior positions.

Cliff Notes on Second Presidential Debate: Obama Stopped the Bleeding

YouTube screen grab

  • Without question, Obama did much better tonight than in the first debate.  He also did much better than Smirky Joe last week.
  • In addition to the comeback award, Obama gets points for tactical cleverness, for waiting until his closing statement to mention Romney’s dreadful 47% gaffe — leaving Romney no opportunity to respond.
  • I got REALLY tired of all three of them talking at once.  I don’t know whether to blame Candy Crowley (whom I generally admire) or the “town hall” format.  Actually, I just decided while typing that sentence — “town hall debate” is an oxymoron.  A true town hall features one candidate, not two.
  • Romney stepped on his own foot on the Libya issue, arguing about what Obama did or didn’t say in the Rose Garden, rather than emphasizing that the administration continued to maintain for two weeks that the attack was caused by a YouTube trailer for a non-existent movie.
  • Romney certainly hammered home his resume, and the fact that the top earners will continue to pay a disproportionate share of taxes. I liked his “we don’t have to settle” mantra in his closing statement, talking about high unemployment, high gas prices, 47 million people on food stamps, 23 million “struggling to find a good job”, etc.
  • If tonight’s debate had occurred first, we’d all be talking now about Romney being toast.  But between Sleepwalking Obama and Smirky Biden, the Democrats were in free fall after the first two debates.  Tonight certainly slowed that momentum, but I don’t think it reversed it.
  • We may be up late on November 6.

(The image is a screen grab from YouTube.)

Biden’s Worst Line of the Night: “War Should Always Be the Absolute Last Resort”

Or, as someone put it on a friend’s Facebook page: “There is ALWAYS another option” rather than war.

Yes, Mr. Biden, there are always options for avoiding war.  Sometimes there are even GOOD options.  But in various circumstances, options other than war may include surrender, appeasement, indifference, self-delusion or betrayal. War most certainly should never be the FIRST resort, but it’s dangerous and imprudent to think of it as a LAST resort.

(Photo from Reuters)

Cliff Notes: Biden Made No Outrageous Gaffes, But Needs to Practice Looking Respectful

The RNC is out quickly with a brilliant ad.  I knew before the debate that Ryan seemed more likeable than Biden, but I didn’t expect that Biden would make OBAMA look likeable by comparison.  (Photo at right grabbed from Twitpic, I have no idea what that means in terms of copyright.)

Big Bird Doesn’t Need Big Government

From a (free) editorial in The Wall Street Journal:

According to financial statements for the year ended June 30, 2011, Sesame Workshop and its nonprofit and for-profit subsidiaries had total operating revenue of more than $134 million. They receive about $8 million a year in direct government grants and more indirectly via PBS subsidies. …

At the end of fiscal 2011, Sesame Workshop and its subsidiaries had total assets of $289 million…. these investments included stakes in hedge funds and private-equity funds. …

So Big Bird likes to maximize revenues and investment gains as much as the next muppet. And now the President has made this adorable critter the symbol of federal programs that allegedly require eternal taxpayer aid, even if it has to be put on the future tax bill of today’s pre-schoolers. Is that funny?

How can we trust the government to make the difficult choices required to balance the budget when we can’t even trust them to make the easy choices?  Yes, the $8 million Sesame subsidy is small potatoes, but symbolism is important.  In a 500-channel television environment, the notion that there would be no quality programming without government subsidy is ludicrous.

(Image from Wikipedia)

Chris Matthews Has Lost the Tingle

I never thought I would link to Chris Matthews, but here he is in full panic mode after his guy’s dismal performance (2:11):

Update: to me, this is the line that shows Matthews at his most nakedly partisan:

“Listen to this stuff he [Romney] got away with! Emergency room — the latest thing we got from Romney, because he said so, is you know what I want to do with people when they’re poor? Shove ‘em in the emergency room.  Why didn’t Obama say that?”

I thought Matthews was talking about the muddled and embarrassing 47 percent speech, but I just looked at the Mother Jones transcript, nowhere there does Romney even mention the word “emergency”.  But then I found this:

QUESTION: Does the government have a responsibility to provide health care to the 50 million Americans who don’t have it today?

ROMNEY: Well, we do provide care for people who don’t have insurance, people — we — if someone has a heart attack, they don’t sit in their apartment and die. We pick them up in an ambulance, and take them to the hospital, and give them care. And different states have different ways of providing for that care.

C’mon, Matthews… that’s a long way from saying Romney wants to “shove” “poor people” in the emergency room.   Romney is making a distinction, which too often gets lost, between “health care” and “health care insurance,” the latter being what those 50 million people do not have.  And of course the ER is not the best way to provide routine care, nobody disputes that.  But it is a safety net for emergency care that is available to virtually all Americans.

His & Hers Candidates: When Love Is Stronger Than Politics

On November 6, the Web Goddess and I will walk down the hill to the Presbyterian church and fulfill our solemn civic duty of canceling each other out at the polls.

It’ll be the third straight election where we support different candidates.  This, combined with my ongoing political advocacy on this blog, makes for some careful conversations at home.

But never anything heated — we don’t “do” acrimony. She’s my summer love in the spring, fall and winter, and I’m sure as hell not going to let differences over healthcare policy or the war in Iraq come between us.

In online forums where I’ve disclosed my “mixed marriage,” I’ve had Republicans ask “how can you stand living with a Democrat”?  Well, I was a lifelong Democrat before becoming a 9-11 Republican — we both supported Mr. Gore in 2000.  I’ve seen demonization of “the other” from both sides, and it’s ugly from any perspective.  Liberalism and conservatism are both vibrant and essential strains of thought, and each deserves its champions in the clash of ideas.  That’s why on this blog I try, with perhaps mixed success, to treat opposing ideas with respect.  We’ve gotta be able to talk with each other.

Perhaps the most prominent example of opposing viewpoints within a marriage is James Carville and Mary Matalin — although a friend just nominated Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver.  Carville was the campaign manager for Bill Clinton in 1992, while Matalin was a senior campaign adviser to George H.W. Bush.  A year after the election they got married, had two kids, and by all accounts they’ve been happily married for more than two decades.  (Schwarzenegger and Shriver, not so much, although that had more to do with adultery than politics.)

At the end of the day, of course, as residents of New Jersey it doesn’t matter who either of us votes for.  The Founders in their wisdom created the Electoral College, which means your vote is meaningless if you live in a lopsided state.  No, I’m not bitter — I generally support the idea of federalism, and the Electoral College comes with the package.  So on November 6, the Web Goddess and I will tune in while the election is settled by the good citizens of Ohio, Virginia and [shudder] Florida.  And on November 7 we’ll wake up grateful for the blessings in our lives.

(Photo by Ray Folkman — our neighbor)