Romney Crushes Obama in First Debate
After reviewing the blogosphere's reaction to the first presidential debate between Obama and Romney, I think Dennis Miller described the outcome most succinctly: "I sure hope Obamacare covers a kicked ass." Second place goes to Ann Coulter who commented that despite the date being Barack and Michelle's 20th anniversary... Michelle wanted to go home with Mitt.
Obama was awful and Romney was phenomenal.
Some thoughts after the jump
First off, Jim Lehrer was fine as a moderator -- he wasn't transparently pro-Obama, and he let the candidates spar (or rather, he was unable to prevent Romney from savaging Obama). Far too often the moderators are there to make sure nothing too spontaneous or interesting happens.
Not surprisingly, the Obama camp blamed Lehrer for Obama's pitiful performance. Romney camp responds that blaming the moderator is a sure sign that they lost the debate.
When it comes to debates I think there's only a small percentage of viewers who actually listen to what they're saying. It's all factoids and wonky details that after a certain period of time most people glaze over, and then the image is all that matters. Consider the Kennedy/Nixon debate. Nixon was far more intelligent than Kennedy, more experienced and more competent. But Kennedy was younger, handsome and Nixon was crusty, old and coated in a thin sheen of sweat. In the 2004 Gore/Bush debate it was Al Gore's on-mic sighing that made him seem petulant and unpresidential.
This time around -- turn off the sound on the presidential debate and what does it look like? What would this debate look like if it were not a presidential debate? I will return to that point in a moment. Columnist (and former Reagan speechwriter) Peggy Noonan commented that during the Republican primary debates Romney did something very telling, and he did it last night as well.
He smiled while the other guy was talking.
When Romney was up there with all those other Republicans, he smiled while they were talking. He didn't look down at his notes, he didn't frown or shake his head even if they were taking shots at him. He smiled at them, made eye contact -- and generally looked encouraging even to his opponent. Noonan said,
[Romney would] turn and smile at them sweetly and encouragingly, as if he were thinking, "You're the cutest little shrimp." No one has looked at Mr. Obama like that since 2003. It's possible he wouldn't like it.
Obama didn't like it. And he couldn't return the gesture himself. During the debate Obama looked tired, annoyed, and he smirked and failed to make eye contact. He weathered the debate, he didn't fight it. Frankly, I think the President has coasted his entire life; all the way to the presidency. Unaccustomed to being challenged on the facts and on his record, Obama looked petulant and brittle.
Romney hit that sweet spot between being aggressive and being insulting. He held Obama to account for his policies for the first time in Obam's presidency, and Obama did not like it.
Now, back to what the debate looked like, with the volume off and imagining it as anything but a political debate. Broken down into emotional archetypes that touch the American psyche, the debate most resembled a loving but stern father lecturing his recalicitrant, disrespectful son. Romney (the father) called his son (Obama) out on the carpet, showed him the credit card bill, the failing grades, and told him that this is not why he's paying for him to go to college. Obama was the rueful, petulant son, looking at the ground, smirking at his 'stupid' father, disrespectful of the entire notion of being held accountable for anything. The father isn't angry, but he's not going to candycoat it either. He listens patiently and earnestly to the son claim that the teacher hates him, that college is nonsense, that the 'D' he received really should have been a 'B', etc. and then patiently returns to the facts, not the fantasy.
A good way to see this if you missed the debate is the GOP ad titled, "Smirk"
Go ahead and mute the video and watch it. Obama is the disrespectful kid, and Romney is the loving father determined to hold him accountable. Romney had to hold Obama accountable without seeming 'mean'. Romney did it.
Obama looks like a rotten brat, who hates the fact that his version of the facts are being challenged. This, to me, is on par with the exaggerated sighing from Gore. If democracy is about anything it's about our leaders being accountable to citizens. Obama's smirking shows he feels this entire exercise is beneath him. Obama's cool, detached professorial tone doesn't help. His body language and smirking says, "Yeah, okay Dad, whatever."
The President is in a sense the ongoing father figure of the nation. Romney fit that mold far better than Obama. I think this election is nearly over. I just hope that the next two debates with Obama go equally well, and then Obama's defeat is sealed. All Romney had to do was show that he wasn't the Darth Vader that Democrats have portrayed him as -- which he did, in addition to showing them why he's a millionaire many times over. He had an easy, relaxed command of the facts and he hit back on Obama's distortions.
Obama in stark contrast looked like a child who was unwilling to own up to any mistakes.
I can't wait for the next debate.