Well, last night we all got a chance to see the two presidential candidates go at it again. This time Obama didn’t come off as unprepared and uninspired. I was thankful for that, but I’m sure my counterparts in the other part of the spectrum have their own opinion of his performance. Romney was strong on a few issues, had some good moments, but was not nearly as strong as he was in the first debate.
Neither of the candidates even came close to a reasonable answer on the question of gas prices. They both talked about energy policy, but that doesn’t really address gas prices. The answer to that gentleman’s question is, the EPA directors was right, controlling gas prices isn’t his job. Gas is a commodity that is traded on the open market. Its price is controlled by a bunch of things, more drilling locally could help drive the prices down, but it is ridiculous to think the EPA, whose responsibility is environmental protection has anything to do with trying to drive the prices in one direction or another. The EPA’s policy may create a financial climate that drives up the prices, but there is certainly an argument to be made that prices will constantly go up regardless of policy.
Romney avoided answering quite a few questions that were quite specific, like equality of women in the work place. He talked around the issue by saying he supports the needs of people to come in early and leave early to be with their children, but avoided talking about any legislation that would help drive equal pay for equal work. He talked about his cabinet as governor and how he specifically said they needed more women in the cabinet, which is nice, but that doesn’t address the question. I’m glad he personally thinks its important to have equality there, but the fact of the matter is, not everyone does and at a certain point legislation must come through to keep the worst offenders from being the worst offenders.
In general, Obama answered many of the questions more specifically than Romney, but he didn’t put forward much of a second term agenda; it was much more about justifying his first term decisions. Romney was happy to try to paint Obama as a failure because he didn’t get all of his promises done. While Obama was concerned with making sure everyone knew a bunch of stuff got done, even if it wasn’t everything. Neither was super convincing and neither was what we really want to know.
I don’t care if Mitt Romney or a bunch of Republicans think Obama is a failure. I don’t care if Obama thinks Mitt Romney is a liar and a vulture. What I do care about is addressing reality. Obama seemed to better address reality in many of his answers, but certainly not all. Mitt Romney did a very poor job of dodging the direct question from Candy regarding his tax plan. ”What if the numbers just don’t add up, what then?” Mr. Romney, a double down on the numbers adding up is not helpful unless you think we are all just too stupid. My cynical side says, he can’t possibly get everything he wants / needs to make his plan work in the way he says it will work, I need real evidence and a plan B to convince me.
Mitt Romney played his part well, aggressively questioning the president on certain things that have been irritating thorns for the right wing base. I think Obama fumbled the answer to the question on disappointment about the results of the last four years, but he did do a decent job of tossing in a few good jabs about Romney’s other differences from Bush II.
Mitt Romney also constantly tried to drive almost every answer back to the economy because that is the area that he perceives strength. Unfortunately, that wasn’t a reasonable answer to some of the questions and you could see that in the room. Yes, a rising economy will help with quite a few things, but a rising economy doesn’t address equal pay for equal work. In the middle of the debate I started thinking to myself, ‘Mitt, what do you want for dinner tonight?’ – ‘Well, we don’t have enough jobs, I know how to create jobs and Mr. Obama has done nothing, but destroy jobs. He hates people who work and want to eat dinner. He would rather have the government give everyone dinner. ”Mr. Obama, government doesn’t make dinner, job creators make dinner.”‘
But the president wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Yes, he was much improved and I appreciated his aggressiveness. But he clearly avoided several specific questions. Both gentlemen often came across as just wonky talking heads. There were many instances where both men just fell into rhetorical lines. It was a turn off for me and it seemed to be a turn off for the audience.
I understand that neither side wants to say something stupid, but the danger of pushing too hard in the other direction runs the risk of coming off as a fake politician. By now, we all know both of these men are politicians and specifically focused on winning the election. So it becomes our increasingly difficult job to cut through the “malarkey” and distill the essence of what they will do and how they will do it. It is frustrating and uninspiring, but it is the responsibility and burden imparted by our system.
Take a look at the Thomas Friedman article on scoring the debate. I think he lays out the root causes of the problems we face rather well. I think Obama ticked more of the boxes than Romney did, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into polling and voting. I really appreciated Obama standing up for his administration and calling out Romney on the cover up accusations. That was unbelievably refreshing and cathartic, but the next debate will be the one that matters the most. Both candidates must come out very strong and convincing to leave the undecided voters with a lasting impression to take to the polls on Nov 6th.
Here’s that link for ya (also on the food for thought side bar).