The first Presidential Debate was last night (3rd October). Everyone seems to agree that Mitt ‘won’, and I don’t disagree. Mitt was prettttttty good, and BO was poor. 45-60% viewers said MR won, 20-25% (somehow) liked BO. More on that later, but first you have to read me rehashing my traditional line criticising live politics. It will be a running theme, so fuck right off if you like.
That debate was pointless.
Mitt ‘won’ by being the better speaker. His body language was more upright and positive. He smiled more. He was bossier to Lehrer, the nominal ‘chairman’ whose control over topics and timings was on the extreme side of ‘soft’. He made more digs, quips and put-downs. He did some rhetoric (although some of it was on the naughty side of logical, such as, when attempting to demonstrate that Obamacare was making healthcare more expensive to families, he discussed how Obamacare might make insurance-provision more expensive for Insurance companies, but concluded that this affected families all the same. Which is ironic, since Obamacare specifically limits how insurance companies can shift this cost.)
Likewise, Obama ‘lost’ through being a pretty bad speaker. He uhmmed and ahhed, he looked at his notes, he seemed underconfident at the start and weary at the end. Some of his answers rambled, meaning quips like, “‘Is the reason that Governor Romney is keeping all these plans to replace [Medicare] secret because they’re too good?‘” lost their impact. Pundits criticised him for ‘rambling’, ‘getting swamped in details’ and even ‘using too many figures’. What the fuck do they want him to do? Just keep saying, “Everything will be fine, folks!” as he grins at the camera and waves his limp hands around like a biological metronome? If the man is trying to show why his healthcare plans are more robust than Romney’s, and Romney’s is virtually the same, then you’re inevitably going to get into detail.
Why was Obama so rubbish?
I genuinely want someone to tell me. Preferably David Axelrod, but really, anyone with a clue. I know he has always had weaknesses in speaking off-the-cuff, and has been accused of being ‘professorial’ (i.e. boring) when he gets into policy specifics. Still, a performance as bad as this must have a reason.
I can’t really credit right-wing commentators who say he was scared (of Romney, of his record being torn apart, of everyone seeing him for the vile n*993r commie mooslim homosexual anarchist criminal he is.) He’s ahead in most polls (and polls of polls), especially in swing states. Huffington Post seem to think he’s already won, and only a dire performance can ruin him. His opponent has made numerous gaffes. There are various positive-sounding (or at least, window-dressable) economic figures coming out. Bin Laden is dead and GM is alive. Etc. So why the dud?
For the first 20 or so minutes, I thought the man was sleep-deprived. I have been sleep deprived recently, and the sloooowpoke hodpodge manner of his thought and speech reminded me of me. But no. Surely POTUS’ team must’ve planned this thing down to the tee, and even if he was too nervous to sleep, they can probably afford pills. And caffeine. Or at least Pro Plus.
So I’m guessing, and massively hoping, that the Team is to blame. That this is all some very clever, but apparently risky, ploy. How the ploy would work, I don’t know. Make everyone think you’re weak, so you can…show them you’re actually strong…just like they originally thought? Give Mittletone a false sense of confidence so he won’t notice the Frodo’s actually on the slopes of Orodruin? Make Independent voters pick him out of sympathy?
If this is the case, it’s one helluva gamble. Given the fate of the nation/world is at stake, a gambit of this magnitude would take testicles the size of small children.* There were so many virtually-open goals into which BO could’ve scored rhetorical, or ‘actual’, points. Mehdi Hasan lists them here, but for those of you who are lazy, they include mentioning BainCapital’s outsourcing record, Romney’s “47%” foot-in-mouth moment, Romney’s hazy tax records, Romney having an aircraft hangar in Arkansas full of Nazi memorabilia. To Hasan’s list I would add an explanation for Europe’s woes limiting Obama’s recovery stimulus’ effectiveness, the aforementioned job/GDP figures, an explanation that bipartisanship was difficult when Congressional Republicans explicitly state that their priority was to block BO rather than ‘work for America’, the General Motors line, and more emphasis on the goodness of his student loans plan. There’s a chance that Obama was warned off attacking any of these topics, in case it back-fired. I don’t see how, but then, I’m a prick.
I can’t have everything.
He said, She said
My main problem with most of this debate was its devolution into a situation wherein both candidates attacked one another’s plans, claimed the other was lying (or misinformed) about their own plans, or did not understand x or y. Without some kind of measure (as suggested by one of my good-looking, perceptive commentators) which acts as a live-updating fact-checker, this was totally pointless. People who were informed enough to know which person was telling the truth gained nothing. People who were not would be presented with theoretically equally-valid truth claims, so also gained nothing.
When people criticise my stupid post-democracy plans, a frequent argument is that politics would become too boring. Well, with this, the central event of the month, I was pretty bored. And I fucking love politics. These were just two people, repeating the same maybe-facts again and again and again and again, often in reference to quite disparate questions. They might as well have argued whether Captain America or The Hulk was better.
The Hulk is angry.
I have, in fact, been on a fact checker. There are lots of facts to check, and I’m not even sure the one I read was comprehensive. I made it 5 – 2 to Romney. As in, Mitt lied or mischaracterised five times, Obama two. There were also a few issues which both seemed to be fucking up.
This is partially a result of…
Slippery Mitt, the best after-dinner party game!
Mitt, as we know, has written off the 47%. He does, however, have serious love for the 6% or so Independents in the ‘middle’. For this reason, he has (perfectly wisely) framed his free-market ideals in populist terms, and claimed far more centrist policies than he did in the Republican primaries. Indeed, there were several timepoints wherein Mitt and Obama were singing from such similar hymn-sheets that a little part of my mind went, ‘Hey, maybe it’s OK if Mitt wins. He is basically just a Moron Obama!”
But then I remembered he was a lying fucktard. He is hard to pin-down because he really doesn’t have clear proposals. He has his own, very hazy, budget, but at times claims to be following parts of Paul Ryan’s, or of Simpson-Bowles, whose recommendations his own party blocked. Indeed, Mittelstein’s plans seem so delightfully vague that he can claim he isn’t cutting anything, except Big Bird. Not education (despite suggesting it in the primaries). Not Medicaid. Not stuff-for-middle-americans. Certainly not the military!
Romney’s proposal to lower taxes by 20%, abolish estate tax and the alternative minimum tax would reduce revenue by $5tn (£3tn) over a decade. The Romnerator said he would help offset that by eliminating tax loopholes; the non-partisan Tax Policy Center says the sums do not add up. [BBC]. He’s even denying the new 25% rate on the highest income tax-band, and denying it forcefully, which made Barry’s attacks on it seem rather pointless.
How can Barry debate with a man who doesn’t seem to have any stances other than ‘I love the constitution’ and ‘I love jobs’? And how can such a vacuous debate sway anyone but the most idiotic Independent’s opinion?
Someone in the Democratic Party has, apparently, woken up. Obama is urging the GOP to tell ‘the truth’, plus Axe promising strategic ‘adjustments’ before the November 6th Rapture. It’s a little early to call yet, but I’d assume Rommble will get a 1-2 point jump, BO a 1-2 point loss, which would put them roughly level.
What was my line on all this again?
Oh yeah. It’s bullshit. Somewhere between Shadows & Mirrors, and Panem et Circensem. Anyone who picks either candidate on the back of this performance (without reading up afterwards) is committing a gross slur against the principles of democracy.
Where’s Ralph Nader when you need him…
*Sorry about that. I’m actually really not OK with using various biologically-male attributes to denote bravery. “Man up” vs “Don’t be a pussy”. “Grow a pair”. “Strap on a pair”. “Don’t be such a girl”.
So, I’m a hypocrite. Nothing new to see here.