Debate 2, postscript

Yes, I’m still concerned about Obama’s vision, but this morning I am much less worried that he is defaulting on his campaign. If he has learned anything from the past two weeks, I hope he’s learned not to take his base for granted–or to play the center against the left. OK, I admit it: I’m exhilirated. I’ve never followed sports or cared one way or the other who wins the World Series or the Super Bowl. Now I know what it feels like when your team pulls through in the clutch.

12 thoughts on “Debate 2, postscript

  1. It will be interesting to see how viewers interpret this debate. Yes, Obama was finally engaged and seemed enthusiastic but, frankly, I think Romney won the debate on substance. The key question which Obama has never answered (and I don’t think he can answer convincingly) is how will anything be different if he is re-elected?

    1. ernie1241
      I think you are asking wrong question. The key question is if we do what Romney is proposing (if you can figure that out good luck) how would that be better than what Obama is already doing? Things are better than four years ago. Obama made a convincing case for that. We are out of one war and soon to be out of another. We are not being scared daily with color terror alerts. He didn’t even mention that most stock averages are up 40% from when he took office. Is your 401K in better shape that it was in early 2009? Yes, employment lags in economic recovery but it is headed down.

      What Romney said he would do is cut taxes across the board 20%. I think he also said he would eliminate all taxes on capital gains. Yet, he says that the wealthiest 1% will still pay the same share because he will “close loopholes”. Do you believe that? If he eliminates the capital gains tax he opens up not a loophole but a superhighway for the richest to all tax liability.

      Obama on the other hand makes the case that the wealthy should pay taxes at the same rate they did under Reagan. With taxes at those levels we had unprecedented growth under Bill Clinton and by the end of the decade we had a budget surplus for the first time in 40 years. GW Bush peed all that away and left a mess.

      I disagree completely that “Romney won the debate on substance”. We obviously watched two different debates.

      1. Realitycheck and Arthur: I think you misinterpreted my former comment. Let me put it this way: Suppose Obama is re-elected and suppose the Democrats maintain control of the Senate. Given the present ideological predisposition of the House Republicans and the Senate Republican leaders, how will it be possible for Obama to achieve anything significant in another term of office?

        I wrote my comment before I saw the post-debate polling and, as I suspected, all the post-debate polls which I have seen (CBS and CNN in particular) revealed that viewers thought Obama “won” the debate BUT (and this is the critical point), by a double-digit margin, those same viewers thought ROMNEY had a better grasp and better plan with respect to the economy and with respect to the deficit. In addition, Romney’s favorability numbers significantly increased.

        So….we face the situation where an audience thinks Obama “won” the debate (although it is not clear why the audience thought so but, apparently, it has to do with style and debating “points” and likability) — BUT, on the SUBSTANCE of the most important issues (economy, jobs, deficit, health care, immigration, etc.) those same viewers thought Romney had better answers!

        If that is the case, then how can Obama achieve whatever his agenda is for a second term when Americans do not support his ideas?

        As one pundit said, it is almost as though people have decided that, based upon actual achievements thus far, Obama should be fired but they haven’t quite convinced themselves that Romney should be hired.

      2. Realitycheck: One final observation concerning Romney’s economic proposals. Romney is suggesting an approach which some Democratic Presidents have adopted. Here, in brief, is what he is saying: if taxes are lowered significantly across the board (including eliminating tax on savings and dividends, etc.) two things are likely to happen:

        (1) first, ordinary Americans will have more disposable income which will mean that they can start to make purchases of items that right now might not seem a good idea

        (2) second, (a) small businesses have historically been the the source of most job growth in our nation, and (b) most small businesses are taxed at the rate for individuals — if we lower their tax rates by 20% — they will have significantly more revenue to use for hiring more workers and expanding their existing business and perhaps even to open new businesses.

        Thus, in summary, the total economic activity in our nation will dramatically increase (purchases plus business hiring and expansion) and that will produce a very significant increase in tax revenue — just like what happened during the Administration of John Kennedy.

        Now—you can totally disbelief that paradigm — but the ordinary American probably is thinking something like this:

        — “Well, that approach makes some sense and is worth a try — AND if it does NOT work, we have the opportunity in 2014 to vote end GOP control of the House and put Democrats back in charge of our fiscal/economic policies”.

        Lastly, I think most Americans agree with Romney’s observation that Obama’s economic policies during the past 4 years have not produced much in the way of increased economic activity or job growth. Even if we credit Obama with stopping the possible total meltdown of our economy — and that is certainly commendable — that is not particularly relevant to the current question which is how do we steadily reduce our unemployment rate AND how do we insure that future jobs will be something more than low-paying dead-end jobs?

      3. Sorry to jump in uninvited with a couple of observations:

        1) Ernie is correct that once he is re-elected Obama will have a challenge due to obstructionism in the Republican bloc of the legislature. I think party discipline may slip a little after the election, since the entire last 4 years has been aimed at making sure nothing the Democrats support gets cloture. After 4 years it seems probable that there will be some defections from the obstructionist, do-nothing stance of the Republicans, since the Democrats can easily point out that Republicans are jeering at success and cheering on every possible bad thing that happens to America.

        2) The economy is already showing signs of improvement and while feeble, the trend is toward improvement. Housing markets are starting to recover, which will help a wide range of industries, and employment also should start to tick up. So by midterms it will be a lot harder for the Republicans to blame the Democrats for the disastrous policies of George W. Bush. Also, after the defeat of Romney in this election, the Republicans will have to come up with a new stuffed shirt, and from the looks of it Ryan has less public appeal than Romney. If Ryan wants to win — assuming he gets the nod in 2016 — he will have to be accountable for his actions in the legislature. Blocking everything for another 4 years is a possible, but probably self-defeating strategy for the reasons I describe above.

        3) The lion’s share of our budget goes to defense (actually wars of aggression), and Romney’s plan is to dig us deeper in the hole, in order to use this justification to go after the relatively minor budget items the Republicans have always opposed: foodstamps and TANF (which is all that remains of welfare after Clinton’s overhauls), and symbolic stuff like National Public Radio that keep Americans aware and informed. It is far easier to pull the wool over the eyes of an ignorant population. I think Obama quite succinctly made this point so I disagree with Ernie that Romney has a better grasp of the situation: he is just exploiting the deficit to get elected but would have just as many problems as Obama in office (especially since he made hawkish statements about Syria and Iran).

        4) Lower taxes do indeed have an economic stimulus effect for the reasons Ernie describes. However, the hole that Bush dug with regard to Iraq and general ineptitude on the domestic front were sufficiently large that taxes will probably be on the rise through the rest of the decade to cover the profligate waste of public revenue with six times greater spending on national defense than China and more than the next 20 nations combined. War always means higher taxes. That’s why we should stay out of them.

      4. @ernie 1241

        First, your conjecture that if the President is reelected and the Republicans retain control of the House that he will accomplish nothing is simplistic. First, the Republican majority is likely to be smaller and there are signs that even some Republicans are ready to stop supporting their leaderships obstructionist position. Doing nothing would be better than what the Republicans are proposing. There are some things that eventually have to be done to keep the country running and the Republicans will have to be drug kicking and screaming to the table.

        Your theory on tax policy is just plain wrong and unsupported by the facts. How many times do we have to try “trickle down economics” before we admit it is a flawed theory and does not work? The net result of 8 years of this under George W. Bush was a broken economy and higher debt to fund two wars and a net transfer of wealth to those with the highest incomes. The
        concentration of wealth among the top 1% is at the highest level since the days of the Great Depression and the last thing we need are more tax
        changes to exacerbate that disparity.

  2. Ernie, as a disappointed progressive I worry too that a second Obama administration won’t bring anywhere near enough change. But the changes that I know I can expect from a Romney administration–the abolition of Obamacare and the end of any hope for universal healthcare, the privatization of Medicare, massive cuts in Medicaid, a foreign policy that’s shaped by John Bolton and an immigration policy presided over by Kris Kobach, trickle down tax policies that could have been written by Jack Kemp, and the near-certainty of restrictions on reproductive choice–are genuinely frightening to me. The idea of rewarding four years of Republican obstructionism by handing the White House to them is just intolerable to me–it’s like giving in to extortion.

    As a disappointed progressive, my deepest wish is to see the extreme right wing branch of the Republican Party break away, just as they have been threatening.

  3. Romney is so disingenuous that it is difficult to believe anything he says. At least we know — as Romney pointed out — where we stand with Obama.

    Romney weakest point is nobody wants to follow him. I think even the Republicans will have to hold their nose when they vote. And for me the election will hinge upon that critical weakness as a leader. He might be able to lead in a management consulting role where he has his money to back him up, but Americans aren’t so impressed by wealth. He seemed frankly nervous about seeming like a rich boy, questioning Obama’s pension. Let’s face it, Romney only managed to get this far because of his personal campaign wealth, not because of his message or charisma. No amount of deflection will alter that.

    A few examples of how he tried — and failed, in my opinion — to “look” like a leader without actually having any charisma. First, notice how he attempts to stand where Obama stood moments before to physically occupy Obama’s space. Someone obviously coached him on this. There is a moment where (I’ll find it if anyone is interested) he keeps his eyes fixed on the exact spot where Obama stood and marches over there. Sure I bet Obama has had some body language coaching (he seemed at one point to stop himself from pointing at Romney, which can be perceived negatively), but Romney just looked silly to me as if he believes subliminal body language will win it for him.

    Also the Fox pool camera angles at a few moments were questionable in their integrity, showing Obama fading behind Romney’s shoulder, and more frequent pans to the adoring yellow Bird Woman (i.e. Romney’s wife), who has obviously been called in as an adornment to Romney’s lackluster glow.

    But most notably, Romney’s interruptions call to mind how Reagan famously did the same thing in debates passed. The only problem was that Reagan was a professional actor and knew how to work a crowd. Romney looks like wax figure on skids. Reagan managed to make the interruption seem like a spontaneous demonstration of moral courage and fearless leadership. Romney just looks pushy, unreasonable, and rude.

    To be fair I think both had strong moments in the debate, and I recall seeing at least one moment where Romney seemed genuine — when he referred to “licking his wounds” after losing the nod to McCain. Normally, revealing something embarassing is considered to be a psychological sign of honesty, but this is hardly news to communication experts and I think that Romney again may have simply received coaching. However much coaching he received, he still looked like a dud. That, and he didn’t answer the questions but relied upon canned statements he memorized beforehand.

    America wasn’t fooled — at least not the swing voters, I think.

  4. Comments are closed on the page I had been reading “911 Truth and The Paranoid Style”, so excuse me for posting this here…….

    In the comments following that post, you quoted a recent Krugman article:

    “Back in 1964 the historian Richard Hofstadter published an essay titled, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” which reads as if it were based on today’s headlines: Americans on the far right, he wrote, feel that “America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion.” Sound familiar?

    This reminds me of Professor Roger Griffin’s “core of fascism” – palingenetic populist ultranationalism.

    Palingenetic meaning “rebirth”…..phoenix-like renewal… take back The Nation for the real, true citizens.

    Click to access coreoffascism.pdf

    Anyway, great blog – looking forward to working my way through some of it.

    And Hi Ernie! Hope you’re well!

  5. I find it odd that people are seemingly disappointed in Obama not living up to his promise – remember all that hope?

    So, they’re going to elect someone who would move completely the other way!?

    I don’t blame Obama, I blame the US public. Elect a man on a wave of hope for change, and then oppose even the very limited changes he manages to bring about! And then they go the opposite direction….because Obama failed…….

    Occupy wasn’t so long ago – all that rhetoric about the 99%. Now Romney has a good chance of being elected! (That’s one reason I never gave Occupy any credence).

    Seems to me America must be deeply divided, and perhaps that’s the real problem – people don’t know what they want, or want conflicting things.

    I mean, Obama is now criticised for bailouts and their adding to the deficit etc. And Romney seemingly would have let them go to the wall.

    But simultaneously there’s complaints about the erosion of US manufacturing, the loss of jobs, out-sourcing etc – for which Obama is also taking the blame.

    And the higher deficit seems a major issue for the public – yet there’s clamour for tax-cuts, and Romney’s offering them?! Inequality is an issue – and unemployment – but ‘government interference’, redistribution and even critical cries about ‘class-war’ reverberate.

    It’s difficult to make sense of.

  6. Reality check: You wrote that:

    “…there are signs that even some Republicans are ready to stop supporting their leaderships obstructionist position.”

    Oh ya? Name two such Republicans.

    It does not matter ONE WHIT whether your assumption is accurate because the leadership of the Republican Party will remain the same.

    Sen. Mitch McConnell can just update his original statement about his #1 priority being to make sure Obama was a one-term President. His new #1 priority could be stated as “let’s make sure Obama accomplishes nothing so that the mid-term elections in 2014 result in the GOP taking control of the Senate and expanding our majority in the House to veto-proof level.”

  7. I liked Paul Krugman’s column today (, which said that the GOP is essentially blackmailing the country:

    “Would a Democratic Senate offer equally extreme opposition to a President Romney? No, it wouldn’t. So, yes, there is a case that ‘partisan gridlock’ would be less damaging if Mr. Romney won.

    But are we ready to become a country in which ‘Nice country you got here. Shame if something were to happen to it’ becomes a winning political argument? I hope not. By all means, vote for Mr. Romney if you think he offers the better policies. But arguing for Mr. Romney on the grounds that he could get things done veers dangerously close to accepting protection-racket politics, which have no place in American life.”

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