Debate 3

I couldn’t bring myself to watch it. I was too nervous for Obama’s sake and too frustrated with the Japanese Tea Ceremony aspect of these things. It all turns on their body language–how strong they appear without crossing the line into truculence. And then there are all those meaningless verbal formulas they have to recite with just the right intonations, about their fealty to Israel; their empathy for “typical” Americans; the role of their faith; their parents’ values; their undying amor patriae. The prospect of a 90-minute discussion of foreign affairs that would say nothing about Europe or Asia or Africa or the Occupation of the West Bank, the deeper tolls of globalism, or for that matter the genuinely global crisis of climate change was pretty depressing too. But I could hear the TV in the other room, and after a while, I began to listen.

I keep reading about how you can’t really tell who won a debate unless you turn off the sound–that’s when Nixon’s shadowy jowls, Gore’s exasperated sighs, or Obama’s downcast grimaces tell the real story. I looked at the TV for a few minutes when Romney was saying how Pakistan’s 100 nukes means we have to be friends with them, even if they hate us (just as the prospect of Iran’s some day having nukes means we can’t talk to them at all), and he looked wide-eyed and not a little desperate, like he was trying to remember to say everything that John Bolton had told him to. His voice was pitched slightly higher than usual and his words were tumbling over each other.

I heard Obama’s “horses and bayonets” and “these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines” from the other room and his voice boomed with confidence, betraying just a hint of contempt for his opponent. I heard him say, “Governor, the people in Detroit don’t forget.”

And then I heard this:

OBAMA: The — look, I think anybody out there can check the record. Governor Romney, you keep on trying to, you know airbrush history here. You were very clear that you would not provide, government assistance to the U.S. auto companies, even if they went through bankruptcy. You said that they could get it in the private marketplace. That wasn’t true. They would have gone through a…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: You’re wrong…

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: …they would have gone through a…

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: …you’re wrong.

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: No, I am not wrong. I am not wrong.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: People can look it up, you’re right.

OBAMA: People will look it up.

ROMNEY: Good.

OBAMA: But more importantly it is true that in order for us to be competitive, we’re going to have to make some smart choices right now.

Cutting our education budget, that’s not a smart choice. That will not help us compete with China.

Cutting our investments in research and technology, that’s not a smart choice. That will not help us compete with China.

Bringing down our deficit by adding $7 trillion of tax cuts and military spending that our military is not asking for, before we even get to the debt that we currently have, that is not going to make us more competitive.

Those are the kinds of choices that the American people face right now. Having a tax code that rewards companies that are shipping jobs overseas instead of companies that are investing here in the United States, that will not make us more competitive.

And the one thing that I’m absolutely clear about is that after a decade in which we saw drift, jobs being shipped overseas, nobody championing American workers and American businesses, we’ve now begun to make some real progress. What we can’t do is go back to the same policies that got us into such difficulty in the first place. That’s why we have to move forward and not go back.

Romney responded that he loves teachers, but that Obama ruined the economy–all of our declining income, lost jobs, increased food stamps, and rising debt happened on Obama’s watch and because of his policies. Eight years of Bush, four years of Republican obstructionism had nothing to do with it–and even if they did, only Romney can muster sufficient bipartisan spirit to put us back on track. On the very same track, in fact, that we were on for the eight years prior to the disaster in 2008.

Tea Ceremony or not, Romney’s contempt came through loud and clear. But his contempt wasn’t just for Obama–it was for the American voter. It was for me.

6 thoughts on “Debate 3

  1. Once upon a time duels were how statesmen resolved insults. Now, because I suppose they are off doing missionary work or their daddy pulls strings to keep them out of combat roles, insults and zingers have become the new duel.

    Somehow this ego driven desire to prove who is right, to save face in front of America, overshadowed the necessity to solve America’s persistent social problems and address our unsustainable position as the one global superpower.

  2. Can’t remember the exact quote but Obama said to the effect Romney was a regressive -beckoning 80’s Cold War rhetoric and then referencing the 50’s and 60’s. I just was out to run some errands and there definately more Romney signs in the places I went than Obama signs. As uniformed and clueless some people are-I am still surprised at the number of people who will vote for Romney. Had some Clearchannel Country & Western Station on the radio-and they were asking people who they were voting for-no one called in for Obama -but that was no suprise but there were people endorsing Ron Paul and Jesus. I imagine if I would have left the station on I would have heard the people calling in Jefferson Davis! LOL

  3. I never thought much of Occupy, and now that Romney appears to at least have a chance, what of all that “99%” stuff now?

    After listening to so much American grumbling this last decade and more the mere fact Romney is in the race at all seems astonishing. I’ll struggle to listen to American grumbles again.

    People often seem to suggest Obama has let the American people down. .I see the people have let him down.

    From the left, he’s been something of a disappointment to many. But with Romney a supposedly serious challenger, how does Obama’s supposed inadequacy look now?

    If Romney wins I suspect I shall lose all interest in, and a great deal of respect for America.

  4. Left, I didn’t think much of Occupy till I began to understand it as a representation of pure popular power. We are very used to thinking of power in terms of violence and reaction in America so it was a puzzling movement. Naturally, the power came from occupation, that was its demonstration, but it arose within the consciousness of Americans who are deeply disaffected, and inevitably the response by the greater power was to shut it down. It was an oblique social war that hinted at rising social change. I think Occupy deeply terrified the status quo, probably Obama included.

    I look back at MLK and how his non violent activism took root in Montgomery and other places of the south where there were “seeds” of social change ready to sprout, and contrast that with places like Chicago where he did not succeed, due to political fracture and different motives of conscience (faith in the south, pragmatism/cynicism in Chicago). I think our county is very similar in a way, perhaps less geographically than the civil rights movement, but still divided in terms of are we on the right path. Occupy flourished, served its purpose, and was crushed. But the seeds of change are there still, waiting for society to manifest its power through the vote.

    What I see going on is that more and more people are disaffected, and while I hardly consider this a positive sign, what it represents to me is a gradual awakening in the democracy of a sense of the ability to do something, a rediscover of what it means to take some political action, to manifest the power that resides (no matter how muted and clipped) within the voice of the unified American people. In fact the same truth may also be evidenced in such movements as Arab Spring.

    One way to guage the effectiveness of such growing awareness is how reactive the status quo becomes. There has never been a social revolution without massive pushback, even violence from the staus quo, in one form or another. These are not simple conflicts, but dynamic and very convoluted social forces but it can be seen in specific moments and actions. The dissatisfaction is clear but it is a difficult force for the status quo to channel into political gain. So what is it, really? Occupy failed to take root as a lasting social factor but its impetus awakened within many people the twin notion that one, our society is increasingly unjust, even insane, and two, the People can do something about it.

    The reactionary forces behind Romney, vis-a-vis the massive corporations and elites who favored Obama out of obligation in the last election have withdrawn some of their support because Obama — though a status quo president, despite talk of “change” — embraced a paradigm that tends more toward destabilization of the existing power structures, at the same time as he continues to eat out of their hands. The election for them hinges upon who will obey the wisdom of the plutocrats. Romney of course, promises to rig America to favor the hedge of power for the rich, and that is the only reason he exists. The rest of his message is clearly opportune.

    So for me at least, I still see nothing much changing in America no matter who wins. But the active politicking and a growing awareness that we do need change, a change of paradigm, not a change of leaders, and a departure from the “rules” of corporate capitalism, is going to be a difficult thing to crush. Change will take place, either slowly or more quickly, we just need to continue building awareness of the ability to make it happen. Social revolution leads to a push back, but the harder the status quo pushes, the more the seeds take root.

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