Thursday, October 18, 2012

Debate Number Two

So it's binders full of women, "Please proceed, Governor," and Candy Crowley.  And Josh at TPM has a favorite picture that, he insists, speaks volumes.
There was much joy in Liberalville on Wednesday morning because the President did the one thing he should have been doing for four years: He stood up for his record, calling out crap when crap was dumped in front of him.

To be honest, I think the cheers from the left side of the aisle are as overwrought as the hand-wringing (mine included) from the days after the first debate.  There are certain fundamentals in this race that should keep it tight; there are also certain factors that could, given enough time and attention, create a big win for either candidate.  One thing to be said for last night's debate, however; it's difficult to argue there are few differences between the candidates' positions on issues of fundamental interest to the American people.

While I still think there would be, in practical terms, few differences between a second Obama term and a Romney Presidency - unless one or the other party sweeps Congress, giving the President a working majority in the First Branch of our government - there is little doubt last night demonstrated a deep ideological rift.  When asked about equal pay for women, Pres. Obama talked about the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act while Gov. Romney talked about binders full of women (in a story that turns out to be as false as pretty much every other major claim he makes).  When asked about tax plans, Pres. Obama talked about fairness while Gov. Romney insisted that his $5 trillion tax cut isn't, but if it was it was paid for, and he just didn't feel like saying how.  When asked about the differences between a potential Romney Administration and the Bush years, Romney wandered around looking under rocks while Pres. Obama made the point that, in some respects, a Romney Administration would be worse.

Romney was rude.  Romney was curt with the President of the United States.  Romney kept talking after Candy Crowley made it clear it was time for him to shut his mouth.  Romney got huffy when it was pointed out that he had, yet again, not spoken the truth.  Apparently, being called a liar when one lies gets one's children in a huff.

For all that, though, there are things that will continue to keep the race tight.  The economy works against the President, as does his preference to shade the differences between himself and his political opponents in search of a working compromise.  While Romney demonstrated he either doesn't know or doesn't care what positions he actually takes on some matters - the lines about contraception and Pell Grants are directly contradicted by his own campaign and previous statements, for crying out loud - and gets indignant when other people actually question the things he says, he does have a history and a record to which he can point (belied by his own hard-right tacking over the previous twelve months in search of the Republican nomination) that could sway those who might be willing to bet he won't govern as crazy as he's talked.

While the attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi have been seized by Republicans to be used as some kind of game-changer, by lying about the President's reaction (and that was, truly, a brilliant moment as Pres. Obama allowed Gov. Romney to wind his own tongue around his neck and squeeze; that the right is all upset that Candy Crowley had the nerve to tell Romney he was wrong is perhaps the worst thing a journalist has done since Walter Cronkite told the American people that America was losing the war in Vietnam) they have effectively disarmed the issue, removing any substantive criticism that could be made because it's stapled to the crazy.  On the other hand, Romney displayed a talent for coming very close to melting down under pressure; as manic as his first performance was, Tuesday night that mania was tinged with something else, a refusal to concede to rules and a quick anger when questioned too much that are not good traits in a President.

I wasn't too confident of the polls when they showed the President had a lead outside the margin of error.  I continue to doubt polls that show Romney up ever-so-slightly.  The only thing I do think is correct is the race is still up for grabs.  For now.  There is one debate left, and it may well be that, depending upon which version of each candidate shows up at that debate, the race could very well hinge on the outcome (as well as the TV commercials that flow from them).  While not happy with Pres. Obama's performance in office, a Romney Presidency would be a disaster; if the debates have demonstrated anything, his unwillingness to brook any questions about his truthfulness or those things about which he prefers to remain silent, if nothing else, show a disdain for the practicalities of governance.

Without overcompensating and celebrating too much, I think the race is still on, in no small part to Barack Obama's discovery of a spine.

Virtual Tin Cup

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