The two candidates begin their debate.
A good debate is one in which important ideas are exchanged in a reasonable format and no fisticuffs break out.
So, the first U.S. presidential debate of 2012 was a really good debate. People all over the world are blowing each other up for the right to have a free exchange of ideas like that. Something we too easily forget.
The blather on the news following the debate about "who won" was just that. Those of you old enough may remember that Walter Mondale "wiped the floor" with Ronald Reagan in their first debate in 1984. And who ever heard of Walter Mondale?
Consequently; while it is important for a candidate to be seen as "winning" a debate--it is still danged hard to unseat a sitting president. Especially this one, for whom most reporters have gone utterly ga ga.
That having been said here are a few observations:
Mitt Romney, who has never seemed to me to be an especially good debater, hit his zone in debate one. Though both men got way too wonky in the first fifteen minutes--a trillion here, a trillion there, and you start to add up to a giant Ambien capsule--Romney, the challenger, did manage to made some important points and do so with manners and grace:
1) The enormous debt load we have acquired is, to use his term, "a moral issue." That is a crystal clear way to describe the magnitude of what we face.
2) Romney referred to the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence--documents that got this whole experiment started in the first place. Our federal government is supposed to be limited by the Constitution. Good reminder. I think we are on a runaway train here: but it is comforting to know at least someone remembers where we were supposed to be traveling.
3) Romney pointed out that raising taxes is not the only way to cut our debt and our deficit. You can also cut spending. You can also increase the tax base. I'm sorry to say this, but this seemed to go right over Mr. Obama's head. He believes, and he said it again last night, that people as fortunate as he is and as Romney is can "afford" to kick in a little more dough to the IRS. (And when that amount reaches 100%: then what do we do???)
4) Mr. Romney pointed out that repeating an untruth over and over again, doesn't make it true--a knock at Obama's anti Romney ads. Romney framed this by saying he gained this knowledge as the father of five boys. Actually this concept--known as the Big Lie--is a propaganda technique perfected by that great debate unmentionable, Adolph Hitler. Romney made a point about lying without mentioning you-know-who. Really good thinking.
5) Romney got in one good zinger and he said it politely: "Mr. President, you get to have your own plane and your own house, but you don't get to have your own set of facts." Ouch. That was an owie!
Both men refrained from the lowest of all campaigning techniques (well, other than guns and mortars): ad hominem attacks. Mr. Obama didn't bring up the tawdry "47%" tape, accuse Romney of maltreating his dog, or call him a wealthy tax cheat with accounts in the Cayman Islands. Mr. Romney, for his part, didn't mention the Rev. Wright, Obama's nicotine habit, or his appearance on "The View" when he should have been meeting with foreign leaders at the UN. (I'm surprised Mr. Obama was so subdued, but he'll probably fix that for debate number two.)
The two guys talked about their programs and their ideas. How refreshing.
It is still five weeks until election day and five weeks is a lifetime in politics. With coverage of these two men now 24/7, there is a risk at every moment that one tiny mote in a candidate's eye will turn into an anchor that will sink his campaign. (And you better believe both sides have people looking so hard for motes it would make the hunt for UBL look like a weekend treasure hunt.)
I'm just glad we got through debate one with a few intelligent things said. Since everyone in the world likes to say they hate us--right before they decide to move here and shop at TJ Maxx--I think it is important we present our best side. Especially in High Definition.
The end. Sigh of relief.
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