October 16. 2012
Watching the second debate between the two presidential candidates, two things stood out--well there's a third thing and I'll get to that in a minute. But two general things first:
There was a lot of talk about the deficit during this debate, which took place is a faux "town hall" format (boy was that a bunch of hokum). But anyway, about the deficit. It was a charisma deficit. A humility deficit. A charm deficit. Call it what you will. The president of the United States represents America to the world.
No Lincoln, ("We cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground."); no FDR, ("December 7, 1941, a day that will live in infamy."); no JFK, ("I am the man who accompanied Jacquiline Kennedy to Paris."); no Ronald Reagan, ("Some people wonder all their lives if they've made a difference. The Marines don't have that problem.") on this stage. Big deficit--at least so far.
The two men were so practiced and so well briefed, somebody forgot to tell them it would help a bit if one of them showed a little humanity.
Maybe that isn't fair. They've both been told their very lives depend on each debate. Maybe its hard to squeeze it in when there are so many charges of "liar" being tossed about.
The second thing I noticed tonight is that both men have continued to miss opportunities to step back and stop telling us how wonderful they are and tell us it is America that is great. What we need from a president is to help us realize the greatness that is in us.
Time and time again, the people of this nation have risen to enormous challenges. And we've faced some doozies. The Civil War comes to mind. How about World War II? The biggest war in the history of the world. Roosevelt was not a perfect man, nor a perfect president. But he did inspire us to win that bloody thing, which really was a war against evil, evil guys. The more we learn about that war, the more I, at least, know that to be true. It was America's industry that won that war for us: but at the start, when it was almost lost, FDR was able to inspire the nation and keep it going while industry geared up to do the job.
With our very economic future at stake, with forty percent of every dollar in taxes paying for debt service, we face some serious trouble. We need a leader that can inspire us again. I heard not one word of real inspiration from either of these guys, and that was a disappointment. Debt as a moral issue was a good take-away from the first debate. Nothing of that kind here.
Finally: the third thing. The president lied about Libya. Candy Crowley, whom I know and who is a good reporter and a good person, helped him do that, for some reason. Only if you take the president's Rose Garden remarks out of context did Barak Obama call the Libya attack an act of terror. Romney actually got it right. Watching reporters scramble around to try to help the president bend the truth on this, is something I have never seen in my experience.
When my friend Pete, who missed the debate, asked me what I thought tonight, I said: "I think it was probably a draw. But a draw benefits the sitting president." And that is what the polls are showing.
What bothers me, is that this all feels a lot more like a reality show than a way to choose the leader of the Free World. Who was it who said in a democracy the People get the leadership they deserve?
P.S. This postscript has nothing to do with the debate, per se, but with the election itself. I was on the treadmill at the Y yesterday when I saw an ad, paid for by a private citizen, run during a break on CNN. I just about fell off the machine. You ought to give it a gander. Is this a great country, or what?
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