Friday, October 5, 2012

1st Presidential Debate: Mitt Romney

The 1st Presidential Debate certainly was an eye opener.  Perhaps most of all for Barack Obama. 

I experienced it only through audio over my satellite radio.  Not seeing the visual of each candidate, I gave Romney the slight edge.  Perhaps 55-45.  It appears that I missed quite a bit of nuance.

I was listening to the pundits' coverage after the debate and it was almost universal that Obama, to quote one political commentator, "got his ass kicked."  While I heard many uhs, ums, and ahs in Obama's oratory, I didn't think it was all that bad, until I saw a few of the video clips later.  By turns he looked like he didn't want to be there, was annoyed that he was in the position of having to answer direct, challenging questions, was perplexed at not being in an atmosphere of near-universal approbation, was caught unprepared for the test and finally, like he thought all he had to do was show up and was confused when the opposition didn't simply melt away.

Mr. Romney, on the other hand, was supremely prepared.  He had what seemed like reams of data memorized.  He obviously knew his stuff and how he wanted to present it.  Not only did he have the advantage in the amount of material he had committed to memory, he knew his facts well enough that he could weave them into the commentary seamlessly.  He was seldom at a loss for words or caught searching for a thought in replying to a question or challenge from either Mr. Obama or Mr. Lehrer.  But it appears that the biggest impact on viewers was in how he presented himself and his argument.  He was upright, head up, and addressed his remarks confidently either directly to the American people through the camera or directly to Mr. Obama, himself.  Mr. Obama, by contrast, spent much of the night with his head down, shoulders a little hunched, and almost never responded to Mr. Romney directly or looked him in the eye when doing so.  In short, Mr. Romney looked more Presidential than the President.

Mr. Romney is well known for his business acumen, and a large part of that is in his preparation for meetings, whether they are with board members, business leaders, or in this case, voters.  He is known as a meticulous planner and for his attention to detail when it comes to researching possible plans of action.  All good qualities in the man we could potentially hire to fix the nation's economic woes.  Mr. Obama's presentation was an example of what he has exhibited over the last 4 years (and before, as a State Senator from Illinois, where he was best known for voting "present"), a lack of interest in the details of good governance.  All of the major policy achievements he touts were the result of his "delegating" the responsibility to others, telling them to set things up and he'd come in at the end and sign off.  He has seldom met with his own economic advisers, or even his Cabinet Secretaries, seemingly content to leave the day-to-day details of running the country to his various appointed czars.  As we've recently found out, he's missed more than 2/3rds of his Presidential Daily Briefings and hasn't even met with his Jobs Council in months, despite claiming that jobs are his priority.

All of this was on display Wednesday night in his inability to hold his own with someone he obviously considers his inferior.  He was embarrassed by someone who took the debate seriously and attended to the details of being prepared, while he expected, like some favored college athlete who is used to the professors covering for him, to just show up and get a passing grade.  Some remarked that it seemed during the debate as if it were a professor trying to educate a (slow) student on the basics of Econ101.  And the student was resentful of having to attend the class.

Political types had tried to downplay the potential impact of the Presidential debates on the race.  Saying that debates have had little impact on the outcome of an election, at least in the modern era.  That with the possible exception of Ronald Reagan's memorable quip about not making age an issue in the election, saying "I am not going to exploit, for political gain, my opponent's (Walter Mondale) youth and inexperience.", a reference to the idea that his age would be a detriment to being President.  They said that people just weren't that interested in the debate process.  With the performances of Messrs. Obama and Romney Wednesday night however, along with a record TV audience for the event, they may have to adjust their thinking. 

The race is sure to tighten up and the public's interest in the next 2 Presidential debates, not to mention the upcoming Vice-Presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan, has been well whetted, guaranteeing a large TV audience and thus magnifying the importance of putting in a positive performance, as well as the consequences of coming off poorly.

Just to make sure I wasn't being influenced by those who were predisposed to see Mr. Romney in a positive light, I spent some little time after the debate tuned to some of the liberal talk stations on my satellite radio.  I must say, the opinions expressed were little different, concerning the President's performance.  Doom and gloom lay heavy on the liberal landscape that night.  It was (if you were inclined to see humor in the disappointment of others and enjoyed seeing the pompous have the air let out of their collective rally balloons [guilty]) amusingly entertaining.  The best comment I heard before I tuned back to the classic rock station (I had to, I couldn't see for the tears in my eyes) came from one listener who claimed that the unusually bold, vibrant performance put on by Gov. Romney was the result of "all the cocaine and speed he did backstage before he came on."  Close behind that was the comment by former Vice-President Albert Gore, Jr. on his network, CurrentTV.  In an attempt to explain Mr. Obama's poor performance, Al Gore suggested that the high altitude had something to do with it.  I guess it was either that or global warming, eh Al?

The question now is, just how ugly is it going to get, now that Obama and Co. have had their noses bloodied?  We may need to get some of the replacement refs from the NFL to throw some flags for unnecessary roughness before we're done.

Get yer drinks handy and pop the popcorn, ladies and gentlemen.  I have a feeling this is only going to get better and better (or worse and worse, depending on your viewpoint) over the next month.

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