I am surprised at the responses to Wednesday night's debate because it seemed to me that both candidates were true to themselves and appeared just as I expected, Romney taking a practical approach to solving the three major problems we face, crushing debt, lagging GDP, and high unemployment, and President Obama, aloof and unengaged and seemingly offended at the criticism.
First of all, let’s remember that debating skill may, in the case of an uninformed electorate, help one be elected president but is not a pre-requisite or even an important attribute for serving as president. Much more valuable would be ability to have honest face-to-face bi-partisan discussions about the issues and seek data-based solutions to those problems. So the obsession of the media and the citizenry with who won or lost the debate totally misses the point in my opinion.
But, don’t worry, because this event was not a debate. It was nothing more than a media-moderated confrontation, maybe even an argument, sound bite vs. sound bite, the incumbent and the candidate talking past each other because their fundamental understandings of the responsibilities and methods of government are vastly different. And now that we are a few days past the initial reactions, some of President Obama’s supporters are arguing that though Romney may have won on style, the incumbent clearly won on policy. At least they are asking the right question, not who won but who was right.
I had high hopes with the election of President Obama, even though I had not voted for him, that he would help temper the racial conflict that exists in the USA as residue of our shameful history of legal slavery and that he would, as promised, be president of all the people. That hope began to be dashed with his inappropriate July 2009 comment that the Cambridge MA police had “acted stupidly” in their encounter with an African American professor. Rather than reveal his bias, he, as President of the United States, should have just stayed out of that local discussion.
I completely abandoned hope for his presidency during the health care negotiations in February, 2010, when the president insulted Senator John McCain, whom he had just defeated for the presidency, with this public display of arrogance: “Let me just make this point, John, because we are not campaigning anymore. The election is over.” In a February 27, 2010 blog posting, I wrote about that and about how Mr. Obama failed completely as moderator of that supposedly bipartisan discussion of proposed health care legislation. I suppose community organizing is, by nature, confrontational rather than cooperative. Of course that single failed attempt at bipartisanship was followed by Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi ramming through the unfathomable health care legislation, on behalf of the president, without Republican votes.
That confrontation with Senator McCain may have been the last time President Obama was directly and publicly challenged face-to-face until last Wednesday’s event. Having been surrounded with people who agree with him, having granted only a few carefully controlled press conferences during his presidency, and having focused his campaign speeches and fund raising activities on friendly audiences, it must have been shocking to be so directly challenged and criticized on national TV with tens of millions watching.
I’m not going to suggest that half the nation is dependent on the federal government, but I am going to suggest that half the nation has little to no understanding of economics in general or of those three major economic problems we face, crushing debt, lagging GDP, and high unemployment, in particular. I believe those are not major concerns of President Obama because all three, as they worsen, will, as a result of inflation and expanding welfare programs, tend to improve fairness and equality of outcome, his major interests, even while reducing the economic and political strength of the USA. They are major concerns of Mr. Romney because he believes the game is not over and it is not time to “fold ‘em” and “run” away from our responsibilities as leader of the free world but rather time to re-invigorate the economy, creating opportunity for rich, middle class, poor, and immigrants alike.
I hope Romney gets a chance to try his approach and wish he wouldn't have to deal with the extreme partisanship of such as Senator McConnell who will have two more years to serve and who has apparently been more interested in defeating President Obama than in solving national problems. Hopefully, Senator McConnell will retire or be retired in 2014 at age 72. President Obama has his shortcomings, but there is plenty of blame to spread around for the simple fact that there is less wealth to spread around.