Green Room

Er, no, Obama didn’t win the debate last night

posted at 2:14 pm on October 17, 2012 by

We’ve reached a watershed here, where we either live in our own heads affirming reality, regardless of spurious inputs from demagoguery or sentiment, or we give up on reality and let demagoguery and sentiment take over at the decision table.  Did the president pull off a performance last night, in terms of sounding passionate and full of conviction?  To some extent, yes.  Does that mean he won the debate, or even achieved a draw with Romney?  No.

The mainstream media immediately launched a volley of positive soundbites about the president’s performance, but frankly, they were going to do that anyway.  As long as Obama didn’t collapse on the stage, they were going to say he had his mojo back.

The problem is that in order to sound passionate and full of conviction, Obama had to belt out a remarkable string of untruths.  Besides repeating the same tired lies about Romney’s policies that his campaign has been flogging for the last two months, the president simply lied – there’s nothing else to call it – about the trend of drilling permits under his administration (Romney is right; permits have been slashed).

Obama insisted to Romney that he had called the Benghazi attack terrorism on day one, when in fact, he had not.  He lied about the Arizona immigration-enforcement law, repeating a lie the Democrats have persisted in since the law was being debated in the Arizona statehouse.  The law is carefully and explicitly written to prohibit ethnic profiling stops by law-enforcement officers.  Immigration-status checks can only be done in connection with a stop on another, unrelated basis, such as a traffic stop.

Obama did try to assume the moral high ground on Libya with a riff on Americans’ safety and his responsibility, but it was a cringe-worthy performance from the man who waited until after the Benghazi attack to bring diplomatic-mission security up to a normal standard, and who professes, 36 days after the attack, to still be waiting to find out what happened.  If he really doesn’t know, he’s the only one who doesn’t.  His position that we’re still waiting to assess the attack isn’t judicious; it’s absurd.  Mentally substitute George W. Bush for Obama in this scenario, and try to imagine the MSM giving Bush the benefit of the doubt for 36 days and counting.

I had my concerns about Romney’s performance last night, if only a couple.  Probably the biggest was that he tended to put his most powerful material at the end of each statement, and got cut off just as he was articulating it.  The response to the woman who asked about keeping jobs in the US was a case in point: Romney made a rather convoluted case about China as a currency manipulator, and only after dealing with that arcane topic mentioned that if we want to keep America job-friendly, we have to stop regulating ourselves into an economic coma.  He got cut off saying it; that should have been his opening point.  The American people can do something about that.  And whether or not the point about regulation resonated with that particular questioner, it would resonate far and wide among other Americans.

Romney is typically succinct and direct on the economy, and he should apply that style to everything he says in a debate.  He would have made the point about Obama’s own passive investment in China much better by simply stating it outright, rather than repeating the same question to the president – “Have you looked at your pension lately?” – until it began sounding like a second-grader’s taunt.  Just make the assertion, already.  “Mr. President, your pension is invested in China.”  That simple – and, without the weird build-up, slyly devastating.

But rhetorical glitches aside, Romney had substance last night.  He whaled it out of the park on energy and immigration, and came off as genial and presidential.  Interestingly, the Frank Luntz panel saw the same thing.  The MSM’s assessment this morning that the president staged a comeback in this debate is information about the MSM, not about the candidates or the debate.  It’s like they’re narrating some invisible drama that no one else can see.

I don’t think Romney dominated last night’s debate as he did the first one.  But neither did I see the debate as a draw.  Only if it counts as successful communication to use demagoguery to create itch-scratching images for your own base did Obama’s performance equal Romney’s.  Obama’s statements would have had little appeal outside his own base.  And indeed, so many of them were simply false that, to my mind, it requires assuming that your fellow Americans are fools, to think that his communications were probably more effective with them than they were with you.

The constituency for the real Obama is a minority in America, no bigger than the minority that votes for Democrats in every election cycle, and perhaps not that big.  Much of Obama’s 2008 support has peeled away, precisely because there’s no consistency between his actions, his rhetoric, and blunt reality.  Romney came off last night as he did in the first debate:  as someone with experience who does operate on the basis of reality.  For my part, I think the world in which Obama’s oratorical flourishes carried the day exists only inside the heads of MSM pundits.  Reality is giving the rest of us a big-time check.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at The Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Weekly Standard online, and her own blog, The Optimistic Conservative.

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The only “red meat” Obama provided his base was saying outright the words “That’s not true, Governor Romney.” I frankly wasn’t sure he had it in him, but the chips were really down. He also stumbled verbally a few times, the most notable being his reference to “when I was president.”

Howard Portnoy on October 17, 2012 at 2:24 PM

Nice analysis je

cmsinaz on October 17, 2012 at 2:34 PM

if the likely voter polls stay steady for romney or continue to increase for romney, then romney won!

lolipop crowley inadvertently helped romney, the benghazi matter is being discussed again. 1979 all over again.

Dr. Demento on October 17, 2012 at 2:44 PM

The MSM’s assessment this morning that the president staged a comeback in this debate is information about the MSM, not about the candidates or the debate. It’s like they’re narrating some invisible drama that no one else can see.

It’s always a hoot to have people tell you that you didn’t see and hear what you just saw and heard.

Bitter Clinger on October 17, 2012 at 3:06 PM

you can’t trust polls anymore (I started punching random numbers on my phone 2 months ago)…

last I knew I was going to vote for Obama (seems when it comes from the Dems no matter what button I push it says I’m voting for Obama…go figure).

After that it gets strange! I’m not sure, I like my conservative senator candidate, I’m not likely to vote, I am a 35 year old hispanic female and I think the economy is getting worse. Their model must have gone into a blue screen at that point.

the only poll that counts is coming up in November.

teejk on October 17, 2012 at 3:30 PM

Thoroughly terrific analysis, Ms Dyer. My very next step is to post the link all the heck over FB… Thank you very much!!

“Ask not what your TEA Party can do for you…” ~ DeepWheat

DeepWheat on October 17, 2012 at 3:30 PM

…but frankly, they were going to do that anyway.

That was so predicted, it wasn’t funny when it happened.

I missed the debate and had to go by what I could read.

I went with the Althouse live blog and the citizen panels on FNC and msdnc. When msdnc couldn’t get their citizen panel to give the debate to 0bama, I kinda’ figured he didn’t get a victory.

And Althouse was so PO’ed at Crowley, I don’t remember who she called as the winner.

cozmo on October 17, 2012 at 3:32 PM

And Althouse was so PO’ed at Crowley, I don’t remember who she called as the winner.

cozmo on October 17, 2012 at 3:32 PM

In the vain of the way the liberal media phrases their biased questions, I have one for Candy Crowley: “Given that when you interviewed David Axelrod you made the same statements*, (that most of the honest media and the American public already know), was your admonishment of Governor Romney last night on this issue, an act of stupidity, or did you have an agenda?”

*Via Ace:
http://ace.mu.nu/archives/333937.php

Rovin on October 17, 2012 at 4:48 PM

Bravo.

EastofEden on October 17, 2012 at 7:22 PM

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Comments have been closed on this post but the discussion continues here.

Allahpundit on October 18, 2012 at 12:30 AM

Congratulations for the correct use of the phrase “whaled it”. I am so tired of seeing it misspelled.

And the article is great, too. :-)

Meryl Yourish on October 17, 2012 at 11:44 PM