Thursday, October 4, 2012

Reactions to The Romney-Obama Debate (watching in a theater with Michael Medved)

Michael Medved & Dave Boze analyzing first presidential debate
It didn't take long for the direction of last night's first presidential candidate debate, between Mitt Romney and Pres. Obama, to be set. For me, it was when Mitt broke early tension with his acknowledgement of Obama's wedding anniversary: "I'm sure this was the most romantic place you could imagine (to spend it), here with me..."

From there it was Mitt putting out facts and figures, quickly correcting Obama's mischaracterizations of his positions, and unflinchingly talking directly to his challenger. As the debate raged on, Mitt stayed collected and continued to face Pres. Obama and the camera, while Obama appeared increasingly exasperated, with eyes cast down greater proportions of the time. The climax of the president's loser delivery was, ironically, his final uninterrupted opportunity to make a good impression, the three minute summary. He glanced at the camera (and its 58 million viewers, to whom he was speaking) occasionally, mostly gazing downward uncomfortably. Romney, by contrast, looked squarely into the camera, conversationally reiterating the points of his plan to elevate the economy, hammering home his oft-repeated goal of creating jobs.

Sometimes it seemed Obama was so stuck in his talking points he couldn't respond to what everyone heard Romney just say. For example, after Romney put forth his five-point plan for turning around the economy, Obama's response was to suggest that his opponent hasn't offered anything specific to do just that.

Early on, Romney turned around the term "trickle down," usually a a slam against the selfish and evil 1% who Obama says ought to be paying "their fair share" to support the sagging economy. (Of course, progressive income taxing already sees to it that those earning more pay a greater percentage in taxes.) Romney cleverly bashed "trickle down government," Obama's grandiose scheme to help poorer earners by expanding programs on the federal level.

It was great that one focus of the debate was the debt, which gave Romney a field day repeating the increase in the level of deficit between Obama's entry to office and the present. He had equal fun detailing the list of Obama green energy failures, gleefully addressing his opponent: "but don’t forget, you put $90 billion -- like 50 years worth of [tax] breaks -- into solar and wind, to Solyndra and Fisker and Tesla and Ener1. I mean, I had a friend who said, you don’t just pick the winners and losers; you pick the losers." Another chuckle.

Obama tried to play into a general dislike for big corporations, suggesting he'd hike their taxes: "the oil industry gets $4 billion a year in corporate welfare. Basically, they get deductions that those small businesses that Governor Romney refers to, they don’t get. Now, does anybody think that ExxonMobil needs some extra money when they’re making money every time you go to the pump? Why wouldn’t we want to eliminate that?"

I thought for sure Romney would answer, "Because people don't like paying more for their gas, especially given that when you came into office gas was $1.79 a gallon, and now it's actually doubled." (Gas prices in California averaged $4.23/gallon this week; averages here in Seattle are a hair lower.)

Obama told only a few anecdotes, but the most detailed described his maternal grandmother's need for government help: "She worked her way up, only had a high school education, started as a secretary, ended up being the vice president of a local bank. And she ended up living alone by choice. And the reason she could be independent was because of Social Security and Medicare."

Except that easily-accessible biographies say Madelyn Lee Payne Dunham attended both the University of Washington and the University of California, Berkeley, top-twenty colleges.

A major component of the debate was Obamacare, which the president confessed has become a term he enjoys (narcissism?). The discussion, however, didn't seem centered on why it's so wonderful but instead why it shouldn't be scrapped. Two of its features, mandatory coverage of existing conditions and coverage until age 26, were touted by the president, and claimed by Romney as the only two aspects worth salvaging. Romney got no push-back when he repeated that $716 billion for Obamacare was taken from the Medicare budget, and would be restored under his presidency. This played into what polls reveal--people don't want Medicare dismantled, and don't like that Obamacare was imposed, especially since most already see hikes in their premiums.

What drew the most laughter in the theater venue where I watched (my husband and another radio host providing analysis and fielding comments) was Romney's good-naturedly-delivered dig on Obama's assertion that businesses relocating get US tax benefits: " said you get a deduction for getting a plant overseas. Look, I’ve been in business for 25 years. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I maybe need to get a new accountant."

Viewers in the hall with me (almost all pro-Romney) seeing the event on an enormous screen could scrutinize Romney's and Obama's faces. One asked, "Did you see Obama's eye started twitching a few minutes into it, and kept doing that until the end?" "Obama seemed aged, tired and nervous." And yet, a hands-raised survey before the debate revealed that at least half had been anxious about which candidate would prevail.

As Romney maintained his ease, and Obama seemed to sink into defeat, the level of joviality in the room increased. At the end, a joyful group helped celebrate my husband's birthday with a kosher cake, and renewed confidence that indeed The Odds Against Obama have bloomed.

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