Saturday, October 06, 2012

Craziest Republican of the Day: Paul Broun

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This one pretty much speaks for itself:

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) tore into scientists as tools of the devil in a speech at the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman's Banquet last month.

"All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell," Broun said. "And it's lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior."

According to Broun, the scientific plot was primarily concerned with hiding the true age of the Earth.

And with that, Broun, who is actually a member of the House Science Committee, disqualifies himself from civilized society.

Don't believe anyone, and particularly a congressman, could be this stupidly crazy? Clearly you don't know much about the Republican Party, a party more at home in the Dark Ages than in anything like Enlightenment.

Here... watch it. And bask not just in Broun's head-up-his-theocratic-ass remarks but in the glorious background of severed deer heads (which reminds me that I can't wait for the day deer fire back and take out some hunters in a similar manner).

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Friday, October 05, 2012

Obama Panic and the new Republican "jobs truthers"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I'm not sure what to call it. Obama Panic?

Whatever the case, Republicans have never met an anti-Obama conspiracy theory they didn't embrace with all their venomous, fearful hearts.

The same was true with Clinton, of course, lest we forget just how crazy the Gingrich-led Republicans were back then, but with Obama it has odious racism at its core, along with a sense that Obama is the all-powerful puppetmaster singlehandedly turning America into the socialist paradise of their ridiculous, delusional nightmares.

Birtherism is the most notorious of these discredited theories, with Donald Trump leading the way, but it hardly stops there. And today -- yes, today -- we encountered a new group of anti-Obama crazies:

The jobs / job-report / unemployment truthers.

Today, President Obama -- and America -- got some great news, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reporting that the unemployment rate had fallen to 7.8 percent in September and that there was a gain of a modest but still significant 114,000 jobs ("total nonfarm payroll employment"), along with a revised total for July and August that showed 86,000 more new jobs than originally reported.

It was expected that Romney would throw some cold water on the news, claiming that the increases have declined over the past three months and blaming the president for the loss of manufacturing jobs, but the numbers speak for themselves. The 7.8 percent unemployment rate is the lowest since January 2009 and so the lowest of Obama's presidency.

This isn't to say that the economy is charging ahead at full steam, but, as Kevin Roose wrote at Daily Intel, "[t]oday's numbers are a clear win for the Obama campaign's recovery narrative... It's not a perfect recovery, and it's not as quick a recovery as we should hope for. But it's a recovery, clear as day." And that contradicts the Romney narrative, one he pushed hard in the debate, of an economy in stagnation.

But it wasn't really Romney who made news with his criticism today, it was those "truthers," people like former GE CEO Jack Welch, who tweeted: "Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change numbers."

Yes, Welch, once one of the country's most prominent CEOs and still a highly-respected business leader -- if also, of course, a Republican -- actually accused the president and his "Chicago" team of tampering with the numbers, of controlling the BLS and making sure today's numbers would help the president after a poor debate performance.

Which is a simply outrageous, and entirely unfounded, charge.

And it wasn't just Welch. (Think Progress exposes the truthers.) As WaPo's Greg Sargent wrote:

So the unemployment rate truthers are in a panic this morning. Some conservatives are angrily claiming that the new Labor Department stats finding unemployment below eight percent were cooked to help Obama win reelection.

The Tweet from former General Electric CEO Jack Welch is gaining the most attention... The refrain has been picked up by conservative Republicans in Congress and CNBC contributors. Fox News's homepage blares: "Jobless rate dips under 8 percent, but...IS THE NUMBER REAL?"

It's all completely crazy, but it's also really bad for Romney:

Ezra Klein debunks the whole thing, as if it needs debunking. But it's also worth noting that it's hard to see how the unemployment truthers are helping Mitt Romney here. By launching into a full blown angry panic about improving jobs numbers, they only draw attention to, and reinforce, the idea that the economy is, in fact, improving — and, worse, that the prospect of economic improvement is terrible news for Romney's presidential prospects.

The numbers themselves make Obama's own job of getting re-elected a bit easier (and Romney's use of a still-struggling economy for his political benefit that much tougher).

These "truthers," pushing another crazy conspiracy, are helping out, further discrediting their party -- and its candidate -- and serving as a very public reminder that Obama Panic is very much the way of things on the right these days.

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What a Doocebag!

By Capt. Fogg

With a name like Doocy, one probably grows up with countless attempts to make fun of one's surname. I doubt I could come up with a new one, but why ridicule the man's name when you can stand by and watch him smear it himself, making himself the idiot's action figure, the bobble-head doll of arrogant, self righteous religious authority and enemy of everything the United States ever stood for or was supposed to stand for and still pretends to be all about.

Yes, I'm talking about religion again, and I sure as hell wish you would too, because that bundle of authoritarian offal with a cross stuck on it stinks so bad I'm sure you could smell it on the moon. Where is the resistance to this endless calumny, this unceasing assault on our freedom, in our classrooms, our meeting places, our legislative assemblies?

On Fox today (where else?), Stevie the Dooce made fun of religious freedom and our protection against official state religions by mocking Pennsylvania State Representative Babette Josephs (D) for declining to recite that nauseating formula declaring the United States of America to be what it's constitutionally forbidden to be: under God.

Good for her, and like her I haven't dignified that "Satanic Verse" since the Republicans shoved it up the national ass in 1954, taking time out from their struggle to keep the "coloreds" in their place and making sure the races didn't mix. Time out from making sure people lost their jobs because of their politics.

I wonder if she refuses to use money because money has "In God We Trust" on it?

chortled the coiffed and polyestered Doocy through three quarters on an inch of pancake makeup; totally forgetting a legendary tantrum of a certain Jewish agitator concerning money with God written on it being in the Jerusalem Temple, but like so many of these Christian pretenders, hiding behind some perverted pretense they call "faith" as they hide their inner secrets behind stage makeup, behind patter and persiflage with their scummy Fox familiars, he's an enemy of almost anything good, anything that stands for freedom, for respect, for kindness, decency, democracy, and, yes, American values and American law.

Is that schoolgirl giggling supposed to make us forget or be embarrassed by the fact that neither citizens nor their elected officials may be required to make religious oaths? No, Doocebag, I don't trust your God, and if I had the opportunity to shove the Constitution and a Gutenberg Bible sideways up your gaping anus I would feel like an instrument of justice and a defender of America. Do you wipe your foul ass with the Constitution because it has that Establishment clause? Do you pay for sex with money that has God on it?

I almost expect blood to ooze from beneath my fingernails as I try to avoid the most obscene and vulgar maledictions against Doocy and his gibbering boyfriend Brian Kilmeade, foul-mouthed imprecations and excrement-encrusted execrations against that evil Republican empire that employs them to eat at the heart of America like a parasitic worm. It's hard to do and words come to mind, thoughts I don't dare to mention. Yes, it's hard not to dream of these evil men being in fact under some angry God -- like a dead, oozing cockroach under an iron boot heel.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Quote of the Day: Obama on Romney's attack on Sesame Street

By Michael J.W. Stickings 

The president, at a speech yesterday in Wisconsin:

When he was asked what he would do to actually cut spending and reduce the deficit, he said he'd eliminate public television funding... But I just want to make sure I got this straight. He'll get rid of regulations on Wall Street -- but he's going to crack down on Sesame Street.

Yes, that's right. Because, of course, Romney doesn't want to tell the voters just what he'd cut given how deeply unpopular such cuts would be. Better to talk about offsetting his massive tax cuts for the rich with vague talk about loopholes and deductions and to go after one of the right's usual targets, public television, which takes up a minuscule percentage of the federal budget.

And by minuscule I mean 0.012 of the budget

Yes, killing Big Bird is surely the way to go. I mean, it's not like the numbers have to add up or anything. (Right, Paul Ryan?)

(For more, see TakeMyCountryBack, where I got the image above.)

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John Sununu goes racist in post-debate victory parade

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Throughout the campaign, John Sununu, one of Romney's chief surrogates, has done something that Romney himself cannot, or at least not openly, and that's play the race card on President Obama -- or, rather, the racist card.

You may recall what he said back in July (channelling the likes of Donald Trump):

He has no idea how the American system functions. And we shouldn't be surprised about that, because he spent his early years in Hawaii smoking something, spent the next set of years in Indonesia, another set of years in Indonesia, and, frankly, when he came to the U.S., he worked as a community organizer, which is a socialized structure, and then got into politics in Chicago.

Obama the the un-American, the anti-American -- because he was born in Hawaii, which apparently isn't part of Sununu's America, and spent some of his early years, through no choice of his own, in Indonesia, which is way far away and so very strange and different. Oh, and because he's black.

Well, the odiousness continued yesterday, with Sununu holding nothing back:

Mitt Romney campaign co-chair and former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu (R) appeared on Fox News on Thursday and took a victory lap following last night's first presidential debate.

Sununu described Obama's performance as "babbling," "lazy," and "disengaged," and dismissed the possibility that he could do better in the future. "When you're not that bright you can't get better prepared," he said.

During a separate interview on MSNBC, Sununu doubled down on the characterization. "I think you saw him admit it the night before when he delivered the pizzas. He said, you know, they're making me do this work. He didn't want to prepare for this debate. He's lazy and disengaged."

He might as well have dropped an n-bomb and called him a welfare queen.

I'm with Balloon Juice's Tom Levenson on this:

Sununu wasn’t really blowing a dog whistle. He just about stood on top of the bar and trumpeted the noun we all can hear lurking right behind the adjective.

Here we see again what's been apparent for some time: the Romney campaign has clearly set itself the goal of out-George Wallace-ing the entire GOP primary field as it looks for ways to remind the electorate that the 44th president of the United States is, you know, an African-American man.

Apparently Sununu, like Romney himself, can't let even a day of good news go by without fucking up and revealing his -- and the campaign's -- true colors.


Here's Sununu, in all his odious glory:

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Laugh about it, shout about it

By Mustang Bobby 

The Conventional Wisdom was in quickly on the debate Wednesday night and it says that Mitt Romney rolled and President Obama just stood there. All the people who hyped down the expectations have now switched sides: the Romney folks who said that debates don't matter are saying it was a game changer, and whatever the pundits said yesterday and the days before are either saying "I told you so" or paying off their bets because they were 100% wrong but still have an in with the bookers at Fox News and MSNBC.

There are some folks on the Obama side who absolutely lost it. During his live-blogging, Andrew Sullivan had a complete meltdown, and I passed by a couple of other sites where it was more like, "Hey c'mon, where's the blood and the fistfight?" From a strictly theatrical point of view, it was like a comedy routine along the lines of Abbott & Costello, where you have the mild-mannered straight guy and the goofy hyper buffoon... except for the time when Mr. Romney was grinning tight-lipped, which for some reason reminded me of Jack Nicholson in The Shining just before he went for the ax.

I think if anyone lost Wednesday night, it was the guardian of the truth: it was like they were run over by a tank. We all know that the facts are going to get distorted in a forum like this, but there were so many lies and misstatements from Mitt Romney that it was easy for him to be "on his game" and "dominating." That's pretty easy when you're lying through your teeth. Mr. Obama may have had his moments of evasion and compression, but it was nothing compared to the non-stop just-make-shit-up from Mr. Romney. I guess if you were to give points for that, Mr. Romney won the lying portion by a mile. (By the way, whoever came up with the format for the debate should be fired. The idea was okay, but not for 90 minutes. It would have worked if the time frame had been longer — like two hours — but by then you would have had people stroked out in the middle of the street.)

To those who were inconsolable Wednesday night and yesterday, let me remind you that first debates are rarely a sign of the eventual outcome. In 1984, Ronald Reagan came across like Uncle Fluffy in his first outing with Walter Mondale, and in 2004, George W. Bush was way off his game in his first match with John Kerry. There are still two more debates to go, and I know I will see comments from readers both here and abroad that will speculate that President Obama took a dive on the first one just to lull Mr. Romney into a false sense of security and that he will wipe the floor with him the next two times. Okay, if that's what gets you through the night. And for the folks who are chortling over Mr. Romney's performance, a little advice from Han Solo: Don't get cocky. (Actually, go ahead and get cocky; it will be that much more fun to get the schadenfreude on when you lose.)

Despite what Chuck Todd, Chris Cillizza, and the rest of the punditocracy on both sides say, I don't think this debate will change the poll numbers much. It wasn't as bad as some fear or as good as it could have been.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Obama back on the horse after Romney's deluge of dishonesty

By Michael J.W. Stickings 

President Obama did what he needed to do yesterday following his not-as-dismal-as-everyone-thinks-but-still-not-all-that-good debate performance Wednesday night, and that not so much to put the event behind him, although that was part of it, but to build a positive narrative coming out of the debate, not just to counter the "Romney won" CW but to provide an honest perspective focused on substance, on the facts, as opposed to the style points favored by the ever-shallow media.

We can agree, perhaps, that Romney "won" the debate based on the degraded standards we (or rather the "experts") use to decide such things, but on the substance, with respect to the truth, it was pretty clear that Romney failed miserably.

Attacking the president, and defining himself ever more deeply, with a relentless deluge of dishonesty, Romney supposedly looked and sounded confident and passionate, Obama's "equal" up on stage, all in stark contrast to Obama's supposed detachment. There is some truth to that, if you're basing it all on image and perception, but as it recedes further and further into the mists of time, we can look on it -- and must look on it -- with a seriousness of purpose that was seriously lacking among pundits, their knees jerking wildly, in its immediate aftermath.

Let's take a quick look at some of these more serious -- and for Romney, ominous -- assessments:

-- Igor Volsky, Think Progress: "At Last Night’s Debate: Romney Told 27 Myths In 38 Minutes";

-- Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone: "The First Debate: Mitt Romney's Five Biggest Lies";

-- Greg Sargent, The Washington Post: "Romney's policies are still deeply unpopular, which is why he relentlessly obfuscated about them";

-- Jonathan Bernstein, The Washington Post: "Romney strong on performance, weak on policy in sluggish debate";

-- Mark Memmott and Scott Montgomery, NPR: " Romney Goes On Offense, Pays For It In First Wave Of Fact Checks";

-- Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog: "The triumph of style over substance"; and

-- Ed Kilgore, Washington Monthly: "Mitt Gets Away With It -- For Now."

And three from New York's Jonathan Chait: "The Return of Massachusetts Mitt," "Romney's Successful Debate Plan: Lying," and "Would a Republican Candidate Lie About Taxes?" (The answer to that question: Yes. Shamelessly.)

Paul Krugman summed it all up rather nicely:

OK, so Obama did a terrible job in the debate, and Romney did well. But in the end, this isn't or shouldn't be about theater criticism, it should be about substance. And the fact is that everything Obama said was basically true, while much of what Romney said was either outright false or so misleading as to be the moral equivalent of a lie.

And this is why the Obama campaign has a new post-debate plan, reports Benjy Sarlin of TPM: " Expose 'Serial Evader' Romney."

And to get back to the beginning of this post, President Obama himself was on the case during a speech in Colorado:

Now, the reason I was in Denver obviously is to see all of you, and it’s always pretty, but we also had our first debate last night. And when I got on to the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney.

Whereupon he proceeds to go through the ways in which the Romney of the debate was so different from the Romney we've come to know so well during the campaign, to contrast his policies with those of the real Romney, and to present a clear vision for the future, articulating, in stark contrast to Mitt's refusal to provide specifics, what he would do if re-elected.

Watch the clip. Obama may have struggled somewhat during the debate, at least in terms of style, but he was back on form the next day, and it's this sort of leadership that we need to see much more of in the two debates to come, not to mention on the campaign trail the rest of the way.

I realize that dealing with Romney's relentless lying isn't an easy task, but President Obama must stand firm.

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How Romney "won" the first debate

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I want to clarify something. I was angry the other night. Mitt spent the better part of the debate lying, and you could see in his eyes how hard he was trying, and I even saw signs of rage and desperation, and the president, while pointing out some of those lies and misrepresentations, never really found his stride. And then there was the post-debate commentary, which was simply awful, even by the dismal standards of such commentary.

By no means do I wish to argue -- I didn't then and don't now -- that Obama "won" the debate, in any sense of that word. By the terms of presidential debates, which are about theater, not substance, it was pretty clear that, to put it mildly, he underperformed, though I would note that he has never been much of a debater. Whatever the reason(s) -- he was disengaged, Romney's constant lying and pretending to be a moderate threw him off, he was intentionally trying to remain calm and above it all, not wanting to go negative -- he was just... off. Romney left the door open so many times with his blatant dishonesty, and there were many occasions for the president to drive a point home, either about his own record or about his Romney's right-wing policies and/or complete disingenuousness, but instead of engaging he stood back and let Romney take the debate to him, setting the tone and otherwise scoring points with little pushback from Obama.

Yes, there's a reason so many of Obama's liberal-progressive supporters, including some high-profile media figures, almost lost their minds. Myself, I was live-blogging, and so often listening more than watching, but I found myself saying "come on... come on... come on..." numerous times, pulling for Obama to step up and tear down his lying opponent. But with a few quiet exceptions it was not to be, and so the result was that Romney "won" -- such is the clear consensus that emerged, and I can't say I disagree.

But what made me angry in terms of the reaction was that Romney only won by the standards of the debates that entirely ignores substance... and the truth. And this was being pushed all throughout the media, including by supposed non-partisans. I encapsulated my thoughts in the caption to the photo I included at the top of our live-blogging post: 

Mr. President, I'm gonna win this by lying, dissembling, hiding my real views, not answering direct questions, acting all aggressive, stringing together complete sentences, treating the voters like idiots, playing right into the media's need for drama, and exceeding ridiculously low expectations by not drooling all over myself. 

It was all an act, you see, and Romney was the better actor, at least according to expectations of how one ought to conduct oneself during such an event. Ultimately, I wrote this:

I suppose this could reset the expectations for the next two presidential debates... Maybe if Obama shows some passion, like, say, by jumping up and down on Oprah's couch, the media will give him some credit. But of course far be it from the media to talk policy, to hold Romney accountable for pushing unpopular plans with math that doesn't even come close to adding up and refusing to answer questions about what his positions actually are what he would actually do as president. Much easier to say Romney was passionate and held his own and Obama looked like he didn't want to be there. 

Simple "analysis" from simple minds, as usual -- from the likes of Gloria Borger and John King, two of CNN's embarrassing crew.

Again, I don't wish to suggest that I thought Obama did well. But I do think it was closer than the CW would have us believe, mainly because I think Romney actually hurt himself, perhaps badly, by lying so much, by throwing the right-wing Republican base under the bus in his quest to come across as a moderate with appeal to independents, by presenting himself as a shameless, flip-flopping opportunist who will say anything for votes, and by providing the Obama campaign with so much ammunition. Yes, it was Republicans who were so gleeful after the debate, and the day after as well, and still now, saying that Romney's supposed trouncing of Obama resets the campaign and gives Romney the clear advantage, and the polls will likely show some tightening, but over time Romney may well have added to his troubles -- if Obama can take advantage of his lying and if he performs better in the two debates to come. (And thankfully, as David Axelrod noted yesterday, adjustments will be made.)

Am I just trying to find a silver lining? Maybe. But I do think substance -- and the truth -- matters, and while Obama may not have "won" the battle Wednesday night, he may have gained simply by being on the side of truth. And while Romney may have scored points by coming across as Obama's "equal" up on stage, holding his own against the far superior Obama (which is what this suggests), he frequently came across as an arrogant prick without an authentic core, reinforcing the image that over the course of the campaign has come to define him, an image based on a huge amount of evidence.

There is still much for Obama to do. He has powerful ads running in the key swing states, and he has successfully defined Romney as an out-of-touch plutocrat who doesn't give a shit about those below him on the socio-economic ladder, but he needs to use the platform of these debates to remind voters of Romney's "47%" remarks, of his job-destroying / outsourcing record at Bain, of his tax shelters, of his massive proposed tax cuts for the rich, of his plan to destroy Medicare, and so on. This is all being communicated in other ways, but voters need to hear it from the president himself.

Next time, he must not allow Romney to get away with it.

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"Trust" -- Countering Romney's lies

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(See also our extensive "Behind the Ad" series.)

President Obama may have "lost" the debate the other night -- more on that in a few posts to come today (stay tuned) -- but already he and his campaign are pivoting off what was admittedly a less-than-stellar performance and going after Romney on the substance (as opposed to the style that obsesses the pundits), and specifically on Romney's relentless deluge of dishonesty.

Here's the first Obama ad following the debate, and it's extremely effective:

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Thursday, October 04, 2012

Post-debate thoughts

By tmcbpatriot 

Man. Why do I feel depressed today? Is it the non-stop cloudy week? Is it that winter is coming? Is it that the president could very well have handed the election to a lying liar who cares nothing for anyone making less than he does?

Last night may have been, for all intents and purposes, the end of Barack Obama's presidency. I came, I saw, I guest live-blogged, but what I came away with, after I had time to let it all sink in, was watching Obama bring his meeting face, his Commander-in-Chief face, but not his game face. Sure, we all know Obama may be too smart for his own good. Sure, he likes to think a lot and is careful about his words. Sure, he could talk about policy all day long. But this is an election, it is not a policy meeting! The people watching this debate last night were not policy wonks or economists salivating over minutiae of detail. These were folks who literally were expecting to see Ryan Seacrest as host and a half-time show featuring Beyonce.

In other words, Mr. President, you failed to deliver!

It is hard to understand how the president allowed Mitt Romney to walk all over him, how he allowed Mitt Romney to spew lies and rhetoric without so much as a zinger from Obama about the 47%, flip-flopping on every single issue or about what economists have said about his grand lie to create 12 million jobs. All we heard were dry policy discussions and a president who looked tired, bored, annoyed, and a little too comfortable.

Perhaps Obama was thinking that the less he said the better. Perhaps he was thinking that since he is doing well in the polls he would just let Romney hang himself with all his lies. Maybe he was thinking that the fact-checkers would sort it all out in the morning. Perhaps, and I hope this is not true, Obama thought he was doing a great job and really handling his opponent well.

Folks, we live in a reality-show world where TV is nothing more than a place where good-looking people act out stories of betrayal, deception, murder, and crime-scene investigations. Throw in some redneck crocodile hunters and this is what Obama was up against. Television, ever since the very first debate between Jack and Dick, has been about style. Nixon was sweating while Kennedy looked "presidential." We all know how that turned out. Al Gore acted strangely during his debates. John Kerry put people to sleep. All the while, George W. Bush looked like a deer in headlights with a power pack taped to his back and getting his answers read to him and he still won against those two!

Now we are just weeks from this election. Again, we have a real choice, as we always do. The two parties are not the same. We know this, but think of how many people don't. During the remaining debates, Obama has to realize that just knowing the truth is not the same as talking about it. He needs to remember that people do not remember what was said and only recall how the people on the TV acted. Were they agressive? Boring? Tall? Short? Tan? Sweaty? It has nothing to do with what was said.

Nevertheless, there are those of us who still want to hear Romney called out on his lies, not to mention the fight for abortion rights and a woman's rights on a multitude of issues. Sure, nobody will remember what was said, but that doesn't mean we don't want to hear it!

There are two more presidential debates. If Obama does not bring up Romney's million flip-flops, if he doesn't look right into the camera and talk to the 99% and the 47% and remind everyone how we got into this mess and that Romney wants to send Latinos back whence they came and the stellar job he has done given what he was handed, then he deserves to lose and we deserve what's coming to us... AGAIN!

If Romney wins in November, all it will have proven is that a man can win an election based on nothing more than body posture and the volume of his voice. It will prove that we are nothing more than TV watchers and credit card numbers. Instead of honoring the Founding Fathers, this country will have been proven to be totally commandeered by the Funding Fathers, and history will forever be destined to repeat itself over and over and over again.

If that happens, Republicans will have proven themselves right and we will truly be on our own, again, with nobody to save us from ourselves, again, and now with a corporate raider in the White House who will sell us out for a profit, again.

Luckily, politics doesn't stagnate. It is as perishable as the milk left out on the counter. By tomorrow, this first debate will be a memory. Nothing will be remembered, except for Mitt wanting to fire Big Bird and Jim Lehrer. Sure, Romney will be remembered for his agressive tone and will have gained some points in the polls and for that alone Obama needs to seriously think about what happens next, or at least save the best for last. Romney understands this. If you recall, he won the coin toss and chose to close last.

Public speaking is like plane flights. People remember takeoff and landing but nothing in between, unless of couse someone starts running up and down the aisle and banging on the cockpit door. Otherwise, it is non-eventful.

Last night, Obama played it at 30,000 feet while Romney had control of the beginning and the end, with a little act of agression in between. Mr. President, take my advice and run up and down the aisle next time and then take us home for a safe landing. It is effective and important. In the meantime, I will keep my eye on the weather and hope my mood improves. It is supposed to be sunny tomorrow. That should be a nice change from today.

(Cross-posted at Take My Country Back.)

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White guilt trip

By Mustang Bobby

In Tuesday's column, George F. Will basically conceded the election to Barack Obama, but he's not going gracefully or without some of his twee condescending snark:

That Obama is African American may be important, but in a way quite unlike that darkly suggested by, for example, MSNBC's excitable boys and girls who, with their (at most) one-track minds and exquisitely sensitive olfactory receptors, sniff racism in any criticism of their pin-up. Instead, the nation, which is generally reluctant to declare a president a failure — thereby admitting that it made a mistake in choosing him — seems especially reluctant to give up on the first African American president. If so, the 2012 election speaks well of the nation's heart, if not its head.

In other words, the only reason Barack Obama was elected in the first place was that he was black, and now the only reason that he's going to be re-elected is that the nation overwhelmingly feels bad about firing him lest they be seen as racist. It had nothing to do with the fact that the previous administration had totally bankrupted the country, taken us into two unpaid-for wars, trampled all over our civil rights, turned party politics into the mission statement of the Justice Department, and embarrassed us on the stage of the world by sending forth a president who came across as too dumb to play dead in a cowboy movie.

Now they put forth a Republican nominee who, for all we can tell, is no different than the last GOP president except with better hair, who thinks nearly half the country is nothing but moochers and parasites waiting for a hand-out, and who has shown all the courage of his convictions as a bowl of warm Jello. But it's the White Guilt that's doing it for Barack Obama.


(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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New polls: Warren ahead of Brown in Mass.

In a poll released on Wednesday, Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren had a four-point lead over Republican incumbent Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race:

A Mass Insight Global Partnerships poll of 450 Bay State adults concluded that Warren is maintaining the edge on Brown, 48-44 percent, although her lead is within the 4.6 percent margin of error.

And a couple of other polls:

A WBUR/MassInc. poll released on Monday showed Warren ahead by two percentage points, 46-44, while a Boston Globe/University of New Hampshire poll released on Sunday concluded that Warren was leading by five points, 43-38 percent.

The Mass Insight poll also found this, though I'm not sure exactly what it means:

Fifty-two percent of those surveyed said that Massachusetts needs to elect a Democrat to help prevent the Senate from falling under control of the national Republican Party. At the same time, 40 percent said that "having a moderate Republican senator is good for Massachusetts and the country."

Can we say that this one is still close? I will add, though, that the fact Obama will bury Romney at the top of the ticket in Massachusetts can't be bad for Warren.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Are moderate conservatives tired of today's GOP?

By Richard K. Barry

A new poll by ABC News/Washington Post finds that 49 percent see the Democratic Party favorably, while 42 percent see it unfavorably. Not great, but not awful. If you want awful, the GOP registers in the negative by a margin of 39-53 percent.

As ABC News reports:

Self-identified Democrats and Republicans are broadly positive about their chosen parties, by 89 and 84 percent respectively in this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates. Among independents, that plummets to about four in 10 for both parties.  

The difference is that 32 percent of Americans in this survey identify themselves as Democrats, vs. 25 percent as Republicans, levels that have held essentially steady the past three years. That's down for the GOP, which achieved parity with the Democrats in 2003 but has lost ground since. (Independents now predominate, accounting for 39 percent in this survey.) 

Intensity of sentiment is another challenge for the Republican Party: Substantially more Americans see it "strongly" negatively than strongly positively, 33 percent vs. 18 percent, while the Democratic Party breaks even (28 percent on both sides).

One other thing I found interesting in the ABC/Post survey was that just 32 percent see the Tea Party favorably, down 9 points from spring 2010.

Pollsters tell us that America is a more ideologically conservative than liberal country. I found a Gallup poll from 2011 that claims 40 percent of Americans think of themselves as conservative, 35 percent as moderate, and 21 percent as liberal. I don't know about the numbers, but I suspect the general sentiment is true.

If so, the only way to explain it may be that a lot of conservatives are unhappy with what has become of the GOP. I'm going to guess that a lot more moderate conservatives are unhappy with the radicalism of the party than radical righties are unhappy with the party being too moderate. Tea Party numbers being down could explain this.

It would be interesting to know the ideological makeup of those independents but it probably makes sense that they are marginally more conservative than liberal if the country is.

I'm just speculating, but one thing for sure is that if Romney loses in November, there is going to be a real civil war for the soul of the Republican Party between those who will say the party got too radical versus those who say it wasn't radical enough.

I'm a Democrat, but I have to think a moderate Republican candidate backed by a halfway sane party would be in much better shape at this point than Mitt.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Romney's Santa routine may hurt him long term

Guest post by Frank Moraes

Ed. note: This is Frank's fourth guest spot for us (in addition to live-blogging the debate with us last night). You can find his first, on the recent 60 Minutes interviews with Obama and Romney, here; his second, on European monetary policy and Spanish austerity, here; and his third, on conservative desperation, here. -- MJWS 

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor with much too much education. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where it is really hard to be a liberal, and writes the blog Frankly Curious.


I spent the debate "live blogging" here at The Reaction. Check out our live-blogging post to see my reactions as they occurred in real time. My initial thinking was that Romney did better than I had expected -- and I expected him to do fairly well. But I didn't think that Romney necessarily "won" the debate, whatever that might mean. He did, however, dominate it.

What surprised me was just how hostile the liberal reaction was to the debate. I guess this makes sense, though. They want the president to be a fighter. I feel the same way. For example, I couldn't believe some of the things that Romney was able to get away with. In particular, I hate his claim that he can't give specifics about his policies because that's not how you negotiate. Never has a bigger pile of bullshit excreted from a politician.

Regardless of how the debate went for the pundits, my overall reaction was that Romney was even worse than I had thought. For a while, I've been pushing this line that Romney's tax plan is, " Trust me." But now I see that this is his plan for everything. Education reform? Trust me. Financial reform? Trust me. Health-care reform? Trust me. It reminds me of Nixon's secret plan to end the war in Vietnam. You may remember that the war didn't actually end until he was out of office.

The more substantive point regarding the debate was that Romney's policy ideas changed radically. Now he's not giving a tax break to the wealthy! Now he's going to cover pre-existing conditions by -- wait for it! -- magic! He'll increase funding for education. And the military. And anything else that you might like. It reminded me of the Michael Dukakis line from 1988: Mitt Romney is the Joe Isuzu of politicians. Or if you're too young to get the reference: Mitt Romney claims to be Santa Claus.

President Obama has always been an "eat your broccoli" kind of guy. So we shouldn't be too surprised that he used the debate to talk to the American people like they were adults. (As my friend Andrea would say, "That's a mistake!") But in the end, I think there is much fodder for the Obama campaign. Romney will get a bump from this, but over time, I think it reinforces the Romney nobody likes: the guy who will say anything to get elected.
(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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Makers vs. Takers

By Mustang Bobby 

Paul Ryan told an audience a year ago that 30% of the country want a welfare state:

"Seventy percent of Americans want the American dream. They believe in the American idea. Only 30 percent want the welfare state," Ryan said. "Before too long, we could become a society where the net majority of Americans are takers, not makers." (It's not definitively clear whether Ryan said "the welfare state" or "their welfare state." HuffPost originally transcribed it as "their welfare state." Regardless, the comment was made in reference to people on government assistance.)

Ryan's comments were delivered as part of his keynote address at The American Spectator's 2011 Robert L. Bartley Gala Dinner, which the magazine posted online. A reader tipped HuffPost to Ryan's speech, given in November — six months before Romney's videotaped remarks.

This isn't exactly a bombshell; the Republicans have always seen Other People as being moochers and leeches who don't share in the bootstrap mentality and oh by the way they're probably not white, either.

It also explains why the Republicans are having such a tough time selling the idea that they actually give a shit about people, and it makes selling Mitt Romney as an empathetic candidate a little like trying to get an alligator to eat nothing but salad.

This is what real class warfare looks like.

(Cross-posted at Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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Mass debaters

By Carl 

I think its safe to say that the reason President Obama seemed so disengaged last night is... BORRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRING!

Was it the natural tendency of old campaigners to play it safe in the opening quarter? Or the tendency of longtime adversaries to score points off each other rather than illuminate their differences? 

Or was it that the issues on which the presidential campaign will turn are so complicated — the economy, taxation, healthcare — that it's a challenge for anyone to make them accessible for average listeners?

Whatever the reason, Wednesday night's initial debate between President Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, provided red meat for wonks, but perhaps not so much for voters. 

Now, I consider myself to be a little wonky, but even I glazed over (and ultimately fell asleep) in the first half hour.

That could be a good thing for the president or not, and vice versa for Romney. I'm betting most people felt the same way I did and tuned out quickly, missing first hand the president's lackluster, almost disinterested performance. That could be good.

Or bad, since that means most people are catching up to it the way I did: watching a replay after catching some of the "analysis" or, worse, watching just the Monday morning quarterbacking.

Romney was surprisingly good in my book, although to be fair, I didn't see a single primary debate so I have no basis to judge. Too, when you have five months to absorb and memorize talking points, it's easy to come off as well-prepared and informed. 

Even when you lie like a cheap rug, as Romney did so often.

Many liberals chided Obama for not being more forceful, like mentioning the 47% or bringing up Bain Capital. He did contrast what Governor Romney's definition of "small business" was, however.

I think this was a deliberate tactic. He knew Romney was going to try to get in some zingers and it was more likely those zingers would be tossed when he was on the defensive. There's plenty of time to talk about "presidenting half the nation."

Besides, the economic performance of the country is clearly weighing heavily on Obama's mind, as was evidenced by his body posture. If anything, he was the stronger for being patient, not defensive. He made Romney look like an adolescent on stage, voice rising, arms flailing, fingers pointing.

Obama stood and took notes, much like a trial judge would do while the prosecution levelled charges and brought evidence. He reacted even while he took notes (here's a tip for the next debate: do not watch the speaker; instead, watch the other guy) and showed he was taking Romney seriously, even if Romney and his party were not.

I mean, really, when a network puts Larry The Cable Guy out as a morning-after pundit, how seriously can we take them?

Obama may have overplayed this, to be sure, but letting Romney win the first debate could also end up being a masterful stroke. Remember 2004? Kerry pretty much mopped the floor with Bush ("He forgot Poland!" he whined) and won that debate handily.

Didn't help him much, did it?

Romney will get a bump out of this, maybe five points nationally and possibly place himself in a statistical tie with the president.

And that's the last hurrah.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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A.M. Headlines

U.S. Politics

(New York Times): "Obama and Romney, in first debate, spar over fixing the economy"

(Wall Street Journal): "Obama, Romney clash over taxes in first debate"

(The Hill): "Romney lands punches against subdued Obama in first debate"

(Washington Post): "Credit and criticism for Mitt Romney at Wednesday's presidential debate"

(Washington Post): "Romney goes on the offense, forcing Obama to defend record"

(Politico): "Obama, Romney harden partisan battle lines"

Other News

(Reuters): "Chicago teachers union ratifies deal that ended strike"

(Reuters): "Mexican troops arrest two in killing of U.S. border agent: officials"

(Associated Press): "Iran police on watch after currency protest"

(New York Times): "Drama on baseball's final day as start completes crown"


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Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Zinger-fest: Live-blogging the first 2012 presidential debate

By Michael J.W. Stickings and Richard K. Barry (with Marc McDonald, tmcbpatriot, and Frank Moraes, and a special guest appearance by Creature) 


Mr. President, I'm gonna win this by lying, dissembling, hiding my real views, not answering direct questions, acting all aggressive, stringing together complete sentences, treating the voters like idiots, playing right into the media's need for drama, and exceeding ridiculously low expectations by not drooling all over myself.

So here we go.

It all starts now, or so spin Romney and his surrogates, hoping (against hope) that the debates, starting tonight, can be the "game changer" (yes, there it is again) they need it to be, what with the campaign -- and their chances -- slipping ever further away.

This is obviously a great deal to hope. And even as they've been playing the expectations game to make Obama the favorite to "win" (therefore making a strong showing by Romney all the more meaningful, a win of its own, though their efforts are now beyond parody), they've been building up the expectations around the significance of the debate itself, turning it into the campaign's defining event to date.

Yet contrary to the relentless media spin -- and the media do this to build up the drama, and therefore to build themselves up, not just to boost their ratings but to enhance their self-aggrandizing image of themselves -- presidential debates mean very little, historically speaking. 

Think back, if you can, through the mists of time. What debate ever mattered in any significant way? Sure, there were some memorable lines -- zingers -- along the way, notably Bentsen's "You're no Jack Kennedy" in his Veep debate with Quayle in '88, but really you have to go back to 1960, when Nixon fared so poorly in terms of his appearance, looking sweaty and shifty, that to television viewers it was evidently a clear win for that very same Jack Kennedy, even if, on substance, it was a draw at worst for then-Veep Nixon.

But 2012 isn't 1960. Then, voters didn't get to see much of the candidates. So that debate was huge. But with the world of insane media saturation we live in now, voters can see all they want whenever they want. Sure, there are no doubt some undecideds who will tune in tonight, and no doubt some of them will have their views pushed or pulled one way or the other. But that's a tiny sliver of a mostly decided electorate that already knows a great deal about both Obama and Romney.

Which is why, while there will be some policy discussed tonight, it's really all about the theater -- and about creating some memorable moments. Hence all the talk, both from the Romney campaign and in the media generally, about zingers, as silly as that is.

Anyway, I don't want to take up too much time/room with this preamble. Richard and I, along with some of our contributors, will be live-blogging the debate tonight, and we hope you check back for that.

It's 7:59 pm ET now. (Richard and I just got off a pre-debate conference call with the Obama campaign.) We'll be back at 8:45 or so to get it rolling.

Make sure to check out our friend Mustang Bobby's debate thread as well. (Update: He unloads some great zingers.) 


8:51 pm - Okay, let's do this... And start by playing the expectations game... Obama is a much better orator than debater. He lost the debates to Hillary and then held his own against the near-comatose McCain. He tends to trip over his words and to be overly professorial. Romney, on the other hand, participated in countless debates during the Republican primaries and held his own under attack from his various rivals. He's tested, and he's got an arsenal of zingers ready to unleash. The debate, clearly, is Romney's to lose.

8:54 pm - Whatever.

Let's go to Richard (RKB):

RKB : I'm sure it doesn't mean anything, but the candidate's wives look very nervous. Hey, it's not like the stakes are incredibly high.

8:56 pm - Ann Romney looks particularly anxious. Maybe it's just her grotesque makeup under the hot spotlight.

8:58 pm - For what it's worth, I'm drinking a nice Ontario red (Cabernet). But I may have to switch to Bourbon to get through this.

8:59 pm - Great headline on a Chait post earlier today: "Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead" -- referring to Romney, of course. Key passage:

Romney's best hope is to detach himself from his party as best as possible. And here is where the 47 percent video really blocks his exit. He does not have a great gift for feigning sincerity. Romney may want to convince Americans that he truly cares about them, but a candid video of him speaking to his donors with evident passion will seem like a more authentic expression of his real views. And, given the state of Romney's party, justifiably so.

I wonder if Mitt's arrogant douchebaggery will make an appearance tonight. 

9:01 pm - And here's Jim Lehrer. Good times. Follow us through these 90 minutes, won't you? If you can stay awake. (See the Times's live-blogging as well. And here's the transcript.)

RKB : The conventional wisdom on debates is that a challenger on stage with an incumbent president gets to look presidential just by being on stage. I suppose that's true. We'll see how Romney looks at the start. His tension always seems palpable to me.

9:04 pm - Nice for the president to say Happy Anniversary to his massively popular wife. 20 years. Obama sounds fairly confident to begin, though as usual he lacks a certain eloquence, as if he's always searching for the right words. I see this as a virtue, as a reflection of his thoughtfulness, of his desire to choose his words carefully, but clearly the debate format diminishes him somewhat.

9:06 pm - And Romney makes a joke about how romantic it must be for Obama to spend the evening with him. Nice one. What he needed to ease the tension a bit. But he's not looking into the camera, it appears. I can't say I agree with his answer to this first question, on jobs, but he's speaking well, and seems confident.

And here's our newest contributor, Frank Moraes:

FM : Romney looks pained. Obama a bit stiff. Twitter is lighting up...

And our friend tmcbpatriot:

TMCB : I have just cracked a fresh bottle of Smoking Loon. Appropriate for tonight, I think.

9:10 pm : What's "Smoking Loon"?

RKB : I know it's all a part of the game, but the boilerplate spin from the campaign surrogates, all of them, gets tiresome.

9:11 pm : Agreed... Oh, here's Romney asking Obama a question, invited by Lehrer to do so. Yes, Mitt, you do have a $5 trillion tax cut in the works. Loopholes, whatever you intend to close, won't make up for it. But we're going to hear a lot about this "middle-class squeeze" tonight. It's what Mitt has to do to appeal to swing-state undecideds.

9:13 pm : Bullshit, Mitt. You aren't being specific about your spending cuts and tax loophole closures. And the numbers do not add up. "I like coal," says Mitt. Yes, he likes heating up the planet to the point of imminent apocalypse. Hoo-wah. Shouldn't he mention that he's in the bag for the oil and gas industry? As with everything else, his energy policies are competely retrograde -- and dangerous.

TMCB : Mitts flag pin is bigger than Obama's. I wonder if that is on purpose.

9:15 pm : Ah, good. The president is calling out Romney on those loopholes. When you add them all up, "you don't come close to paying for $5 trillion in tax cuts" and all the unnecessary military spending. So the burden ends up on the middle class. Obama needs to hammer this point home tonight. He needs to paint Romney as an advocate for his own kind, the rich -- which, of course, he is. 

FM : Trickle-down government is a good line. I suspect this is what the Romney campaign meant by "zingers." It makes more sense than jokes.

TMCB : I am looking forward to Mitt's Joe The Plumber moment. However, for Mitt it will be more like Roy The NASCAR Team Owner. 

9:18 pm : Romney's really trying to present himself as a man of the people, propsing tax cuts for everyone, not just for the rich. Again, Obama is right to point out that the numbers don't add up: "It's math, it's arithmetic." (Republicans don't believe in arithmetic.)

RKB : Romney's people obviously told him to soften his image tonight. I doubt things will ever get hot the way things are going in this debate. It's good that Obama is talking business. He's not ceding that ground to Romney... Okay, Obama is settling down now.

FM : Romney claims six other studies showed TPC study was wrong. This is a lie. THIS TALKING POINT DRIVES ME CRAZY!

TMCB : Romney is making a mistake here. He is trying to look tough by talking to Obama and not to the camera or the moderator. He is trying to bully the President. It is not going to work. Obama is trying to get Romney's dander up. So far so good.

9:22 pm : Republicans kills Bowles-Simpson, by the way, Mitt. Ask your running mate. The message for Romney tonight is jobs, jobs, jobs, it seems. I do like that the president is looking straight into the camera. He knows this is about talking directly to voters, not trying to beat his opponent.

9:23 pm : Yes, yes, yes! Obama connects Romney's plan back to Bush. 

TMCB : Smoking Loon is my favorite red wine. $8.99 and smooth as silk!

FM : King on CNN: This will come down to who Americans trust more. What insight! 

9:25 pm : Romney's really on the defensive over his $5 trillion in proposed tax cuts. It's a line that works and has the benefit of being true.

TMCB : Whoa, did he just say that he will stop funding PBS to a PBS host? Did he just fire Jim Lehrer? 

9:30 pm : A response from the Obama-Biden campaign to another Romney lie: 

Mitt Romney tonight said he wouldn't raise taxes on middle class families, but we know that's not true. As independent, non-partisan analysts have highlighted, to pay for his $5 trillion tax plan that would give $250,000 tax cuts to multi-millionaires and billionaires, Mitt Romney would have to cut key tax deductions that middle class families rely on, like the mortgage interest and charitable deductions. Paying for Romney's tax cuts means the average middle class family with kids would see their taxes go up by $2,000 a year. 

9:31 pm: Romney says Obama should have embraced Simpson-Bowles and run with it. I wasn't a big fan, and am still not, but the problem wasn't the president's commitment to that deficit-reduction plan but the Republicans' opposition to it, including Ryan's. The fact is, the Republicans were never going to give Obama a "victory" on anything -- even in this case, where Obama and the Democrats were prepared to give up so much in terms of spending cuts.

FM: Obama's discussion of "computer for your kid going off to college" is one of the best distillations of Keynesianism I've ever heard. Excellent! (And I'm cynical.)

TMCB: All the FOX news audience heard was Big Bird. He basically just said that Jim Lehrer is basically on Sesame Street. Oh and they will both be out of a job if Romney wins.

9:35 pm: Obama just made a reference to outsourcing, moving jobs overseas. Maybe too implicit, but of course he can make that point directly against Romney. 

9:36 pm: "Budgets reflect choices," says Obama. Yes. Absolutely. And the choice for Romney, Ryan, and the Republicans is a shifting of the tax burden away from the rich and onto everyone else (not just the 47% but everyone else). Not that the rich really face much of a burden today.

TMCB: Wow. Romney is a dick. He is trying really hard to look tough but in doing so he is just looking like a child.

RKB: That's a zinger? Romney's boys are liars?

9:38 pm: Romney brings up his business experience and bringing jobs home. Really? I thought he quit Bain over 20 years ago and that he had nothing to do with outsourcing. Isn't that what he's said? He's left the door wide open. Mr. President -- go for it.

RKB: I don't know if they're nervous, but I am.

FM: Perhaps the "zingers" were that they would never get past the first topic?

The Clinton 23 million jobs claim, while true, always strikes me as something that may have been due to Clinton but was also just timing. So I never like it. But I think it works.

Obama's Trump joke fell flat, but I laughed like hell.

Romney's "tax increase will cost 700,000 jobs" was strong. Obama didn't counter. I question the number. Perhaps a blog post tomorrow.

TMCB: Romney looks a little less orange tonight. 

9:43 pm: Romney accuses Obama of cutting Medicare for today's seniors. He's not. It's about cutting payments to hospitals. This is a winning issue for Obama. Time to talk about what Romney and Ryan would do not to today's seniors but going foward to future generations of seniors. Yes, Obama brings up Romney's "Vouchercare" plan. Hugely unpopular.

FM: Romney: "You'll never balance the budget by raising taxes." So you will balance the budget by cutting taxes on the rich who already have more money than know what to do with? (See: 10-year bond rates paying less than inflation.) This is pure supply-side, trickle-down economics. Haven't we tried this at length? Twice?

RKB: Obama is being too professorial, as his people knew he would. Romney's cliches are actually more effective in this setting. Although Romney is starting to sound like a prick. I guess he can't help it.

FM: Block-granting is just a way for conservatives to starve programs. But there is an upside.

9:47 pm: Wow, Romney refuses to answer question of whether he supports vouchers. All he wants to say is that his policies won't affect existing recipients. Of course you don't want the government telling you what health-care insurance you want, Mitt. You're a mega-millionaire. You can buy whatever health care you want. How about the tens of millions of Americans who would lose their access to affordable care if you were to get your way and repeal "Obamacare"? And didn't you do something similar in Massachusetts?

9:49 pm: Answer the fucking question, Mitt!

FM: Romney is tipping over into being really unlikable. And I think he already had that vote nailed!

RKB: Not that you asked, but I'm drinking white wine, although I should be drinking champagne, being one of those champagne socialists.

9:51 pm: More from the Obama-Biden campaign:

Mitt Romney has no credibility when it comes to reducing the deficit. The truth is that President Obama has already signed $1 trillion of deficit reduction into law as part of a plan to reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion while asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share and investing in an economy built to last. Romney refuses to ask for a penny more from the wealthy – even pledging to reject a deal including 10 dollars in spending cuts for every 1 dollar of new revenue – and would have to raise middle class taxes or explode the deficit in order to pay for his $250,000 tax cuts for multi-millionaires and increased defense spending.

9:52 pm: I wondered earlier if Romney's arrogant douchebagger was going to make an appearance. It has, and it's taking over the debate.

FM: Obama brought in AAPR approval -- very good. Pointing out that repealing Obamacare would cost money and enrich insurance companies was excellent. No response from Romney.

Romney goes back to talking points: I won't screw current seniors and Obama cut $716 billion. Amazing!

TMCB: Obama is in governing mode right now. He sounds like a president. It is awesome. He is making points and leading, like he is in a meeting. Romney is out of his league here. He has no idea what to do here.

9:54 pm: Romney is clearly not qualified to talk about the facts. 

9:55 pm: Look closely at Romney. Look in them eyes. There's a glistening rage in there. Obama has him down.

9:56 pm: So Romney wants to repeal Obamacare, which, lest we forget, is based on Romneycare in Massachusetts. Obama can now say it covers tens of millions of people while also cutting costs over the long term.

9:57 pm: Romney keeps counting. Number 1... Number 2... Number 3... Makes him come across as an arrogant and condescending. Obama may be professorial, but at least he's likeable.

FM: Romney manages to trivialize Obama's position on Medicare. Obama wants to keep it the same for all. Romney, only those 55 and older. Will Obama correct him?

9:59 pm: Obama: "Insurance companies can't jerk you around." It's generally a popular position to go after Big Insurance. "We've seen this model works well... in Massachusetts... the identical model... it hasn't destroyed jobs..."

10:01 pm: "I like the way we did it in Massachusetts." And then says Obama did it wrong by pushing it through without Republican support. But of course Republicans weren't going to support anything given their policy of absolute obstructionism. Besides, Obamacare is a market-oriented package that closely resembles what Republicans themselves once supported before the party moved so far to the right. Sure, bipartisanship would have been nice. But Romney need look no further than his own party.

10:03 pm: Yes! Obama notes that it was a Republican idea. "We used the same advisers, and they say it's the same plan."

FM: Romney claims that a "study" found that 3/4 of small business owners were not hiring because of Obamacare. I know this is wrong. It was probably something like, "a study of tea party business owners." Most business owners are not hiring because of lack of demand. That's it.

TMCB: Romney just blamed homeowners for the collapse. 

FM: Romney forgot to mention: in Massachusetts, they used federal money to pay for their health-care reform.

10:07 pm: Just how desperate is Romney? He's bringing up death panels, that old Republican lie (see Palin, Sarah). But he's not answering the question again: What would he replace Obamacare with? He's scuffling.

FM: Romney's answers seem more scripted. Obama's seem more off the cuff.

10:08 pm: Obama notes, with the facts at hand, that the law prohibits anything like "death panels" -- any sort of mandated treatment. And he notes as well that this is an expansion of private insurance -- both Obamacare and Romneycare. But private insurers have to take everyone (e.g., coverage for prople with pre-existing conditions). Obama's on fire!

10:11 pm: Now Romney is trying to explain why he won't provide details, why he won't answer the questions. It's about principles! He's laying them out. Oh. Thanks. Very helpful.

10:12 pm: The Obama-Biden campaign on Medicare: 

Mitt Romney just repeated the false claim that the President made $716 billion in cuts to Medicare and has no plan to protect the program. The AARP endorsed Obamacare because it extended the life of the program by nearly a decade by reducing unnecessary insurance company subsidies and rooting out waste and fraud. Mitt Romney's plan would bankrupt Medicare by 2016, turn the program into a voucher system, and could increase costs for seniors by more than $6,000 a year – based on an analysis of his current plan. In fact, the savings Romney just decried were included in his running mate's budget, which Romney called "marvelous" and promised to sign into law. 

Basically, if you want to destroy Medicare, vote Romney.

TMCB: My wife just had a point. These two guys are not talking to the American people. The regular folks are not understanding any of this. They are both guilty of it. Romney, however, has not looked at the camera once.

FM: Romney is repeating the lie about his tax plan. The Tax Policy Center might as well not exist. How do you deal with people who can't be penetrated by facts?

10:14 pm: Preferably, you vote against them. 

10:15 pm: It's pretty rich for Mitt to bring up Massachusetts. He was there for a single term.

10:16 pm: Remember, when a Republican brings up "religious freedom," what is meant is the freedom to be a bigot and impose theocracy.

10:17 pm: See the comments section for some excellent contributions from a reader, Rich Freedman. I certainly agree that Lehrer is doing a lousy job so far, letting Romney run roughshod over the rules.

FM: I keep expecting to see Michael Dukakis pop up and say, "What are you? The Joe Isuzu of government?" Romney is playing Santa Claus. "There will be no pre-existing conditions AND no individual mandate!" He's talking nonsense.

Romney was a lot better early on.

10:19 pm: On the role of government, Obama actually has some thoughtful ideas and examples, while Romney, as usual, is full of right-wing ideological shit.

FM: Too big to fail is a huge issue: a $60 billion per year subsidy of the banking industry. But if Romney doesn't like Dodd-Frank, there is nothing he would like. And I think that's the case. See: corporate raider.

TMCB: Personally, I like Obama's approach here, He is smart and careful. I wonder how television viewers respond to this. Romney is all bluster. I just don't see voters seeing that as something good for the country over the long term.

FM: Still no one calls Romney on his "I'm not giving details because... negotiation!" All negotiations start with proposals. His answer is insulting to all voters. (And their children.)

10:23 pm: This needs to end. Soon.

FM: Both candidates look tired. Obama's lost his spark. But at least he's still making sense. Romney has started babbling. Seeing him talk at length really shows that his entire campaign boils down to, "Trust me! I've got ideas! But I can't tell you them because... negotiation!"

TMCB: Obama is so done with this chump. He is not a fan of what Mitt has to say and is done with him.

10:25 pm: Romney continues to avoid talking about what he'd actually do as president. Lehrer had to call him on it... finally. But Romney really does look desperate to me. His tone, his body language, it's all a reflection of inner turmoil. It's like he wants so badly to act the CEO and order everyone around, like this whole democracy thing is beneath him, like he wants his high school bully pals to go beat up the president.

10:27 pm: Meanwhile, while Obama certainly isn't shining, he's showing the calm and determination of a genuine leader. Only one of these two has looked presidential tonight. And it ain't Romney.

Ah, here's our friend and contributor Marc McDonald:

MMD: I've read a number of Serious Commentators in the Mainstream Media who've made the claim that "Obama just isn't a very good debater." But tonight, I think he's doing a great job. I think Romney is handicapped by the fact that he sat through endless debates with the bunch of blithering idiots known as the GOP field. Really, all Romney had to do to do well in those debates was to outshine the likes of clowns like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann. Romney really hasn't faced any challenging debate competition until tonight. As a debater, Obama may not be Christopher Hitchens -- but he's clearly good enough tonight.

10:28 pm: Great comment. Agree completely. 

FM: Romney's claims of bipartisanship are meaningless. He's was working with Democrats, not freaks. Does he really think that people will buy that the Massachusetts legislature is anything like the Republican House?

TMCB: When I watch Obama speak, I am reminded what a shitstorm he was handed four years ago. He is doing a stellar job. The Obama failure is a myth and a lie. It will not lead to his defeat. I just do not believe the American people are that dumb. They will not stay home and let Romney win. I just don't see that happening.

10:31 pm: Good final remarks by the president. And Romney once again brings up the "squeeze" and says things that just don't add up. He truly is the Pretzel Candidate.

RKB: Obama talking about Medicare is pissing Romney off and he looks annoyed. That is what Obama has to do. Romney looks bad on Vouchercare. This is bad for Romney. Romney just fucked up by saying he would rather have private Medicare.

10:32 pm: And that's it. Okay. So very anti-climactic. Now where's that Bourbon I was talking about?

10:33 pm: We'll have a lot of post-debate coverage, but I need to rest for a moment... Well, okay, this first. Wolf Blitzer is an idiot. He just said this was a really good night for Romney and that the expectations for Obama were so high. Does he actually ever think for himself? Can he think for himself? Or is it all about regurgiating Republican talking points? Romney won because he "held his own" with the president? Really?

TMCB: Romney is a fucking liar! It's astounding.

FM: I just realized: where's Romney's tan?

10:36 pm: I just can't listen to the morons on CNN. It's like they live in a different reality -- really an un-reality. Obama was "rusty," John King? Obama didn't go on the attack? "Romney at least held his own..." Please. Gergen: "We've got a horse race." Really? Romney refused to answer questions and was shuffling (and lying) all evening. I have a hard time believing this will move the needle all that much.

10:38 pm: Yes, what we're seeing here is that the media wanted Romney to win (if only because they want this to be a close race), and now they're thriving off their contrived drama.

10:40 pm: This is compete and utter bullshit.

FM: No, Romney. Dodd-Frank was extremely well thought out. Then it was gutted by your friends in Congress and the finance industry. That's why it is as bad as it is. If Romney were serious about its problems, he would be for changing it, not ending it.

The word on MSNBC (!) is that Romney was better. I guess I'm just too focused on policy.

RKB: Does anyone take Romney seriously as a champion of the little guy? 

10:42 pm : No one should... Okay, so it really does look like the immediate consensus is that Romney "won" the debate. He rose to the occasion and held his own, and wanted to be there, while Obama was professorial and detached. Again, though, I think this was the pre-conceived narrative the media were planning to run with in the event of a close debate without any real fireworks.

"Where was the passion," Stephanie Cutter, Obama's deputy campaign manager, is asked. I thought the president looked... presidential. Now she's asked if Obama didn't take this seriously enough. Yet more bullshit from the media.

TMCB : The pundits are off and running. I hate that they are talking about this like it was supposed to be a campaign speech. However, Obama is in governing mode is not as exciting as Obama in campaign mode, I have to admit.

10:49 pm : At most, I'll concede that Obama looked and sounded a little flat. But to me that came from being in control of himself, from remaining calm, from not getting too excited. Romney just acted the agressive prick -- counting, finger-pointing, with rage in his eyes, desperate to score points.

And, seriously, it's like the various "expert" pundits are all speaking with the same vocabulary (using words like professorial) and talking points.

Basically, they're saying Romney won because he came across as Obama's " equal," because he was more aggressive (currently the headline at But what did they expect, that he'd stand there drooling, unable to string a coherent sentence together?

MMD: What on earth is going on at MSNBC? I thought I'd mistakenly switched on Fox "News." Chris Matthews and Ed Schultz are claiming that Obama was a failure tonight. I hope this isn't the spin that the MSM is going to be picking up on in the coming days. Obama wasn't perfect, but he was hardly a failure.

RKB: We disagree. All the commentary will say Obama "lost." This will be very bad, though I don't know how much it will be reflected in the polls. 

10:58 pm : Maybe so, but if it was "very bad," it's only because of the way the media are responding to it. And yes, I feared that going in. It happened to Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004.

But I suppose this could reset the expectations for the next two presidential debates (the next debate being the vice-presidential one). Maybe if Obama shows some passion, like, say, by jumping up and down on Oprah's couch, the media will give him some credit. But of course far be it from the media to talk policy, to hold Romney accountable for pushing unpopular plans with math that doesn't even come close to adding up and refusing to answer questions about what his positions actually are what he would actually do as president. Much easier to say Romney was passionate and held his own and Obama looked like he didn't want to be there.

RKB : Don't think so. He just flat out won the debate. Carville said Obama didn't bring his 'A' game. I agree.

TMCB: Advantage Romney. Does this mean he now cares about the 47% and actually said anything truthful? Hardly. Does that even matter? Hardly. Sadly.

FM : Best line of the debate was Obama saying that being a leader is about "being able to say what you are going to do." Now that's a zinger!

11:03 pm : Gloria Borger and David Gergen. Okay, time to turn the channel. Borger may be the stupidest "neutral" commentator on TV. And Gergen, for all his success, is a remarkably shallow analyst. People thought Obama would win! He lost! We have a horse race! Are we to have no discussion whatsoever on what Romney actually said... and didn't say?

TMCB: Hilarious that the big takeaway from the debate is Romney's remark about Big Bird. It was really the only thing most viewers could understand I think.

11:08 pm : Well, that's it for us tonight. I'd like to thank my four wonderful colleagues for joining me tonight with their typically excellent commentary. For all my current frustration, it was a lot of fun.

And... we move on. We'll have some further thoughts on tonight's debate, as well as on so much else. Stay tuned for many more new posts from us tomorrow, and come visit us regularly for our ongoing extensive coverage of the campaign, both presidential and otherwise (Congress, state, etc.), as well as on various other political matters.

But let me close with a comment from one of our oldest and dearest friends, Creature -- our former associate editor and someone without whom this blog wouldn't be anywhere near where it is today. Creature, from State of the Day, retired from blogging last year, and is sorely missed.

Creature : I watched. It hurt to see the president not push back. Especially the $716 Medicare bit. Disappointed generally. I also hate this post-analysis because its all about style and not substance. I knew I should have tuned it out. 

11:26 pm : Yes, he does need to push back and be more aggressive, on Medicare as on so much else. As I said, he may not have been great today, but he was fine, and at times he looked very strong. But for the media, well, let's not rehash that. If it's style based on pre-conceived notions you're looking for, maybe Romney did "win." But that shows a complete lack of appreciation for substance, which, as we know, is oh-so-common at style-happy, drama-hungry outlets like CNN.

But hopefully this debate will provide the sort of recalibration we Obama supporters need so as not to take the race too lightly by assuming that it's already over. And hopefully the negative reviews will spur the president to do better not just in the debates to follow but throughout the rest of the campaign.

And thankfully, there really weren't any silly zingers.

Good night, everyone.

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