I give Obama about an 80 or 85 on his debate performance last night. It was a beauty to behold and left Romney sputtering and stammering at points.
I'd rank the president higher, but as always he left a lot of chips on the table when all was said and done.
Let's look at this question by question:
1) Mr. President, Governor Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?
Romney, as always, didn't answer the question. He and Obama were given two minutes each to answer each question, and by my count, Romney spent 1:40 of this answer sucking up to the audience and talking about how important an affordable college education was.
In the final 20 seconds (plus a few) he spoke about "creating jobs." Now, Obama's response was on point and answered the question: He spoke of opportunity, building the manufacturing base, education, repurposing all the money we've wasted on wars to rebuild America, and surprisingly, energy. This last might have deflated his very good points, but it also forestalled a Romney attack on gas prices.
Crowley followed up with What about those long term unemployed who need a job right now?
Romney mentioned his "five-point plan," which I'm led to believe involves curling his fingers and fisting Americans (especially women and particularly single women). And then he was stupid enough to draw attention to his comments about Detroit, and the wheels fell off the wagon:
And one thing that the president said, which I want to make sure that we understand, he said that I said we should take Detroit bankrupt. And that's right. My plan was to have the company go through bankruptcy like 7-Eleven did and Macy's and Continental Airlines and come out stronger.
And I know he keeps saying, you want to take Detroit bankrupt. Well, the president took Detroit bankrupt. You took General Motors bankrupt. You took Chrysler bankrupt. So when you say that I wanted to take the auto industry bankrupt, you actually did.
That opened the door for Obama to remind people that Romney wanted to close GM and probably never reopen them. He wanted to let private vulture capitalists like Bain funnel the funds through the bankruptcy, while Obama took the firms through the bankruptcy with government money and got paid back.
And Obama got in a dig at the one percent. Beautifully played.
2) Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it's not policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?
This is one question I think the president could have done better on: level with people. The president's role in setting gas prices is nearly non-existent, even less than what he can do about jobs. About all a president can do is suspend the federal taxes on gas and release some of the Strategic Reserve. Neither of which is called for right now.
Here's what I would have said: "No one understands what gas prices do to the family budget better than me. Each dollar a gallon goes up is $15 out of your pocket with the typical sedan. That's a lunch, or a movie. The fact is, there is very little a president can do currently to keep prices down. This is a free market issue and tahnk goodness we live in a nation where a President can't dictate the price you pay for a gallon of gas.
And when they're run up by speculation of the kind that firms like Bain Capital and other hedge funds and private equity firms indulge in, it's very frustrating. I would like to have legislation that gives me a little influence over the level of that speculation. (I haven't really thought what that would mean. Yet.)
Gas prices are a function of the demand of the entire world, not just the U.S. -- Obama made a great point about the artificially low prices in 2008 -- and we're going to have to live with increasing prices at the pump unless we do two things: we need to ensure that we have sufficient domestic production (here's where I'd talk about increasing gas leases in the first four years) and that we begin to develop affordable renewable energy to lower our demand. Lower demand means lower prices.
Here's where Romney really shot himself in the foot by swallowing the right wing talking points about gas and oil leases. Obama had the chance to explain about the non-use of those leases and Romney, sensing his error, tried to talk over him and failed.
Crowley followed up with the new norm question, which I sort of covered above. One note, though: Obama got in a devastating anecdote that will play well in Ohio about Romney standing in front of a coal plant in Massachussetts as governor and saying, "This plant kills."
Romney was right, but own it, dude. Also, Barack Obama is President of the United States. Don't tell him "I'm speaking, you'll get your turn." And Candy Crowley all but tells Romney to shut up.
3) Governor Romney, you have stated that if you're elected president, you would plan to reduce the tax rates for all the tax brackets and that you would work with the Congress to eliminate some deductions in order to make up for the loss in revenue...concerning (t)hese various deductions, the mortgage deductions, the charitable deductions, the child tax credit and also the education credits, which are important to me, because I have children in college. What would be your position on those things, which are important to the middle class?
Here, Romney starts talking about a "bucket of deductions". In essence (and what he should have said), he means he'll expand the standard deduction and eliminate most itemized deductions, while lowering tax rates 20%. He claims this will lower tax burdens, but I'm not convinced, particularly in high tax states like, say, Ohio, or Pennsylvania, or Virginia. My local taxes exceed $11,000. My property and school taxes would bump that over $15,000 easily. Even with a 20% reduction in taxes, I'd still pay more.
He says he'd cut taxes on bank interest and dividends for those under $200K a year. I can get behind that much, at least. But it doesn't address inequity in taxes from rich to poor.
Luckily, Obama noticed this as well:
Now, Governor Romney has a different philosophy. He was on 60 Minutes just two weeks ago and he was asked: Is it fair for somebody like you, making $20 million a year, to pay a lower tax rate than a nurse or a bus driver, somebody making $50,000 year? And he said, "Yes, I think that's fair." Not only that, he said, "I think that's what grows the economy."
Well, I fundamentally disagree with that. I think what grows the economy is when you get that tax credit that we put in place for your kids going to college. I think that grows the economy. I think what grows the economy is when we make sure small businesses are getting a tax credit for hiring veterans who fought for our country. That grows our economy.
You heard what I said about my tax plan. The top 5 percent will continue to pay 60 percent, as they do today. I'm not looking to cut taxes for wealthy people. I am looking to cut taxes for middle-income people.
Crowley's follow up -- If somehow when you get in there, there isn’t enough tax revenue coming in, if somehow the numbers don’t add up, would you be willing to look again at a 20 percent -- was cut off by Governor Romney, who then made an unforced blunder:
Well, of course they add up. I was — I was someone who ran businesses for 25 years and balanced the budget. I ran the Olympics and balanced the budget. I ran the — the state of Massachusetts as a governor, to the extent any governor does, and balanced the budget all four years.
The federal government bailed him out. So did the state of Utah and the city of Salt Lake. You didn't build that, Governor. And that even neglects the condescension Romney showed towards Crowley. He was sinking fast and knew it.
4) In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?
Do I need to say it? "Women in binders." End of discussion. Romney could have pulled a draw on this question if he hadn't mangled that sentiment so badly and in so doing, exposed his inhumanity. He could have said "countless resumes" or "an overwhelming number of candidates," but chose a businesslike metaphor, indicating this wasn't a moral choice for him to hire more women, but a calculated political one designed to curry favor.
Obama did all he had to here: Lilly Ledbetter.
Labels: 2012 election, 2012 presidential debates, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney