Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Elsewhere: Debates, Debates

I have two posts up at Plum Line today. The first was about how the debates don't matter to the horse race...truth is, by the time it went up this morning I'm really not sure it's necessary any more. There's been a fair amount of pretty good coverage about it all.

The second one, however, is about why the debates do matter: as rituals of democracy, for educating partisans, and for representation. So if you're looking for something to read before the debate and you've had it with hype debunking, you might want to click over for that one.

As I did during the nomination season debates, I'll be working the twitter machine during the big event, and then I'll be posting something elsewhere after it's over. If I have more, I'll wind up with something here later, but I don't really know whether that will happen or not. So in the meantime, feel free to use this one as a debate open thread. 

Now I just have to figure out how to follow the Red Sox and Yankees games without missing the debate. Fortunately, I think it's pretty safe to ignore the Giants game tonight -- as the broadcast team has been saying, either the game in Los Angeles or the split squad over in Surprise (yes, I love that gag). For what it's worth, my prediction for the debate is that it'll be very tame, with hardly any fireworks. But who knows? After the seasons that the A's and Orioles had this year, I have to believe that anything is possible. 


  1. Some of the people (or all of the people some of the time) will watch for the information on policy, some will be eager for "moments," their twitter-fingers twitching. But probably for most it's the general impression, based a little on everything(when they switch back from the ball game), that becomes most meaningful.

    Because there are lots of deciders and decisions: who do I vote for? Do I vote at all? Am I confident in who I am voting for? Am I voting for the winner? Etc. It should remind us that it's more than a game. There were people waking up today realizing that their Medicaid protection, should they need it, might be gone if Romney prevails.

    But yes, this is now a ritual. But it's 90 minutes of unscripted ritual, in which parts may be scripted but the whole is not. Improv.

  2. Well, that wasn't Obama's best debate, to be sure. But it seems like Romney's strategy was just to obscure and distort his way out of every issue. I seem to recall the media initially thinking Paul Ryan's convention speech had been a hit, then they realized that it was essentially a laundry list of lies, and the mendacity became the story instead. We'll see what happens in the spin war,

  3. I think Romney finally found crisp, coherent (if very dishonest) hooks in Obama especially on the economy. He was able to wriggle away when the problems of what he was proposing were pointed out. Obama did not engage Romney directly, seemed stuck to weak, boring canned answers, and let himself get mired in incomprehensible wonky details. Obama seemed to want to deliver abbreviated versions of his stump speech. It was a lousy performance and is going to provoke a downward slide that he won't be able to stop unt at least the next Pres debate. The VP debate could be brutal as Biden has seemed a little off his game this year.

    1. You know how badly this debate went for Obama? The recap currently up over at Fox News is, by the words' literal definitions, "fair and balanced".

      If Murdock, Ailes and the rest don't see any need to prop up the feeble Mitt Romney, he surely must have knocked it out of the park tonight.

  4. I'm sure no one cares, but...what blew me away was Romney's pre-fabricated observation that Obama wasted $90 B/year on Green Energy projects, with which money he could have hired 2 million new teachers. Amazing because Romney is supposed to be the business guy, supposed to know about how jobs are created and whatnot.

    Tried to imagine being a fly on the wall in the Romney war room as that talking point was being cooked. Imagined Romney ordering his peeps: "How much does Obama waste annually on green jobs?" and a loyal manservant replies "Well if you add this, that, the other, the other, the other, the other...$90 B" (eds note: ~10% of the alarming going deficit! Wow. Why then is Romney so pissed about Big Bird?)

    "$90 B, good," says Lord Mittens. "So how many teachers can we hire with that money?" Here a second loyal manservant pipes up. "I googled 'Teacher average salary' and found its somewhere in the range of $45 K/year. $90 B divided by $45,000 is 2 million new teachers". "2 million, wonderful!" thunders Lord Mittens. "I'll use that in the debate!" And so it was.

    My vignette ends with an observation: if you've ever actually hired someone like a teacher, someone that's a professional with a strong union behind them, you know that it costs you far more than their salary to hire them. You also have to pay their health care (~$10 grand). And probably a defined benefit pension contribution (another 10). Then there's insurance, other costs, other allocations, by the time all is included if the teacher makes $45 K it probably costs you up to $90 K. If you've ever hired anyone professionally, you know this.

    Within the parameters of Romney's prefab zinger at Obama's green energy indulgence, it would appear that Romney is unaware that hiring a teacher at a salary of $45 K/year actually costs the employer a lot more than $45 K/year.

    Has Romney ever actually hired anyone?


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