Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The New York Debate

My PP postdebate piece is about Libya, lazy mendacity, and the conservative information feedback loop. What I didn't realize when I wrote it is that Team Romney and conservatives in general are apparently hard at work trying to convince everyone that calling an attack "terror" is totally and completely different than calling it "terrorism."

Anyway, since I did a bit of substance over there, I'll stick to theater criticism over here. Romney, I thought, did just fine with the ordinary voters, and mostly gave a solid performance during most of the debate. His problem is that his campaign is almost completely absent of policy, and that can be hard to work around. I mean, every time he talks about his budget or tax policies he digs the hole deeper...as I've been tweeting, on the budget his policy appears to be that he's in favor of every single specific program but also for slashing spending, because spending is bad. But he delivered his tax and budget points confidently and sounded as if he was making sense.

As for Obama...he was there, he was at times very good. But lots of missed opportunities; three or four times he wound up unnecessarily on the defensive and talked about topics Romney was happy to stay on instead of shifting to the ground he wanted. Manufacturing jobs was one; he actually has a pretty decent story on that about accomplishments (or, to be more precise, good news he can take credit for) but followed Romney into China and stayed there for a long time for no obvious reason.

I'll probably write more about the substance tomorrow, but I'll say about the format and moderator first. I thought the questions were generally fine, except for the last one (asking the candidates to correct wrong impressions about them), which was used as a prompt for closing statements, so I suppose that's not so bad. No, they didn't cover everything, but they did get a fair amount of material covered. I think there's a perception that Obama was fairly lucky with the questions...my sense is that he had a nice run at one point, but I'd have to go back and check to see how it was overall.

As far as Candy Crowley, I thought she did an excellent job overall (including, don't forget, choosing questions). She let them alone quite a bit, but also moved them to new questions pretty forcefully, which worked out fine. Republicans are roasting her for her decision to fact-check-in-progress on Libya, and I think that's mostly correct -- but, you know, it's hard to feel sorry for Romney given that he was, in fact, wrong.

And that's about all I have right now. More tomorrow, no doubt.

5 comments:

  1. To your PP post, I think the Libya exchange may actually help Obama with a potentially-significant chunk of the undecided electorate. Well...who knows, right? There's a Heisenberg uncertainty principle issue with the persuadables, the more you analyze them, the more likely you are to have overthought their motivations.

    Sake of argument, let's say there's a bunch of undecideds who like Obama personally but still see him as too inexperienced for the managerial requirements of the job. When those folks think of good managers in their own lives, they probably envision people who were particularly proud of their fiefdoms, and at times, even a bit testy about their territory.

    Maybe it was just brilliant theater, but that's exactly how Obama came off in the Benghazi exchange. Maybe a closer observer like Andrew Sprung would say that happens all the time with Obama; for the casual watcher that might have been a first glimpse of Obama-as-effective-CEO. Really, quite a powerful image.

    To the extent that any of this stuff matters, says here that may well be a key factor in convincing persuadables to come to the President's side.

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  2. I thought Romney's opening was surprisingly weak -- one golden promise after another with no strategy provided in terms of how he would accomplish what he promised. He said he had a "5 point" plan but, despite being quite verbose, never gave a hint as to what those 5 points actually are. That made it easy for Obama to say Romney's plan only had "1 point" -- taking us back to the strategies that led to near-collapse of our economy. The President's criticism may or may not have been fair, but, it did very effectively highlight the emptiness of Romney's sales pitch. In that start Romney established himself as an empty suit, and, while he was much more effective later in attacking the President and his economic record, he never did make an effective argument for himself as an alternative.

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  3. What I didn't realize when I wrote it is that Team Romney and conservatives in general are apparently hard at work trying to convince everyone that calling an attack "terror" is totally and completely different than calling it "terrorism."

    But Romney didn't say that Obama didn't call it "terrorism." What Romney said was, "I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror."

    If there's a distinctive difference between "terrorism" and "act of terror," Team Romney needs to take that up with its candidate.

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  4. It's interesting that your first mention of the Libya attack is to say Romney lied.

    #ironicmendacity

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  5. So, let me get this straight. Obama clearly called the act terrorism...but then he, his Ambassador, and his Press Secretary spent two weeks telling us they had to wait for an investigation to finish and didn't want to call it terrorism before all the facts were in.

    Those two things are mutually exclusive, guy. It's literally impossible for all the defenses offered up on Libya to be true at the same time.

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