What an Unpleasant Debate

Not because I think it didn't go well, although it wasn't the walkaway stomping of the first debate. The tone was what made it unpleasant.

Still, the final arguments were convincing. Romney gave the best answer I've ever heard him give. Obama started off by saying something implausible ('I believe in free enterprise'... 'I don't believe that government creates jobs'), and went on to level a series of negative arguments designed to undermine what his opponent had just said.

Some other observations: Obama didn't answer the question on Libya at all. Apparently Mitt Romney was the only person on the stage or in the audience who knew the difference between an AK-47 and an "assault weapon." I couldn't understand why Romney didn't answer the outsourcing question by coming back to his energy policy -- you can't outsource North American oil production -- but maybe he felt he had landed all the blows he wanted to in the first part of the debate.

Anyway, we'll see what the independents thought soon enough. I imagine they will have been put off by the tone. If I was, surely they were also.


Joseph W. said...

I was confused when the moderator said AK's had "become legal" recently -- or else I misunderstood her completely. (The Wiki on legal status of AK-47's doesn't mention any development more recent than 2004, that being the expiration of the '94 "assault weapons" ban - and the big thing is that only the semi-auto's are lawful, which to my mind makes the AK per se not that interesting as a debate question...)

Yeah, I could do my own homework but 'round here I suspect there are people that know - did I mishear her statement? Am I missing something?

Joseph W. said...

There was going to be no escaping a nastier tone, I fear. The result of the first one guaranteed it.

Romney let an obvious opportunity to be nasty slip by - after Obama says "I will never ever ever play politics with national security," suggesting that he did so by announcing the OBL raid too early.

Grim said...

The sunset of the AWB is what she means, I'm sure. But the AWB didn't touch an actual AK-47, that is, the 1947 model Kalashnikov, which is a selective-fire assault rifle. The AWB only banned cosmetically similar semi-automatic weapons. Actual selective-fire weapons are regulated under the National Firearms Act, which has been on the books since FDR.

This was the biggest hanging curveball of the night: the opportunity to talk about Fast and Furious was something the moderator couldn't stand to let Romney finish.

E Hines said...

Yeah, Crowley did say "become legal;" Bret Baier of Fox News functionally corrected her in the post-debate analysis with the assault weapons ban expiry.

Crowley also screwed the pooch when she cut off Romney, after he'd gotten Obama to confirm that the latter had said "terrorist attack" in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, before Romney could ask what he was plainly setting up to ask, which was why, then, four days later, Obama sent Susan Rice onto the Sunday talk shows to bleat about YouTube video.

Some of that failure, though, falls on Romney; he was being too careful in the setup.

Eric Hines

Grim said...

Looks like Romney was credibly right about the transcript, actually.

E Hines said...

Yeah, but I'd have let that slide for the advantage offered.

Eric Hines

Texan99 said...

Crowley admitted she was wrong on the Libya lie a few minutes after the debate was over, but she wasn't even the biggest problem: Romney got the point all confused and didn't follow up on his advantage. The President did sound shifty with his refusal to answer the question and insistence on changing the subject.

I agree with Grim that the tone was unpleasant. I don't think Romney did himself any favors trying to pin the President down to answer questions -- asking twice is the limit. After that you're made the point that he won't answer. That's especially so if you don't really want an answer but just need to make a point, as was the case when Romney wanted to point out that the President's pension, like Romney's blind trust, contains overseas investments. It was extraordinary that the President tried to get away with poor-mouthing.

From the instant polls and focus group interviews, though, Romney seems to have done extremely well on the economy and with undecided voters. I wouldn't have guessed that. I would have said a draw. I wanted to hug two of the focus-group guys. One said he didn't think that Romney's personally paying more or less in taxes was of any important to him at all; he wanted employers in general to pay less taxes and get about the business of hiring more people. Another said the real problem was Bernanke's printing press, which was destroying the savings of everyone in the focus group room.

I was awfully surprised to hear the President wind up his remarks by claiming he was some kind of free enterprise enthusiast, but from his bizarre answer on gas prices, I suspect he simply has no idea what free enterprise means. I never heard such a pile of garbage in my life as his explanation for why gas prices at the pump have doubled during his administration. That mishmash was almost more startling than his outright lies about Libya and drilling permits.

bthun said...

The Luntz focus group was a pleasant surprise...

As far as garbage spewage, sheesh Tex, that's SOP for The Won. Lots of wind blowing with, strangely enough, no trees shaking.

E Hines said...

I suspect he simply has no idea what free enterprise means. I never heard such a pile of garbage in my life as his explanation for why gas prices at the pump have doubled during his administration.

This view of economics, though, has a long, venerable history. Recall FDR's imposition of farm price supports and labor price hard floors, followed by a "need" for food stamps because those price manipulations put food out of reach of even more people.

Romney plainly isn't a professional debater. I'd prefer future debates, whether "formal" or town hall type, to allow the participants to bring notes and written-down facts with them and to be allowed to consult those during their answers. The present formats (the town hall last night didn't even allow the notes at their chairs, beyond what they took in real time) are more tests of a contestant's ability to think on his feet. That's important, too, but I'd prefer more informed give and take. Who's actually informed and who's blowing smoke would become readily apparent, even to the partisans favoring their candidate.

I'm also pleasantly surprised, though I don't put much stock in instant reads. I agree with Charles Krauthammer, who scored it Obama on points in a close fight.

Eric Hines

Russ said...

You had better make that Obama / Crowley on points, Eric. It is hard to win in a fixed race.

douglas said...

This was the one that was like home court advantage for Obama, right? The town hall style favored him supposedly. So, given that and the last debate (with no help from the veep), I'd say Obama lost, because he didn't clearly win. Add to that we're all talking about Benghazi today, and probably for the next several days, maybe till the next debate, and it's a real loser for Obama. Romney did what he had to do, and I think set Obama up to have a bad week leading into the last debate, and did it well.

The reason some will say Obama won was that he seemed to have a little more control of the floor and himself (particularly compared to last time), but of course, having the moderator on your side helps. When the polls asked people who was better on (you name the subject)? they overwhelmingly chose Romney. Add in that after the last debate, I think people expected more of both candidates (for different reasons) and saw Obama as improved, but Romney not, so default - Obama win, but not really.

E Hines said...

...Obama as improved, but Romney not, so default - Obama win....

The Olympic Games school of scoring.

Eric Hines