Local Blogs

By Tom Cushing

Debate 2 Recap: the Rumpus on the Campus, or The Brawl at Town Hall

Uploaded: Oct 19, 2012

Here are some miscellaneous impressions from the rancorous second presidential debate at Hofstra U. this week. I suspect that you may want to add a few of your own.

1 -- It was remarkable how timid the commentators were in their post-debate analysis – as if the herd needed to be given some clear direction before knowing in which direction they should stampede. Actually, there was a similar snouts-in-the-wind phenomenon after the first edition, with tentative indications of a Romney victory morphing into an eventual heaping pile of scorn for the President's tepid performance. This time, only Fox was decisive in its immediate conclusions – their unanimous dismay over the Moderator, the questions, the time allocations, etc., sent the clearest early message we got: when the fans spend all their time complaining about the umpire, you know their team lost. That said, the 'me-too' inclination of the current crop of media mavens is discouraging, in general.

2 -- To end all the bickering about time and order, the Moderator should be armed with a microphone kill-switch. All she'd have to do is show it to the candidates when they whined, and they'd desist, immediately. Who could imagine either of these alpha dogs risking such emasculation, even or especially at the hands of a woman-in-charge?

3 – I thought Mr. Obama gave far better than he got. I do not think he is wired for this kind of combat – his no-drama style is intent more on problem-solving. But he roused himself to this occasion and came across as firm, confident and in-charge. He even turned the cringe-worthy Libya situation to his favor, albeit with an assist from his opponent (BTW, I'm convinced that the Mod's confirmation of his Rose Garden statement was her payback to Mr. Romney for his verbal and gestural bullying, earlier in the session – good for her). Mr. Romney appeared truculent, by contrast.

4 -- The whole women-in-binders segment was remarkable, in several ways beyond the condescending phraseology. First, if true and as NPR pointed out, Romney's description constituted a remarkably clear endorsement of voluntary Affirmative Action. Who knew that he was a champion of such a liberal policy, anathema to his base? Perhaps they can take comfort in the fact that he actually did no such thing – those famous binders were compiled by an advocacy group in-advance of the election, and handed to him, unbidden, when he assumed office.

5 – Thus, we are presented with another example of the candidate's unfortunate practice of never letting the truth get in the way of a self-aggrandizing story. Did he think no one would check? And was he unaware of the follow-on fact that those women also left his Administration in droves, that he ended his term with fewer women advisors than his predecessor? His braggadocio did finally convince somebody to examine the halcyon mythology he has woven about his one-term service in Massachusetts. Query: where has the Obama campaign been on that subject, and did the Fifth Estate really need that kind of broad hint to go looking?

6 – Back on the media, it is dismaying to me that a candidate who has studiously dodged specifics at every turn, can continue to get away with it. Mr. Romney said – fully five times – "and I know how to do it." Really? Will nobody dissect the yawning chasm in job descriptions between the relative ease and great position authority of running a middle-sized business with the challenges of leading a fractious, multi-trillion-dollar nation in dire times? He keeps making this fundamentally false equivalence because "Trust Me" is easier, and seems to be working. The best argument against the so-called media bias is that, if they really were intent on his destruction, it would be impossible for them to be so uninspired and incompetent in pursuing it.

7 – As one more specific example of the above, it is blindingly obvious that the Romney-Ryan recovery plan is no plan at all, but a series of hoped-for outcomes, unattached to any real-world arithmetic. The candidate acknowledged as much in a lesser-quoted passage of his Boca Raton confessional. Has our education system so failed us, are we so bad at math, that this point eludes us? Has the tax code become so byzantine and dense that we'll believe just anything said about it? It is said that there was really only one business media analyst who swam against the Enron tide when it was high – everybody else was content to ride the wave, until it crashed on the rocks. Your country needs you, Madame Analyst.

Now it's your turn.