Commentary Magazine


Topic: debate

Live Tweeting the Presidential Debate

Tonight at Hofstra University President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will face off in their second debate before the November 6th election. The town-hall style of tonight’s debate in Long Island will give Americans the opportunity to directly address the candidates for the first time. Our editors will be on Twitter throughout the debate offering insights, quips, and observations. Follow our editors and contributors on Twitter here and look below for our five most recent tweets. To get our latest Twitter posts, update this page or go directly to our Twitter profile.

From @Commentary:

Tonight at Hofstra University President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will face off in their second debate before the November 6th election. The town-hall style of tonight’s debate in Long Island will give Americans the opportunity to directly address the candidates for the first time. Our editors will be on Twitter throughout the debate offering insights, quips, and observations. Follow our editors and contributors on Twitter here and look below for our five most recent tweets. To get our latest Twitter posts, update this page or go directly to our Twitter profile.

From @Commentary:

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Cracks Forming in Obama Campaign?

The Obama campaign has blamed the president’s poor debate performance on everything from Mitt Romney’s supposed “lies,” to Obama having an “off night.” So it’s no surprise the blame game is also taking place inside the campaign. NBC’s Chuck Todd reports on rumblings of a possible staff shakeup coming soon (h/t Ed Morrissey):

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The Obama campaign has blamed the president’s poor debate performance on everything from Mitt Romney’s supposed “lies,” to Obama having an “off night.” So it’s no surprise the blame game is also taking place inside the campaign. NBC’s Chuck Todd reports on rumblings of a possible staff shakeup coming soon (h/t Ed Morrissey):

The finger-pointing has already spilled out into the media, with sources saying the real problem was that he didn’t take the debate prep seriously. The Daily Mail’s article is the worst for the president yet, reporting that Obama didn’t realize he lost the debate until 24 hours later (which is at least better than the time he didn’t realize the 9/11/12 attack on a U.S. consulate was an act of terrorism until two weeks later):

When President Barack Obama stepped off the stage in Denver last week the 60 million Americans watching the debate against Mitt Romney already knew it had been a disaster for him.

But what nobody knew, until now, was that Obama believed he had actually won.

In an extraordinary insight into the events leading up to the 90 minute showdown which changed the face of the election, a Democrat close to the Obama campaign today reveals that the President also did not take his debate preparation seriously, ignored the advice of senior aides and ignored one-liners that had been prepared to wound Romney.

The Democrat said that Obama’s inner circle was dismayed at the ‘disaster’ and that he believed the central problem was that the President was so disdainful of Romney that he didn’t believe he needed to engage with him.

‘President Obama made it clear he wanted to be doing anything else – anything – but debate prep,’ the Democrat said. ‘He kept breaking off whenever he got the opportunity and never really focused on the event.

The article is so brutal for Obama and so sympathetic to his debate-prep staff that you wonder whether it was a pointed leak. If true, it’s difficult to imagine the president will be able to improve much between this debate and the next. As Jim Geraghty writes, “You can’t improve a debater who sees losses as wins.” Maybe Obama actually has shown more self-awareness in the last few days than the article indicates. But per Rich Lowry’s argument, if Obama actually believes his own messaging — that he lost because “Romney lied” — that won’t make his preparation for the next debate very effective.

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Big Bird, Small Campaign

The Obama campaign’s “Big Bird” attack line is being panned by the media as “goofy” and “small.” Politico’s Maggie Haberman writes:

The Obama campaign is out this morning with a goofy video of the Big Bird variety, mocking Mitt Romney, as the president has put it, as going easy on Wall Street but heavy on Sesame Street. …

And the president, as others have noted, and his team have been going fairly small at a moment when Romney is consistent in a message and pivoting toward going bigger (the foreign policy speech, more emotion on the trail, and so forth). And this video is the kind of small ball that Boston smacked over for months.

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The Obama campaign’s “Big Bird” attack line is being panned by the media as “goofy” and “small.” Politico’s Maggie Haberman writes:

The Obama campaign is out this morning with a goofy video of the Big Bird variety, mocking Mitt Romney, as the president has put it, as going easy on Wall Street but heavy on Sesame Street. …

And the president, as others have noted, and his team have been going fairly small at a moment when Romney is consistent in a message and pivoting toward going bigger (the foreign policy speech, more emotion on the trail, and so forth). And this video is the kind of small ball that Boston smacked over for months.

According to the Obama campaign, the ad is intended as a “parody” and it’s going to run during “comedy shows.” Somebody should stop the campaign staff before they embarrass themselves any further. The ad might be mildly amusing if it wasn’t such an obvious attempt to change the subject.

The Obama campaign’s normal reaction to good performances by Romney or Paul Ryan has been to attack them as liars, with help from friends in the media. That didn’t work this time around, probably because most people realize that if Romney was incessantly lying throughout the debate, Obama would have (or at least should have) called him out on it right there on stage.

The Obama campaign wasn’t able to discredit Romney as a liar, so it’s moved on to trying to discredit him as an object of ridicule. But the Big Bird meme is backfiring on Obama, making him seem focused on the trivial. As the Republican National Committee pointed out, Obama has mentioned Big Bird and Elmo 13 times on the campaign trail over the last few days. He’s mentioned the attack in Libya zero times. While the Obama campaign was joking around about Sesame Street, Romney was giving a major foreign-policy address that captured the news cycle yesterday.

People wondering why Obama’s debate performance was so dismal should look at the last few days. Has his post-debate defense been any better? When you have no good arguments, the only defense is ad hominen attacks; calling someone a liar, or an idiot, or a joke. Notice that’s all the Obama campaign has been doing since the debate.

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What Exactly Does Obama Like About Being President?

As John’s earlier post points out, there’s a revealing paragraph in today’s New York Times article on Obama’s dismal debate performance:

Mr. Obama does not like debates to begin with, aides have long said, viewing them as media-driven gamesmanship. He did not do all that well in 2008 but benefited from Senator John McCain’s grumpy performances. Mr. Obama made clear to advisers that he was not happy about debating Mr. Romney, whom he views with disdain. It was something to endure, rather than an opportunity, aides said

Notice that it’s Romney himself who Obama reportedly “views with disdain,” not Romney’s policies. Disdain is a harsh word, and in this instance it’s very personal. What exactly has Romney done to inspire such feelings in Obama? Clearly Romney does not feel the same way about his opponent (or is much better at hiding it).

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As John’s earlier post points out, there’s a revealing paragraph in today’s New York Times article on Obama’s dismal debate performance:

Mr. Obama does not like debates to begin with, aides have long said, viewing them as media-driven gamesmanship. He did not do all that well in 2008 but benefited from Senator John McCain’s grumpy performances. Mr. Obama made clear to advisers that he was not happy about debating Mr. Romney, whom he views with disdain. It was something to endure, rather than an opportunity, aides said

Notice that it’s Romney himself who Obama reportedly “views with disdain,” not Romney’s policies. Disdain is a harsh word, and in this instance it’s very personal. What exactly has Romney done to inspire such feelings in Obama? Clearly Romney does not feel the same way about his opponent (or is much better at hiding it).

According to the Times, Obama also deeply dislikes debates. It might be understandable if this was because he found them challenging and outside of his comfort zone. But that’s not what the Times reports. Obama apparently dislikes debates because he views them as “media-driven gamesmanship… something to endure, rather than an opportunity.” In other words, debates are below him. It’s not that he’s a weak debater, it’s that the debate format is too trivial for the likes of Barack Obama

This isn’t the first major aspect of the presidency (and campaigns) that Obama reportedly disdains. George W. Bush wasn’t a fantastic debater, but he was considered a great communicator in person. Obama, in contrast, doesn’t appear to enjoy personal interaction in general. He knocks debates as “gamesmanship,” but he also doesn’t like socializing. And as the New Yorker reported, he’s alienated major donors because he hasn’t been able to build relationships with them.

Obama’s interpersonal struggles have also caused him problems in the policy realm. He dislikes working with members of congress, and his disengagement from the legislative side of the political process has been criticized routinely by both Republicans and Democrats. The same goes for foreign policy. The New York Times reported that Obama’s difficulty dealing with the Arab Spring has stemmed from his “impatience with old-fashioned back-room diplomacy” and “failure to build close personal relationships with foreign leaders.”

According to Game Change author John Heilemann, Obama is one of those rare politicians who “don’t like people…[and] don’t like politics.”

If that’s the case, why is he running for reelection? The first time around, Obama could at least claim he was making the sacrifice because the country needed his brilliant leadership and phenomenal gifts so badly. But after four years, that’s far less believable. Honestly, it’s perplexing. Does Obama really want to be president, and if so, why?

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