They say that 50 million people watched tonight as the first Presidential Debate of 2012 was broadcast out of Denver. I was one of those watchers, because that’s what I do. It was entertaining, in an incredibly boring sort of way, but not as much as the Survivor episode that followed for us folks out West.
But that was to be expected. In a championship boxing match, the first few rounds seldom offer much drama, and this evening’s confrontation was somewhat like those early rounds of a fight – a few jab attacks, a lot of good defense, much bobbing and weaving.
In the end there was no decision, because the match isn’t over. Two more of these events loom in the coming weeks, and they offer some hope of providing better entertainment than tonight’s performance.
Because performance art is what political debates are mostly about, and always have been. Only about ten percent of actual voters remain undecided by the time presidential debates come around; those folks might be swayed by hearing the candidates speak, but most voters became emotionally committed to their choice long ago.
So We the People gathered in front of our screens and rooted for our favorite, like we do whenever there’s a Big Game being televised. There’s probably less drinking by spectators during the debates than during a football game, but I had large glass of wine myself. I find that it helps me keep the proper perspective on these things. That’s important – I once threw a beer bottle through a TV on the back porch of a house up in the Rockies because Nixon’s face was being shown on the screen while he was lying to the world.
President Obama and former governor Romney both stretched the truth at times, and often gave facts with a favorable spin. Romney told one big lie, or maybe two. The general pack of media pundits will be split; some offering praise to both men for being almost honest while others shout indignation over both men’s blatant distortions.
Romney’s big lie was about tax deductions used by corporations that ship American jobs overseas. He claimed to not know what the President was talking about, that no tax deductions exist for outsourcing jobs. The only technical truth about Romney’s statement was the use of the word “deduction.” There’s no line item on a tax form that allows a corporation to reduce its taxes directly, but the tax code can be manipulated in ways that result in a lower tax liability by closing down a business here at home and moving it offshore. That’s a process Romney is intimately familiar with.
His other bold lie was about energy production on federal land. He first agreed that domestic oil production had increased in the past four years, especially on private land, but claimed that it had occurred despite the Obama administration’s policies. Then he dropped the lie – that oil production under federal leases had dropped by half because of Obama.
The truth, according to a March 2012 report prepared by the Congressional Research Service: “Oil production fluctuated widely in the past five years, thus giving different results when comparing years. On federal lands, there was an increase in production from 2008-2009 and another increase in 2010 (258,000 barrels/day), then a decline in 2011. Overall, oil production on federal lands is up slightly in 2011 when compared to 2007.”
And now, in looking over my notes from earlier, I see there was also one ridiculous lie – Romney dredged up the loony vision of panels with 15 government appointed bureaucrats micromanaging whatever procedures your doctor thinks are necessary to treat your ailments. That one got Obama a little riled up, it seemed. His face got that look of someone who wants to reach out and slap someone else right upside the head. But he tried to stay cool and presidential, which is the most important thing in these televised mini-dramas.
Romney has always seemed a little too eager, too ambitious. He really wants the title of President, and it usually shows in his demeanor. Some of that showed through tonight, as he got a little rude and interruptive with the show’s host,of PBS, at times.
In the end, Romney generally performed well. He attacked a bit more than Obama, which is what his loyal camp followers wanted, and he stayed on message. I think he’s given his best shot, however, and will slip a bit in the coming debates. Obama probably didn’t gain or lose any voters tonight, but I expect he’ll finish stronger and win over most of the undecided vote.
Because the only way to oust a sitting president is to offer a candidate the public likes a whole lot more.bounced out of the White House because Carter was boring while Reagan showed a warm and homey personality on television. It was Bill Clinton’s charm and charisma that cost his office after just one term. Policy differences between the two were secondary; Bush was a bit doofy while Clinton was kinda cool. The cooler of the two main contenders wins every time, especially in modern America; John Kennedy over and over are two obvious examples.
Obama only has about a 50 percent approval rating, but he’s far more likeable than Romney and hides his hypocrisy much better. So he probably wins re-election, unless some high drama of epic proportions unfolds between now and November. But the match isn’t over yet, so I’ll probably watch the next rounds and hope that things get more interesting. Not that I’ll be swayed by what either fellow has to say – I’m voting Libertarian, probably, or Justice or Green. I like all of those so-called “third-party” candidates, and I’ll vote for anyone but a Democrat or Republican when offered a choice.