Liveblogging The Obama-Romney Domestic Policy Debate!!

Here is tonight’s Presidential Debate. Under the video are my impressions as I live blogged them throughout the evening:

10:29 pm: Alright those are my streaming impressions. I don’t think there was a clear winner or loser. I think Romney did as well as he could except for being a bit too overeager and agitated in the first half. Came off way more human than he typically has. Emphasized ways he will allegedly meet the needs of those groups that Democrats are more likely to reach. Soft pedaled the Republican ideology and wrapped it up in as much nuance and with as many hat tips to left wing priorities and middle class needs as he could. I think Obama was mostly clear and concise, and typically unflappable. If there’s any knock on him it’s that he was boring in his familiar consistency. Little to learn about him at this point.

10:26 pm: Romney says both Democrats and Republicans love America. His message of the night continues, Democrats and their primary concerns are not all bad, he’s supposedly not a divisive extremist of a Republican, he is all sorts of interested in nuance.

10:22 pm: Ugh, another obnoxious pre-written condescending and nasty attempt at a zinger, talking about all the nice things the President is entitled to as President “but you’re not entitled to your own facts”.

10:20 pm: Only 11 minutes left and not a single question about gay rights, women’s rights, minority rights, the drug war, etc. Social justice completely ignored. Romney not put on the record at all on whether he will support the radically regressive Congress that wants to run on the economy and then govern in the vaginas.

10:18 pm: Romney much more confident in defending his (supposed) principles. Like Obama, and as all through the night, had his eye on first acknowledging what he’s normally attacked for. Much more nuanced than normal Republicans all night. Night and day from the primaries.

10:15 pm: Obama struggling to talk about positive role of government in a direct way that is not constantly hesitating and qualifying. Kind of a dud attempt to cite Lincoln as a somewhat random precedent. No real clear strong statement of vision or principle. A flop of an opportunity to stand up for liberal belief in the ability of government to do good and not just mess things up. Chastened completely by the backfire of loose “You Didn’t Build That” kind of riffing. Now overly cautious.

10:11 pm: Romney has a really really weak reply to why he is being so vague. He’s just not going to be an authoritarian executive who forces the legislature but works with them. Not a substitute for substance. Not proof that his “principles” are anything more than platitudes.

10:10 pm: Obama is very good on specifics of health care. Doing a great job of attacking Romney for constantly claiming he will keep the good parts of the laws he wants to repeal without explaining how he will do it without any of the apparent drawbacks.

10:07 pm: Romney spinning how Affordable Care Act allegedly differs from his own plan focused so implausibly on the claim that it was Obama’s refusal to be bipartisan when everyone should know the lack of bipartisan support was deliberate and politically based on the Republican side. Obama makes a great dig saying that the democratic legislature that worked bipartisanly with Romney would have been good role models for the Congress Obama’s had to deal with. Turned Romney’s boast about ability to generate bipartisanship into a pro-Democrats point. Nicely done. Obama gets another opening to tout the benefits of his health care. Romney finally came out with a couple negative sounding effects from Obama’s laws that were supposedly not part of his own. Best answer he’s given on that issue after a year of groping for an excuse for an a world class obvious flip flop.

10:00 pm: Obama much smoother and more personable in defying Lehrer. Good summary of the benefits of health care law. Made the pros sound like more central issues whereas Romney’s attacks sounded focused on less central issues.

9:55 pm:: Romney coming off as very nuanced and specific on Dodd-Frank. Again, doing a nice job of breaking from typical Republican lopsided emphasis on platitudes. Obama is the one talking much more all night in generalities and broad philosophy.

9:51 pm: Romney again affirms a principle he is charged with opposing too broadly. He starts out by granting the value of regulations when done well. Countering the absolutist one-sided rhetoric typical of Republicans. More clashing with Lehrer. But in some ways it is coming off as Mitt’s overeagerness due to excitement at ideas. Not all bad for him, I’m thinking. But still not a good impression.

9:47 pm: Romney alleging repeatedly that Obama takes $716 billion out of Medicare. Obama not addressing the charge or justifying it at all. Romney talking in weak terms about choice, takes a rare chance to say “looky, I’m willing to take away a benefit from rich people!” but does not really explain how this makes for either solvency or security.

9:45 pm: Romney won’t talk about his own voucher program for future retirees, will only stress that he’s not changing things for the current elderly. Leaving Obama to explain his plan for him. Looks embarrassing for Romney, letting Obama define his program for him while he helplessly grimaces.

9:42 pm: Obama stresses the fierce independence and boot strapping of his grandmother when talking about Medicare. Attacking hard the notion that those who receive “entitlements” are people who don’t take responsibility for their lives, a la the infamous Romney video. Also effective to talk about how Medicare preserves independence of elderly, the total opposite of making them dependents. Very nice framing.

9:37 pm: Romney is getting into lots of specifics but it’s unclear what they add up to. Attempt at a memorable line saying that in 25 years of business he has no idea what tax break there is for shipping jobs overseas.

9:29 pm: Obama continues throughout the night to talk about how he meets putatively conservative priorities like, in this case, cutting waste. Talking about moderation. Great jab to bring back the ridiculous pledge Romney made in Republican debate not to take $10 in spending cuts if they came with $1 raise in taxes.

9:25 pm: Romney gets unnecessarily combative with Lehrer over the debate rules. Comes off as domineering and petty. In general is commenting too much on issues like time and rules, a real sign of nervousness. He’s not very cool at all. He’s under a lot of pressure. Contributes to his ability to come off more empathetic as usual when it sounds like urgency to fix things. Pretty bad when it sounds like he is just generally anxious and desperate to be heard.

9:22 pm: Romney does a very good job of making it sound like the most people possible are negatively affected by Obama’s proposed small business tax rate, does a good job stressing how taxing from multiple sources add up.

9:19 pm: Obama talks about the roll back of Bush tax cuts wrapped in all sorts of economic pluses–emphasis on how well economy did under Clinton with those tax rates, practical effects of revenue raising. Will Romney be able to recast this as a tax increase and not a wonderful gift to the economy?

9:17 pm: Romney condescendingly compares Obama to his children just repeating falsehoods as though that will make them true. Sounds planned as a way to make the charge Obama’s lying memorable. And is a terrible idea.

9:16 pm:: Obama’s refrain is that Romney’s math doesn’t add up. Extra $5 trillion in deficits to give tax cuts at the top + increase military spending.

9:12 pm: Romney is affecting a lot of empathetic strain in his voice. A lot of urgency in how he’s talking about regular people’s struggles and the country’s macro level struggles. He’s really overcoming his stiffness. Had I never heard him before, I would think he was someone who regularly talked about the needs of that bottom 47%.

9:09 pm: Obama says the corporate tax rate is too high??

9:07 pm: Romney opens up very warmly towards the President, in keeping with his stated belief the available voters are those who like the President and voted for him last time. Says that he is not going to do a top down cut taxes on the rich approach? Trying to emphasize his “bottom up” approaches.

8:59 pm: The pre-debate commentary on the ABC/Yahoo/YouTube live stream was shamefully inane and vacuous.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • blotzphoto

    I’ve been a bit of a political junkie for a long time, yet I cannot for the life of me watch these things. Thanks for taking that bullet for me, I’ll be drinking Shiraz and watching Farscape. I’ll check the post mortems on the Daily Show tomorrow.

  • BobbyStruck

    Did Romney really just invoke the idea of “trickle-down” as if it were a discussion topic that would bolster his position?

  • Craig Morgan

    Romney does seem to do well when others put constraints on him. Must be used to being the boss in the board room.

  • BobbyStruck

    A particularly funny tweet:

    “I don’t always bash PBS, but when I do, I do it right in front of the moderator who works there.”

  • Craig Morgan

    Romney, bully.

  • Patrick RichardsFink

    I am very disappointed in Lehrer. He failed in his task as moderator.

    • Libby Anne

      What exactly is the moderator supposed to do, besides read off the questions? I’m genuinely curious. I’ve never really understood,

    • Patrick RichardsFink

      Enforce time limits, shut down off-topic meandering, and keep the conversation civil.

    • Libby Anne

      I just hope all of Romney’s breaking in and such will reflect badly on him. Especially what he did in the beginning, when he actually ARGUED with the moderator. :-/

  • Craig Morgan

    POTUS uses Romney’s success in MA (health care) as a club on him.

  • Craig Morgan

    POTUS uses Romney’s success in MA (health care) as a club on him.

  • Libby Anne

    I really hate watching these things…

  • Amyc

    This is pretty much how I felt about it, except I was a little more annoyed at all the times they tried to interrupt each other.

  • Bix

    This is not how I remember debates in high school. If you ran out of time they made you stop talking. And you got a finite number of rebuttals.

    • valleycat1

      I agree with Bix. They need to borrow an idea from the Oscars/Emmys & turn off the mike when their time is up. The candidates could see the time warning lights (briefly visible in a couple of shots of Lehrer), so they were well aware when they should have been wrapping up.

      Much as I liked Lehrer in the 2008 debate cycle, this year he really flopped as moderator. But then, both candidates were totally overbearing in deciding they could overrule him.

    • Bix

      Or go full Oscars style with a pit orchestra and a really belligerent conductor.