My Take on the Second Presidential Debate


Out of the frying pan, perhaps, but into the fire?


Plainly, Barack Obama decided to attend tonight, and, on balance, although Mitt Romney had some genuinely excellent moments during the ninety minutes, I might be inclined to give Mr. Obama a slight edge in the debate (in terms of “winning” viewers over).  Which doesn’t please me.


However, I think the exchange on Libya went unexpectedly well for Mr. Obama, and that, in this, he was considerably aided by Candy Crowley’s timely intervention on his behalf — which was, as it happens, factually mistaken (as she herself virtually admits) and which was definitely inappropriate for a moderator.  She threw Mr. Romney off his stride, drew a rule-violating round of applause from the audience (for Mr. Obama, it seemed), and interfered with Mr. Romney’s comments on Libya — which is a topic very much in the news and not at all in the President’s favor.


I have a hunch, though, that her intervention will only breathe even more life into the current scandal over the murders in Benghazi and over the Obama administration’s ineptitude or dishonesty in giving an account of them.  People will be talking about Ms. Crowley’s misguided correction of Governor Romney — and the more they talk about it, the clearer it will be that the Governor was right in his claim, while the President was . . . um, wrong.


And I think this is important.  The Obama administration has been eager to portray itself as extremely effective, indeed on the very edge of definitive victory, against al-Qa‘ida, and has happily repeated over and over again the inspiring tale of how Mr. Obama essentially parachuted alone into Abbottabad, Pakistan, and singlehandedly took out ‘Usama b. Ladin.  The fact that our ambassador was killed in Benghazi, along with three other Americans, by a pre-planned and well-armed assault almost certainly run by al-Qa’ida conflicts starkly and dramatically with the administration’s campaign-season pretenses.  Hence the Obama campaign’s determined commitment to the myth of a phantom demonstration in Benghazi that, provoked by a silly and terrible little film that nobody had seen, simply got out of hand.



  • joe etheridge

    seems in the two debates, both Moderator’s have had a shadow of doubt cast upon them as to their actual neutrality in the event? by means of allowing the POTUS more time to speak & less interruptions during his time in both settings. seemingly, if Frank Luntz’s “undecided” voters group are any indication, the POTUS last night did himself lil to no favors and Crowley’s sympathy towards the POTUS if anything backfired on them??? also, as we saw the CBS “snap poll” soon after the debate was over, thus solidifying a recent support shift to Romney. given the Libya tragedy “can” now somewhat opened, and the debacle since of this Administration’s handling on how best to inform/disinform the public? the final debate has the makings of a series sweep of the Home Team by Team Romney……imho

    Camp Obama’s decision to go on the attack in the attempt to label Romney/Ryan as pathological liars after the first debate looks to have been poor choice?

    btw,,,,look forward to attending conference in Logan on the 29th!

    regards, joe

    • danpeterson

      It’s striking, I think, that Mr. Obama got slightly over three minutes more talking time last night than did Mr. Romney — the equivalent of one and a half additional answers-to-questions — and that both he and Mr. Biden apparently had more talking time than their opponents in the previous two debates.

      Moreover, I think it unquestionable that Ms. Crowley intervened only once last night with a “fact check” — and that she intervened on Mr. Obama’s behalf. Which aligns neatly with the moderator’s constant interruptions and cuttings-short of Mr. Ryan last week.

      I’m not whining, just observing. Some of us, when we saw the line-up of moderators for these debates, worried that we would get precisely what, in fact, we’ve gotten. I think that Martha Raddatz was an ideologically-obvious irritant in the vice presidential debate (Mr. Biden himself was far, far worse), but that, last night, Candy Crowley played an important, illegitimate, and, as it turns out, misguided role in the second Obama-Romney debate.

      I hope you’re right that the debate actually plays out in Governor Romney’s favor. I thought that he had a few brilliant segments in the encounter. None of the President’s answers were, in my view, brilliant — but he did reasonably well (in his assigned task of appealing to viewers), and, with Ms. Crowley’s assistance, he eluded well-deserved major trouble on Libya.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    Even if Crowley’s statement contradicting Romney about Obama’s statements had been true, she was totally out of line to argue with one of the candidates! The fact that she was WRONG, and was in fact contradicting some of her OWN prior on-air statements, demonstrates that her judgment was overcome by her inherent bias toward Obama, the law school classmate of her first husband who was a guest at her wedding.

    It was also clear she was on Obama’s side because whenever she tried to interrupt Obama on the basis of time, she gave up easily when he insisted on droning on, but she made an incessant racket against any overtime by Romney. The time imbalance is all the evidence we need.

    Obama’s statement was a blatant lie. Unfortunately, Romney is not skilled in pointing that out. He was never a courtroom litigator, but a business leader whose experience in discussions was not in emphasizing contradictions in the statements of his adversary, but in getting everyone’s opinions on the table to seek a common understanding. Even in the Republican primary debates, the arguments were more about individual abilities rather than significant policy disagreements. Romney should not have invited Obama to reply to him, giving him the last word on any particular issue. That is the first error that is taught in any class in litigation, that you don’t ask a hostile witness an open ended question because it gives the witness control of the answer. Controlling the narrative in an adversarial forum is all about talking only about your own worldview, and not inviting the adversary to intrude with a different set of assumptions, and thereby according him any credibility or authority. Let the other guy have his say, but don’t even look like you are endorsing his answer ahead of time. Some folks think that they can force the other guy to admit that he is stupid or wrong through an argument. Romney’ wasted time asking people to remember what Obama claimed, as if he had all the time in the world to present the contradictions, and that no one could remember what Obama said. In this day of Tivo, anyone really interested was recording the show and could go back to confirm what Obama said. That may happen in a business discussion among colleagues, but it is never going to happen in an adversarial forum. Trying to get the other guy to admit failure or mistake is a fool’s errand, especially someone with the ego of Obama.

    Romney should have blunted Obama’s attacks on him by opening with the statement “The president is here being judged by the American people. He cannot defend his four years in office, for it has been an obvious failure, and many of his other policy goals were never enacted, even though he had two solid years of Democrat control of Congress when anything he wanted could literally become law. He cannnot defend his failures, so he is going to attack ME. He is going to make this personal. Just remember, every time he does that, he is trying to throw out a red herring, to make you forget that he has been captain of the ship of state the last four years, and he has put us in these dire straits.

    One of the things that he is going to attack me about is the fact that I am wealthy. Let me say just one thing about it. I earned my wealth through my own hard work, and my leadershuip of other bright and hard working people. And 13 years ago I put the pursuit of additional wealth aside, and have been self-supporting, working for no salary as a public servant. The president is himself a millionaire, mostly through selling his two autobiographies, written before he was elected. But he did not earn that through hard work in a business. ”

    Romney’s team needs a nastier practice dummy.

    • Toryshane

      I agree that Romney is not a courtroom litigator and not as skilled in manipulating events. However I think this plays to Romney’s favor because most Americans dont like courtroom litigators. Romney did fail to really drive home the truth, but of course had fought that fight there he media would be talking about his rude behavior and rules violations. I dont know if he just lost steam or iof he realized the debate was rigged against him and so just let it end but this again plays to his advantage. The debate was basically over after the Libya moment and this paved the way for Candy’s on air admission that Romney was right. The “right in the main” doesn’t really mean anything, people just hear the right and move on. The fact that everyone is talking about Crowley’s actions, or questioned the accuracy of her fact checking Obama shows that this was defeat for Obama. After all no one in the media, even the left leaning media is talking about Obama’s policy or his plans or his successes. Even his one success of killing Bin Laden has lost all value when compared to the deaths at Benghazi.

  • Darren
  • jerry lynch

    There are a couple of things about what happened in Benghazi that will in all likelihood not be appreciated by all the commentors here. Libya had been training their personal to protect the consulant. In Diplomatic circles, not to accept their assurance that they could provide adequate security would have serious repercussions, as well can be imagined. When you add the 300 billion in cuts by Republicans to these troubled areas, making a decision not to send additional security wise and frugal. Wrong! as it turns out in hindsight.

    We need to fully investigate what happened but politicizing the incident is crass.

    As to the record, if you take the enormous amount of time to review the congressional record, which the organiztion I belong to is presently doing, you would come gradually to the conclusion that the Republicans in the House and Senate are in the employ of a foreign power bent on our destruction, that is how obstructionsists they have been. By no stretch of the imagination do I believe they are ACTUALLY in the employ of such a power, yet if the situation was reversed Palin, Bachman, West, and an endless parade of others would be making that a sincere accusation against Democrats.

    The ugliness is way, way out of balance. The Right has embarrassed themselves with their lies, deceptions, and mean-spirited attacks. Look at any of the fact-checking sites at the enormous amount of vicious lies about the president. If you can a tenth of such lies spread about Romney, I will buy you a new car.

    I feel confident that after this election, good sense will return to the Right and apologies will be forthcoming.

    • danpeterson

      LOL. We Republicans are eeeeeevil alright. If we would just roll over and pass everything the president proposes, we could prove ourselves patriots. But we didn’t even do it when he controlled both houses of Congress. We stopped him cold back then, too — using our mysterious Jedi mind tricks.

  • jerry lynch

    Oh, the Mormon Channel; I was wondering by the comments where I was. I loosely followed presidential election for forty years. I do not know how the blindness and ugliness compares to previous races but I am literally ill with what I hear coming from people of faith. Disgusting! Unfortunately, I am unfamiliar with whether Mormons accept and follow the NT or not. This is a point that does not matter that much since mainstream Christianity is taking a hiatus from Scripture in this election. What is it? The fear that smashed into the spirit of the nation on 9/11? Is it the fear in the growing pluralistic nature of the country? Is it the disatrous policies of Bush and the fear that came with the near collapse of America’s economy?

    Fear seems, without a doubt, what is driving most of the comments here and the regrettable actions and words of Believers against this president. Like atheletes in “the zone,” where their body-memory takes over their thinking, this fear appears to have taken over their faith. Billy Graham took down from his websites comments about Mormonism being a cult for a political agenda, not ecumenism. This move is not a welcoming hand to Latter Day Saints. Watch the reaction after the election, when Romney loses.

    What happened to an open-mind or to judge not lest you be judged or do not return evil for evil. If you guys believe any of that stuff, and if you believe that worldliness is the core of sinfulness, such as placing politics before any aspect of faith, then repent now and avoid the rush.

    • danpeterson

      Yes, Mormons believe in and try to follow the New Testament.

      But I fear that your theory that fear motivates everything that we who disagree with your political views do and think is not very charitable. (See 1 Corinthians 13.)

    • Mark Jasinski

      This is an odd statement…

      “Watch the reaction after the election, when Romney loses.”

      Would you elaborate, please?

  • Jason Covell

    I’m going to throw in my tuppence-worth, as a non-American of centre-left leanings, who obviously cannot vote and therefore does not advocate on behalf of either side.

    What I saw in this week’s debate, as previously, is two men who are both intelligent, both well-informed, and who both clearly love their country.

    I am happy for Americans that you have two such fine men to contend for your highest office. Either one will serve honourably; both are decent, family-loving men; and each will do his best to make good decisions to lead the country.

    I am not naive. I have worked in a political/governmental role for over 10 years, and I think I know something about the cut and thrust of politics. I also acknowledge that there are some significant differences in policy between the two candidates. But my experience teaches me that policies are shaped to fit the times much more than the other way around.

    Whatever the outcome, I am glad that you have two such fine candidates to choose from in November.

    • Amanda

      I’m glad it looks so nice from the outside looking in, but the details do matter. Not just the big picture.

      • danpeterson

        Well, we do have that. But Paypal takes a significant cut . . .

      • Jason Covell

        Certainly the details matter. But they matter a lot less than the fundamentals – which, as I have stated, are that the two candidates are good, capable, intelligent and honourable. Stepping back from the partisan rhetoric, and trying to get a little of the distance that will come with history, I believe that it matters that neither man is a crook, a sociopath, or an imbecile. Both are grounded, mature men.

        My statement is not intended to blur over distinctions, nor to argue that “they’re all the same”. Nor is my physical distance meant to stand for a lack of engagement or understanding. One of the marvels of the internet age is the ability I have, an ocean away (in Australia) to tap into most the same sources of information that you can access. My wife can attest to the fact that I am somewhat obsessed with following the minutiae of the US elections! And I frankly admit that if I were physically present in the US, it would be much harder to resist being swept up into the partisan fervour, one way or another.

        I simply believe that it is important, at this moment when partisan rhetoric is of necessity at its highest, to suggest softly that a non-partisan view can be presented. In a couple of months, and years, the passions of the moment will simmer down. In a decade or more, some of the loudest voices on either side will admit, that perhaps they might have gone too far in demonising the other side. And further still, the opinions of the ages will quietly rest like a sedimentary layer, no longer kicked up by the storms and skirmishes of the moment. It has happened with FDR and Truman, Eisenhower and Johnson. It has even happened a little with Nixon. I’m old enough to remember the constant dreadful things said about Reagan by his political foes – and now Democrats love to invoke his name approvingly. Even Bill Clinton has enjoyed an uptick in his reputation. It will happen, eventually, to George W. Bush. And, I am certain, to Barack Obama as well.