Didn’t See the Debate

Didn’t See the Debate October 3, 2012

But I must say that for sheer entertainment value, reading the transcript of Andrew Sullivan’s complete hysterical meltdown at Obama’s terrible performance certainly makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. When somebody who is as huge a sycophant of Obama as Sullivan says it was unmitigated disaster, you know it was a train wreck. If only, in addition to Obama losing, Romney could lose as well. Then everything would be perfect.

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  • Charles E Flynn

    There was a lot of presidential pouting. Every commentator on NBC took the trouble to preserve both his or her career and credibility by conceding that Obama won the debate, even if one does not agree with him.

    • Mark Shea

      NBC gave it to Obama? Really?

      • Michael F.

        No – all of the networks I saw (ABC, CBS and NBC) gave it to Romney. I think Charles accidentally typed “Obama” when he meant “Romney”.

    • Calling Obama the clear winner tonight is certainly stretching it.

  • If only, in addition to Obama losing, Romney could lose as well.

    Doesn’t look like an option at this point. It will be one, or the other. Tonight it wasn’t *that* bad for Obama, I think it’s more that Romney looked better than the majority of pundits (on both sides) thought he would, and Obama looked about like Obama usually looks once the teleprompters have been removed and he’s subject to any form of confrontation. So it really wasn’t that bad, pretty much a draw as I saw it. No real surprises, no zinger moments. Just a debate.

    • Michael F.

      When even Chris Matthews is going bonkers and saying that Romney won, then Romney won. And as far as big moments/zingers, I thought this one qualified:

      You can see the video here:

      I’ve watched all the presidential debates since Ford/Carter in ’76 and I thought this was the most substantive debate by far.

      • Yes, I think it was substantive. I think, in looking twice, it’s not so much that ‘wow! Romney did great!’, as much as the hype was thrown upside down.

        First, everyone painted Romney as near hopeless. Hopefully Romney wouldn’t get up and crap on the floor. Doing well was out of the question. Well, he didn’t crap on the floor. Love him, hate him, believe Satan worships him, but he had his facts and he presented them with an air of confidence, got in Obama’s face, and yet did so with respect (Mr. President), and even politeness (congrats on their wedding anniversary).

        Obama, who everyone says is the greatest speaker since Jesus, but who I have never seen as that wonderful once the script is taken away, did what Obama usually does. For me, it’s just realizing that the emperor is actually naked. This is how Obama often acts, particularly when forced to think on the fly, or pressed (the few times it happens) by someone about his presidency.

        So while everyone is saying Romney won, I think it’s really that both men were closer to what folks should have expected, rather than the caricatures everyone in the media seem to believe.

        • When the hype is thrown upside down, the candidate who benefits is called the winner. A major plot point for the GOP for the past few weeks has been to fight this pro-Obama hype in order to stop a bandwagon effect building among low information voters. Romney stopped it cold last night by making it too embarrassing for professional talking heads to continue the pro-Obama hype. That’s a major win.

      • I really loved how Chris Matthews recommends Obama watch Hardball so he will know what to say. Too beautiful!

      • c matt

        Chris Matthews’ reaction sent a tingle up my leg.

    • When one candidate is obviously winning, the certified party hacks for the losing side will call it a draw to benefit their candidate as much as they can. You might not want to be in that company.

  • BTW, I thought I read somewhere recently where Andrew Sullivan considers himself a conservative Republican, or Republican, a Conservative, or something along those lines. Is that true, or did I read wrong, or was what I read wrong?

    • The Deuce

      During the Iraq invasion, he was the most pro-Bush, pro-war Republican on the planet. The guy is a histrionic whirlwind of mindless emotion, who veers wildly to the most extreme end of whatever cause he decides to adopt at a given time.

      • Scott W.

        Indeed. It reminds my of Thomas More rebuking Roper in A Man for All Seasons:

        “Two years ago you were a passionate churchman. Now you are a passionate Lutheran
        We must just pray that when your head’s finished turning your face is to the front again!”

        • CJ

          Ha! Perfect, especially since I just watched it again this weekend.

  • It wasn’t an unmitagated disaster for Obama it was a Mittigated one.

    • Mark Shea

      Ba dum bum.

      • CJ

        That was downright Shea-vian. Is Jeff one of your kids?

    • kmk

      hahaaha! Thanks, I needed that!

  • Charles E Flynn

    Sorry, that should have been “Romney won the debate”.

    • Mark Shea


  • Charles E Flynn

    I have clearly been spoiled by computer tech support forums that allow a window of opportunity for fixing errors, typographic and otherwise.

  • Noah D

    If only, in addition to Obama losing, Romney could lose as well.

    Maybe every single ballot in the US, from POTUS to Assistant Deputy Dogcatcher’s Assistant, should have a ‘none of the above’ box for every office. If it wins, then the parties have to go back and try again…with different candidates.

    (This probably won’t work, and has horribly exploitable loopholes, and would be subject to the harshest implementation of the Law of Unintended Consequences…but I still want to be able to clearly, actively say, ‘No’ to all the candidates.)

    • Or we could just vote “Present.”
      (Hey, c’mon, it worked for Obama!)

      • That’s called a blank ballot and used to be an option until Florida 2000 when the Dems started counting predominantly Dem ballots but unclear/blank for the presidency as Gore votes.

    • Blog Goliard

      John Fund wrote a good column on this a couple weeks ago:


    • Deacon Nathan Allen

      The problem is, you really aren’t voting for a President and Vice President. You’re voting for a slate of electors, real people whose names you don’t know but who are pledged to vote for a particular ticket. You’d need some sort of predetermined way to determine who the “none of the above” electors are, who would then be pledged to vote for a real person for each of the two offices. One thought that occurs to me would be each retired justice of the State Supreme Court, in order of most recently retired, would be one of these electors in the event that “none of the above” won. You would therefore have respectable folks with a reputation for neutrality (which is what the Framers intended in the first place) bound by law to vote for someone other than the two tickets. If enough States did this, you’d have the election thrown into the House, where presumably one of the two candidates would still prevail, but it would scare the major parties, and it would make for good political theatre. I love it!

      • jolly

        Having retired judges selecting Presidents of the United States scares the hell out of me. Respectable folks and having a reputation for neutrality as judges may be what the Founders intended, but that was then, this is now and the judiciary has far too much power as it is already.

  • Thank you for reaffirming the notion that I can be Catholic and dislike both major candidates. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

  • JDH

    Just as a matter of giving credit where it’s due, and recognizing when a candidate does something we say they should do, Romney did work in a pretty strong statement on religious liberty, in a debate where he wasn’t asked about the topic and no one would have noticed if he didn’t. He should be encouraged to do much more of that, and actually make some specific commitments as to what he’d do, like wipe out the HHS mandate on Day 1.

    Earlier in the year, I was planning to vote for Romney due to religious liberty issues and the hope that his Supreme Court picks would be at least a little better than Obama’s on abortion. Then, I got frustrated with his sister’s comments about abortion, and Mrs. Romney’s dismissal of religious liberty issues in an interview. That caused me to seriously consider a third-party/independent candidate. But, if he is willing to make the case and actually go out on a limb to take something of a stand on religious liberty and specifically in opposition to the HHS mandate, I am inclined to give him my vote.

    That decision is made a little easier after researching the other candidates who have qualified for the ballot or as write-in’s in my state. Um, yeah. By the way, there seem to be a lot of serious Catholics on the interwebs who are voting for Gary Johnson. Since he is, according to his campaign website, openly in favor of legal abortion and same sex “marriage,” how exactly is that a more principled vote than Romney?

    • JDH

      By the way, I’m not trying to start a debate about who we should all vote for. I’m just throwing that in the mix because it relates to tonight’s debate, the subject of Mark’s post. And, the Gary Johnson thing is a serious question.

      • ChrisKABA

        Gary Johnson isn’t any better than Obamney.

        And such stunts as trying to “work in” cute little selling points that don’t answer the question at hand is the normal nonsense in Political debates. All the question dodging, topic changing, straw men, misdirection, and logical fallacies would get both of them kicked off the worst high school debate team that existed.

        • Did you see the same debate I did? Even skeptics are admitting that, as presidential debates go, the two did a pretty good job at answering the questions with substance, given the usual ‘explain in two minutes’ restrictions. And trying to inject something he may believe in, when it, like many topics, wasn’t brought up, may have been trying to inject something he may believe in.

        • JDH

          I think the question was basically “In the context of the role of government, how are you different than your opponent?” So, bringing up religious liberty certainly was responsive to the question, though like I said, he could have talked about other things and no one would have noticed it’s absence.

  • It is for an evening such as this that our nation’s greatest engineers have toiled selflessly to invent fail boats and lollercopters.

    • ivan_the_mad

      I love this comment so much.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    I only know that in a room of 4 black people, only one of which knows me at all, all 4 went on at length about how Romney obviously won. Then they asked my opinion…

    “I didn’t have to see it to know, regardless of the winner, we all are the losers.”

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    Dave G,

    He was a student and admirer of Michael Oakshotte. That is his basis for calling himself conservative. It seems like a much stronger basis than having the right politics.

  • So I watched for the sheer sport like watching the Super Bowl when your team isn’t in it. It was really fun and Mitt came across like a human! What I really liked is that they kept breaking the agreed upon rules of the debate thus causing Jim’s head to almost explode. Would have been way more fun if neither would win POTUS.

    • Mark Shea

      Mitt came across like a human!

      It says something about the guy that people mark that down as a triumph for him.

      • His normal pattern is to be private about his personal life, his feelings, and that doesn’t always come across well in the modern political world. That’s not necessarily saying anything bad about him though. Bill Clinton comes across excellently on all of the metrics that Romney does poorly on. That’s no recommendation.

  • Elaine S.

    I listened to the debate (audio stream on computer) but didn’t WATCH it because I had other stuff to do. But based just on what they said, Romney was the clear winner. Loved his line about how the yardstick for judging the value of federal programs will be “is it worth borrowing money from China to pay for this?” — that pretty much sums up the fine fiscal mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. And yes, I noticed the shout out to the cause of religious liberty toward the end.

  • Well, I spent the evening in a quiet room with a glass of Bulleit rye whiskey and a Terry Pratchett novel.

    So I have to say that *I* won the debate last night.

    My wife did watch it. Not being a pundit, she didn’t have to declare a winner, but she did say Romney did much, much better than she had expected.

    A thing being received according to the mode of the receiver, I suspect watching the debate is a vastly different experience for the hyperpoliticized than for the majority of viewers.

    • ivan_the_mad

      Bulleit rye and Pratchett? Excellent taste. Bluecoat gin and Robert Jordan over here.

      “A thing being received according to the mode of the receiver” Good observation. It also explains why some think the bad argument “if it weren’t for the third-party candidate you’d vote for Romney” works.

      • beccolina

        I declare you both winners then. I crocheted boots for a doll and watched my favorite cooking shows.

    • Blog Goliard

      I had a few drops of Bulleit bourbon left and drank it last night…but in front of the television, as I did watch the debate.

      Much more substantive than the average such exercise. I think Jim Lehrer completely losing control actually helped in this regard more than it hurt.

  • Andy, Bad Person

    I’m a New England Patriots fan, and I think one of the team’s biggest problems in recent years hasn’t been their coach; it’s been the fact that the coach has no one around him that challenges him. No one who tells him “that’s a bad idea.”

    I think that’s exactly the problem Obama is facing right now. He hasn’t fielded an honest question from the media in anything that resembles recent memory, and he’s surrounded by sycophants who can’t tell him “no.”

    Whether his policies and ideas are good or not are irrelevant when you look at that formula. The reality is that he hasn’t had to defend himself or his policies, ever. When Romney got right at the problems, he had no idea how to respond. It’s like he’s never even heard criticism before.

    • The President is responsible for picking the team around him. If Obama has surrounded himself with yes men, that’s an indictment of Obama.

      • Andy, Bad Person

        Oh, of course it is. I’m not using this to give Obama an excuse; I’m just pointing out what I see as the reason for why he can’t defend himself against criticism.

    • Rosemarie


      Exactly. The “kid gloves” treatment he’s been getting from the media and talk show hosts has now come back to bite him. They coddled him because they didn’t want to make him look bad, but that coddling made him soft so now he looks bad anyway.

      He probably hasn’t heard the criticism before. He, and his whole administration, may share the general Liberal assumption that Conservatives are stupid. So why bother listening to their “stupidity”? Therefore he doesn’t hear from the other side and so is not prepared to answer Conservative challenges to his ideas and policies. Though he may just brush up on them after this sound drubbing; there are two more presidential debates, after all.

    • I think it’s more than the yes men around him. I think it’s the media that has for four years simply given him a blank check. I mean, think about it. We have attacks on our embassies around the world, we have people dying, we have four Americans murdered on 9/11 anniversary, and the media decides to spend the bulk of its time doing what? Continuing to either 1. carry on the narrative that it was only ever about a movie, or 2. go after Mitt Romney! To me, the ones to blame for Obama’s performance, at least partly to blame, are those in the media who have done nothing than sing praises to Obama for four years. My oldest boy said it was like Rocky in Rocky III – Obama was Rocky surrounded by cheerleaders and bands with bubbles floating around, Romney was Mr. T., in a warehouse bloodying his hands, getting ready for the fight. I think he’s right.

    • You lost me at “I’m a New England Patriots fan.”

      • Andy, Bad Person

        That’s why I go by “Bad Person,” after all.

  • William

    In last night’s debate, Romney did something that the press has refused to do in four years…He challenged the President.

  • thomas tucker

    Dude, if you’re gonna be talking about whether or not to vote for one, or neither, of these guys, then you should be watching the debates. Just sayin’.

    • ivan_the_mad

      Maybe some just don’t want to invest the time. It can be much quicker to read the transcript the next day.

      • Reading a transcript from a debate is liking reading the screenplay of a movie. You can get some interesting tidbits, but you can also miss quite a bit as well. I must admit, I sort of thought what Mr. Tucker said, but didn’t say it. There’s no problem with not investing 24/7 in something, but when a particular topic has come to dominate what you’re speaking to, and then to turn around and miss a chance to hear from horses’ mouths to verify (or not) what was imagined, without relying on this edited piece or that edited part, is a bit questionable. Especially if it’s not the first part of the whole process that has been ignored.

        • ivan_the_mad

          “Reading a transcript from a debate is liking reading the screenplay of a movie.” Certainly it’s not the same experience. But if you’ve decided that you’re not voting for that candidate and/or you know their platform, what’s the point?

          Before anyone responds with something along the lines of “You need to listen to educate yourself / form an honest opinion”, let me ask, did you listen to Democracy Now’s (I know, ritually impure) broadcast wherein they provided equal time for Stein and Anderson to respond? I mean, if it’s so important to listen to presidential candidates …

          • Nope. And if I was commenting on them, I would think twice of plowing forward until I did so. As it is, I’m not. They don’t have a ghost of a chance this time around, so that argument is through as far as I’m concerned. It might be, in the next election cycle, something to concern myself with. Just like I have paid attention to various individuals over the years during primary season to see what they are about and hear what they have to say, even if they weren’t the two chosen by the major parties. But sure, if I was going to post extensively on why rejecting Stein or Anderson was the best way I felt I should go, I would want to pay attention to them, including listening to any debates or appropriate functions, before commenting.

            • ivan_the_mad

              That’s fair enough. But I for one don’t consider a debate particularly informative, I find the platform sufficient. I will continue to disagree that you can’t speak out strongly against a candidate without watching them in a debate, but all sorts etc.

              • Oh, I agree. Though I must admit, while I’ve never been a fan of the entire debate format for Presidential Elections, last night was better than most. That’s not saying much of course, but it was better. I just think to emphasis a particular topic as much as this is emphasized here, with obvious statements about what should or shouldn’t’ be done, should carry with it some involvement with the process, if for no other reason, than to say ‘there, that’s why I say what I say.’

  • thomas tucker

    Why would you decide you that you’re not voting for them and you know all about them and their platform before watching the debates?
    Regarding Stein and Anderson- I haven’t listened to the candidate on his soapbox down at the corner by the courthouse either. The contest is between Romney and Obama. Rightly or wrongly, that’s the way it is.

  • Dr. Sam

    It is so easy to conclude that Obama lost in the last debate or for Obama’s antagonists to claim that he can’t debate. Sen. McCain cautions against such assumptions, saying Obama should not be under-estimated by his opponent. Let us recall that Obama did quite well in many debates as he sought the Presidency in 2007-2008. Now, here is my take on Obama’s debate encounter with Romney on September 3, 2012:
    As it unfolded, I, like almost everyone else, was puzzled, frustrated, even angry about Obama’s performance. Upon further reflection long after the event, I have come to the following conclusions:
    1. At that debate, Obama was feeling his opponent out, trying to draw him out knowing there are future debates. That partly explains Obama’s smiles and smirks as the debate went on. So, he let Romney exhaust himself on his main arguments, talking points and spins, some would say on his many prevarications, about-faces and falsehoods. He made these statements before a huge national. He can’t retract or correct them in future without losing credibility—and, by pundits’ count, Romney made about 28 mendacious statements that night. He has already tried to correct one—that his own health care law in Mass. has a provision for pre-existing condition.
    2. Therefore, since the debate, Obama has gone on the offensives debunking or making fun of Romney’s false and misleading assertions. Expect him to do so even more aggressively in the second debate! He would be hammering Romney on his false logic, bad math and deliberate lies, though he may not outrightly call them “lies.”
    3. At the debate, Obama revealed little of himself. So Romney has little to work on. At the debate, Romney was out to prove himself and reverse a bad trend. Obama simply watched—at the end he said ominously that he “enjoyed it.” Obama did not even get into Romney’s disastrous 47% comments. Thus, he denied Romney the opportunity to pedal back before a national audience.
    4. Having set Romney up, Obama would be ready for the kill in the next encounter! He knows and can anticipate Romney’s well-rehearsed answers. Obama will do his home work on all of those. Romney can’t on Obama’s; he doesn’t know.
    5. The final debate on foreign policy is uniquely Obama’s territory. Romney know little that is meaningful here except what former Bush aids would feed him. But Bush is toxic for this election season. Here, Romney would receive his final body blow!
    6. Finally, the new job report bodes well for Obama. It takes the wind out of Romney’s sail. It undercuts severely his main selling point. Obama wins!

    • Mark Shea

      Give me a break. The man is not a diabolical genius. He’s just a pol. And he lost. Don’t overthink it.

    • JonathanR.

      Wait, you actually believe that magical jobs “report”?
      Where’s that deed to the Brooklyn bridge…