Thursday, October 04, 2012

My Thoughts On the Debate

Or at least, the debate until I switched it off because frankly, Mitt Romney makes every sane human being in America want to punch him every time he opens his mouth. Seriously, I'd worry about him getting us into wars not because he's hired a bunch of belligerent neocon Bush rejects as his foreign policy advisors, but because Mother Teresa would haul off and slap that man silly if she was stuck in an elevator with him for five minutes. (And yes, I'm aware Mother Teresa is dead. This does not change my opinion.)

Basically, I think that the news media is saying that Romney won the debate because they have to say Romney won the debate. The alternative is, "Gee, Mitt really seemed like a transparent liar and a jackass, and failed to defend any of his policies coherently while throwing out the same tired attacks that have failed to stick against Obama this entire campaign. Let's face it, he's toast. Wanna spend the next five weeks talking about this fall's hot movies?" Everyone in the news media, left or right, has a vested interest in selling the narrative that this is a tense, exciting race and you should remain riveted to (INSERT CHANNEL HERE) for up-to-the-minute news and analysis. If Romney's dead in the water, it's not exciting.

That said, the overall narrative of the pundits is correct. Obama didn't really blow up on Mitt. Why? Because it's not what he does. Barack Obama is not a fiery tongue-lasher of a politician who "lets the other guy have it". I know that's what a lot of liberals wanted. Because I'm a liberal, and like many other liberals, I'd really like to see someone ask Mitt how he can stand up there lying, day in and day out, shifting positions with the wind, saying whatever he thinks people want to hear while secretly holding almost half the nation in utter contempt, and not at any point feel shame in it all. But Obama doesn't do that. Obama is all about remaining calm, letting the other guy lose his cool, and then demolishing him with the facts.

And that's what he did. The narrative today, in the papers and on the news, is that Romney might have seemed tough and pressed the attack, but that he lied openly and blatantly and frequently. (He was clocked at one provable falsehood every 1:40.) That's what people are going to remember, not anything specific. Well, maybe the bit about Mitt Romney wanting to kill Big Bird, but other than that, they're just going to remember that Mitt Romney lied. That Mitt Romney can't help but lie. And that when he wasn't lying, he was saying things like, "I don't have time to get into the specifics. Just trust me." Which would work better if he didn't, you know, lie every two minutes. LITERALLY.

The narrative is that Mitt Romney won the debate, because it's the only narrative that fits the media's desire for a close race. But I can't imagine that people watched that debate and came out of it thinking better of Romney. And I suspect that in a few days, the polls will bear me out on that.


magidin said...

I'm going to disagree with you: it's not the media trying to sell a narrative (or, at any rate, not just that).

Debates today are no longer about the ideas, they are about image; they stopped being about image when the "Commission" took over, and they became elaborate staged events in which the two campaigns sign contracts and negotiate over formats, topics, setting, lighting, and so on. Much like the Nixon-Kennedy debates, in which people who only heard them thought Nixon did better, but people who *saw* them thought Kennedy did. Debates today are all about the campaigns showing off their candidates, not their ideas.

In that respect, I think Romney did better. He looked better, he sounded better (I'm talking about sound, not about content; flash, not substance). Yes, he lied continuously; but he *sounded* sincere, he looked confident, he looked in control. No, he wasn't really. Yes, it was empty content, lies, etc. There are a few I would really have liked Obama to throw back in his face: the "cut" to Medicare; and when Romney complained he was against a tax cut that was not revenue neutral, the answer should have been "then you are against your own tax plan"; and if Romney repeated that Obama was lying about the tax plan, then the answer is "I apologize; but because you have steadfastly refused to tell us the details, we can only go with the obvious implications of your nebulous hints; if they are misleading, then perhaps you should start releasing actual details."

But in the end, if you view this not as an actual debate of ideas (because it isn't one), but as a showcase, I think it is definite that Romney came out ahead; he won a "showcase", a reality TV competition. But I agree that he did not win a debate. But then, there wasn't one.

Brendan said...

I would also suspect an awful lot of viewers of that debate will be unphased by Romney's lies, or at least unaware of them, because they either don't follow things that closely beyond watching the debates or because they just assume all politicians lie.