Who won the debate? The Ba-Rock Star

Ba-Rock Star Obama won the debate

Well, that was a fun debate.

President Obama did a masterful job in last night’s debate against Mitt Romney.  On issue after issue, he nailed Mitt Romney.  A number of the flash polls agree:

celindalake: Lake Research Partners just conducted a flash poll of likely voters in Battleground states who watched the debate. Verdict: Obama won 53-38.

http://CNBC.com  Survey Results: Who do you think won the debate? Obama: 56%, Romney: 39%, Neither: 5% (Track: http://cnb.cx/Tu8Tv4 )

CNN’s poll gave it to Obama as did CBS‘.

I’ll walk through some of the highlights, but overall I think Romney’s problem was two-fold.  One, he’s a liar who doesn’t believe in much. And two, therefore he flip-flops, a lot.

What that means is that it’s hard enough for voters to keep track of which Mitt is which, but imagine how hard it is for Romney himself.  That’s an awful lot of lying to keep track of.  And then, if and when Romney finally sticks to a position, he’s flipped-flopped so much, he’s so insincere about the position itself, how does he defend it on national TV, in front of actual voters, when he doesn’t really mean it?

It didn’t help matters that CNN’s Candy Crowley played the role of an actual journalist.  Crowley started with the first question I believe, asking her own follow-up, which is forbidden by the debate rules – rules Crowley did not agree too, did not have to follow, and thus didn’t.

Crowley was perhaps at her best when she faced the age-old journalistic ethics conundrum: What do you when you know the guy you’re interviewing is lying?

Romney called out for lying about Libya

In Crowley’s case, her journalistic ethics won out, and she called Romney on it. Here’s how Joshua Green at BusinessWeek described it:

When Romney did draw questions that offered opportunities to score big points, he often whiffed–none bigger than the question about the president’s handling of Libya. Romney erroneously claimed that Obama had refused to call the assault on the U.S. embassy a terror attack until 14 days after it occurred, when in fact Obama did so the very next day. Crowley’s correction and admonishment of Romney–and the crowd’s applause–were devastating. Romney slunk back to his stool looking utterly defeated.

I’d be shocked if most independent and loosely affiliated voters in battleground states didn’t come away from this debate impressed and reassured by the president–and newly skeptical (re-skeptical?) of Mitt Romney.

And here’s the video.  First you’ll see President Obama scolding Romney in what is probably the moment at which the President won the debate.  Romney had just suggested that the President and his team, on finding out that a US ambassador and three other American personnel were murdered, decided to “play politics” with it. Obama was not pleased.  And he tore Romney to shreds.

But then, as the video shows, Romney gets up and think he’s got President Obama nailed.  Obama did not, as he just claimed – Romney says – call the attack on our ambassador an “act of terror” the day after the attack.  Obama, Romney claims, waited 14 days to call it an act of terror.  Not true, says Obama, and not true says moderator Candy  Crowley.  Romney then deflates and slinks back to his seat.

And Crowley was right. If you look at the President’s remarks that morning after the attack, remarks titled “Remarks by the President on the Deaths of U.S. Embassy Staff in Libya,” you see quite clearly that he called the attack “an act of terror.” In fact, the President said the plural, “acts of terror,” because he was also referencing the 9/11 attacks.  Those are the two attacks he mentioned in his address, 9/11 and Benghazi. Then, in the next sentence, in the same paragraph, the President again mentions Benghazi.

No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.  Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America.  We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act.  And make no mistake, justice will be done.

I mention this in some details because conservatives, God bless em, are now trying to claim that the President’s remarks didn’t deal with Libya, even though the remarks are titled “Remarks by the President on the Deaths of U.S. Embassy Staff in Libya,” and even though the President only mentioned two attacks in his speech, 9/11 and the attack in Libya, and used the plural “acts of terror.”  What else was he referring to if not the two “acts” in his speech?

(In any case, it’s an odd argument for the Romney people to be making, whether we did or didn’t call something an act of terror less than 24 hours after it occurred and when we were still collecting information on what happened half a world away.  In Romney-land, snap judgments are the norm. One does not wait for the facts before forming an opinion that might lead to military action and more loss of lives.)

Romney called out for his $5 trillion tax cut not adding up

Another high moment of the debate was when President Obama said that Mitt Romney’s numbers in his tax plan just didn’t add up.  You could see the instant focus group numbers on CNN jumping into the positive range as the President continued with this line of attack.  But then, when Romney got up to respond, and said that yes he numbers did add up, the approval numbers suddenly sank into disapproval.

president obama during the second presidential debate

Obama says Romney’s math doesn’t add up, audience meter goes way up.

Then Romney got up and said, “of course the math adds up” and the meter plummeted:

president obama and mitt romney during the second presidential debate

Romney responds to Obama and says, “of course it adds up,” talking about his $5 trillion tax cut for the rich. His audience approval meter plummets.

Romney’s problem was that he was awfully pushy through the debate, constantly trying to roll over moderator Candy Crowley the same way he rolled over the comatose Jim Lehrer who hosted the first debate.  Crowley was having none of it, and didn’t let Romney steal the show.  But boy, the focus group on CNN did not like Romney’s bullying one bit.

Watch the meter at the bottom of the screen as Romney just bullies his way through.

Romney’s boorishness was noticed by Businessweek’s Joshua Green:

[Romney] imagining himself as winningly assertive while coming across as peevish, over-aggressive, and fussily obsessed over the rules, like Tracy Flick in “Election.” In the town hall setting, his constant interruptions of the moderator, Candy Crowley, and the president, seemed rude in a way they did not when the two candidates stood together onstage.

And Politifact sided with the President over the claims about Romney’s tax plan not adding up:  “Obama’s claim that Romney tax plan doesn’t add up got a ‘Mostly True.’


Another great moment in the debate was when Romney got asked if there was a difference between him and George Bush.  Note Romney’s so-so answer, then note what the President does.  Masterful.

QUESTION: Governor Romney, I am an undecided voter, because I’m disappointed with the lack of progress I’ve seen in the last four years. However, I do attribute much of America’s economic and international problems to the failings and missteps of the Bush administration.

Since both you and President Bush are Republicans, I fear a return to the policies of those years should you win this election. What is the biggest difference between you and George W. Bush, and how do you differentiate yourself from George W. Bush?

ROMNEY: President Bush and I are — are different people and these are different times and that’s why my five point plan is so different than what he would have done.

I mean for instance, we can now, by virtue of new technology actually get all the energy we need in North America without having to go to the — the Arabs or the Venezuelans or anyone else. That wasn’t true in his time, that’s why my policy starts with a very robust policy to get all that energy in North America — become energy secure.

Number two, trade — I’ll crack down on China, President Bush didn’t. I’m also going to dramatically expand trade in Latin America. It’s been growing about 12 percent per year over a long period of time. I want to add more free trade agreements so we’ll have more trade.

Number three, I’m going to get us to a balanced budget. President Bush didn’t. President Obama was right, he said that that was outrageous to have deficits as high as half a trillion dollars under the Bush years. He was right, but then he put in place deficits twice that size for every one of his four years. And his forecast for the next four years is more deficits, almost that large. So that’s the next area I’m different than President Bush.

And then let’s take the last one, championing small business. Our party has been focused too long. I came through small business. I understand how hard it is to start a small business. That’s why everything I’ll do is designed to help small businesses grow and add jobs. I want to keep their taxes down on small business. I want regulators to see their job as encouraging small enterprise, not crushing it.

And the thing I find the most troubling about Obama Care, well it’s a long list, but one of the things I find most troubling is that when you go out and talk to small businesses and ask them what they think about it, they tell you it keeps them from hiring more people.

My priority is jobs. I know how to make that happen. And President Bush has a very different path for a very different time. My path is designed in getting small businesses to grow and hire people.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Governor.

Mr. President?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think it’s important to tell you that we did come in during some tough times. We were losing 800,000 jobs a month when I started. But we had been digging our way out of policies that were misplaced and focused on the top doing very well and middle class folks not doing well.

Now, we’ve seen 30 consecutive — 31 consecutive months of job growth; 5.2 million new jobs created. And the plans that I talked about will create even more. But when Governor Romney says that he has a very different economic plan, the centerpiece of his economic plan are tax cuts. That’s what took us from surplus to deficit. When he talks about getting tough on China, keep in mind that Governor Romney invested in companies that were pioneers of outsourcing to China, and is currently investing in countries — in companies that are building surveillance equipment for China to spy on its own folks.

That’s — Governor, you’re the last person who’s going to get tough on China. And what we’ve done when it comes to trade is not only sign three trade deals to open up new markets, but we’ve also set up a task force for trade that goes after anybody who is taking advantage of American workers or businesses and not creating a level playing field. We’ve brought twice as many cases against unfair trading practices than the previous administration and we’ve won every single one that’s been decided.

When I said that we had to make sure that China was not flooding our domestic market with cheap tires, Governor Romney said I was being protectionist; that it wouldn’t be helpful to American workers. Well, in fact we saved 1,000 jobs. And that’s the kind of tough trade actions that are required.

But the last point I want to make is this. You know, there are some things where Governor Romney is different from George Bush. George Bush didn’t propose turning Medicare into a voucher. George Bush embraced comprehensive immigration reform. He didn’t call for self-deportation.

George Bush never suggested that we eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, so there are differences between Governor Romney and George Bush, but they’re not on economic policy. In some ways, he’s gone to a more extreme place when it comes to social policy. And I think that’s a mistake. That’s not how we’re going to move our economy forward.

Romney’s 3am Call

Finally, in a masterful closing, the President wrapped it all up with a nice little ribbon, invoked the 47% video (after Romney was dumb enough to reference it himself in remarks right before Obama spoke), and dropped it all on Romney’s lap.  The video is only 2 minutes long, watch it.

During last night’s debate, Mitt Romney got his 3am call.  And now, almost 12 hours later, Romney is still fumbling for his reading glasses.

It was a great night for the President, and for all of us.

(You can find the full transcript of the debate here.)

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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