The second presidential debate, held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY, was like a classic middleweight boxing match, where both fighters were bloodied in frequent heavy exchanges but President Barack Obama got the better of Mitt Romney and took the bout by a unanimous decision.
Unlike their first encounter, the president appeared excited to have the chance to share the stage with his Republican challenger and discuss their policy differences. Obama came out from the start prepared to highlight his administration’s accomplishments, actively defend his record, and confront Romney on any perceived inaccuracies.
In this town hall-style debate the questions were pre-selected and audience members personally asked them to the candidates. Both men did reasonably well by all accounts, but this was a harder affair to watch than the first debate, as every answer was heavily contested.
It made for tremendous political theater, but as the finger-pointing ensued I can understand how some viewers might have tired quickly of the “he said-he said” and flipped to the baseball playoffs.
Ultimately, what we learned was that Mitt Romney’s policies can sound plausible when no one is there to refute them. But with the president on his game and an activist moderator in Candy Crowley, who refused to be run over like Jim Lehrer, Romney’s vision for governing America didn’t stand up well under the lights.
It’s not that he had an off night, it’s just that Tuesday was the first time Romney has faced such a level of scrutiny and been forced to defend his policies in real-time.
Obama ably confronted Romney on wanting to bankrupt the automobile industry, on his tax plan, immigration, women’s issues, and about how Romney wrote off 47 percent of Americans as “takers.”
The strongest part of Romney’s night came when he globally discussed the shortcomings of the Obama administration, that the economy isn’t where the president proposed it would be, that the deficit hasn’t been decreased and unemployment isn’t as low as promised.
These are legitimate criticisms. The problem for Romney is his budget and tax cut strategies have massive revenue gaps, and he steadfastly refuses to explain how he will pay for these measures.
It is inexplicable why he would propose an additional $8 trillion in tax cuts and military spending when he is running as a fiscal conservative. This is the centerpiece of his campaign. If this hypothesis is flawed, it trickles down to the rest of his candidacy.
Additionally, no responsible bipartisan organization has evaluated Romney’s plan and suggested it would be revenue neutral. Even conservative Republicans like Joe Scarborough admit there is no way Romney’s plan or the arithmetic will work as promised.
You add $8 trillion to the budget and say there will be no tax increases, the budget will be balanced and no money will be added to the deficit, with only some unspecified tax loopholes being closed – now there is some voodoo economics.
And when Obama confronted Romney with this reality it got under his skin.
“Governor Romney doesn’t have a five point plan, he has a one point plan, and that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules,” said Obama.
Case in point came when Romney stumbled through his answer to a question on equal pay for women.
Obama spoke with authority in that he was raised by a single mom, his grandmother encountered the glass ceiling in her workplace, and the president pointed to his passage of the “Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act” as proof of his commitment to the equal treatment of women.
The president then deftly expanded this question to point out that by passing the “Affordable Care Act” he guaranteed working moms access to affordable health care and contraceptives, allowing them greater flexibility in employment options.
Romney had little to offer that might encourage female voters that he has their best interests at heart. As has been reported before Romney had no female senior executives at Bain Capital – so no glass ceiling, more like a glass fence.
Evidently he didn’t work closely with women politically either, because after being elected governor of Massachusetts he knew of no qualified women to nominate to his cabinet, hence he required scouting reports, or “binders full of women” to add some gender balance to his administration.
Romney insists he doesn’t believe bureaucrats or bosses should make decisions on women’s health issues or their access to contraceptives, but this is exactly what Romney advocates and this is how he conceals it.
Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan are both pro-life, with Ryan holding the extremist view that abortions should be denied even in the case of rape, incest, or life of the mother.
Romney has every intention of repealing the “Affordable Care Act” if elected, which would empower employers as to whether they would offer insurance plans that cover contraception.
Additionally, one budget item Romney specifically intends to cut is funding to Planned Parenthood. This is where millions of women turn to find affordable contraception, mammograms, and cervical cancer screenings.
These are pocketbook issues and family issues that help women have a more even playing field in the workplace where they must compete against men, and Romney wants to take that away.
Of course he would never say that but when his policies and politics are examined this is the only conclusion they present.
Romney doesn’t like taking questions about this subject because he plays by his own rules and has a different set of rules where women are concerned.
Romney will outlaw abortion and restrict access to health care and contraception for women. That is ugly and hurtful, but in the end that is what this brand of Republican politics is all about, being divisive and exclusive.
Why should Obama be re-elected?
To prevent this kind of forced social agenda from being legislated into law.
The president cut taxes for middle class and small businesses, saved the auto industry, reined in the excesses of Wall Street, got out of Iraq, killed Osama bin Laden, is drawing down troops in Afghanistan, passed the “Affordable Care Act,” and has presided over 31 consecutive months of job growth, bringing 5 million new jobs to America.
These are actual accomplishments.
Romney, having only speculation to offer in terms of improving the economy, tried to score points by politicizing the administration’s handling of the embassy attack in Libya.
This backfired horribly on Romney. Not only was he corrected by the president about this being declared an act of terror, but also by the moderator, Candy Crowley, who affirmed Romney’s incorrect insinuation.
It was not pretty and you could see Romney’s shoulders deflate – he really thought he had caught the president in some lie and was moving in for the proverbial kill, but like much of this campaign, Obama was a step ahead, and he recognized what Romney was up to and coolly said, “please proceed governor.”
Romney has bungled this Libya tragedy twice now by trying to play politics with American lives.
Who won this debate is not in doubt. Even arch-conservative Charles Krauthammer admitted on Fox News afterwards that Obama won on points.
More importantly, what I saw was the real Romney showing through. He can hide his true identity at staged campaign stops, but not when standing next to President Obama.
Romney and his “binders full of women” begin to shine ever clearer the longer they are exposed to the light of day.
The biggest revelation from Tuesday night was that Obama fought to be president for the next four years.
His performance will not completely stem the lifeline Romney gained from the first debate, but it did stop the bleeding and demonstrated why President Obama should win re-election.