By Alice Dubenetsky
It was a mere ten minutes, at most, into the first 2012 Presidential Debate on Wednesday evening that viewers began to sense blood in the water, precipitated by the sharp exchanges between President Barack Obama and his challenger, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
The difference between the two candidates was startling. Romney looked confident, knowledgeable, and in control. Obama, long touted as the cool, collected, unflappable man, soon lost his famous poise and began to appear rattled and depressed. As one pundit said, it was almost like watching two students: one who attended class, did his homework and grasped the subject at hand, and another who had more fun things to occupy him all semester and had to cram at the last minute for the big test.
It was, at best, an epic failure for the man hoping for four more years behind the Resolute Desk.
Obama laid out the same economic proposals that he has touted during his candidacy in 2008 and throughout his presidency, and he was quick to accuse Romney of formulating a plan to “cut taxes skewed toward the rich.” He also challenged Americans to embrace “a new economic patriotism” ending with the claim that he was “looking forward to having that debate.” Well, he certainly got it his wish.
Obama started to lose his composure almost as soon as Romney, looking straight at the President, rebutted every single assertion, from tax cuts to energy independence. Obama’s claim that the U.S. is producing more oil and gas than it has in years was laid to waste when Romney pointed out that those increased production levels are on private land, and not due to any policies from the Obama administration.
The Obama campaign has had some success in accusing Romney of planning to cut taxes “for his rich friends” in their specious political ads. Finally, Romney had a chance to respond, on stage, directly to the American people, and in a forum that the media at large couldn’t hide or manipulate. He was crystal clear that his plan included NO tax cuts for the wealthy, whom he said would continue to do well under either him or Obama.
Instead, Romney explained his plan was for tax relief, lowering tax rates and closing loopholes. Lower rates will put more money into the economy immediately, and closing loopholes will assure that revenue deficits don’t occur. Understanding tax discussions can be difficult even for the wonky, but Romney laid it out in terms the average person can grasp, with no double speak or prevarication. He described any claims that he will cut taxes on high income Americans as “simply not accurate.” Romney continued to call Obama out on his characterization of his proposed tax plan, calling the President’s veracity into question multiple times.
On energy, Romney responded to Obama’s characterization of tax breaks for corporations with a devastating admonishment. When the President hammered on his familiar theme of tax breaks for oil companies, Romney confidently and quickly retorted that, indeed, oil companies receive a $2.8 billion tax break, which goes back into production, while the President himself provided $90 billion to green energy companies, (or about fifty years worth of oil tax breaks) to failing solar and wind companies such as Solyndra, Tesla and Fisker — all now bankrupt. “I have a friend who says you don’t just pick the winners and losers. You pick the losers,” said Romney.
When Obama claimed that companies get deductions for shipping jobs overseas, Romney sternly replied that after 25 years in business he’d never heard of such a thing because the policy doesn’t exist, and he quipped that maybe he needed a better accountant.
From there, it got worse for Obama, from social security to Medicare to Obama Care, Romney consistently scored points by stating the truth in response to Obama’s faulty assertions. This debate was possibly the first time in his career that Barack Obama has been repeatedly and effectively challenged on his policies. For the past four years the media has consistently – and without shame or apology – provided cover and support for the President and his administration, and he has rarely had to defend himself to a challenger as robustly intelligent as Romney, and who, to make matters worse, is also armed with facts.
This was only the first of three scheduled Presidential debates, and Americans shouldn’t assume that Obama will come to the podium as poorly prepared on October 16th and 22nd. However, Romney was able, in very clear terms, to draw a distinct comparison between the two candidates and make the sitting president appear weak on policy, impatient with the process, and generally uninformed and inept.