October 11th, 2012
THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE
HALF WAY AROUND THE WORLD!
know you have a die-hard interest in politics when you want to see the national
presidential debate, and it becomes a major commitment just to find a place to
watch. That was my case last week while
I was in southern Turkey as the Turkish conflict with Syria was heating
up. I had limited television options and
just could not tune into one of the U.S. national networks, or even CNN
International. And even if I could find
a station, the time difference meant I would be watching at 3:00 am. No such
stations beaming into Turkey could be found.
Apparently, we are not as important in this part of the world as many in
when you are a political junkie like me, and both write about national events
and talk about major issues facing the country on my national radio show each
weekend, you give it your best shot. And
thank goodness for our allies, the Brits.
I took a chance, got up in the middle of the night, and found a BBC
station that was carrying the entire presidential debate. Strong Turkish black coffee and some baklava
to keep me up for what I anticipated to be a lively and confrontation give and
take by the President and Mitt Romney.
wasn’t long into the debate before I wondered if I was still asleep and perhaps
dreaming. The President was about as
enthusiastic and focused as the chair Clint Eastwood portrayed him to be at the
recent Republican National Convention.
And to the die-hard Republican conservatives, Mitt Romney morphed to the
center, agreeing with the President on numerous issues, and confirming to many
on the right what that felt all along.
Old Mitt wasn’t really in their corner after all. But at this stage of the campaign, many of these
conservatives still support him as the lesser of the two evils.
Obama team tried to paint Romney as an uncaring soulless ideologue. But that dog just would not hunt. Romney time and time again calming presented
himself as a moderate who would work with Democrats to find a middle ground on
key issues for both sides to support. He
praised the warm relationship between Republican President Ronald Regan and
Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neal. (As a
side note, I interviewed the former Speaker on a television show I hosted back
in the 1990s. He had this to say about
Reagan. “He was a real SOB during the
day. But we would kick back in the
evening, have a drink, and he charmed your socks off. It was hard to turn him down.”)
confronted the President for not working with Republicans in congress, and
pointed out that as governor of Massachusetts, he met with the democratic
leadership every Monday morning. Yes, he
did conveniently fail to mention that the Republican leadership in Washington vowed
to oppose the President from day one.
Remember Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell’s statement that: “The single most important thing we want to
achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
Still, it was a good “hit” by Romney. After all, it was a year and a half into his
term in office before President Obama had a one on one meeting with House
speaker John Boehner and McConnell. The
bipartisanship offer by Romney sat well with a large number of independent
voters watching, who were looking for a President who would “tone down” the
rhetoric, and become more results oriented.
The Obama team prepared the President for a
conservative ideologue, but his opponent showed up as Governor Romney. The flip flopper label was worn well comparing
what Romney said in last week’s debate vs his changing positions during the
primaries. This time, it was all about compassion,
the middle class, and being a pragmatic president. “We’re a nation that believes that we’re all
children of the same God, and we care for those that have difficulties.” He spoke of finding more teachers. And not reducing government, but making it
work more efficiently. He said that “regulation is essential.” It all played to
moderate independents, located in a handful of swing states.
Guaranteed coverage for pre existing conditions, allow children to be
covered up to the age of 26, eliminate restrictions on interstate insurance
sales, and subsidies for those who cannot afford healthcare. Sounds awfully much like Obamacare to
me. But just change the name, and
moderate independents seem willing to sign on. Flimflam? Probably.
But it seems to be working.
So where was the President? He seemed otherwise engaged. On Medicare reform, Romney and Obama really
offer the same numbers to make the program work. But you would not have known that from
Obama’s weak defense. Social
Security? Obama said: “I suspect that on Social Security, we've got a somewhat similar position.” Man, did he blow a chance to score big
here. Romney’s VP pick, Paul Ryan, has
proposed privatizing Social Security.
Older votes don’t want it touched.
So the President says that he and Romney have a similar position? He sure blew a chance to paint Romney into a
corner and on the defensive.
Both candidates seemed to agree on no more deficits, lowering
the tax rate but eliminating many deductions, and clean energy development. And with Obama seemingly disengaged, looking
down at his notes, Romney’s forcefulness allowed him to win the day. In fact, style had a lot to do with Romney’s
success. Not so much what he said as how
he said it in what many believed to be a presidential way.
The third debate, on October 16th, will be strictly
about foreign policy. The president will
have a lot to brag about (Osama Bin Laden), but also much explaining to do
considering the turmoil taking place in much of the world. Romney will have to show competence in an
area more unfamiliar to him. So there are
still opportunities and dangers for both candidates.
Was the debate worth getting up in the middle of the night half
way around the world? Certainly. We are talking about America’s future during
uncertain times. With two more debates plus a vice presidential debate to go,
I’ll be watching wherever I happen to be.
And thanks to the BBC. The
coffee, the baklava, and your programing made my night, and allowed me to stay
engaged as a concerned American.
are part of the unconscionable fraud that our political campaigns have become a
format that defies meaningful discourse. They should be charged with sabotaging
the electoral process.”
Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout
the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns
and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com
. You can also hear Jim’s
nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am,
central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com