The First Presidential Debate

In Wednesday night’s debate, Romney won on style while Obama won on substance. Romney sounded as if he had conviction, which means he’s either convinced himself that the lies he tells are true or he’s a fabulous actor.

But what struck me most was how much Obama allowed Romney to get away with: Five times Romney accused Obama of raiding Medicare of $716 billion, which is a complete fabrication. Obama never mentioned the regressiveness of Romney’s budget plan — awarding the rich and hurting the middle class and the poor. He never mentioned Bain Capital, or Romney’s 47 percent talk, or Romney’s “carried-interest” tax loophole. Obama allowed Romney to talk about replacing Dodd-Frank and the Affordable Care Act without demanding that Romney be specific about what he’d replace and why. And so on.

I’ve been worried about Obama’s poor debate performance for some time now. He was terrible in the 2008 primary debates, for example. Expectations are always high — he’s known as an eloquent orator. But when he has to think on his feet and punch back, he’s not nearly as confident or assured as he is when he is giving a speech or explaining a large problem and its solution. He is an educator, not a pugilist, and this puts him at a disadvantage in any debate.

Romney stayed on script. If you look at a transcript of his remarks you’ll see that he repeated the same lines almost word for word in different contexts. He has memorized a bunch of lines, and practiced delivering them. The overall effect is to make him seem assured and even passionate about his position. He said over and over that he cares about jobs, about small businesses, and ordinary Americans. But his policies and his record at Bain tell a very different story.

The question now is whether Team Obama understands that our President must be more aggressive and commanding in the next two debates — and be unafraid to respectfully pin Romney to the floor.

This post was originally published at Robert and is reproduced here with permission.

3 Responses to "The First Presidential Debate"

  1. John   October 10, 2012 at 3:24 am

    Obama didn't win on substance Robert Reich and you saying that shows how clueless you are. Obama is just a lazy Chicago Machine Politician who isn't as bright as you liberals like to make him out to be. That's why he has been an economic nightmare for the US. Obama din't mention Romney's 47% comment because the video of Obama making racially devisive statements with a different accent back in June 2007 surfaced. In that speech Obama sounds no better than his former Pastor Reverend Wright. Obama's people knew if Obama mentioned the 47% comment that it would open him up to his racially devisive speech from June 5, 2007. And you need to point out that Obam and Biden have repeatedly lied about Romney raising taxes on the middle class. Get a clue or retire you DOLT!

  2. William T   October 10, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    It's interesting to observe that the US President is not a role where debating skills are important – unlike for instance Prime Ministers and other leaders who must operate within a parliamentary debating chamber. It's possible that Obama is not a good debater (ie doesn't come up with on the spot repartee) but nevertheless is good at the the actual job of being President.

    Just saying.

  3. bill goldman   October 11, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    The reason that Obama is not a good debater is because his positions are mostly indefensible. Furthermore, he is not as good a liar and flip flopper as Romney (although he does lie and flip flop). To John's comment about Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the shame is not Wright's social conscience but on its absence from Obama's thinking. The sane and conscionable vote would be for Rocky Anderson (who"s he, —the former progressive Mayor of Salt Lake City) or otherwise not to vote at all.