Friday, 5 October 2012

The First Presidential Debate.

Or – How an artless, gormless jerk got his arse kicked.

We…ell, wasn’t that a surprise. I went to bed on Wednesday night thinking the fix was in for Mitt Romney, and oh boy was I ever surprised when I woke up on Thursday morning and read the reports and saw clips of the thing. Almost everybody, even people who had previously been lining up to kiss his arse, thought Obama was fucking dreadful. What happened?, they all asked. How could the man they've idolised for four years for his intelligence and brilliant oratory come to this?

Perhaps this clip offers some explanation. In short, he had no teleprompter and no shielding from searching questions or criticism of his statements in real time. "After four years in the bubble..." the commentator observes.

Al Gore had a different explanation - maybe it's the rarefied air in Denver? Romney did his debate prep there - Obama arrived that afternoon. Etcetera. Which is all very well, but we need to look at two things. One: unless pressurisation standards on Air Force One are markedly different from routine airline practice, he's making all those flights at an equivalent pressure of about six to eight thousand feet - so what does that say about any decisions he might make in flight (including the decision for which the aircraft was constructed - to launch a counterstrike from safe territory if the US suffered a sudden nuclear attack)? Two: Obama did a lot of swanning about on various chat shows etc., time he could perhaps have devoted to going to Denver to acclimatise.

It has also been charged that going through the Republican Primaries recently gave Romney more practice at debates, whereas Obama did not have time to practice. But wait a minute - doesn't being the President, and actually running the country, mean Obama should already be familiar with all the things he knew he'd have to discuss? If he's doing it every day and it's working so well, why should he even need practice? His very job should be the practice. Steve Kates at Catallaxy Files had his own opinion of the mindset of the two men in the lead-up:

Obama is the laziest, least involved President possibly ever. He really cares little about policy and has no taste for the engagement of the political process. He likes the pleasures of office, just doesn’t like what it actually requires, like knowing things in depth and thinking things through to the end.
The debates are, however, the real thing, and he is about to take on someone who knows what he thinks and has developed his ideas in the best way possible, by writing a book. Romney wrote No Apology: Believe in America in 2010 and it showed in the debates he had within the Republican side. He understood each issue and has an articulate and soundly based conservative perspective on every issue that matters. 
Somewhat uncharitable definitely; partisan, true; but this interpretation seems to have been borne out by events. The one was disengaged, unprepared, and regurgitated stock talking points; the other has worked so long and hard on developing his policies that they are graven into his brain and there is no possibility of tripping up or forgetting. Romney has spent his life being a businessman - if you fuck up, you go broke. I'm not sure we have a really clear idea of what Obama was doing before being elected to the Senate, or what the penalties would have been for failure, but what it boils down to is this: he has been protected at every turn by people who deflect all criticism of him as racism, elitism, rampant capitalism run wild, or some other excuse. He has never had to stand up for himself directly. He has never had to explain his ideas off-the-cuff. And on Wednesday night, we saw what the result of that coddling was. The people who adored him, defended him, protected him and justified him at every turn were so shocked that they admitted out loud, possibly for the first time, that their idol had performed inadequately. THAT OBAMA HAD FAILED. 
Perhaps some eyes are now beginning to open.

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