Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Second Debate

The second debate was a strong showing from both candidates.  I tend to agree that Obama won, but only by a little.  Then again, I've already made up my mind, and I'm trying to judge by what undecideds would think.  This brings up the question, are there really people who are undecided about which candidate they would vote for?  Or are they just undecided about whether they would vote for the current candidate for their usual party?  That makes a huge difference in how to score the debate.  I'm sure it's some of both, but I would love to know the breakdown.

Two strong debate performances from two very presidential-looking and -sounding guys.  They may have the two best voices of any pair of candidates in my lifetime.  Obama's is stronger, but Romney has that reassuring, whispering quality that I think makes his a little better.

I agree with those who feel that Romney missed several chances to respond, and not all of them were because the moderator cut him off (or allowed Obama to).  In particular, Obama and Biden and the campaign generally have been driving this theme that Obama will go after anyone who hurts Americans.  That was the message on Osama bin Laden, and that was the message he gave about the four people killed in Libya.

I don't understand why Romney doesn't give the obvious reply:  it's not just about killing people who kill Americans.  We didn't fight in Afghanistan for 8 years just to hunt down Osama; that would be an insane waste of resources.  We were fighting to dismantle al-Qaeda, and, more generally, create a situation where the Afghan government will be friendly and strong enough to prevent al-Qaeda establishing a haven there again.  The death of the Americans in Libya is not just about killing the perpetrators (good luck finding a whole battalion of attackers in any case), but about Obama's naive approach to Muslim nations generally and to the Arab Spring revolts in particular.  I can understand the he wants to appear to be standing up for America, but reducing foreign policy to killing our attackers is the kind of simplistic approach that liberals usually deride in conservatives.

Another slow curveball that Romney should have hit was Obama's line that "we have built enough pipelines to go around the earth once."  Is there any point to that statement?  Does he mean to demonstrate that we have so much pipeline that we couldn't possibly need to build more?  If that's the case, I don't know why he harps so much about  the need for roads; in interstate highways alone, we have enough roads to go around the earth twice, and I'd venture the other roads would at least triple that.  It's a classic example of a useless statistic.

Since Obama is harping on the 47% comment, I wonder why Romney hasn't brought up Obama's famous "If I don't get this done in 3 years, this is going to be a one-term proposition" quotation.  By his own reasoning, he shouldn't even be running again.  Then again, he also denied in 2006 that he would run for president in 2008, so we know what that's worth.

I am among those who don't understand what is funny about Romney's "binders full of women" comment.  Nobody in the audience laughed, it didn't strike me as funny at the time, and I don't get the humour even now that I have thought about it.

Another of Obama's big talking points is all the jobs he saved at GM.  Although I'm convinced that this is one of his biggest mistakes, I'm not sure how effectively Romney could respond without offending a lot of people in Michigan (although that assumes Michigan is actually in play).  He has to explain that GM going bankrupt wouldn't mean that the automobile factories in Michigan would suddenly stop running, but rather that they would be purchased by one or more other companies who would continue to run them, probably more successfully.  I think K-Mart is a good example, but I'm not sure they actually filed for bankruptcy.

Whether that would resonate with the rest of America is hard to tell, but we did sink a lot of money into GM and Obama's representatives took an active role in decision-making there for a while, which I think most Americans would agree is not the role of government.  Isn't this exactly the sort of "corporate welfare" that the Occupiers complain about?  Or does it only count as corporate welfare if the bailout is for banks and investment firms?

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