Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Final Debate: No Contest

That was easy. Almost too easy.

Obama won last night's debate without breaking a sweat, it wasn't close. And speaking of sweat, Romney looked as if he had run a marathon through Death Valley just prior to the debate. We haven't seen flop sweat like that in a debate since Nixon faced Kennedy in 1960. Yikes. However, it's understandable when you consider the extent to which Romney was in over his head, with every answer either empty rhetoric hoping to at least sound meaningful or positions that more or less aligned with Obama's existing policy. It was painful to watch.

I can't decide on my favorite moment. It's as if Obama was restraining himself, holding back from being even more snarky or sardonic than he was at times, realizing the hapless challenger was up against the ropes and it was all but over in the first round. The "fewer horses and bayonets" line was priceless, making Romney look as naive and infantile as Ryan often did versus Biden. I also applauded when Obama explained to Romney how a trip to Israel should go (no donors, etc.), another decimating moment.

But perhaps my favorite zing is when Obama recited point for point how Romney has waffled, how he has been a flip-flopper when it comes to foreign policy. Romney is now for diplomatic pressure (sanctions) on Iran whereas before he was against it, he was against a timetable for an Afghanistan exit but is now for it, he wanted to end the war in Iraq but now wants to leave 20K troops, he felt going after Gaddafi was "mission creep" and with regards to Osama Bin Laden, Romney believed "it was not worth moving Heaven and Earth" to get him and if anything we should ask Pakistan for permission (!). It was a breath-taking moment and clearly crystallized just how ill-prepared Romney was for this debate, and is for President.

Which gets back to my opening comment about Obama's win last night being too easy. Indict Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Tighten the already-effective Iran sanctions -- really?? Romney said things that made no sense, none whatsoever. The fact that this presidential race still appears to be tight and the challenger is saying such idiotic, clueless statements about world affairs -- it's quite concerning, to say the least.

Another area of grave concern that was a blown opportunity, one that Obama should've pounded and reiterated numerous times: how Romney = GW/Cheney. Mitt Romney’s foreign policy team is basically a family reunion of ex-Bush/Cheney personnel, with 15 of 22 members being former policy advisers under the Bush administration. We're talking a neocon PNAC photo album.

It's all the more reason Romney's overly dove-ish, peacenik posture last night was a complete farce. We're to believe Romney has gone all soft on us, wishing peace on Earth and for all mankind...? Right. More like a calculated gambit to win over women, once again insulting their intelligence with a transparent grab for their vote.

Despite Obama's snap-back in winning the final two debates, the question is: will it be enough? Did he squander a growing lead, one that put his Intrade odds close to 80% before plunging after his abysmal first-debate performance, settling at the current 59% probability of winning?

We'll see. It's been reported that the last two debates did not garner nearly the TV audience of the first one and if Obama were to (gulp) lose the election, it would forever change the importance of that first debate. Never again would an incumbent show up and just mail it in or play it too safe, as if the election was his or her's to lose. It will be, and should always have been, knives out from the get go and take no prisoners.

Here's hoping if Obama wins, it will be knives out for four years.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Obama's Rebound

Yes, a basketball analogy is appropriate. After seemingly sleep-walking through the first debate, Obama delivered as promised with this second debate, showing up in full force and knocking Romney back on his heels more than a few times during the evening. It was revenge comeuppance at its best.

To this blogger, it especially warmed the heart to see Obama perform as we knew he could against a classic school-yard bully. I wrote once before how Romney resembled some of the best-known bullies in cinema, with Neidermeyer of Animal House coming to mind. During this second debate, as he did in the first one, Romney interrupted often and attempted to intimidate moderator Crowley and Obama, shifting around the stage as if ice skating and indignantly talking down to Obama as if he was a busboy at a restaurant and not our 44th president. Yet throughout the debate Obama stood firm, smiled and gracefully confronted the bully on numerous occasions, this time around pointing out each time Romney lied. In the end, Romney's thug-ish tactics paid off for Obama as such behavior made Romney look small and petty, in effect magnifying Obama's presence and further confirming which guy on stage was suitable to be President.

As for the lies, it's incredible but Romney actually told more than he did in the first debate. Don't believe me? Click here, here, here, here, here, here and here, for starters. You can also just Google key words: Romney, second debate, lies. To say Romney is a serial, pathological liar at this point is like saying Limburger cheese stinks.

My favorite moment was when Romney attempted to ensnare Obama in a gotcha moment concerning Benghazi, as he slowly tried to draw Obama in, only to see that Obama was two steps ahead of the slow-witted bully, with Obama urging him to proceed and then blammo -- it blew up in Romney's face. It was great, the equivalent of George McFly landing a punch to Biff's face in Back To The Future. KO, lights out.

Ah yes, what a night. It did wonders to return one's faith in the world, that those who were bullies and told lies incessantly would always get what was coming to them. Well, not always since in this case the lying bully was worth over $250 million, but at least there's a very good chance the dolt won't be rewarded with four years in the White House.

The topic for the next and last debate will be foreign policy and based on what we've seen so far, it should be no contest. Romney is utterly clueless when it comes to anything beyond our borders and as for policy he either agrees with Obama or GW Bush -- neither of which will help him.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Rachel Maddow's Take Down of Romney's Foreign Policy

Must-see viewing. Important stuff (and only 9 minutes long).

Romney's Rise in Polls vs. Electoral College Map

So I guess it pays to lie after all. In the debate, Romney spewed forth one whopper after another and ended up winning the thing going away.

When Bill Clinton was busted for his Monica indiscretion, Republicans at the time couldn't stop repeating, "What will the children think?" Oh, how awful for our kids to observe this behavior in a president. But apparently Republicans have no problem with the example set by a presidential candidate telling a lie every 90 seconds. No, that's a fine virtue, something I suppose Jesus did in a version of the Bible I have yet to read.

As a result of Romney's near-psychopathic performance, more than a few polls have risen in his favor, with some even showing him taking the lead over Obama. What confuses me is when it comes to web sites which track what the Electoral College map looks like, they continue to show Obama with a comfortable lead. For example, Electoral-vote.com currently shows Obama leading Romney by a fairly huge 332-206 margin, and Nate Silver has Obama up by 297-241.

I like to think the more valid and accurate reflection of what will happen come Election Day are these depictions of electoral vote totals, as opposed to more generic national polls. Most of the web sites that tally the electoral votes tend to have a more comprehensive methodology, one that typically starts at the state level, calculating a consensus poll per state based on many polls taken within each state. State results are then aggregated up to the national level to finally derive electoral vote totals.

Assuming as I am that the electoral vote web sites are more reflective of the election's eventual outcome, why is it that the national polls get much more attention by the media? Is it simply because it's easier for the public to understand 49% vs. 47%, as opposed to 300-238?

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Huge Disappointment

My thoughts on tonight's debate:

  • Wow. What happened? Romney clearly won. Obama appeared to be the Invisible President, all but disappearing at times right before our eyes. His demeanor was one as if he was at a garden party, casually mingling with guests. Meanwhile, Romney came out guns a blazing and never let up.

  • Obama came off as if he was above being there, seemingly just looking to run out the clock. He actually came off too presidential. He never took the gloves off. Look, I understand as president he can't appear overly scrappy, especially since he was the clear front-runner in the race, but Romney was throwing out low-hanging lies, one after another, and Obama should have sternly knocked them down with specifics. Instead Obama too often addressed them with lofty rhetoric and a smile.

  • Obama did have a few good lines, like when he said we tried this once before and then equated Romney to GW and himself to Clinton. And also when reminding us that Romney stood on a stage and voted against a deficit deal that would have $1 in revenue raising for every $10 in cuts.

  • Regarding the topic of deficits, Obama should've said now is just not the time to focus on cutting the deficit. It's obviously a very important and concerning topic, but it's Economics 101, you do not cut spending when the economy is hurting. He should've reminded viewers that Romney agrees, and he should've cited Europe and what austerity is doing to that region of the world, with riots breaking out in many countries there. Our economy is still not fully recovered with millions of people still unemployed and the focus should be on job creation and boosting the economy. Cutting the deficit comes later (like Bill Clinton did).

  • In just cursory fashion, Obama mentioned Romney has not specifically identified tax deductions and loopholes to be eliminated. Obama should have said it more forcefully and he should have repeated it more than once. Many viewers are hearing this stuff for the first time. They all don't read Ezra Klein or watch Rachel Maddow.

  • Finally, I'm sad to write that this debate was clearly Jim Lehrer's last. He appeared in way over is head, coming off as very frail and weak. Romney in particular basically bullied him, running rough-shod over time limits and the debate format. Lehrer looked as aimless as Clint Eastwood (sans the empty chair) and he lost control of the debate from the get-go and it was the Wild West from then on.

    Not that this made much of a difference in the night's outcome as Obama obviously made the decision before the debate started to take the night off.
  • Tuesday, October 02, 2012

    Several Items

  • An extensive investigation finds that voter-ID election fraud is "virtually non-existent". What a shocker. But this won't stop Republicans from trying to win via suppression. It's what they do.

  • "Since 1991, pharmaceutical companies have paid out $30 billion in settlements to the federal government and states....The seemingly undeterred pharmaceutical industry remains the biggest defrauder of the federal government."

  • Using Rasmussen-free polls, Obama leads in the Electoral College map by 332-206 margin, and Dems lead in the Senate by 51-46-3 margin.

  • I've been hearing people complain about the coming added expense of Obamacare. I explain it indeed will have a cost, but no one ever said it would be free. However, I contrast it with the Medicare prescription bill passed by GW & his Republican congress, a gift to the big pharma companies that cost over $1 TRILLION and was NOT paid for, meaning it went right to the deficit. The impartial CBO reported Obamacare was not only paid for but that it would decrease the deficit by $110 billion in 10 years. The bottom line is Republicans can't complain about both the deficit AND Obamacare. The fact is when they're in power they spend like crazy and explode the deficit, but they also never want to pay for anything (i.e. raise taxes). By definition, they are the problem.

  • I ask: what has gotten into Chris Matthews? I know most of you have seen him call bullsh*t on Reince Priebus. But did you see him recently on Bill Maher's HBO show? I think he was even better, still rip-snorting the truth and taking no prisoners. Did something happen to him, did he have some sort of epiphany? I wrote him off long ago as an aging establishment pundit, well on his way to becoming completely irrelevant. Wow, it appears the Romney campaign in all its repugnant glory has woken Chris up from his slumber. Let's hope he stays this way!
  • Warren/Brown Debate: Who Won?

    Who won the second debate? To me it's an easy call: Warren won. And no, I'm not saying this because I'm rooting for her. It's really more about simple math and campaign reality.

    When it comes to debates, if you are the front-runner then it's in your favor when the debate is a snore, when it comes off without a hitch and is just your typical Q&A with no fireworks or memorable moments. The candidate(s) trailing in the polls has to stir things up and hope for a game-changer occurrence, otherwise the debate becomes a wasted opportunity as the polls will likely remain unchanged.

    That said I didn't detect any memorable zinger last night, no "There you go again" or "I knew Jack Kennedy" lines. Instead it was more desperado retread of Native American crap along with lots of eruptions of laughter. Assuming Brown continues to trail in polls (he's plummeted from 65% to 30% at Intrade), expect things to get much uglier in the next debate.

    However, I will posit that Brown knows he's up against a woman and that a big positive for him is his good-natured personality. For those reasons, he can't overly risk going all-out after Warren and jeopardize coming off badly, resulting in even worse poll numbers. Quite a pickle.

    Needless to say, the same holds true for Romney tomorrow night. He's trailing by a sizable margin so look for him to go for broke with several attempts at zinger lines that he hopes will land and stick. The risk is it all appears nakedly transparent and therefore could backfire as a desperate act from a floundering and soon-to-be loser.

    But back to the Warren/Brown race, in the next debate I still think she needs to do more of two things, which I wrote about after the first debate.
    It was frustrating to see her miss some golden opportunities. For example, she never mentioned that Brown was one of the top receivers of hedge fund and financial services money -- this despite the fact he was elected during the Tea Party furor with many Republican voters expecting him to change the way things are done in DC. Instead he's been accepting big bucks from the Wall Street honchos just like every other politician that's come before him. Just another hack attempting to convince voters he's different.

    Also, Warren repeated many of her points several times, but one point she should've made earlier in the debate: tying Brown with the letter "R". And she should've then pounded that point home repeatedly for the rest of the hour.

    The fact is Brown is fairly moderate for a modern-day Republican -- which granted is not saying much given how far to the right the GOP has drifted over the last twenty years. But because his record is not right-wing to the extreme, it's more difficult for Warren to lay out black-and-white differences between the two for voters to appreciate.

    However, by starkly aligning Brown with the many kooks in his party, and doing so many times, Warren would've inflicted serious and lasting damage, especially when you consider a state like Massachusetts, where even Republican voters tend to favor non-crazy, more moderate candidates. When Warren made the statement, that by voting for Brown could very well tilt the balance of power in the Senate and thus put the likes of Senator Inhofe in charge of key committees, you could almost see Scott Brown wince in pain. He quickly retorted that she was running against him and not Inhofe, but you could tell then that she drew blood and he was running scared. I think she may have repeated this line of attack one more time, but they then moved on and it was already fairly late in the debate. Too bad and lucky for Brown.

    In the next debate, she'll do better. "The Professor" will be more at ease, the Native American stuff is played out, and my hope is she'll do more of what I wrote about above. She should repeat the line that Brown = "R" = possible 51+ Republican Senators, and she should repeat it many times and even expand on it. Everything is at stake with this potential power shift in the Senate. If the Republicans gain control, the list is endless as to what will be affected: the environment, future Supreme Court nominees, etc., and this fact will resonate with all voters in Massachusetts.

    Yes, Scott Brown is nowhere near as unhinged as the rest in his party, however that's not the point when the balance of power in the Senate is hanging so precariously. Brown wants this election to be about him alone, but it's not. What truly matters is "R" vs. "D" and unfortunately for Brown he is an "R", nuff said.

    I do not mean to say that Warren isn't a superior candidate and that we should vote for her strictly by default against her Republican opponent. But again, no matter what you feel about Brown personally or his record, one can't vote for him due to guilt by association. To vote for him is to increase the likelihood of the lunatics running the asylum come the new year.