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Was Obama just doing the rope-a-dope last night?

on 64 Comments
The signature moment in the debate last night for me came during a Romney answer, when the camera went to Obama who was staring glumly at the audience, till he saw someone he knew and flashed a big smile. He didn’t want to be there, and he wasn’t having fun. Romney announced that he was having fun, and he was.
I found it painful to watch. I was astounded by how passive Obama was, and also by his occasional deferences to Romney. I believe he apologized once or twice for stepping on a Romney line.
Below, three friends weigh in.
Bruce Wolman stopped watching after 20 minutes to watch a flyfishing program:
So this is the guy who is going to get tough with Netanyahu in the Second Administration? He can’t even get tough with his Republican opponent. After this evening, I think it is more reasonable to expect that Romney will contain Bibi.
It is possible O’s advisers didn’t want him attacking in Round 1, as no black politician can appear to be too aggressive or angry and keep his white voters on board. With the debate criticism he will now receive, O can be far more pit-bullish in the next round. I believe something similar happened in his debates with Hillary. He waited for her and Bill to attack first before giving it back-in-kind. That is an optimistic interpretation though.
Far more likely, it was decided he should channel his inner “conciliator” and not antagonize the independents. Didn’t work too well!
It also seems as if Obama has no idea what he wants to do in his Second Term, other than cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

My wife also quit after 15 minutes.

I understand that’s Romney’s strength: He knows how to be upbeat and concise. In an ADD age, upbeat and concise will always beat out theoretical and longwinded.

Obama seemed a little arrogant in his presentation. The attitude was, I live this stuff so I don’t have to practice. While for his part, I got the feeling that Romney had been with his team practicing and practicing. He knew how to play the game. He was sharp, like a wing in hockey.

I stopped watching because it’s like Leni Riefenstahl movies — you realize, you too can be taken in, by the simplicity, the ease, the slickness, the movie starrish looks.

James North focused on the journalists:

I understand that Obama might have been doing the rope-a-dope in the first round. [A reference to Muhammad Ali sinking into the ropes to allow George Foreman to punch himself out] But it’s unrealistic to expect that Obama will put Romney on the floor. Romney’s not Gerald Ford.

It’s a rare occasion when I learn something valuable from a New York Times editorial. But its lead editorial showing how many times Romney lied. I assumed he lied a few times. They showed that he lied over and over again.

And if I taught a journalism class, I would hold up Jim Lehrer as an example of what journalists shouldn’t do. The gesturing and half-formed superficial statements; he has never asked a probing question. Journalists have to learn to ask probing statements. This guy merely reflects the conventional wisdom and he shows why the heart of the MacNeil Lehrer Report has been a tedious, centrist, dull unchallenging program. 

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64 Responses

  1. ThorsteinVeblen2012
    October 4, 2012, 12:26 pm

    Obama’s weakness is that he cannot seem overly aggressive or he will evoke a scary angry black man image to marginal white voters. How many suburban whites are going to vote for Jeremiah Wright?

    Mitt took a page from Ronald Reagan and even sounded like him.

    White voters like angry passionate white guys. Malcolm X not so much.

    • Krauss
      October 4, 2012, 2:14 pm

      You’re overracializing it.

      Obama has never been a good debater. He wasn’t with Hillary either, despite the attempt at historical revisionism above in the Phil’s friend’s post.

      The reason why nobody in the media noticed was because they were too busy worshipping at his feet which sort of cancelled out any noise about imperfections.

      I personally think Obama was burdened by something we do not know.
      It was the same thing with his dud speech at the DNC.

      These past few months he has been really gloomy and Axelrod has been doing yeoman’s work for his campaign(Axelrod is a political genius and has essentially painted Romney brilliantly).

      But Romney is a master shapeshifter.
      He is now talking about why you need good regulations on Wall St!
      He talks about the importance of covering pre-existing conditions.
      He talks about how he won’t cut taxes for the richest in America(he will).

      Romney is essentially trying to pass for a moderate Rockefeller Republican, which he is, but after so many shifts, will he get away with it? Maybe.

      Whatever the case, Obama is going to be much more aggressive in the next debate(Townhall-style, which Obama does better on as it’s more fluid and less rigid which Romney prefers).

      The final debate is going to be a disaster, though, as Romney, with the background on the attacks in Benghazi, Obama’s perceived coldness to Israel, his willingness to fund the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran etc, there’s no way that Obama can win that debate – which will be entirely on foreign policy.

      Luckely for Obama, foreign policy is something most voters just don’t care that much about.

      I still expect Obama to win. Romney’s too late out.
      But it isn’t going to be a walkover like many thought.

      As for Wolman’s statement that “how can Obama stand up to Bibi?”.
      Well, he already has, on Iran, so why would it be harder when you’re not facing re-election?

      • Kathleen
        October 4, 2012, 11:17 pm

        Krauss I am with you that Obama is burdened by something else that we do not know. Saw him in Boulder about a month ago. Flat. Flat at the DNC. Flat last night. Heard him speak numerous times during 2008 campaign. Ok he was younger had not been beat down by the Republicans, had the wind at his back etc etc. My sense is something else it up. Why would you purposely blow a debate. Does not add up

        Oh Howard Fineman has an interesting take on all of it over at Huffington Post

    • ColinWright
      October 4, 2012, 4:06 pm

      ThorsteinVeblen2012: “Obama’s weakness is that he cannot seem overly aggressive or he will evoke a scary angry black man image to marginal white voters…”

      At the same time, I have a hard time seeing Obama as a ‘scary angry black man.’ I’m pretty sure I can do ‘scary angry black man’ better than he can.

      • ThorsteinVeblen2012
        October 4, 2012, 5:19 pm

        All Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Mark Levine and the rest need is one angry sound bite and they will play it more than Jeremiah Wright and Howard Dean combined.

    • pabelmont
      October 4, 2012, 9:57 pm

      Romney sounded to me (I listened on radio) like the breathless Reagan I’d heard years ago. Did he PRACTICE that sound or does he always sound like that? Is he trolling for the Reagan voters?

      OTOH, did Reagan get us into any wars? Romney/Bibi seem to want to do that. But that’s for the THIRD debate, isn’t it?

      • RoHa
        October 5, 2012, 1:26 am

        I didn’t lissten to Romney, but I recall Reagan. He always sounded like a feeble old man to me.

      • ThorsteinVeblen2012
        October 5, 2012, 1:33 am

        Reminds me of an old Tom Tomorrow cartoon where the Republican candidate was someone simply wearing a Ronald Reagan mask.

  2. seanmcbride
    October 4, 2012, 12:28 pm

    Perhaps Obama is tired of being president? Maybe he no longer wants the job? That is the impression he gave last night — beginning with that opening line about how he wished he were elsewhere. Romney convinced the audience that he really wants the job.

    Jim Lehrer encapsulates everything that is wrong with contemporary American mainstream journalism — a completely empty head masquerading as a wise old head. Worthless. A specialist in pretentious blather. (What do you want to bet that he is a “liberal Zionist.”)

    Sometimes Romney reminds one a bit of Christian Bale in American Psycho — no one can fault him for his “energy” — he was almost bursting out of his suit.

    • Krauss
      October 4, 2012, 2:18 pm

      Perhaps Obama is tired of being president? Maybe he no longer wants the job?


      Yes, the President who claimed to be able to ‘heal the oceans’, who eagerly partook in celebrations during his campaign where he was hailed as the ‘black Jesus'(which he did nothing at all to discourage and in fact gave his tacit approval by smiling and nodding), the man who compared his picks to titans like Alexander Hamilton(Obama claimed that Wall St’s tool, Geither, is the best candidate for the job since Hamilton). Obama has even come scarily close to comparing himself with MLK and Gandhi. He has defaced presidential biographies on the WH website by inserting his own policy proposals into the biography of FDR and Lincoln.

      Nah, Obama wants the job. He’s an ultra-narcissist(all presidents are, but Obama’s an unusual case).

      Of course, a case can be made that you must be a narcissist today in order to survive psychologically the constant mental onslaught from the 24/7 media from all mediums and channels if you want to be president.

      But let’s not kid ourselves here.

      • seanmcbride
        October 4, 2012, 2:41 pm


        I picked up the vibe from the debate and his convention speech that Obama is distracted and perhaps a bit depressed — his heart wasn’t in it. His mind was elsewhere. Something’s up.

        I still expect him to win the election, barring strange, unforeseen events.

        I don’t understand how anyone can stand the stress and demands of that job. The travel alone, not to mention the relentless public speechifying, would wear down most people very quickly.

        I can’t imagine what kinds of pressure Obama is being subjected to by Israel and the Israel lobby behind the scenes — surely it is hysterical and crushing.

      • Kathleen
        October 4, 2012, 11:20 pm

        What a horrendous job. What a tremendous burden. Well except for someone like Bush, Cheney, Reagan no conscience to contend with

  3. American
    October 4, 2012, 12:36 pm

    I watched the whole painful thing..lying Romney and dull Obama.
    Can’t figure why Obama was so passive

    • Citizen
      October 5, 2012, 3:19 am

      Both lied and/or spoke half (or less)-truths. And Obama momentarily perked up and flashed a big grin to someone at least twice. And he directly addressed the TV audience at least once.

      Maybe Obama was stunned to find himself out of the bubble he’s been living in?

  4. seafoid
    October 4, 2012, 12:45 pm

    Barack Obama from the start of his presidency has exhibited an almost exclusive taste for the dignified part of government. During the BP oil spill, his remoteness from the plod and toil of problem-solving showed day after day. That was a “teachable moment,” if ever there was one: a public catastrophe that implicated the environment and energy resources close to home for all Americans. The moment escaped this president, as the nuclear disaster in Japan has also escaped him. He never broke a sweat as he could have—literally and figuratively—by descending into the muck on the spoiled Louisiana beaches. Few presidents have ever seemed farther than Obama from being “in the thick of things.” The impression came back as he left Washington with Netanyahu triumphant, and took a plane for Ireland to speak of hope and peace.
    Obama’s management of the killing of bin Laden is the one action of his presidency in which his leadership has seemed beyond challenge. “Revenge,” wrote Francis Bacon, “is a kind of wild justice,” and that sentiment fitted the reactions of most Americans on hearing the news. Obama guided the popular feeling when he said “Justice has been done.” Yet revenge and justice are, to the citizens of a constitutional democracy, different ideas, and a leader more scrupulous or less confused would take pains to keep them separate. A string of questions in any case soon became a drag on the event. How could bin Laden’s residence in a prominent house in a garrison town have been concealed for so long? Did elements of the Pakistani intelligence service know of this hideout? What now prevents American commanders in the field from concluding that our allies are acting in complicity with our enemies? The aftermath of the bin Laden killing has left the US as deeply entangled as ever in a hostile region, with no prospect of amelioration from any extension of the present policy.
    On May 26, at the urging of the President, the Senate and House voted to renew the Patriot Act. Obama signed it with a teleportable pen, from France. He has said that he would look to the future, not the past—a slogan that nullifies the large part of justice that consists of accountability—but here was an element of the Bush-Cheney past that he chose to project into the future with as little discussion as possible. Obama’s real trouble has come, however, in his attempts to inhabit the present. He is slower to react than most people, far slower than most politicians. He gave away six months of the health care debate without pressing his initial advantage while the resistance sprang up all around, the Tea Party was created, and congressional enemies gained on him. He let the controversy over his birth certificate blow up to absurd proportions over two and a half years before dispelling all doubts at a stroke in a press briefing that was hastily called and testily managed. At present, he is waiting for Afghanistan to calm down and let him withdraw troops on a deliberate schedule. But things can flare up while you are waiting, or flare up elsewhere and set back every cautious preparation.
    The position of a moderate who aspires to shake the world into a new shape presents a continuous contradiction. For the moderate feels constrained not to say anything startling, and not to do anything very fast. But just as there is trouble with doing things on the old lines, there is trouble, too, with letting people understand things on the old lines. At least, there is if you have your sights set on changing the nature of the game. Obama is caught in this contradiction, and keeps getting deeper in it, like a man who sinks in quicksand both the more he struggles and the more he stays still. This is one lesson of his passage from inaction in Egypt to action in Libya, and from his summons of reform in Cairo in June 2009 to the guarded speech from the sidelines in May 2011.

  5. Les
    October 4, 2012, 12:52 pm

    The passive-aggressive Obama has forever meant be passive to right wingers and agressive towards even the lowliest of his would-be liberal allies.

  6. libra
    October 4, 2012, 12:55 pm

    Mrs. Weiss: …the movie starrish looks.

    Oh dear. Looks like Phil may have more than political problems with a resurgent Romney. Can we rule out a polygamist in the White House? A vacancy for Second (even Third) Lady?

    This could all end in tears. But Phil has no one but himself to blame. Ruling out his only safe choice with all those ridiculous Ron Paul deal breakers.

  7. Denis
    October 4, 2012, 1:27 pm

    While I am not so vain as to think my analysis of the substance of the debate could equal that of the politically omniscient NYT, I am vain enough to think my analysis of the procedures and minutiae is superior to theirs, and more profane, to boot.


    Here is a summary of my blather:

    1. The audience was marvelous. Not a burp, chuckle, fart, or ring tone the whole evening. Thank you, I don’t know how you did it. If I had been there, the sound of my vomiting would have been broadcast to the entire nation.

    2. These two guys are incredibly intelligent. They both mastered their material to perfection. Unfortunately, the material they mastered didn’t coincide precisely with the questions they were asked and so they kept spewing up the same points over and over. When has that ever not been typical for a presidential debate?

    3. My formula for using these debates to decide who to vote for is: A. determine which one hogs the clock the most. B. Vote for the other guy. That’s b/c the guy who hogs the clock the most because is the bigger a-hole. Motor-mouth Mitt was clearly the bigger a-hole.

    4. Speaking of hogging the clock, every single time for as far back as I can remember what the debates come down to is two enormous egos trying to out-do each other in hogging the clock. It is so stupid and so easy to fix. The Commission of Presidential Debates needs to have a separate “red-time” clock for each candidate that keeps a running total for the amount of time each one speaks while the red “shut-up-and-let-the-other-guy-talk” light is on. Then at the end of each segment the difference in accumulated red light time for the candidates is determined and whoever is on the short end gets that much time to talk without interruption. IOW, if you talk longer with the red light on than your opponent does, he gets the last word. That would shut them up the microsecond their red light comes on and turn them from time-hogs into nice, time-compliant puppy dogs that even Jim Lehrer could manage.

    • Krauss
      October 4, 2012, 2:25 pm

      “Not a burp, chuckle, fart, or ring tone the whole evening.”

      “the sound of my vomiting would have been broadcast”

      “Motor-mouth Mitt was clearly the bigger a-hole”

      It usually helps a debater to be intelligent, and not to switch reason with words he stole from the playground for 9-year olds(and I’m being generous here).

      Your blog will continue to swim in the river of death.

      • Denis
        October 5, 2012, 12:51 am

        “Your blog will continue to swim in the river of death.”

        Shouldn’t that be River of Death? Not sure I follow you on this, but I’ll take another tote and have a look around for my speedo. See you down at the dock.

        ITMT, I’m going to have to re-think my vote based on who hogged the clock. I would have bet millions to mellons that Romney took up way more time than Obama. Nope.

        Al Jazeera has a helpful interactive debate page that lets you search words in the transcript and then go to that point in the debate. It also shows the elapsed time clock so it’s possible to determine the total amount of time each speaker spoke.

        It is amazing they there were durn near dead even — I have them only 7 seconds apart at the end of the night, and yet the word count shows Romney spewed almost twice as many words as Obama in the same amount of time.

        It is shocking. My perception was shared by many of the pundits that Romney had the lion’s share of the time. But that ain’t so. This also indicates that Lehrer did an amazing job in equalizing the time.

    • Carowhat
      October 4, 2012, 11:21 pm

      3. My formula for using these debates to decide who to vote for is: A. determine which one hogs the clock the most. B. Vote for the other guy. That’s b/c the guy who hogs the clock the most because is the bigger a-hole. Motor-mouth Mitt was clearly the bigger a-hole.

      The debate analysis that I read said that, surprising as it might seem, Obama actually spoke three minutes longer than Romney.

    • Citizen
      October 5, 2012, 3:30 am

      Obama clocked more time than Mittens, who had the motor mouth. Obama talks slowly, with recognizable pauses.

      • Taxi
        October 5, 2012, 6:26 am

        LOL Citizen: “with recognizable pauses”.

  8. Kathleen
    October 4, 2012, 1:38 pm

    Watched with family members and friends. Within the first half hour the conversation went to President Obama is getting clobbered. My mother of course one of those die hard Catholic Dems who used to have like so many of these ladies a picture of John Kennedy in her living room with a rosary around the picture now has Obama pictures all over her house was beating up on Romney the whole time. The rest of us were intently listening. I kept saying is President Obama sick? Or on medication? Totally unlike him. While I was impressed by the respect with which each candidate was treating the other they almost seemed like (they really like one another) I was taken back by the President’s demeanor. Had watched Romney in all of the Republican debates so knew his style. But last night clearly he had been practicing and really on his game. One thing I noticed about Romney is he always always turns towards the person speaking seemingly listening intently. He did this again last night. I thought Obama’s body language was odd, seldom looking at Romney when Romney would be speaking. Obama kept turning to the audience. I thought this was off especially since the debate is supposed to be between the two of them, even though we know there is far more going on than that.

    One of the big oops that I thought Romney made was when he referred to all people on medicaid as “poor.” Kept thinking about the hundreds of older folks, lots of WWII Vets that I have met in nursing homes over the last close to five years who had to go through all of their savings often if on their own their homes were taken for payment and then get put on partial medicaid payments plus their pensions social security to pay monthly nursing home bills. The majority of folks worked hard all of their lives and the dirty little secret is they end up on medicaid in these facilities. Romney referred to everyone on medicaid as the “poor” Hope the Dems make an ad out of this.

    President Obama will pick up his game but whether his off game was intentional is a question.

    All in all I think this was one of the better Presidential debates I have ever listened to. Especially the respectful part.

    • Citizen
      October 5, 2012, 3:38 am

      I agree it was one of the better Presidential debates I’ve ever watched & heard. Mitt threw a lot of details regarding what Obama has actually wrought, which I’m sure most Americans did not know. Of course, both lied in much of their generalizations. All of the stats either used were misleading.

  9. flyod
    October 4, 2012, 1:52 pm

    obama might not like the looks of the cliff we are headed for

  10. Kathleen
    October 4, 2012, 2:03 pm

    I thought it was really odd after the debate Romney and family stayed out on the stage for a long time when the President and his family left the stage early. Odd effect.

    Maybe President Obama had accidentally taken some night time Ny Quil There are only two more debates and in Florida debate he is not going to be able to relish that he has somewhat stood up to Israel and the I lobbies incessant pressure to bomb Iran.

  11. German Lefty
    German Lefty
    October 4, 2012, 2:04 pm

    I was astounded by his occasional deferences to Romney. I believe he apologized once or twice for stepping on a Romney line.
    What’s wrong with treating other people respectfully? Do you want to be represented by someone who has no manners?

    It is possible O’s advisers didn’t want him attacking in Round 1, as no black politician can appear to be too aggressive or angry and keep his white voters on board.
    Oh, please. Let’s not use race as an “excuse”. That’s really lame.

    • yourstruly
      October 4, 2012, 3:04 pm

      lame and just plain wrong!

      based on?

      the 1973 mayorality debates in Los Angeles between the incumbent, sam yorty (white) and tom bradley (black), the challenger. four years earlier yorty had defeated bradley

      there were two debates in the 73 contest. to most observers (including myself) it seemed that yorty had won the first debate. disgusted with the outcome i sent off a telegram (figuring he’d be more likely to read a telegram than a letter) to bradley which went something like this – mr bradley, your deference to the mayor’s agressive style is such that you risk coming across as a modern day rendition of the house slave. unless you show some spunk in the next debate you’re in serious trouble.

      the 2nd debate came and lo and behold, bradly came out swinging and was in the attack mode throughout. pundits (for what they amounted to back then) took note of this.

      and tom bradley won

      a couple months later I received a letter from mayor bradley in which he thanked me for my earlier telegram and asked if i had noticed the change in his approach and demeanor during the second debate.

      bradley got 56% of the vote with the african-american percentage of the electorate at that time being 15%

      • German Lefty
        German Lefty
        October 4, 2012, 5:08 pm

        @ yourstruly:
        Well, this was in 1973. People in the USA should be more evolved now. Race has nothing to do with skills and is therefore irrelevant.

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        October 4, 2012, 6:01 pm

        “People in the USA should be more evolved now.”

        Most Americans are so stupid they reject evolution, favoring creationism (of one form or another) instead. And we’re nuclear armed, to the teeth. Your faith in the USA is very misplaced.

  12. Krauss
    October 4, 2012, 2:30 pm

    Also, a final word on Jim Lehrer.

    Yes, he was rolled by Romney. But his basic instinct; to let them two have it at each other without many disruptions, is a far better model than hyperaggressive ‘moderators’ who end up taking up a larger part of the conversation(or more likely a monologue at that point) than the actual candidates.

    If the next moderator tweaks Lehrer’s style a bit more, it would be better.
    I don’t defend lassiez-faire in most cases, but this is an exception where I will.

    • Chu
      October 4, 2012, 4:41 pm

      Lehrer forgot to take his geritol last night. Funny how Romney said he was going to cut funding for PBS right at Lehrer.
      Romney owned the whole show last night while Obama took notes. What a disaster for the incumbent.

    • Kathleen
      October 4, 2012, 5:56 pm

      I agree

      • Citizen
        October 5, 2012, 3:46 am

        Me too. Mittens is also now stealing Obama’s patent on being Jesus, defender of the poor and meek; if he keeps it up by round 3 he will be (the Mormon) Moses.

        His flag pin has been growing too; it was 3X larger than Obama’s. Maybe he will borrow Sarah Palin’s crossed-flag pin for that final round.

      • Kathleen
        October 5, 2012, 9:34 am

        “his flag pin has been growing too” Interesting observation. “3x’s larger than Obama’s” Amazing they add things like this

  13. piotr
    October 4, 2012, 3:13 pm

    To me, politics belongs to dark arts. What works in politics is not always what an intelligent person, not conversant with the dark arts, would guess.

    I did not watch the debate, and I am perhaps in the majority. What will be the net outcome depends in part of the media, and that, unfortunately, depends on some grand poobahs of media elite.

    When media are against a candidate, he can be clobbered by most superficial pseudo-reason, like Al Gore sighs during his debate. If Obama cannot stand Romney, either he can master his body language or he should gaze elsewhere.

    I got impression that media is somewhat scared of Romney. What if really means to attack Iran? If so, and if Romney lied a lot, he can be clobbered in the media.

    The last polls are good for Obama, so playing “hold” was logical, if not satisfying to watch.

    • Citizen
      October 5, 2012, 3:52 am

      I haven’t checked it out, but I heard NYT focused on Mitt’s lies, but the trouble is Mitt delivered a lot of negative truth about Obama’s handiwork re, e.g., Obamacare, tax code craft, green cronism.

  14. yourstruly
    October 4, 2012, 3:29 pm

    was the president’s diffidence in responding to his opponent’s aggressive style & taunts consequent to an inability or an unwillingness to respond in kind? if the former, look for his getting trammeled in both of the remaining two debates, but if the latter, there’s a chance in these remaining debates that by being better prepared he’ll be able to undo the damage done last night. it would help, too, if he had a few convictions other than america’s so-called exceptionalism that he could get worked up about.

  15. David Doppler
    David Doppler
    October 4, 2012, 3:59 pm

    I go back to the story of how Obama won election as President of the Harvard Law Review: amid highly political factions, he eventually emerged as the liberal candidate that the conservatives decided to back. He did this by listening respectfully, being able to repeat back their positions succinctly, even eloquently, so that he gave the impression – this guy gets it, he hears me. Of course, he also refrained from badgering them with his liberalism. A world class listener. He still has that quality. But he instinctively also does not attack others, he’s pathologically respectful of others’ viewpoints.

    In office, he’s demonstrated that he’s no executive, or at least lacks the inherent qualities associated with effective executives – take charge personality, natural inclination to focus on the processes needed to accomplish things (as opposed to the ideas behind them), natural coaching abilities to inspire performance and judge and hold people accountable for their performance or lack thereof, thick skin when it comes to stepping on people. Journalists tend to love him because of his intelligence and thoughtfulness, but is he too deferential to be a great executive.

    For me, Romney’s strongest moment was in attacking Obama for taking on healthcare when he did, in the midst of the Great Recession. While we needed and still need healthcare reform, this four year process he kicked off has left our largest industry in a funk of total unpredictability, with Congress shut down on the topic until after the election – for the last 18 months. Healthcare reform, the fiscal cliff, the debt crisis, the Middle East, all got kicked down the road until “next Spring,” when what? If Obama is re-elected, is he suddenly going to become Mr. Execution, who resolves everything, gets the whole country moving in the right direction again, or is his pathological deference and unwillingness to criticize or hold people accountable going to continue to allow leadership vacuums to suck the vitality out of reform and progress? I think he listens and avoids offense, and kicking things down the road is a natural tool when you don’t want to step on people. He managed to come through Bibi’s hostility without offending most American Jews – champion listener, champion non-offender – but I’d prefer to see him run Bibi out of office. I’d prefer to see him hold Wall Street accountable. I’d prefer to see him have long ago raised taxes on the wealthy, to ended the Afghan war, closed Guantanamo, restored personal liberties. I almost got sick to hear him say his most important job is to keep Americans safe, as if he’s the chief cop and military officer. He is commander in chief, but his role as civilian CiC is in big part to protect Americans from its own military-industrial complex, who demand a lot of listening and are hard to reign in without offending them. He gets an F on that front, as far as I’m concerned.

    I’m inclined to think Romney with a Democratic-controlled Congress would work out best, but cannot see how that could come about. I’m still undecided, but momentum is now on Romney’s side.

  16. ColinWright
    October 4, 2012, 4:20 pm

    I’ve figured this one out. It’s all my fault.

    Every presidential candidate I’ve backed since 1992 (and possibly before) has lost. Every single one.

    So I’ve picked Obama this time. It’s the kiss of death.

    • MarkF
      October 5, 2012, 9:29 pm

      “So I’ve picked Obama this time. It’s the kiss of death.”

      You still have time to switch……

      • ColinWright
        October 6, 2012, 2:36 am

        MarkF: ““So I’ve picked Obama this time. It’s the kiss of death.”

        You still have time to switch……”

        I could never vote for Romney.

        I suppose I could write in the dog again. He was my choice in 2000.

  17. Memphis
    October 4, 2012, 4:32 pm

    “sharp, like wing in hockey”

    Okay, I don’t get it.

  18. Ismail
    October 4, 2012, 4:41 pm

    “I understand that’s Romney’s strength: He knows how to be upbeat and concise. In an ADD age, upbeat and concise will always beat out theoretical and longwinded.”

    This is unfair and smacks of poor loser-ness. Being concise (and, more to the point, substantive,as Romney was, never mind his being incorrect) is a virtue, particularly in a debate. No need to reference an “ADD age” to explain why Romney’s presentation was more persuasive.

    What if the points Romney presented were true, instead of the lies so many of them were? Put another way, what if Obama had presented his analysis in as similarly powerful fashion, the only difference being that you agreed with most of it? Would that count as pandering to attention-deficient Americans?

    Progressives need to be less sneeringly dismissive of their opponents (if Romney scored, well, what do you expect from a nation of slack-jawed Honey Boo Boos?) That attitude works for getting Bill Maher a TV show; it doesn’t work for coalition building.

    Obama came across as feckless and uninspiring compared to Romney because he performed poorly, not because of some shortcoming of the electorate.

    • Citizen
      October 5, 2012, 4:02 am

      @ Ismail

      I agree Mitt was more concise and more substantive; I don’t agree with you he was less correct or more a liar than Obama.

      • Ismail
        October 5, 2012, 9:51 am

        Citizen, we’re on the same page. I don’t think my comment suggested any support for Obama, for whom I have utmost contempt.

  19. MRW
    October 4, 2012, 5:42 pm

    My vote is for rope-a-dope. Now they have an entire video of Romney’s tells, ‘cuz Romney was all twinkle toes I’m going to be president, throwing out his best stuff.

    Obama’s a poker player.

    In the summer of 2007 when Obama was below 20% in the polls, word out of Chicago (from his complaining donors) was ‘start punching’, ‘stop being so passive’, ‘you have to hit Hillary and hit her hard’. Anyone remember that? The insider frustration with Obama spilled out into the media, because Pritzker, et al, were furious and thought they “backed the wrong man.” Apparently Obama endured nearly four weeks of it before he said, Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing, I know how to close. I never forgot that line of his: I know how to close.

    So, we’ll see.

    • Kathleen
      October 4, 2012, 5:59 pm

      I am waiting for the moment that Obama says to Romney would like to have you work in my administration after I get re-elected. Jobs czar

    • ColinWright
      October 4, 2012, 9:30 pm

      MRW says: “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing, I know how to close. I never forgot that line of his: I know how to close.”

      I’d just as soon not take that on faith for the next four weeks.

      How about widening that lead and putting it in the bag instead?

    • Chu
      October 5, 2012, 10:29 am

      I think you give him to much credit. Obama attempted to use all these rehashed debates points about his grandmother, etc. It was weak and fell flat compared to Mitt’s assault.
      I think he gave up in the debate, because he knows he hasn’t accomplished much on the economy and Mitt made him feel and realize it.

  20. notatall
    October 4, 2012, 6:49 pm

    Aw, who gives a flying f***?

    • Kathleen
      October 5, 2012, 9:36 am

      The 99%. Maybe Mitt wants that 47% out there instead of the 99%

  21. Dan Crowther
    Dan Crowther
    October 4, 2012, 8:07 pm

    You seem to overlook that Obama and Romney agree in a lot places.

    • Kathleen
      October 4, 2012, 11:22 pm

      Yep. Obama needs to let him know he would like to have him in his new administration.

  22. dbroncos
    October 4, 2012, 11:58 pm

    With all the amunition Obama has to fire at Romney he could have mopped the floor with that stiff, starched empty suit. Instead it was Obama who looked stiff and Romney who looked relaxed and in his element. Bad news for Obama. The weak President we saw in the debate showed the same weakness we’ve come to associate with his Presidency – disappointing but, sadly, not surprising.

    • notatall
      October 5, 2012, 6:08 am

      “The weak President. . . ”

      What do you mean, weak? He gave billions to bail out banks, pushed through a plan that will forestall public healthcare for at least a generation, expanded the war in Afghanistan, assassinated U.S. citizens (not to mention countless others) without judicial procedure, passed money to the Zionists while they expelled Palestinians from their homes, blocked PA diplomatic initiatives, etc. What more could he have done had he been strong?

    • MRW
      October 6, 2012, 3:20 am

      If the debates are going to decide the Prez, why are we wasting two years with all the other nonsense?

      Canadians dissolve Parliament, so the politicos can concentrate on the election, and spend six weeks hashing everything out in debates, TV shows, and personal appearances in their districts. Then everyone votes. No government business is done during the election process. National emergencies are handled by the PM in power with his still elected Cabinet.

      Why the hell don’t we do something that reasonable? Everyone I know is bored shitless by the electioneering, and the politicos aren’t getting any work done.

  23. surewin
    October 5, 2012, 7:40 am

    I don’t think Obama won the battle, but I think he got closer to winning the war. He’s just running out the clock at this point. My biggest fear is that Romney will close the gap enough that some faceless committee of people will decide that they can steal the election for him.

    And poor James North should just get rid of his television. Life is too short for tedious, centrist, dull, unchallenging TV programs.

    • annie
      October 5, 2012, 9:34 am

      My biggest fear is that Romney will close the gap enough that some faceless committee of people will decide that they can steal the election for him.

      he doesn’t have to close the gap for them to do this, he just has to appear as if he has. it has to appear somewhat believable.

  24. manfromatlan
    October 5, 2012, 8:38 am

    You remember Obama vs McCain? I’d like to see THAT Obama again.

    • Citizen
      October 5, 2012, 11:55 am

      @ manfromatlan
      When Obama ran against McCain he did not have a 4 year negative track record as POTUS, and McCain does not have the IQ Mittens has. Round one announced to anyone paying attention that Mittens was now catering to the “middle class” and “the poor.” At the grocery store today, I asked to white guys like myself if they had watched Round 1. One (age maybe 40–says he never votes as nobody does anything for him) said he did not as he was watching his TIVO entertainment programs; the other (age maybe 65-70) said he did not as he thinks voting is a joke, and he cannot be bothered. Meanwhile, on cspan wj this mornig, Anne Coulter addressed the history of the white liberals playing the race card for decades now, followed by The Nation’s Van whateverhernameis, saying GOP don’t care about average Americans.

  25. kma
    October 6, 2012, 11:13 pm

    of course he’s playing rope-a-dope. he roped millions last time, and it’s clearly very easy to keep doing it. are you admitting that you’re all dopes?

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