Obama Triumphant: Thoughts After the Second 2012 Presidential Debate
(For more commentary from a variety of contributors, see our post-debate post over at my place.)
Obama. Kicked. Ass.
I’m feeling really good about this one. Compared to the first debate, it was night and day, the president focused, on message, on the attack, calling out Romney for his near-constant dishonesty, explaining his record and policies clearly and succinctly, and making a strong case for why he deserves a second term.
Look, Romney had his moments. He’s a snake-oil salesman. And he can sell BS with the best of them. And generally, early on, he made a persuasive, if dishonest, case against the president’s handling of the economy. He can do that because, of course, the economy isn’t in great shape, and because he’s short on specifics when it comes to what he would actually do as president, masking the unpopular elements of his plan — which is to say, his plan in its entirety — behind sober rhetoric that makes him seem like a sensible moderate.
But it all started unravelling for Romney on issue after issue, from energy, where the president made a strong case for a comprehensive approach and called Romney out for misrepresenting the amount of exploration on federal lands; to women in the workplace, where Romney tripped all over himself and actually referred to “binders full of women”; to the auto industry, where Romney tried to say he was right about letting Detroit go bankrupt; to immigration, where Obama had him cornered as a far-right extremist; to George W. Bush, where Obama was able to point out that Romney is further to the right on social issues than the former president; to assault weapons, where Romney was all over the place and even suggested that single parents are to blame for mass murderers; to Libya, where Obama, in the most dramatic moment of the debate, called him “offensive” for charging that the president and his team would play politics in response to the deaths of four courageous Americans in Benghazi; to that that final question, when Romney said he cared about the 100% and left Obama with a clear opening to bring up Romney’s execrable 47% comments as indicative of the real Mitt Romney.
All in all, a brilliant performance by the president. He was in control and engaging from beginning to end. In contrast, from the very start, Romney tried to break the rules, rudely talking over Obama and the moderator, Candy Crowley, interrupting and generally acting the bully, much like he did in the first debate but this time to terrible effect. And in terms of his performance he declined badly as the debate went on, losing focus and lashing out with desperate “kitchen sink” approaches to the questions. And after the Libya exchange, not just with Obama calling what he said offensive but with Crowley pointing out that his claim that Obama didn’t call it a terror attack in the Rose Garden the day after the Benghazi attack was simply wrong, another hugely dramatic moment, he seemed lost. You could see it in his eyes. He knew he had lost control, and lost the debate.
Where I was nervous and anxious going into the debate, I came out of it not just relieved but energized. This is the Obama we know. This is the Obama we love. This was the President Obama America needs for four more years.
I didn’t make as much of his poor performance in the first debate as most others, seeing a lot of the post-debate analysis as overblown, but he obviously needed a strong performance tonight. It’s good, incredibly good, to have him back.