No light shed
As far as presidential debates go, the first meeting between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney didn’t set a new standard for such events.
It wasn’t a debate that made for great and stimulating viewing for the millions of Americans who decided to tune in Wednesday night.
We didn’t see the president and standard bearer for the Democratic Party at his best. Instead of harnessing the conviction of his beliefs and the passion that fuels his desire to serve the nation in the capacity of president, Obama brought to bear his inner college professor — reserved, sometimes bemused and trying to stay true to today’s lecture notes.
As the nation has seen in the past, there are times where President Obama seems to treat politics as an academic exercise, one where he keeps thinking that reason and the facts will win the day — or at the very least convince the Republicans in Congress to put aside the partisan rancor to work toward compromise for the betterment of the country. This was how Obama treated this first debate, as if the dealings with an obstructionist Congress have had little impact during his time in the Oval Office.
Taking this approach allowed his Republican challenger to seize the moment.
How could Obama let Romney get away with claiming that it’s the president who too often has played the partisan card? The president should have responded by reminding everyone that the Republican-controlled House has been unwilling to cooperate or find compromise instead looking to fulfill its mission of making sure Obama has but one term in the White House.
Nor was that the only opportunity to counter-attack that Obama let slip away.
Romney created the impression that his interests lie with the middle class. Where was Obama asking the former governor of Massachusetts about his dismissive comments regarding 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay federal income taxes or the kind of taxes Romney paid?
Where was the challenge from Obama when his opponent said the president would be cutting Medicare benefits by $716 billion — a whopper of a misrepresentation of what is part of the federal health care law?
Yes, both men were evasive at times with their comments. As the debate wore on, it was clear the kind of follow-up questions that would enlighten and inform those watching were not going to be part of the evening. We’ll blame the moderator and the candidates for allowing that to happen.
So how do we score it? Give the edge to Romney, but don’t call it a win for the American public.