I sat down to last night’s debate with painfully low expectations. I figured that Obama would do slightly better and Romney slightly worse in the town hall format, because Obama likes people and Romney clearly does not, but overall, I didn’t really expect the ass-whooping that Obama delivered. Of course, Romney helped. He spent the entire debate barely able to contain his desire to yell, “How dare you peasants defy me?!”, instead apparently outsourcing how-dare-you duties to his family members:
Once again, I’m convinced that the number one thing we could do to fix the current problems with the debate system is to have nothing but town hall debates. I know that the Beltway media thinks that even having one is a supreme act of generosity to you plebes that somehow got the right to vote, but the fact of the matter is last night’s debate was actually interesting and informative in a way that no other debate will be. It’s clear that if it were simply Candy Crowley interviewing the two candidates, even if she were more forceful, the entire thing would devolve into yet another round of Romney lying about his tax plan and Obama trying to conquer fantasy with boring old facts. After the last two debates, I was beginning to wonder if the politicians involved remembered that the government had other duties than taxing its citizens. A lot of talk was dedicated to abstract concept of “spending”, but very few things the government actually spends money on were discussed in any detail. So, despite the tight controls over what the plebes get to ask the candidates, at least we go some discussion about concerns that matter to people outside of the small group of wealthy folks arguing about their tax bills. You know, like actually having a job that pays you or having a community where you’re safe from crime.
But even beyond that, Obama kicked ass. I knew he had it in the bag when the question that he’s supposedly weak on—the Libya thing—ended up being the highlight of the evening.
Romney came across as a child, who is more interested in preening and posing like he’s tough, whereas Obama came across as an adult who responds to a crisis by calmly trying to fix the problem. Obama reminded people that beating your chest isn’t actually solving problems. And, by the end of it, Romney ended up having a moderator call bullshit on him, which means that it’s now two debates in a row where the moderators sucked it up and called at least one Republican lie during the debate.
We have one more debate to go, the one that I’m least looking forward to because the topic of national security gets translated into “war-mongering” in this system we have. There’s no real space to talk about the actual work of foreign policy, which is a lot of diplomacy, building trade relations, and now targeting aid. Just guns and bombs. But this is going to be the most relevant debate for the election, I suspect. This election just isn’t being guided by foreign policy concerns, as the debate questions last night made clear. Last night was the best shot we had at a debate that actually addressed people’s real concerns, and as such, I think it turned out very, very well indeed.