The 2nd Presidential debate aired last night. As always, for those that missed it, here is the transcript and video. First, a note about the location. My quick reaction to this town hall-style debate taking place in New York was that it was a bit off-putting. I love New York, but let’s face it, New York isn’t exactly a middle of the road area of the country, as far a politics goes. More specifically, the audience members selected to ask questions all lived in close proximity to Hofstra University, located in Nassau County, which has voted for the Democrat in a Presidential Election for the last 20 years. However, many of the questions were decent. Others were pathetic. And with that, here’s the rundown:
The first question came from a college student, Jeremy Epstein, who wanted to know which candidate could assure him that there would be a job waiting for him when he graduated. Gov. Romney was first up and talked about making/keeping college affordable, but he spoke to the emotion of despair and tried to quell that with a reassurance that four years under his Presidency will be starkly different than the last four years under President Obama. Obama talked up the private sector job replacement that has brought us back to where we were when he took office (minus a few million people that have since dropped out of the labor pool). He spoke more specifically about creating manufacturing jobs and it struck me right then … Romney asked when Mr. Epstein would graduate, but neither asked what his major was. Obama’s talk about manufacturing jobs is fine, if Mr. Epstein is planning on going into manufacturing, but worthless if he is not. Likewise, Romney’s spiel about keeping college affordable is nearly pointless for someone already in college. Mr. Epstein had clearly already procured the funding required. Yes, the responses from both the President and Gov. Romney need to be broad, like they were, but they also needed to be specific, at some point, to Mr. Epstein’s question and connect on a more human level.
In the follow-up question by Candy Crowley, the candidates were asked to specify how they would get jobs back in a more immediate way, for those that have been looking for work over the last 6 months. Mr. Romney went first again and did a good job explaining why people have the despair that Mr. Epstein, his parents, neighbors, and professors have, but he didn’t lay out anything more concrete. Instead, he spoke about the bankruptcy of Detroit. Mr. Obama took Romney’s lead and spoke about Detroit, but then went into the tired class-warfare game that seems to be the only reason people have left to vote for him.
Neither candidate spoke to the more humanistic side of what Mr. Epstein and millions of others are going through and their responses were very canned, as one would expect. This round was a tie.
The second question was about Mr. Obama’s Energy Secretary, Stephen Chu’s, remarks that it is not the policy of the Department of Energy to lower gas prices and whether the President agreed with those remarks. First, this is a dumb question. It assumes circumstances surrounding a state-controlled market place, not a mixed economy like we have. A better question would be: Mr. President, when you spoke to the San Francisco Chronicle in January 2008 about how your idea of a cap-and-trade system would cause energy prices to “necessarily skyrocket,” is the increase in costs at the gas pump and the higher electricity costs at home indicative of what you had in mind?
That wasn’t asked, however, and since it was a dumb question, it barely deserved a response. Mr. Obama was first up this time and spoke about natural gas being produced at its highest levels in decades. This is true and is actually truer than he was letting on. Natural gas production is at its highest production levels in history. He should have stopped there. Instead, he went onto coal. He spoke about increases in coal production, which is true, if you’re only counting a couple years, but it is down from the production levels seen under President Bush. As for coal industry jobs, the verdict is that it is too hard to quantify the differences between years, because of the amount of contract workers, but it is believed that when new regulations, championed by Mr. Obama, kick-in in 2015, they will “make coal production and operating coal-fired power plants more expensive.” Then, the President spoke about oil production. He likes to tout the successes of the private sector when it suits him and this is no different. As I outlined in previous posts, while oil production is up on private land, total oil production is down from our highest levels in the 80’s … under Reagan … when we had 9% growth compared to the 1.3% growth we see today. The reason: the Obama administration has thwarted oil production on federal lands at almost every opportunity.
Mr. Romney rightly brought this up. Romney also hit on something that he would make a theme throughout the night: the President keeps talking about what he will do, but he’s already had 4 years, 2 of which with complete control of both Houses of Congress, yet he’s still talking about what he wants to do, so why didn’t he do it already?
Figuring in the distortions from President Obama and Gov. Romney calling out the President on his rhetoric compared to his policies and their results, this round favored Romney, slightly.
The third question, one of the better questions of the night, focused on Gov. Romney’s tax plan and how it would affect the middle class as far as deductions go. Mr. Romney gave a pretty good answer. He hit home the idea that the middle-class has been “crushed,” to use his term, and that is critical. Also critical, he solidified his position that he would not raise taxes on middle-income families, nor would he lower the tax burden on high-end wage earners. These are important points and needed to be hammered into the minds of voters. However, Mr. Romney failed to take the opportunity to outline any specific type of deduction or loophole he would close on the top 5% of wage earners.
Mr. Obama provided the clear distinction between the two of them with his response, in that he is looking to raise taxes on top wage earners. Mr. Romney had an opportunity to respond and I was looking for his response to include something in regards to the independent study that shows President Obama’s plan to tax the rich would bring in $400 Billion in revenue annually, but we would still be short $800 Billion in overspending due to this administration. Romney also failed to state that the government function of raising taxes does not create jobs, something President Obama adhered to during his Presidency. It would have been poignant for Mr. Romney to mention that if the President’s plan was such a great one, why didn’t he implement it before? Why, instead, did he advocate for keeping taxes low?
This round was lost by Romney, making Obama the victor by default.
The fourth question was about gender inequality in the workplace. Apparently the questioner was not aware of study after study that shows that the miniscule amount of gender inequality, as far as wages go, is often self-imposed, rather than being an effect of discrimination. Meaning, that men often ask for higher salaries in the negotiation phase, women will put off working to take care of the family at home, causing gaps in the work history, women also put family first when it comes to work schedules, etc, etc. This makes this the worst question of the night. The answers weren’t much better.
President Obama began by speaking about the plight of his grandmother who hit her glass ceiling as after becoming Vice President of the Bank of Hawaii. I think there are a lot of women, and men, that would endure that type struggle from “the man” keeping them down. He then went into education for women, which goes back to the self-imposed issue I spoke about.
Gov. Romney spoke about staffing his administration as Governor of Massachusetts with women and the lengths they went to to do that, which I know he had to do, but the delivery was odd. He also spoke about flexible work schedules, which are nice, and is a philosophy Romney seems to conform to, but that is something individual employers must decide and is not something for the federal government to be involved in.
The later back-and-forth devolved into women’s rights regarding contraception and abortion. I don’t think women really give a damn about $30 in contraception coverage, nor would either President have the power to overturn Roe v. Wade. And, in the off-chance, that an abortion-issue case did come to the SCOTUS, if the Justices reversed the decision on Roe v. Wade, it would just put the issue back to the States to decide how they want to handle it. Incidentally, this is a position that noted Harvard Law Professor, Alan Dershowitz, a life-long Democrat, is a proponent of.
Idiotic question, followed by tedious responses. Tie.
I take it back, the 5th question was the worst of the night. Michael Jones voted for Obama in 2008 and is looking for a reason to vote for him again. This provided an opportunity for a campaign stump speech. Romney’s response was a reiteration of his stump speeches outlining the failures of President Obama. Not much else here. If you don’t know their messages by now, please don’t vote.
Question #6 asked about immigrants and green card status. Mr. Romney did a very good job outlining that the issue is about illegal immigration, not harassing legal immigrants. He said he was not looking to round up individuals and send them back to their home country, unless they’ve broken the law, but instead wanted to focus on reducing opportunities for illegal immigrants to find work through E-verify systems and holding employers accountable. He also, more importantly, called out the President for failing to meet the promise he made to immigrants when he said immigration reform would be one of his top priorities in his first year, yet failed to direct his party to submit any bill through Congress in the last 4 years.
The President expressed similar goals as Romney but also stated that Gov. Romney supported the Arizona bill requiring law enforcement ask individuals already legally stopped for valid ID. This is not true. Romney’s remarks were in relation to the E-verify system, as Romney correctly pointed out in his follow-up.
Romney won this round.
Finally we get into Benghazi: “Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?”
President Obama started by saying “nobody is more concerned about their safety and security than I am.” Really? Kind of presumptuous and arrogant, don’t you think? He then says how he took command and control of the situation and directed more security to Libya and other embassies, said they will investigate themselves and go after who did this. Sounds reasonable. However, his public remarks in the following weeks were to blame the incident on a youtube video that barely anyone had seen. He then attacked Romney for making it political.
Romney called out President Obama on his failure to admit this was an organized, preplanned attack by a terrorist organization. The President interjected that he did call it a terrorist act and this is where we enter the most blatant partisan episode between a moderator of a debate and a Presidential challenger so far this cycle. Candy Crowley decided that she would like to correct the record by stating that the President did say it was an act of terror, but that he also did invoke the youtube video as a possible reason for the attack. The reality is that the President spoke, generally, about our country not tolerating acts of terror, but did not specifically state that this was an act of terrorism by a terrorist organization, even though it is now known that was shaping up to be the consensus agreement in the intelligence community just 24 hours after the incident. The
President then went on several talk shows in the following days, including The View and The Late Show with David Letterman and spoke about the Libya attack as relating to the video, compounding the President’s, and his administration’s, failures further. Because of Ms. Crowley’s interruption, Romney lost the ability to really nail the point he was trying to make and the President effectively encroached on Romney’s time to stop further discussion.
We all lost this round, because of Ms. Crowley. That incidentally made Obama the winner of this round.
Question #8 was in regards to assault weapons. Both Romney and Obama had similar rhetoric. However, President Obama had the botched plan known as “fast and furious” that ended up with U.S. made weapons being put in the hands of Mexican drug cartels, without any tracking program being run to find out who bought the weapons and go after those individuals. This resulted in hundreds of Mexicans being killed by people using those same weapons and at least one U.S. border patrol agent being killed. The administration stalled for months and months to stop inquiries, eventually invoking “executive privilege,” which disallows the sharing of information with Congress. However, “executive privilege” is used when the President is expressly involved and he had previously claimed no knowledge of the program. Romney brought up this program but wasn’t familiar enough with the specifics to go after Obama strong enough. Add to that, Ms. Crowley’s interruption where she falsely claimed that the question was about assault weapons bans from the 90’s that are no longer in effect, and you can see why I’m awarding this round to Obama.
This question was about outsourcing jobs overseas. Gov. Romney’s approach is to lower corporate taxes. President Obama said he is also in favor of that, but then talked about raising taxes on corporations by cutting certain deductions. I don’t get it either. Romney brought up Obamacare as one major obstacle that is impeding current job creation, but still lacked the specifics to bring it home completely. All in all, this round goes to Romney.
Question 1: Tie
Question 2: Romney, slightly
Question 3: Obama
Question 4: Tie
Question 5: —
Question 6: Romney
Question 7: Obama
Question 8: Obama
Question 9: Romney
President Obama won this debate, but just slightly, aided by Ms. Crowley and a couple questioners. Governor Romney could have done a better job on certain specifics and on putting the President’s feet to the fire on several issues, but he didn’t take the opportunity. This debate is no game-changer. The polls will likely reflect that in the coming days. See you next week after the last debate on foreign policy. Here’s hoping the Libyan debacle becomes center-stage.