Jewish World Review Oct. 11, 2012/ 25 Tishrei, 5773
A new debate game plan for a new comeback
By Martin Schram
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The morning after the night of the first presidential debate, loyal Democrats awoke (if indeed they slept at all) to find in their inboxes an email with a subject line that had the too-familiar look of spam.
But then they saw the sender: "From: Barack Obama." And that gave most the courage to click and read. The message, sent at 12:35 a.m., began:
"I hope I made you proud out there explaining the vision we share for this country."
Whoa. Proud? Reading that may have made Democratic faithful feel they were still trapped in last night’s nightmare. If Obama wrote it, it seemed, he just doesn’t get it. (Perversely, the only comfort those email recipients could find was realizing Obama didn’t really write that email. It was just another fundraising appeal.)
But presidential senior advisers are famous for turning to jelly when they know their president utterly failed, yet they are asked to tell the boss how he did. So we’d better tell their boss the toughest truths.
Mr. President, your true believers who watched the debate with eyes and ears as big as their hopes, came away feeling discouraged, disillusioned and even despairing. You failed them because you gave your most defeat-able challenger the one gift he could never have given himself:
You made Mitt Romney (who is neither liked nor trusted by many in his own Republican Party) appear more presidential than the incumbent president. That happened because you failed to take on your debate opponent with the same determination you use when confronting your opponents in basketball or even golf.
On a basketball court, you’d never confront your opponent by standing flatfooted, or even worse, being back on your heels. But on the debate stage, you did just that. Even when Romney gave you predictable openings.
Study the debate transcript, Mr. President, and you’ll see you came with no game. And seemingly no game plan.
Consider jobs: You treated Americans’ most urgent concern like an esoteric grad school lecture topic. Moderator Jim Lehrer smartly started the night by asking for your future job-creation specifics. Although now criticized for not being sufficiently forceful, Lehrer is seen in the transcript to have been an ideal moderator. He pointedly led candidates toward direct engagement. But it never happened because you shrank from it, Mr. President.
In the key part where you discussed future jobs creation, you rambled through bromides about education and energy, but gave no specifics — and didn’t even say the word "jobs." Bizarrely, you never mentioned your plan to restore our crumbling infrastructure — the biggest job-creating multiplier of all, according to the Congressional Budget Office. It’s stalled in Congress. You didn’t condemn Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s No. 1 priority: to make you a one-term president — even by blocking what is best for America’s economic recovery.
Romney gave you his most predictable opening by denying he’d cut taxes by $5 trillion. He virtually teed the ball up for you and America awaited your power swing. Alas, it seemed the only club in your bag that night was your putter.
You could have spotlighted his central problem: "Gov. Romney, nonpartisan experts agree your proposed tax cuts total some $5 trillion. Now to be fair, you’ve said you’d lower that figure by closing tax loopholes used by rich Americans. But you’ve never told voters what those numbers are. So now is your opportunity. Take all the time you need — you can even use my debate time."
Predictably, Romney gave no details. Except when he gave you another opening, saying he’d eliminate PBS subsidies. Again, you just passed. You could have said PBS subsidies aren’t even a budgetary blip — just 0.01 percent of the budget. Even eliminating all tax loopholes used by the wealthiest Americans, won’t make Romney’s promised tax cuts revenue neutral.
In closing, Romney smartly returned to Americans’ greatest concern — jobs. He promised to create 12 million jobs (of course you’re also on a path to achieve the identical number, a point we missed). And you ended with your promise, if elected, to fight for Americans ever day. Huh? Yawn. You might as well have been promising us a perfect attendance record in the Oval Office. And also perfect penmanship. (Alas, the White House already has a fine fleet of autopens.)
In this time of difficulty and uncertainty, as a young, little-known Democratic convention speaker reminded his party elders eight years ago, America needs a leader who shares our audacity of hope.
"In the end," he added, then, "that’s what this election is about."
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