SAN DIEGO, October 25, 2012 — Nobody likes a Monday morning quarterback, but inasmuch as President Obama and Governor Romney faced each other for the final time on Monday night, and since today’s column was deliberately postponed in order to benefit from longer reflection, the worst I can be called is a Thursday evening quarterback.
Monday’s miserable excuse for a debate continues to be analyzed by news pundits and political experts, all eager to unveil their own personal theories as to why the evening offered such a dismal show. The verdict is still out. The only thing we know for sure is that 90 minutes were sliced out of our lives. The time would have been better spent watching some cable channel documentary on how to assemble a flashlight. Admittedly, a few tasty morsels surfaced that evening at Lynn University, but the remainder of the meal was worse than a liver and asparagus sandwich.
Obama behaved like Obama, full of accusations about his opponent, hoping to run out the clock so that his own lies would stay in the shadows, robbing Romney of any chance to highlight two or three (or forty or fifty) of them. Interruptions and mocking smiles reminded us of the recent Vice-Presidential debate. Obama still managed enough restraint to come across as less goofy than Joe Biden, but the bar wasn’t too high. Goofy himself is less goofy than Joe Biden. Disney cartoons are held to actual standards.
As it happens, Obama’s Oscar caliber performance proved unnecessary. Who could have predicted that Romney would disappoint his supporters by coming across like a boxer paid to take a dive?
On the other hand, CBS news journalist Bob Schieffer disappointed no one. To be disappointed, we would have had to expect something better. His contribution demonstrated sad predictability. If tired talking points, dodged questions, and fact challenged responses have become commonplace for abusive politicians, these journalist moderators do the enabling.
In a real debate, moderators are not allowed to set the agenda. Instead, participants make the case they wish to make and ask their opponents hard questions of their own choosing. They are not obligated to the moderator’s opinion of what should or should not be discussed. The Bob Shchieffers of the world must no longer be allowed to move on to a new subject simply because they think it’s important. We already have shows like 60 Minutes and Meet the Press for that sort of thing.
Schieffer’s priorities not withstanding, new information is surfacing everyday regarding the whole terrorist fiasco in Libya, its lack of security despite numerous warnings, and its consequent cover up. Important concerns call both the integrity and competency of our current president into question. Obama should have been grilled on Monday night until he offered a real answer and Romney should have done the grilling, especially since he began such an interrogation in the last debate only to have his battery pulled out by another fun moderator.
So what happens in Debate Three? After a very brief general discussion of Libya, Shieffer decides its time to move on to other countries. And yet, later in the evening, when Obama finishes his allotted time only to interrupt non-stop during Romney’s “turn” Schieffer does nothing. Interruptions are usually unavoidable to some degree and certainly Romney interrupted a few times himself, but during one frustrating section, he could barely utter a syllable without Obama cutting him off. At this point, we actually did need Schieffer. It was his chance to finally be a real moderator. He failed miserably.
Still, Schieffer’s contribution pales in comparison to Romney muzzling himself in ways even Dream Works could not have imagined.
Initially, many conservative commentators gave Romney a mixed review. They loved how Romney nailed Obama regarding the apology tour, despite the tired, technical talking point that Obama never actually used the word apology, while being openly critical of America overseas. But these same pundits were also frustrated when Romney remained conspicuously silent about Libya.
Later, as the days wore on and the dust settled, conservative opinions began to reassess Romney, perhaps taking cues from Fox News analyst Charles Krauthammer, who was happy with Romney even within the first few minutes following the debate. Krauthammer suggested that Romney, far from making mistakes, was instead operating under a clever strategy:
“Romney went large. Obama went very, very small – shockingly small. Romney made a strategic decision not to go after the president on Libya or Syria or other areas where Obama could accuse him of being a Bush-like warmonger … Now, I would have gone after Obama on Libya with a baseball bat, but that’s why Romney has won elections and I have never even contested them.”
Krauthammer may be on to something. As a matter of fact, Romney could have been accused of many things, not merely being a warmonger. Without doubt, Obama was ready to resume the controversial Libya discussion. Indeed, had Romney raised the matter, we would have heard some rehearsed speech about how the matter is being investigated and due to national security concerns, nothing more can be said at the present time, (at least not until after the election.) Then he would have gone on to remind everybody again how appalling it is for Romney to exploit a tragedy for political gain.
Perhaps Romney caught Obama off guard by not even going there, figuring the whole matter was unraveling more and more every day anyway and needed no more challenge from him. Besides, focus groups disliked the confrontational counterpunching of Debate Two. Maybe Romney kept that in mind and outsmarted all of us.
Whatever the strategy, Monday’s “debate” did not seem to hurt him in the polls. As of today, the Rasmussen Daily Presidential Tracking Poll reports Mitt Romney at 50% of voters nationwide, with President Obama attracting 47%.
Hopefully Romney was being strategically brilliant. Hopefully he’ll still win the election. What then, is the problem? The problem is that for the moment Obama gets another in his unending series of free passes. True, the Libya issue seems to be on a road without any turns and will soon completely implode. In the meantime, it’s still painful to watch a man getting away with disingenuous blathering. How refreshing it would have been to hear Governor Romney say:
“Mr. President, during the last debate, you insisted that you did call the attack on Benghazi a terrorist act. Did you mean a coordinated attack as opposed to an out of control uprising? If not, your point was irrelevant. If so, why did we continue to hear about a video for a couple of weeks? Why did Jay Carney push this story at a press conference? Why did Ambassador Susan Rice go on five Sunday morning talk shows saying the same thing?”
“Mr. President, you responded to my point about skipping Israel on your trip to the Middle East by reminding me that you visited Israel and the Holocaust Museum in 2008. Mr. President, isn’t there a difference between visiting Israel as a candidate and visiting Israel as President of the United States? As president, you have not been to Israel and when Prime Minister Netanyahu, came to the recent United Nations meetings, you were too busy to see him even though you made time to be on The View. As for the Holocaust Museum, I’m glad you are concerned about the Holocaust, Mr. President, but that makes me wonder why you were willing to meet with an actual Holocaust denier, Iranian President Ahmadinejad, without pre-conditions. In a 2008 Democratic debate, you were asked point blank if you would meet with the leaders of Iran without pre-conditions. You said, ‘I would.’ “
Those are mere examples of many questions that could have been asked. It would be nice to see President Obama get away with less in 2012 than Senator Obama got away with in 2008. He was elected despite his vote against the Illinois Infant Protection Act, his history with self professed terrorist, Bill Ayers, and his 20 year attendance at Trinity United Church where Rev. Jeremiah Wright screamed out words such as “God d– America.”
While Talk Radio and Fox News stayed on top of such matters, the mainstream media gave them only a microscopic amount of attention. Even Obama’s rival, John McCain, was reluctant to take off the gloves and took them off only half way in their last debate.
If Mitt Romney wins this election, watch for allegations of election fraud. Watch also for a parallel attack: Liberal commentators will insist that racism was the ONLY reason Obama lost supporters this time around. Now mind you, they won’t be able to explain why people who voted for Obama in 2008 but not 2012 suddenly became racist, any more than they can process Conservative African-Americans who voted for McCain in 2008, ignoring Obama’s skin color while paying attention to Obama’s platform.
And so, regardless of who wins, the national discussion will be going on for quite some time. That is why Obama’s character needs to be confronted, even when strategy suggests such confrontation is not immediately necessary. Had Romney done so, (with or without Schieffer’s permission) it would have at least created a better debate, maybe even a real debate.
NOTE: For details and documentation about Obama regarding such subjects as, Bill Ayers and Infant Protection Act see my older article for Communities entitled: Conservatives must brace themselves: Obama could still win in 2012
Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and columnist. Details of his show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net.
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