CLEVELAND, October 4, 2012 — The 2012 presidential candidates had the first of their three debates. The setting was Denver, and Jim Lehrer of PBS was the moderator. Lehrer gave both President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney wide latitude to make their points and counterpoints.
The general consensus after the debate was that Romney won, and won big. Conservatives were elated and liberals were deflated. Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard heaped praise on Romney. Some of Obama’s biggest supporters, from Chris Matthews to Bill Maher, expressed shock at how badly Obama did.
Yet while Romney may have “won” the debate, the bigger long-term picture should be troublesome for conservatives no matter who wins the election.
Obama had a bad night, and one respected pundit saw it coming.
Mr. Obama has one major weakness, and liberal columnist (and Obama supporter) Al Hunt addressed it earlier this week in an attempt to get the Obama campaign to guard against it: Obama is arrogant. Like many college professors, he sometimes comes across as a pompous gasbag, moralizing to people he considers beneath him. He has utter contempt for Romney as a person and struggles to hide this disdain. Obama nearly lost a 2008 Democratic primary when he caustically turned to Bill Clinton’s wife and sneered, “You’re likable enough, Hillary.
Liberals lose elections when they come across as elitist effete snobs. Al Gore and John Kerry could not hide this smugness. Obama, except for that one blunder, kept it under wraps in 2008. During this 2012 Denver debate, he gave in to his worst impulses that Hunt warned about. Obama had a tough night, but the deeper problem is that arrogance is simply a major part of who he is. Romney also went to “Hahvahd,” but his supporters do not feel the need to mention it in every sentence.
Mr. Obama lacks substance. He speaks in platitudes, and often gives rambling and irrelevant answers to questions in an attempt to use up the clock and prevent more questions from being asked. This works when being given softball questions from adoring liberal media lapdogs. It is less successful with somebody like Jim Lehrer, who is a true moderator and not a cheerleader. Yet Obama was truly a deer in the headlights because he is not used to being challenged. Romney kept hammering, and nobody was there to bail Obama out. Unemployed Americans are not interested in Obama’s moralizing tone or his waxing poetic about his late grandmother to score political points.
Mr. Obama repeated variations of the same cliches that the public tired of three years ago. He inherited a mess. Mitt Romney wants to give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires. Forward. Fairness. Fair share. Fair shot. Invest in education. Balanced approach. It is almost as if Obama were a wooden toy doll with a string in the back that says the same few phrases when the string is pulled.
Mr. Obama also repeated claims from 2008 that have been proven false. Obamacare does not reduce costs. People cannot choose their own doctors and companies are dropping employee coverage.
He claims that “studies” support him but does not cite what those studies are and who conducted those studies. He mentions the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission while refusing to acknowledge that he completely ignored their findings. He states that the AARP supports him, as if there is anything noteworthy about a partisan Democrat organization supporting one of their own, especially after being bribed.
Governor Romney did a very good job of pointing out several invalid arguments Obama offered. Drilling on private land has increased while Obama has waged war on energy development on public land. Exxon Mobil received $2.8 billion, while Solyndra and other green energy companies received $90 billion. Oil and coal companies produce products that actually work. Green companies have squandered every taxpayer penny and failed.
Mr. Obama repeatedly showed exasperation when being “caught” and responded with his penchant for petulance. He may think he is “too cool for school” when saying that everything he believes is “simple math” and “common sense,” but the American people are not imbeciles. They know Romney is not one either. Obama even chastised moderator Lehrer in a moment he probably wishes he could have back.
Mr. Romney’s case basically came down to “Obama says what I will do will fail. What he actually did has failed.” This is a reversal from 2008. Obama now has a record to defend, and it is indefensible.
So despite everything Barack Obama did wrong by acting like Barack Obama, conservatives should be cautiously optimistic but concerned.
Mitt Romney won. He may win the election. Yet did conservativism itself win?
Sadly, it did not.
Mr. Romney successfully defended himself against every baseless attack. Yet he did not go on the offensive for conservatism.
He said we should not raise taxes but also insisted he would not enact a multi-trillion dollar tax cut.
He SHOULD do that. The Bush tax cuts worked. The Wall Street Journal editorial pages explain brilliantly why they did. Supply-side economics works. Ronald Reagan laughed, smiled, and joked, but he also fiercely advanced conservative principles such as supply-side economics. Once an idea on a napkin,it is now conservative dogma. Perhaps Paul Ryan can quietly lock Romney in a room with the WSJ’s Steve Moore and Jason Riley for a reminder.
Mr. Romney said we should not cut education funding. Of course we should. Public schools have failed. They waste money and should not be rewarded with even more of it.
Mr. Romney was forced to be warm and fuzzy. He did not want to be seen as a “mean conservative.” He had to come across as a “compassionate conservative.”
Conservatism is compassion, and by cowering before the liberal narrative of conservatives as “meanies,” we on the right become “liberal light.”
We don’t need hugs and lollipops for the kids. We need scorched earth conservatism that rewards success and ruthlessly punishes failure. We need to get back to being a meritocracy by taking the federal government and strangling the life out of it. We need to show that liberalism is poison, and anything other than a full reversal of the New Deal, Great Society, and Obamanomics is insufficient.
The issue is not whether Romney won the debate. He did. The issue is what type of leader he would be. Is he a caretaker who tinkers around the margins and spares the Obama boondoggles from the budget meat cleaver? Or will he truly slash and burn and make the hard choices necessary to save America?
It is totally fair to say that Romney cannot do any good unless he gets elected. If he is acting like a “stealth” conservative like George W. Bush was from 2000 through 2006, then this debate was the start of something special. It was his first great moment in what could be a great presidency.
If Romney truly is a “compassionate conservative,” then he will resemble the final two years of the George W. Bush presidency after the liberals broke his spirit. Conservatives will have advanced Mitt Romney but not conservatism itself.
Did Mitt Romney crush Barack Obama in this debate? Yes.
Did conservatism crush liberalism? Not yet. Not by a long shot. Time will tell.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”
Eric is 100% alcohol, tobacco, drug, and liberalism free. Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS
Eric Golub is an independent writer for the Communities. Read more from Eric at TYGRRRR EXPRESS
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