RESTORING THE ART OF COMPROMISE

Posts Tagged ‘Debate’

An important message to Obama supporters

In Jake on October 11, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Listen up, dejected liberals. President Obama’s debate performance was bad, but it wasn’t that bad. Yes, he seemed unprepared, perhaps even a little nervous, and that contrasted poorly with an aggressive Mitt Romney who appeared to have tried caffeine for the first time. But the president didn’t say anything that we haven’t cheered him on for saying before. Most of it was actually pretty eloquent. Don’t believe me? Go back and read the transcript. The substance was there. You might even appreciate some of the president’s “zingers.”

No doubt the president erred in what he didn’t say, namely “47 percent.” We’ve tried to explain this lapse in a number of ways: fear of looking unpresidential, exhaustion, altitude sickness… Whatever the cause, the president squandered a open-goal opportunity to publicly shame Mr. Romney. After all, isn’t that what we wanted? We’ve already made up our minds about this election. So have most people. What we craved was an auto-da-fé, exposing Mr. Romney as a liar and heretic on national TV.

Let’s be honest, though. We don’t really care what the president did or didn’t say. We’re upset that he lost on style. Liberals love to congratulate ourselves for emphasizing fact over flash, but we swoon when our commander-in-chief swishes three-pointers and sings Al Green. Truth be known, he’s always had this other side to him, the “Uncle Fluffy” side, the one that wears mom jeans and plays golf (not that well, either.) We found the president’s avuncular alter ego somewhat endearing until it took the stage last week in Denver. Ninety minutes later, we were left wondering why Superman suddenly looked so much like Clark Kent in contacts and a leotard.

So that’s that. It’s over. Time to move on. Do you know how many people watched the debate? 67 million. That sounds like a lot, but it’s roughly half the number of people who will vote in November. And the half who watched were the ones that follow this stuff closely, e.g. anyone reading this blog. How many disinterested voters could persevere through the 40-minute discussion of tax policy that began the debate? No, what they paid attention to was the post-debate soundbites and spin, and our indignant hysteria turned an event many predicted — history tells us that the incumbent president usually loses the first debate to the challenger — into Agincourt. Just look how public opinion has shifted: focus group responses were roughly split during the debate, while post-debate instapolls gave a plurality to Romney. A week later, almost 80 percent of Gallup respondents credited Romney with the victory! The most lopsided debate in history!

Do you think that most people rewatched the debate, took it under careful consideration, and changed their minds? Or did the reaction from Obama’s base color their perceptions? The fact is, the president lost the bout on points; he only got knocked out after he left the ring. Our panic has become self-fulfilling, and it needs to stop. We still have the advantage on electoral math, on campaign organization, on the issues, on money. Romney’s bounce in the polls is receding, and the topline economic data is looking so good that Republicans are accusing our side of manipulating it. And, though you may have forgotten after the past week of left-wing Chicken Little-ing, we also have the better candidate: the one who passed universal healthcare, saved the auto industry, repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, cracked down on Wall Street, stuck up for financial consumers, rebuilt our roads, invested in education and green energy, capped auto emissions, expanded Pell Grants, enacted fair pay, eased student loan and credit card repayment, ushered undocumented young people out of hiding, ended the war in Iraq, signed an arms reduction treaty with Russia, deposed a dictator in Libya without committing American troops, ramped up international pressure on Iran, and killed Osama bin Laden. And he did all this while facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and turmoil in the parts of the world where you least want it.

Here’s the deal, fellow liberals. If this fear and loathing feels familiar, it’s because we’ve been through it before. Remember when the left revolted over the public option? When we said Obama sold out to Wall Street? To the neocons? When he didn’t repeal DADT fast enough? When he didn’t prosecute the Bush folks over torture? Come to think of it, when he didn’t torture the Bush folks? When he compromised on the stimulus, and the tax cuts, and the Grand Bargain? On each of those, the loudest boos came from the president’s left. We were so upset with the pace of change that we didn’t show up to the polls in November 2010, then we blamed Obama for getting “shellacked” by the Tea Party. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

And yet Obama has more enemies than he can count. They call him a Muslim and a socialist. They demand to see his birth certificate, and then accuse him of forgery when he produces it. They say he apologizes for America and intentionally weakens our power. They are willing to ruin the good faith and credit of the United States government just to defeat him. His enemies want to roll back all of the accomplishments of the last four years, often for no reason other than spite: for Obama, for gays, for undocumented immigrants, for unions, and for the rest of the 47 percent “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

Throughout all of this, President Obama has remained remarkably, almost impossibly, cool. Now, we — his supporters — are upset because during the debate he played it… too cool? Angry liberals are demanding that the president be more like us, when really we should be more like him. Keep calm. Focus on the big picture. Seek common ground. Only fight when there is none. In other words: No Drama.

But for those of you out there who still want this campaign to show a little more grit, a little more passion, a little more temerity — you may just be in luck.

Joe Biden is on tonight.

Dialogue of Rivals: Louisiana’s School Voucher System

In Jake, Tyler on June 5, 2012 at 4:09 pm
From loyal reader Susan: Have y’all heard of this?
From Reuters via Huffington Post: “Louisiana Makes Bold Bid to Privatize Public Education”
 Starting this fall, thousands of poor and middle-class kids will get vouchers covering the full cost of tuition at more than 120 private schools across Louisiana, including small, Bible-based church schools…
Households qualify with annual income up to 250 percent of the poverty line, or $57,625 for a family of four. Statewide, 380,000 kids, more than half the total student population of 700,000, are eligible for vouchers. There are only about 5,000 slots open in private schools for the coming year, but state officials expect that to ramp up quickly.
(Click below for more)

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Republican Debate Edition

In Politics on October 19, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Including last night’s debate in Las Vegas, I have now watched the Republican presidential candidates face off six times. That gives me a relatively informed basis for my current judgments about the field of contenders,  but it also probably makes me the most addled person in America — which, to borrow a phrase from “The Big Lebowski,” places me high in the running for most addled worldwide. (Since I am no longer in the country, there is even more evidence for the latter). 

We’ve now seen these candidates in a variety of formats and locations. They have debated in front of tea partiers (Tampa, Sept. 12) and Ivy Leaguers (Dartmouth, Oct. 11). They have sat at Charlie Rose’s liberal media roundtable and taken friendly fire at Fox News’s debatatorium  (which was probably designed with the set of American Gladiators in mind).

Each of these debates has functioned like a stage in the Tour de France. (If you ever want to annoy a Republican, compare them to the French…) So far, we’ve learned who climbs quickly but crashes on the way down (Bachmann, Cain…probably), who does well in the individual time trials but has no endurance (Perry), who is solid in all conditions but can’t pull away from the pack (Romney), and who is permanently relegated to the peloton (Santorum, Huntsman, Gingrich, Paul). Then there’s the rider who was DQ’ed for testosterone doping (Pawlenty).

The following are my thoughts about each of the major candidates, with apologies to Buddy Roemer and Gary Johnson, two former governors who have been excluded from most of the debates due to their lack of “viability.” And yet a former regional pizza chain executive with no political experience is leading the polls. It’s been that kind of year.

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The legacy of the Ole Miss debate, three years later

In Uncategorized on September 26, 2011 at 1:59 pm

On September 26, 2008, the eyes of the country were focused on Oxford, Mississippi, in a way that they hadn’t been since the bloody integration riots of 1962. A mere 11 days after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the two presidential candidates contending to inherit an economy in freefall met on the stage of the magnificent Gertrude Ford Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Mississippi. The words spoken during the 90-minute debate helped reinforce Barack Obama’s image as a calm, steady manager during crisis, while John McCain’s erratic pre-debate antics contributed to a fidgety performance. Nevertheless, neither candidate offered the one-line knockout or bumbling mistake that cement these debates in the political memory. No, the true legacy of the September 26th debate is the significance it bears to those of us who experienced it firsthand.

Barack Obama arrived at the University of Mississippi the same way James Meredith did: with a detail of federal agents assigned to protect him. Both Obama and Meredith were trailblazers — attempting to do something that no member of their race had ever done before — and national and international media followed their every move. But instead of coming to Ole Miss under a barrage of bullets, bricks, and Molotov cocktails, Barack Obama was welcomed with open arms. For a university and a state that still bears the cross of segregation, Obama’s appearance was absolution.

John S. McCain, III, arrived at the University of Mississippi the same way his grandfather, John S. McCain, Sr. did: as a native son. The elder McCain enrolled at Ole Miss in 1901, having grown up on a plantation in Carroll County, Mississippi. He completed his studies at the Naval Academy and went on to a 39-year career that culminated with a four-star rank and command of naval air operations in the Pacific Theater during World War II. McCain III famously followed the family tradition as a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War. His appearance at Ole Miss — which boasts both a McCain Hall and McCain Plaza — was a homecoming for a member of one of Mississippi’s most decorated families.

These two men, standing side-by-side on the stage at Ole Miss, portrayed the unique dichotomy of the Mississippi psyche that William Faulkner spent his entire literary lifetime trying to explain. At one lectern, McCain represented Mississippians’ reverence for family, honor, and tradition that is rooted as deeply as magnolias in the red clay soil. At the other, Obama represented the state’s never-ending struggle for justice — where progress is often measured in inches, and never without a fight — but which has permeated a steely determination and courage in those who pursue causes greater than themselves. When these values conflict — as they did in 1962 — they can conspire to create discord, violence, and hatred. But when they work in harmony — as they did three years ago — they remind Mississippians that we can be proud of the past without excusing its injustices, and we can look hopefully to the future without erasing the parts of our culture that make us special. The words spoken by John McCain and Barack Obama over those 90 minutes may soon be lost to history, but for all of us who experienced the Ole Miss debate, its greater significance will never be forgotten.

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