The setting of Magness Arena at the University of Denver was packed and adorned for a serious debate. Jim Lehrer shuffled his notes, his weathered face adding to the solemnity of the venue. Mr. Lehrer was calm, a seasoned newsman who knew his role for the evening: blow the whistle in the event of a foul, keep general track of the time, otherwise stay out of the way.
President Obama entered from stage right, Governor Romney from stage left, clasped hands, smiled and laughed like old friends. There was no hint of the trouncing-to-come–all was congenial. The first of the blows Romney would rain on the President came about 11 minutes in as he rebutted, “The president pointed out correctly that production of oil and gas in the US is up…but not due to his policies, in spite of his policies…all of the increase in natural gas and oil has happened on private land.” Mitt continued, “And by the way–I like coal!” Boom. He landed a nice headshot.
Suddenly Obama’s smile waned and he faltered as Lehrer asked him to respond to Romney’s assertions,”Let’s talk about taxes because I think…uh…it’s instructive.” His modulation lacked energy and was rife with condescension. The 67.2 million viewers sensed of a portending upset: conservatives felt hope rising and the Left began gnashing their teeth and wringing their hands.
After Obama accused Romney of desiring to reduce the tax rate for the wealthy, the Governor squashed that, “I will not reduce the share paid by high income individuals. I know that you and your running mate keep saying that…Look, I got 5 boys. I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true, but just keep on repeating it, and ultimately hoping I believe it.” Pow. During the President’s reply, he seemed unable to look at Romney or control his rapid blinking.
At just 27 minutes into the debate Obama retreated to his Blame Bush meme, couching it in,”When I walked into the oval office, I had…uh…more than a trillion dollar deficit greeting me.” Listeners playing drinking games laughed and raised their glasses.
When the President claimed,”Right now you can actually take a deduction for moving a plant overseas!” Romney pushed back with,”You said you get a deduction for taking a plant overseas? Look I’ve been in business 25 years: I have no idea what you’re talking about!” Bam! About then twitter was buzzing and Dennis Miller tweeted:
By this point in the debate, Obama was alternating between a forced, Cheshire cat grin, and pursed lips, and conservative viewers didn’t even need their drinking game libations to lift their spirits.
At 62 minutes in the President brought up,”When Governor Romney talks about this board, for example, unelected board that we’ve created…what this is is a group of healthcare experts, doctors, etc., to figure out how can we reduce the cost of care in the system overall.” And a few minutes later,”Let me point out that this board that we’re talking about can’t make decisions about what treatments are given…that’s…uh…expressly prohibited in the law.” The one example he gave to support the sort of ideas Obamacare would implement, was of the Cleveland Clinic, a wholly doctor-owned hospital that would be illegal under Obamacare. The President spoke as if he had no idea what IPAB was.
Romney summed up the role of government:
“The role of government. Look behind us…The Constitution and The Declaration of Independence. The role of government is to promote and protect the principles of those documents.” He commented on the ever-expanding federal government under Obama,”…government thinking it can do a better job than free people pursuing their dreams and it’s not working. The proof of that is 23 million people out of work. The proof of that is 1 in 6 people in poverty. The proof of that is we’ve gone from 32 million on food stamps to 47 million on food stamps. The proof of that is 50% of college graduates this year can’t find work. We know the path we are taking is not working; it’s time for a new path.”
Romney followed up that rapid series of jabs to the incombant with this reply to Obama’s assertion the Governor wanted to cut education spending,
“Mr. President, you’re entitled as a president to your own airplane and your own house but not to your own facts…you put 90 billion dollars into green jobs. I’m all in favor of green energy. 90 billion–that would have hired 2 million teachers.”
Obama was grimacing, having a hard time looking at Romney…in fact it appeared he was having a tough time standing still, as though he might bolt for the exit at any time.
Jonah Goldberg described it accurately on air with Megyn Kelly this past Friday:
“Everyone’s the greatest singer in the shower. If you’re not being judged, if you’re not getting any pushback from anybody, when you’re only talking to people who adore you and applaud everything you do, it’s awful easy to convince yourself and the people around you that you’re brilliant. Barack Obama has not gotten any tough questions, any pushback from anybody for a long, long time.”
Jonah is exactly right. Wednesday night the nation witnessed an earnest and energetic Romney, prepared and making good points, slapping down immediately Obama’s inaccurate statements. America also saw the President, a listless, frowning, rambling lightweight who was most certainly out-classed in the bout. He is a man who has been surrounded by sycophants for years, and was stunned to discover he was lacking.
The MSM and punditry on the left displayed anger and incredulity at the President’s sub-par performance. Many media personalities attempted to blame Jim Lehrer, submitting that Lehrer allowed Romney to speak more than Obama. Patently false–Obama spoke for 4 minutes longer than Romney, though Romney landed more weighty punches. Obama was desperately looking for a standing 8 count, and now must step up the training for the next debates: he has only 2 more chances to prove he can go the distance and deserves to ask for even one vote.