Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Quick Hits - October 17, 2012 Post Debate Wrap

The championship prize fight analogies were flowing during and after last night's second Presidential debate, held at Hofstra University on Long Island in NY state.  To me, the two main things missing from this raucous debate were the steel cage and Mitt Romney's partner - as he was tag-teamed most of the evening by Barack Obama and [moderator] Candy Crowley.

How do we summarize the debate?

Unsurprisingly, the usual mainstream media sycophants said the following:

NBC News David Gregory - Liberals can 'breathe a sigh of relief'... 'He [Obama] showed up and showed up big tonight.'

MSNBC Anchor Chris Matthews - declares that Barack Obama 'clearly' won the debate and notes the President 'punched Romney hard' during their ninety-minute showdown.

ABC News contributors Matthew Dowd & Donna Brazile - GOP complaints about moderator Candy Crowley are a 'sure sign' that Barack Obama won the debate. (formally - 'As Romney Stumbles, Obama Rumbles.... President outs opponent on defensive for much of the evening...'

Then doubles down using the same link above in a different home page lede - 'Obama Offensive Pays Off in Second Debate...'

After his miserable performance in the first debate, Barack Obama had to come out far more aggressively and engaged in this debate.  If he didn't the race would be over - as his base would have totally abandoned him.  But the President also had to temper this so that he didn't over-compensate much like Joe Biden did in his debate last week.

Barack Obama did come out far more energized and engaged in this debate than the first.  He also, for the most part, avoided the problems Joe Biden created for himself trying to compensate for the dismal first debate by the President.  But Barack Obama was also confronted by an opponent that matched him step for step - and matching his very strong energy and competence from his first debate.

Furthermore, on a number of subjects, the President clearly struggled with both his record and the facts / numbers - while the Governor demonstrated his confidence and competence with these when it came to the economy, tax reform, energy, and other key issues.  The President also had major problems talking about his vision for a second term as well as what he would do differently in that second term to move the country forward.

Where the President shined was in his spin towards empathy and class warfare - demonstrating the President's skill as a community organizer and progressive ideologue - fully invested in the emotive aspects of the progressive agenda, but lacking in explaining how that agenda really works / succeeds in the real world.

But was all of this enough to deliver to the President a win in last night's debate as big as Mitt Romney's win on October 3rd - which is what the President needed to blunt the momentum that Romney has built?

Let's answer that in a bit.... let's look a little more at the meat of the debate before we go to the scorecard.

There were several major memes that are resonating this debate.

One of them was noted in the above quotes from the hard left of the mainstream media - in particular the moderation of the debate by CNN's Candy Crowley.

Crowley, before the debate, indicated that she didn't consider herself limited by the rules of the debate [just as President Obama believes he isn't limited by the Constitution. Ed.] and promised that she would have a major role in the debate.  This she did.  As Jim Pinkerton noted on FNC - 'she went rogue on the rules'.

John Bolton, appearing on Fox News this morning, asked a simple question - 'Who was the moderator of the Lincoln / Douglas debate?'  There wasn't one.  But if there was one, it seems unlikely a moderator would consider themselves as needing to be a major player in a debate between the two candidates for the office of President of the United States.  The focus should be on the candidates.  But not in this case.

Crowley determined which questions would be asked out of the questions submitted by the 82 undecided voters from the local area [What were they undecided about - whether to vote Democratic or Green Party? Ed.].  She selected and prioritized them, ultimately asking 11 during the course of the debate.

Of these 11 questions, some of them were patently biased / skewed as well as just outright stupid.  6 of the questions were clearly pro-Obama and targeted to the President's 'wheelhouse'.  Several questions were pushing the 'war on women' meme, with questions teeing up equal pay [Why no mention that women in the Obama White House are paid less than men doing the same jobs?] and contraception.  Then there was the question to Mitt Romney by a so-called 'undecided' voter asking him to differentiate himself from President Bush (43) whom the voter clearly despised.  No follow-up question to Barack Obama asking him to differentiate himself from President Jimmy Carter?  Or how about the one about gun control - which Mitt Romney turned into a brief counterpunch on Fast & Furious, but then let the President slip away?

Of the remaining questions, 3 were borderline softballs for President Obama and only 2 could be really considered 'fair' and non-partisan.

Beyond the questions - despite Barack Obama's repeated whinges about timekeeping, he got about 9% more speaking time than the challenger.  He was also assisted by Crowley as she interrupted Mitt Romney 28 times (not unlike Martha Raddatz coming to Joe Biden's aid) and at one point telling Mitt Romney to 'SIT DOWN'.  But the most egregious demonstration of Crowley's malfeasance as a moderator came as she played fact-checker and incorrectly attacked Mitt Romney's assertion on the President, and his Administration's weeks long mischaracterization and mishandling of the terror attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Mickey Kaus, a liberal commentator, said that Candy Crowley was out of line injecting her viewpoint and stepping on Mitt Romney as he challenged the President over the Administration's repeated assertion that the violence in Benghazi was the result of a spontaneous demonstration provoked by an obscure 14 minute You Tube video some felt was insulting to Islam.  The specifics were about the comments made by the President that he termed the attack on September 12th 'an act of terror' - and not a spontaneous demonstration - as the President asserted.

A look at the transcript of the President's remarks, in their full context, make it clear that while the President did use those three words, the President was NOT referencing the Benghazi attack.  But Crowley cut Mitt Romney off, put her thumb on the scale, and said that Romney was wrong.  Here's Kaus's specific report of this...
No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done. [Emphasis added]

You could say that Obama was calling this attack an “act of terror.” Or you could say that Obama was using the phrase “act of terror” in the vicinity of discussing the “attack” to come close to labeling it an act of terror without actually, logically doing so, preserving his freedom to not do so in the future. He only used the phrase after talking about the original 2001 9/11 attacks, after all. Maybe those were the “acts of terror” that wouldn’t shake our resolve, etc. that Obama was talking about. The antecedent is ambigious, presumably intentionally so.
Here's the President on The View (September 25th) not referencing the attack as an 'act of terror'.

Charles Krauthammer was even more clear in his condemnation of Candy Crowley, saying that she 'contaminated the debate'....

What makes this entire escapade even more contemptible is that Candy Crowley was wrong with her assertion - and she admitted such after the debate when she tried to walk back her own comments....

This walk back continued this morning on CNN as GOP Congressman Jason Chaffetz directly confronted Crowley and scolded her by saying 'It wasn't necessarily your place to try to be fact-checker...'

Talk Radio host Hugh Hewitt weighed in on this on his blog earlier this morning.  He has a detailed breakdown and timeline of the Libya issue and the messages promoted by the Administration, from the State Department, from the White House, including Susan Rice's Sunday morning tour across every news talk show, and the President's commentary on the issue while on the Letterman program and The View.  It's quite damning to the President and demonstrates why Crowley had to rush to Obama's rescue and tip the scales.  This provides clear evidence of the political pandering, lying to the American people, and gross incompetence at the top levels of this Administration.

Where Mr. Hewitt goes off the rails is when he asks conservatives to 'go easy on Crowley.  She made a mistake, but it wasn't intentional and it has the unintended consequence of focusing the post-debate exactly where it should be...'.

No.  We should not 'go easy on Crowley'.  To do so, is to give the fourth estate yet another pass on their obvious bias and breach of fundamental journalistic ethics and principles.  The American people need to know that much of the fourth estate openly colludes with those with whom they share a political ideology - and will shill to promote that ideology.  Their loyalty to progressivism trumps their integrity and character.  As Big Journalism notes this morning...
Dana Milbank Pretty Much Confirms Collusion Between 'WaPo' & Obama Campaign

This morning, the Washington Post's dishonest fact-checker, Glenn Kessler -- the Obama shill who called Romney a liar for stating that a president who didn't go to Israel didn't go to Israel -- published a "fact-check" declaring Romney a liar over his claim that he will create 12 million jobs in his first term as president.

Of course, the fact that Kessler's manufactured ammunition that goes right to the heart of Romney's campaign agenda was published the morning of a crucial debate is purely a coincidence. You know, just like the coincidence where we saw WaPo publish a hit-piece the day after Obama came out in support of gay marriage claiming that 50 years ago Romney bullied a gay classmate.

Anyway, just now on MSNBC, WaPo's Dana Milbank said we should expect to see Obama use that ammo to clobber Romney with.
So with this, who won the debate?

Here's my scorecard...

Moderator Candy Crowley - F

For all of the reasons I just laid out above, Crowley was not a moderator, but inserted herself as a very biased co-participant in the debate openly assisting Barack Obama.  Like many Obama sycophants, her fear was another dismal performance by the President, so between her selection of questions, and her actions during the debate, she did all she could to ensure this was a win for Barack Obama - and halt the Romney momentum.  60 million or so saw her falsely 'correct' Mitt Romney's accurate representation of Barack Obama's statement and his disingenuous spin about Benghazi.  What, a few hundred thousand saw her admit she was wrong after the debate?  The damage was done.  If Crowley had any integrity, she would resign as a journalist.  If CNN had any integrity, they would dismiss her.  But CNN is the same network that made deals with Saddam Hussein for access and looked the other way when their President, Eason Jordan, accused the US Army of deliberately trying to assassinate journalists.

President Barack Obama - B-

I thought hard about this grade.  The President, as I've noted above, had more energy in this debate than in the first.  He sought to confront Mitt Romney and went toe to toe throughout the debate.  His mannerisms and aggression were a huge boost to his base.  It also made for an entertaining debate.  But his grade, in my opinion, suffers from his being quarrelsome, petulant, and in particular with the dishonesty of a number of his answers on many questions.  One of the stupidest answers I've ever heard in any type of debate was uttered by Obama when he was challenged on today's soaring gasoline prices versus the price of gasoline when he took office.  To blame the low prices of gasoline at that time on the 2008 recession, saying in effect, to get low prices we have to kill the economy which I will not do, was incredibly moronic.

We know why gasoline prices are far higher today than in January 2009...and many of the reasons are directly a result of the policies and agenda of the Obama Administration.  Among these are their war on fossil fuels, reduced federal oil production (this week, he blocked out development of almost all of Alaska's National Petroleum Reserve area), and increased regulations and restrictions on oil companies re refining and multiple blends of gasoline. lays out a detailed, sourced, and well documented examples of the 10 worst lies uttered by Barack Obama during the debate.  These all reduce the President's grade - and will continue to damage him in the eyes of the independent / undecided voter.

Mitt Romney - B

If you recall, my grade for Mitt Romney in the first debate was a B+.  While he performed nearly as well as he did in first debate, demonstrating leadership and competence, as well as standing up to President Obama's increased aggression, Mitt Romney missed an open net goal on the Libya and was pulled down by the moderator.  This seemed to take the candidate a little off his pace for a few minutes - and allowed Barack Obama to get back into the debate.  Romney had a clear win in the first 30 minutes of the debate, particularly when the focus of the discussion was on jobs, the economy, energy policy.  He also counterpunched extremely effectively when challenged on outsourcing jobs and his position vis a vis China.  One of his best answers came from the loaded question to differentiate himself from George W. Bush - and focusing on small business as opposed to big business was a huge home run for those who think the economy and growth are keys to this election (which the polls say are 2/3rd of the voters).  He also finished strong with his closing statement.

But with the miss on Libya, and then letting Obama slip from the ropes when Romney didn't continue to press the case on Fast and Furious when asked about gun control, he loses a partial point.

Overall, I give Mitt Romney a very slight win - but if someone insists it was a draw - I'll accept that too.

CBS ran an instant poll immediately after the debate - the results:

Obama Win 37%
Romney Win 30%
Draw 33%.

But in this group, on the topic of the economy, which is the biggest issue of this election cycle say Mitt Romney overwhelmingly won on that topic - 65% to 34%.

CNN also ran a poll of their panelists after the debate.  They also report a Obama win, but what is interesting is the internals in the poll. [14 panelists said Obama won, 15 called it a draw, and 6 said Romney won}

On the question, 'Did Obama offer a clear vision for solving the country's problems?' - 38% Yes, 61% No.
'Did Romney offer a clear vision for solving the country's problems?' - 49% Yes, 50%.

Who did best....

...on the economy?  Romney 54%, Obama 40%
...on healthcare?  Romney 49%, Obama 46%
...on taxes?  Romney 51%, Obama 44%
...on the deficit?  Romney 59%, Obama 36%
...on leadership? Romney 49%, Obama 46%

On Fox News, Frank Luntz had a focus group grading the debate and the candidates.  This group was a collection of undecided voters in the swing state of Nevada.

One of the comments by one of the groups participants really highlights a key point going into the debate...
“I was not undecided between Obama and Romney. I was undecided between Romney and not voting.”
Hot Air's commentary of the above video and the debate is interesting....
That has been the explicit campaign strategy of Team Obama since Romney wrapped up the nomination in May — to make him so toxic that the protest vote against Obama stays home.

Unfortunately, that strategy collapsed after the first debate, and its collapse made the strategy obvious enough to be offensive. Last night, Obama finally decided to show some passion about wanting a second term, but he still hasn’t explained why he wants it or what he’ll do with it, even during last night’s debate. The only case he offered was that he wasn’t Mitt Romney, the same argument that Obama used before the first debate. And he spent most of the evening speaking with an oddly high-pitched tone, as if he was offended that he even needed to go that far.

Obama gave those undecideds no reason last night to vote for him or to stay home on Election Day. That’s why nothing that happened in the debate will change the trajectory of the race.
This last sentence matches my summary.  Yesterday I said...
My prediction is that this debate will not be a gamechanger. While another strong Romney performance mixed with a dismal Obama performance will effectively end the race, I suspect the President will not act like Joe Biden, and eek out a weak draw. While he will be empathetic with the audience, he will have a hard time spinning his record or vision - particularly in the wake of Libya.

Mitt Romney has been campaigning for the last couple of weeks in Ohio using townhall style venues, so he has some tried and tested material to go with a stronger comfort level. I think he will surprise many with his own ability to show empathy -- and counter that false meme the Obama campaign has tried to promote.

Ultimately, the Romney momentum will not be stopped from this debate - and it will continue to gather speed as we close to Election Day.
Barack Obama needed to win as big last night as Romney won on the 3rd.  He didn't.  He was unable to counter his dismal record, even with the efforts of Crowley to assist him.  He was also unable to deliver a passion for his second term other than to continue more of the same.  He was empathetic and understanding, a community organizer, but he wasn't a leader or able to inspire all but his ideological sycophants that his vision will fix in the next 4 years what it couldn't fix in the last four.

Romney was able to match his performance with that of the 3rd.  He remained stellar in communicating his vision and agenda - and provided more details to help sway the undecideds and independents.  His performance will not stop the swing in momentum and enthusiasm that he has been receiving - and I stand by my prediction that this will continue to increase.  Today's Gallup daily tracking poll shows Romney is now holding, among likely voters, a 51% to 46% lead over Barack Obama.  This is the first time any of these candidates passed the 50% mark.

The tide is rising for Mitt Romney and this debate will not cause it to ebb and turn back towards Barack Obama.

Obama has one more chance for a 'Hail Mary' to break the momentum on Monday.  But I doubt Mitt Romney will make a gaffe so monumental to let that happen.

Today in History

1777 - British General John Burgoyne surrenders his forces to the Americans after his major defeat at the second Battle of Saratoga.  Because of this major victory by the Continental Army, France recognizes the independence of the American colonies and joins the conflict against Great Britain.

1973 - OPEC announces that it will embargo and not sell oil to the United States or any other nation which provides material support to Israel during the Yom Kippur War, which is started on Oct 6 and will continue until Oct 25th.

1974 - President Gerald R. Ford explains to Congress why he issued former President Richard Nixon a pardon which halted Congressional efforts to pursue legal action related to the Watergate break-in and cover-up.

1989 - Loma Prieta earthquake strikes San Francisco - killing 67 people and causing $5 billion in damages.  Many witnessed the 7.1 scale earthquake strike as they watched the pre-game show of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics.

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