My reaction to the first few minutes of the Presidential Debate was: Obama isn’t doing very well. I didn’t think he spoke poorly, but in juxtaposition of his opponent’s demeanor, I figured many would see him as being outmatched. Romney had such brash confidence at the debate – albeit, backed by half-truths and all-out lies – that to the naked eye it would seem as if Obama was being backed into a corner. Romney, in a sheer visual sense, looked like the stronger candidate. It didn’t matter what he was saying – he came off as a champion for how he was saying it. Yes, it was a parlor trick; yes, it was smoke and mirrors. But, some people didn’t see through it.
Obama has since taken flack for NOT attacking Romney during the debate (the adage “fight fire with fire” comes to mind). Why didn’t he mention the 47%? Why didn’t he simply ask Romney for his definition of middle class income? In short: why didn’t he call his opponent out on all the bullshit? My first instinct is to say Obama has more dignity than that. Maybe he is unwilling to get into a debate similar to the lie-slinging and juvenile retorts found on Facebook and 4Chan threads. Maybe he’s smart enough to know that refuting direct points makes a person look defensive – no matter how true the counterpoint may be. The pitfall of being an incumbent President, in a debate scenario, is just that: you are automatically made to defend yourself. The challenger will always point out flaws, mistakes, and broken promises. That is the luxury and purpose of being a challenger in any arena. He simply has to show up, attempt to poke holes, and have a good poker face backed by “fundamentals” and “morals.” Even for someone as out-of-touch as Romney, posture and confidence go a long way.
There are only a few ways for a President under attack to come out ahead while trying to maintain his standard of dignity. One is to do what Obama did: by stating facts. But that doesn’t work against an opponent so obviously prepared to yell. Romney dug in and was ready for an argument. Obama, clearly, was not willing to put on those types of gloves. By default, not entering the verbal slinging with Romney made it appear as if Obama was backing down. I don’t believe this is the case, but that’s what it looked like – especially to people on the fence, and to those who support Romney.
In the next debate Obama needs to get a little dirty. He needs to match the tone set by his opponent. I don’t mean for him to be undignified (though, sadly, few people even notice or care about dignity anyway, so what would it matter?), but as Louie Kurnitz would put it, he needs to show a little moxie. He needs to roll up his sleeves and say, “Bring it on.” There’s nothing wrong with standing down a fool running on antiquated social codes and a misunderstanding of who the middle class really is. And there’s definitely nothing wrong with calling a chump out on his bullshit.
As far as Romney goes it was a good performance, at best. He did a good job tricking a lot of people by simply being louder. At least now Obama knows what rules Romney is playing by and can be more prepared in posture, as well as in facts, for the next debate.
The bottom line is Obama is far more fit to lead the country, and the man I personally believe in. He is a man whom I feel is right to carry our country forward, who will not set us back 25 years both economically and socially. Romney is simply not suited, by way of dignity, moral compass, or understanding of the American people, to be President of the United States. Though, based on his performance in the first debate, he could certainly play one on TV.