A Cautionary Tale: The 2012 Obama / Romney Presidential Debate
October 31st, 2011
The bitter 2012 Republican primary had been a hard-fought, uphill battle, with many near disastrous revelations and clearly vicious political street fighting; however, the extensive experience, insider financial connections, and tentative mainstream media backing had ultimately paid off. Conservative businessman, Herman Cain, and Texas Governor Rick Perry had nearly capsized Romney's glistening campaign juggernaut. Nevertheless, in the end, the establishment would win out.
But not completely. VP selectee, Herman Cain sat among the spectators, enjoying the fact that someone else would have the duty to debate for a change, while worrying over the next campaign stop on the left coast. Cain, smiling knowingly, casually pish-poshed hangers-on for unceasingly crowing over his being the first Black VP nominee in US history, but his entourage's banter soon eased as the countdown approached the one minute to air-time signal.
Republican candidate Mitt Romney now stood, gleamingly spotlighted before an expectant crowd of over 400 academians at Wake Forest University near Raleigh, NC. TV cameras and microphones bristled in every direction. Romney was in his element. Polished and confident, across from Romney stood the current leader of the Free World, President Barack Hussein Obama, the crease in his pants clearly separating him from the proletariat. The first debate between the two had been but a carefully crafted skirmish, each respectfully feeling out the other's vulnerabilities and strengths, neither emerging as the clear winner.
But this night would be different, as over 75 million viewers would witness the course which would be laid out for America over the next four years.
An Immoderate Moderator
The list of Debate moderator prospects had read like a who's who among the insider media elites. A mini tug-of-war, with oafish sniping and even some veiled, mostly empty threats had ensued; however, it was folksy Liberal and oddly likable Bob Schieffer, the CBS Anchor, who eventually won the honor of carefully crafting the questions which would determine this particular debate's outcome.
After the final instructions had been delivered, both to the spectators and contestants, the 2012 Presidential debate theme music blared, both men tensed, and all camera's zeroed in on the two candidates selected who would largely determine the future course for the, somehow, still largest economy on the planet.
Schieffer went through his monologue, delivering a quick summary of the rules for the viewer audience's comprehension, and then the debate began.
The first question seemed tailored for an immediate coup de' grace, when Schieffer stated, "To begin, and as an introduction, why should each of you be elected President of the United States in 2012?" Schieffer squinted into the lights, smiled tightly and directed an expectant gaze to Romney, who had been granted the first response.
Romney answered with a laundry list of polished, yet succinct reminders of how the US economy had only trudged laboriously at best under the kindergarten tutelage of Barack Hussein Obama, carefully staying away from the Republican's avowed centerpiece of Obamacare's planned demise, desiring to put that subject off for as long as possible. With a technically correct flourish, Romney finished his response and smiled glisteningly.
Schieffer then turned to the President, expression deliberately solemn, and thoughtfully stated, "Now, why do you think that you should be elected for four more years, Mr. President?"
Obama, flashing a sarcastic smile, stated: "Well, um...in large part because Mitt Romney has already told us verbatim that there are a lot of reasons not to elect him as President, and that was even back in September of last year. Do the American people really want a President who admits that there are a great many reasons not to elect him as their President?"
The Coup D' Etat
The audience froze for a moment and then contritely laughed in response, as the President scored a small but quick victory. Obama then began enumerating all of the cataclysmic reasons for his brazen economic failures. Romney, knowing that he had, indeed, stated those words during the 2011 Republican debates, could only rebuff the President for his sad and wounded economy again, when given a 30 second response. But all the while, Romney alarmingly wondered how it was that Obama could have possibly remembered this gaffe of the early Republican debate season.
Off balance but for a brief moment, Romney quickly recovered, steadied himself, and resumed his commanding pose in front of the world.
Schieffer, carefully peering at the two men for signs of any disaffection, went on to his second question on Israel, and then others involving foreign policy, the debt and energy. The debate continued on, often sparking a quarrelsome tone, both men smugly flabbergasted at times, while--at certain junctures--each man had been clearly unseated from his ideological mount in the often scathing verbal joust.
At the midway point of the debate, an intermission was called by Schieffer so that the contestants might have a few moments for make-up repairs, a personal break and a brief moment to reflect on their respective performances, thus far, with their handlers.
The viewers in the Northeast and West Coast, as well as those on the various discussion panels, hemmed and hawed at how masterfully Obama had comported himself and how eloquent his prose continued to be. Some few joked that the lack of a teleprompter had seemed not to affect Obama's performance at all. Some even remarked on how handsome and polished Romney was as he delivered a meaningful counterweight to Obama's professorial disdain, "Slick Mitt" was the Iceman of Republican politics. No one, within the audience and in the presence of the creme de la creme of the elite, had fainted as of yet, but that could change at any moment, as many eyes, and not a few cameras kept cutting to Chris Matthews' pants leg.
A Contrived Tag-Team Approach
After the break, each man stiffly pranced back onto the stage, refreshed, if not a little weary, and resumed their podium positions. The fanfare of music could be heard while an outside announcer re-introduced the debate at mid-term of the program. Schieffer welcomed everyone back, glanced down at his notes, scribbled down something quickly, looked over to the President, whose grayness had evinced a mysteriously quick retreat from the moments before, and smiled. Some viewers even detected a slight wink in Schieffer's eye.
Schieffer then loosed a question regarding Unions and "where they now belonged within the fabric of America." One could see what could only be termed as a smirk flash across Obama's face as he stated, "Well, Bob, Unions are one of the backbones of the American labor force, and as we have seen in Wisconsin and other states, there are many who would see them completely expunged from our economic system in favor of the fat-cats on Wall Street, and the big greedy corporations. But I will not, as President, allow this to happen on my watch." Romney quickly chimed in: "I certainly believe that it is up to the people in each state as to whether the collective bargaining agreements within Unions are more restrictive or not; however, I fully support the right of Unions to exist. There is no question about the importance of allowing people to achieve one powerful voice in labor negotiations."
Obama, ignoring Schieffer at this point, fired back : "Well then, Governor Romney, why did you come out in support of anti-Union efforts in Ohio?" Romney, looking confused, then stated, "Well, that's not true at all. I was fully in support of the Unions and their efforts to maintain their collective bargaining rights." Schieffer then chimed in, " Well, Governor Romney, isn't it true that you had established the fact that you supported the Union's efforts back in June on your Facebook page, only to later retract that support and much later give it back again?"
At this point, Obama quickly interrupted, " Well, what is true is that Romney was tentatively for the Unions, and then when that proved to be unpopular with his base, he came out in support of Ohio Governor Kasich's plan to limit collective-bargaining rights." Romney, at this point looking exasperated stated, " Well, what I was in support of was only for certain measures on the Ohio ballot initiative, I have always stated that it should be left up to the people in each state."
Schieffer, sheepishly interrupted Romney in center speech: "Well, then, I'm sorry, but we've reached our time limit on this subject; it's time to move on to the next question."
"Governor Romney, there continues to be much talk about the 2nd amendment right to bear arms and whether that right should be broadened or limited. In the past, you have held several positions on gun control. Can you now tell the American people where you feel that the limits should be staked out on gun control?"
Romney's brow furrowed as he built up a head of steam, knowing that he needed to at least nick the President.
We're Not In Massachusetts Anymore Toto...
With the second-half of the debate not at all going his way, Romney, feeling the power of righteous indignation at being double-teamed, hit Obama with a complete broadside: "Well, I can assure you that shipping nearly two thousand assault rifles to Mexican drug lords, and allowing those weapons to be used against our own people, is not a position that my administration will either hold or accept. The President has not, as of yet, come clean on the Fast and Furious guns issue, despite a heavy traffic of White House communications with the now-replaced and former Attorney General, Eric Holder." Romney paused a moment for effect: "Maybe Obama would like to inform us now of those facts which have been missing in the public record."
Obama, having anticipated this attack, elected rather to go on the offense rather than to defend a bad position, expecting Schieffer, at this point, to provide enfilading fire: " Well, the one thing that we can all be certain of is that, Governor Romney, when it comes to gun control, is certainly not certain about anything;"
Obama continued: "In the mid- nineties, Romney stated that his interests did not line up with the NRA. As Governor of Massachusetts, he signed into law one of the toughest bans on assault weapons of any state. To his credit, only a few years later, Romney became a life-long member of the NRA, stating that they do good things. Yet, only a little while later, he avowed his support of the NRA, but then stated that he sometimes disagrees. So the Governor seems to have a love-hate relationship with guns that no one can actually pin-point or depend upon at any one time."
Schieffer: "Governor Romney, would you like to add anything to the President's comments?"
Romney: "Well, the President is clearly confused on my stances with regard to the 2nd amendment."
Schieffer: "As Am I, Governor ."
(Crowd bursts into laughter)
Romney ignored Schieffer and the outburst: "Wasn't it the President who stated that the country must do whatever it takes to control guns, but then says he believes in an individual's right to bear arms? How can anyone reconcile those statements?"
"Look, the question of gun control has always been one layered in complexities, the nation as a whole wants their guns but also wants some limits as to how those guns can be used. But this election is more about the economy and creating jobs, which is something that my opposite has failed repeatedly at. The President seems to want to have his cake and eat it too, as well, in the case of gun rights."
Schieffer: "As well, indeed, Governor Romney."
Romney: "Now, wait. I did not mean to imply that of myself." [Nervous laugh.] "I was referring to Obama and the American people, Bob."
A Tangled Web
Schieffer, smiling uncontrollably: "Understood, and moving on, now. Much has been stated about the Affordable Health Care for America Act of 2010, better known as Obamacare, and whether or not the Act should be repealed --even after all of the energy that the nation has expended in order to get the Act passed. Do each of you, as the head of the Nation, now believe that the Healthcare Act should be repealed, or should it be allowed to take full effect?
At this, Governor Romney paused to collect both himself and his thoughts. Romney knew that this was the one area that had nearly skewered his rise as GOP nominee. Romney also knew that his answer may well decide whether or not he would become the 45th President of the United States--or the future leader of a powerful lobbying organization.
After having practiced his response on the question of Obamacare repeatedly for months, Romney immediately replayed the entire debate in order to shape his answer to fit with the debate's timbre thus far. Across from Romney, Obama's head inclined ever-so-slightly, calculating that this was where he could either win or lose the debate and possibly even re-election.
Despite Obama's having instigated and even signatured the widely unpopular health act, its full effects had not played out, as of yet. Regardless of a still crippled economy, Obama felt that Obamacare was needed as the legacy of his administration, and the ensuing economic damage, in his view, was meaningless in comparison to finally redistributing the wealth of the nation in such a way as that no single individual's care could be better than another's based upon money or status.
Whether this resulted in everyone's quality of care being diluted, as a result, only spoke to a redistribution of justice having been accomplished by Obama's administration. The Supreme Court's indecision to date, with one of the Judge's convenient hospitalization, had ultimately aided Obama's cause and furthered his outrageous luck in seemingly accomplishing the impossible against the will of the American people. As Obama continued his calculation for the exact right answer at the exact right time, to this question, Romney finally answered:
" Well, I have stated that I believe that Obamacare should be repealed, and I still believe that. In fact, one minute after taking the oath, I will immediately sign an executive order allowing each state to opt out of the most fundamental aspects of Obamacare: The individual mandate, the health insurance exchanges, and the requirements for some employers to provide coverage or be fined. The question of mandated health insurance should be left up to the individual states and does not belong to the Federal Government to either force or enforce Obamacare's provisions."
Schieffer, shifting in his chair uncomfortably, stated, "So, you would not repeal the health care act, per say, but rather you would limit its enforceability." He then blinked towards Obama, nodded his head, and stated, "Mr. President?"
Obama lifted his chin slightly, peered downwards, and slowly gazed from one side of the audience to the other in order to establish a commanding presence. It was something he had learned well during his endless public speaking exercises. As he, once again, faced center-point of the hall, his eyes locked in on the main camera.
"First of all, the media, along with others, have grossly exaggerated the American people's feelings concerning Obamacare. I believed then, and I still believe now, that the Affordable Health Care Act was necessary in order to reign in the harmful costs that our nation has had to endure. Recent studies have concluded that the limits that have been implemented within Obamacare will stop doctors from performing needless surgeries, will, reduce the number of uselessly repetitive health screenings for disease, and will also aid in eventually removing the profit component of healthcare, which is something that needed to be done long ago. Studies have shown that the Healthcare Act, in the long run, will reduce our deficits and limit our spending as a nation, and that is a good thing."
The entire hall was silent as Romney incredulously gathered himself to deliver a machine gun-like response to Obama's now nauseatingly Leftist critique of healthcare, but he was interrupted, once again, by Schieffer.
"Governor Romney, do you still maintain that mandated healthcare in your state of Massachusetts was the right thing to do, after you have repeatedly come out against Obamacare for the nation?"
Romney leveled a hostile glare at Schieffer, becoming angrier that this media acolyte was determined to stealthily wound him now, despite having offered lukewarm support during the GOP primaries. "Well, Bob, at least we know where you stand."
Schieffer immediately bristled in outrage, and then started to correct Romney's insolence, but Romney raised his voice over Schieffer's: "The fact is that the Federal Government has no place in telling its citizens what to buy. It's just that simple, and I..."
Obama gestured as if to cut Romney off, and then forcefully stated: "Governor Romney, you need to level with the American people, that Romneycare was the basis for Obamacare. During congressional meetings, your team even came to the White House in order to help Congress piece the healthcare act together. On Meet The Press, you even stated to Tim Russert, in front of millions, that you will apply Romneycare to the rest of the country. Now you vilify your own plans for the nation since another administration saw fit to use the blueprint of Romneycare for nationalized healthcare? How is it that you can now stand in front of the American people and state otherwise?"
The Definition of Non-Sequitur
Romney looked down and, smiling while rummaging through his notes, stated: "Well, that was a different time, and I still feel that Romneycare was the right thing for Massachusetts, but not for the nation."
Schieffer chimed in, yet again: "Well, you did once state that you are now running for a different office, and we would certainly all agree on that point."
After the heated Obamacare exchange, Romney seemed less commanding, if not even listless, as Obama and Schieffer continued to deconstruct Romney's positions on point after point. On the Stimulus, Schieffer maneuvered Obama into a position which showed that, despite no Republican votes for Obama's Stimulus plan, Romney had stated he was totally for a Soros-inspired stimulus, only to be strongly against it almost two years after the fact. On abortion, Romney firmly believed in Roe V. Wade, only to somehow change his position years later for overturning the act, a thing which both Obama and Schieffer found to be particularly disagreeable.
When the subject of a flat tax was brought up, Romney stated that he would love a flat tax; however, Obama pointed out that, only a scant two months earlier, Romney had exclaimed that a flat tax was something which he "totally disagreed with."
On the issue of climate change, Obama pointed out that Romney had once stated that he believed global warming was real and that humans contributed to it; however, Schieffer was quick to point out that only four months later Romney had stated that "we don't know what's causing climate change on the planet."
In fact, on virtually every position brought up during the debate, Obama or Schieffer tag-teamed Romney, relentlessly if not shamelessly. But even worse, their positions in attacking Romney's frequent changes of attitude could not be effectively rebutted. They were right, despite being blatantly partisan on Schieffer's part, and despite being in agreement on virtually every side of Romney's earlier positions.
The plan was not for Obama to win the debate so much as it was for Romney to lose, and he did so spectacularly.
Governor Romney was never able to overcome the stigma attached to his second debate debacle, as the debate would be replayed for years to come as a Left-wing, back-slapping, signature effort on how to win four more years without having any true successes to run upon. A large number of Conservatives, and even a great many moderates, could only see a man, in Romney, who would change his positions as frequently as some do their socks. The establishment Republicans learned an important lesson that year, albeit belatedly, when the drive for a third party, based upon Tea Party Conservatism, was established.
However, this would allow for even yet another Democratic Presidential win in both 2012 and 2016, as the Right-Wing side of American politics would be split for years to come. The Republicans, along with the Conservatives, did, however, regain the Senate and House in 2012, which made anything Obama wished to accomplish on the extreme Left difficult at best. However, the foreign policy side would suffer blow after blow as a severely weakened nation, both militarily and economically, would soon face a confederation of militant, nuclear weaponized, Islamic states in the Mideast, even while China's free-wheeling trade policies would soon mirror both the size and the might of the United States' formerly unparalleled economic power.
Change we can believe in was now the rule rather than the exception, as class warfare would become even more heated, and riots would take place in city after city. In the absence of any meaningful plan to effectively rebuild America's formerly lucrative free market economy, the US economy would continue to erode.
And Atlas Shrugged, again.....