Why Obama is likely to blow Debate 2

No there there.

The short answer is: because he’s got nothing.  There is no record to run on, no argument to make for four more years.  The ideology that drives him is outdated and bankrupt.  He has, in fact, implemented his policies – Republicans have had little means of stopping him – and those policies are the problem.

But there’s a slightly longer answer too.  Obama’s advisors will read the mainstream media assessment of the vice-presidential debate – they actually think a debate that turned women across America off of Biden was a draw, or a Biden win – and conclude that what the president needs to do is find his inner Joe Biden.  Appeal to his base by going on the attack, perhaps interrupting, being visibly annoyed at the trend of Romney’s statements, and vigorously asserting untruths in the interest of racking up effective soundbites.

Petulant attack-doggery isn’t Obama’s style, so I don’t predict that he will simply adopt the Biden posture for this week’s debate.  What I do think is that Obama and his handlers will be looking to enhance the president’s trademark pace and balance in public speaking (which does descend rather often into a sonorous drone) with more Biden-like spice.  This won’t come naturally to Obama, any more than his occasionally put-on “black accent” sounds natural.  It’s not who he is, and he won’t be good at it.

Of course, the townhall format this week can be worked to Obama’s advantage, and no doubt will be.   Obama need not be thrown softballs, but he will get questions framed to suit the answers he is likely to have – and he probably won’t be troubled much with questions framed in a confrontational manner.

Romney probably will be.  He will have to think more quickly on his feet, turning hostile questions into jumping-off points for getting his message across, while conveying a sense of goodwill and avoiding red herrings.  If there is a “silly question” for the debaters – say, “If you were an Oscar-winning movie, which one would you be?” – it may well be barbed with false implications about conservatism, Republicans, or even Romney himself.

Romney will have more choices to make in his approach and substance.  There are a lot of things he could say; what will be the most effective?  We can reasonably suppose he will perform again as well as he did in Debate 1.

Obama doesn’t have those choices, because he’s trying to stay in office – to tend cronies and inflict ideological constraints on the people – using arguments that don’t accurately represent what he’s been doing for nearly four years.  He has no intention of changing course, regardless of what the current course is inflicting on the American people.  Yet he can’t argue in the campaign for his current course – at least not to anyone but his base – because it is so ridden with failure and the scent of corruption.  Americans continue to turn against his signature legislation, ObamaCare, and even the New York Times is beginning to doubt the effectiveness of his foreign policy.

So we can expect to hear more about Romney giving a “$5 trillion tax break” to the richest Americans, along with the other canards about Romney-Ryan policy (e.g., tossing Grandma off the cliff) being trotted out over and over by the Obama campaign.  These mendacious soundbites have lost their impact, but what else does Obama have?  Personal attacks on Romney?

If the president makes a decision on retaliating in Libya before Tuesday night, he may be able to speak at the debate from a perspective of putative decisiveness, the commander-in-chief moving forces around.  A new line of tactical operations would blunt Romney’s justifiable criticism of how the White House has handled the whole matter.  I don’t foresee this dynamic winning the debate for Obama – a belated military response has little hope of trumping the public’s nearer-to-home concern about the US economy, the national debt, and constitutional freedoms – but if it comes off, it will probably be gratifying for his Amen corner in the MSM.

Gratifying them is not enough, however.  Whether he plays to his base or the MSM, Obama will not be playing to the constituency that matters: the majority of likely voters.  His appeal to that constituency in 2008 depended on his being an unknown quantity, and that’s what he no longer is.  Obama doesn’t have any more tricks in his bag.  This is it.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.

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14 thoughts on “Why Obama is likely to blow Debate 2”

  1. If/when Afghanistan comes up in the remaining debates, the 2014 deadline to pull-out will certainly come up too. Obama & Co says that the reason for pulling out on a date certain is to try to force the Afghans to feel pressure to take the security reins themselves (for the record, I don’t believe for a second that Obama & Co think the Afghans can handle things themselves when 2014 comes around, I’m certain that Obama’s perceived political fortunes have been the driver of declaring a 2014 bug-out date). I hope that Romney responds by saying that if the intention is to get the Afghans to take care of their own security, then why announce a date certain departure to the world? Why not tell Karzai quietly behind the scenes, where the Taliban doesn’t know for sure that we’re leaving in 2014?

  2. Isn’t this campaign and following election what “democracy” is all about? We had an election almost 4 years ago that validated the wisdom of the collective, what could be more democratic? How can anyone be upset with democracy in action? Perhaps there are cynics that look at this whole affair as some kind of kabuki played out before unwitting dolts while the elites and their bureaucratic partners thrive regardless of the vote distribution. Shame on these doubters, after all, democracy is the worst system of government except for all the others.

    It’s been said (by me) that politics is sports for folks that can’t understand the rules of ball games. It’s actually even worse. To appreciate football, for instance, requires a knowledge of the rules and tactics governing the game.
    No such is knowledge is required to make a decision on a vote, no context is necessary. Candidates make completely ridiculous statements concerning economics, foreign policy, trade and the legal process that the plebs either accept at face value or disregard as electioneering, both responses being tragic. Luckily the mastodon media is available to interpret it all or who knows what sad circumstances would ensue?

  3. The chance of Obama retaliating with force for the murder of our ambassador and embassy staff before the election is so certain that the Vegas ‘books have taken it off the boards. Now, they are just taking bets on the day.

    Romney can overplay his hand on Benghazi, but he also can’t let Obama avoid responsibility for (1) the security arrangements we had in place at the time (he should call it outsourcing national security) (2) the knee-jerk apology issued by State, and (3) the repeated canard that it was due to spontaneous rage at some obscure internet video. A fine line to walk in one of these touchy-feely town hall “debates.”

    1. P.S. As I understood Obama in Debate #2 he virtually promised retaliation against the murderers of our ambassador and the other Americans. Something’s going to happen.

  4. Neither candidate has a good foreign policy background. Obama’s policies always seem constrained by forces beholden to foreign interests (or to a foreign personal background) and Romney’s positions sound superficial at best, when they don’t sound disastrous at worse.. So, there might be some sparring for the audience but neither will attempt a knockout if they know what’s good for them public relations-wise.

    The candidate that can clearly come off as being better for the economy will win the debate and the election.

    Obama’s weakness is his record, but unless Romney can deeply convince the middle-class that their economic situation will improve substantially and that his proposals aren’t some sort of smokescreen/scheme for the rich to get richer while they slug it out with longer work hours, lower wages, lower property values, higher tuition, etc, he will lose. That’s the heart of it.

    Tax breaks for the rich, in the greatest ,most prolonged, and deepening economic downturn since the 30’s, is a losing political proposition, when you put your ideological prejudices aside.

    It is not too late for Romney to send a message that greed is not something he defends (that’s the impression he is giving).

  5. Btw, Hillary does the (political) “right thing” and takes a bullet for Obama on Benghazi.

    For all her smarts… the cynicism, hypocrisy, bureaucratic ineptitude and political calculation, is despicable. Hilliary’s “I cannot tell a lie, I chopped down the cherry tree” moment, will be spun as honesty, loyalty, courage, selflessness, putting duty above personal political ambitions and a host of other attributes just in time for Hilliary’s 2016 run Meanwhile, who cares if we are taking a beating and being muscled out by out adversaries?

    There has gotta be a better way to run this railroad.

  6. Unfortunately, Obama does have an argument to make for four more years. True, one that depends upon an ignorant electorate but he has that.

    His argument is as follows; 1.) I inherited a collapsing economy. 2.) That collapsed economy proves that Republican solutions don’t work. 3.) In the first two years of my administration, I concentrated on health care because that’s the single greatest driver of debt. Everyone knows you have to put the horse before the cart to get anywhere. 4.) Over the past two years, Republicans have blocked all attempts to further improve the economy. It’s not in Republicans self-interest for me to succeed. They want me to fail, regardless if it means that Americans suffer. 5.) Any trauma doctor will tell you that the first thing you do is stabilize the patient. In building a house, first you lay the foundation. That’s what I’m doing. To bring in another architect, with a house half-finished is, as Lincoln put it, “to try to change horses in mid-stream”. We’ve just turned the corner and Republicans are telling you there’s no dawn ahead but I can see that brighter day and won’t let you down if we stay the course I’ve set.

    “The ideology that drives him is outdated and bankrupt.”
    The only way to know that to be true is to examine the left’s premises, which most will not do, so for the majority, the argument above seems plausible.

    “He has, in fact, implemented his policies – Republicans have had little means of stopping him – and those policies are the problem.”
    You know, Golf teaches you that follow through is critical. My policies stabilized a collapsing economy that republican policies created. Laying the foundation to bring under control healthcare’s spiraling costs had to be my first priority. Then the republicans gained control of the House and have blocked everything needed to complete needed reform. It’s not my policies that are the problem, it’s Republican efforts to continue rewarding the rich’s gravy train by blocking needed reform.

    If my opponent had anything to offer but making the rich richer, we’d have issues to discuss but he doesn’t and, his tax breaks for the rich prove that keeping the rich, rich is what he’s all about.

    That’s the argument he can make and, without examination of its premises and knowing the actual facts, the MSM’s cover-up works enough to make this election close.

    All of Obama’s arguments can be discredited but in a debate, understanding your opponents actual position and being fully prepared to succinctly rebut it is critical.

  7. the truth is that Obama doesn’t have to make much of an argument until Romney can make the case that he’s a fit for the office….. and that case hasn’t yet been made.

    1. That would be true if Obama had a record to run on. If his foreign policy wasn’t increasingly a disaster. If his actions didn’t put the lie to his words.

      Because of all of that, all Romney has to do is offer the possibility of a viable alternative.

      Bringing Ryan on the ticket demonstrates his seriousness in addressing our economic problems. Romney is offering a vision of how capitalism’s wealth accumulation is necessary and his professed focus is upon assisting the middle class, a plausible argument. Romney won the first debate and last night polling shows that he won the economic dispute. Which is the side that matters.

      In winning the Libya dispute, Obama lied with the assistance of the moderator, who has now rescinded her support and that sets up Obama for devastating criticism of his foreign policy. If in the third debate, Romney is successful, a majority of independents will be forced to conclude that Obama simply isn’t up to the job and that voting for Romney isn’t taking much of a chance, since what we have now clearly isn’t working.

      1. Geoffrey, you sem to think that elections and the electorate are rational.

        It’s something that you’re gonna hafta outgrow.

        And you’re also gonna hafta stop thinking that Ryan’s economic pronouncements aren’t as completely fulla shift as those of the average politician.


    Here’s the thing. All speculations now put aside, what I saw of the debate last night – and I admit that I just couldn’t bear to watch the whole thing (YAWN…!) – I thought that Obama was doing better than Romney at least up to the point that I turned the thing off.

    Now, before you jump down my throat, let me also say that Obama didn’t win on context or because he has worthier policies. That is simply not possible given the track record but, besides, none of that has a damned thing to do with winning a political debate. No. Obama won because he is a better liar.

    OK, that doesn’t mean that Romney isn’t lying too about some or, perhaps, even about all the issues he touches. Who’s to know? After all, his whole campaign is based on promises that he will do this and won’t do that. My granting Obama a victory in the debate just means that Obama is much better at pulling at heart strings, at BSing his butt out of trouble with emotional and empty words and that he has a way better presentation when he is on his game than stiff necked Romney. After all, what is a community organizer but a professional BSer.

    Then there is this: Voters don’t care nor do they have the necessary sophistication nor the inclination to make time and effort to properly analyze policy and economic programs. They basically vote on totally shallow and meaningless reasons. An aunt of mine voted for JFK because he was catholic. A friend voted for Nixon because he had a Hispanic chef. 97% of blacks voted for Obama because…well, because.

    I wonder how many fools voted for Bush I because of his now famous (infamous?) “read my lips…no new taxes”

    Who can explain to me how a properly designed and thoroughly thought out economic plan can be explained in two minutes or less? Now make that task much harder by asking the man to explain how that plan can actually fix the trouble we are in and to prove it mathematically and without any contrived BS? So, what do the debaters do instead…? Easy. They BS, they promise, they stroke the viewer, they posture and they leave a little time to attack the opposition on the basis of little innuendoes and meaningless or contrived data.

    The whole thing is a dog and pony show and all we are left with is to choose between the dog and the pony.

    And, that, my dear lady, is the worst BS of all the BS that emanates from any political debate like the one we watched last night.


    1. I somewhat agree that, “Obama won because he is a better liar.”

      But his lies and distortions can’t stand scrutiny and only had credibility because Romney wasn’t a skillful enough debater to call Obama on those lies. For instance, when Obama talked about equal pay for women, Romney didn’t point out that if Obama was really supportive of equal pay then his white house wouldn’t have the pay disparity that it does. Ryan, in his debate, showed the way to pithy comebacks when he responded to Biden, with, “if that’s true, then why are they suing you?”

      ” Voters … basically vote on totally shallow and meaningless reasons”
      That’s true for many but the majority vote for their party affiliation, approx. one third vote ‘independently’ and those are the ones who determine the election. Of the independents, some do vote for “shallow and meaningless reasons” but the majority vote for the ‘more dominant’ of the two candidates.

      So far, that’s Romney and last night an important altercation between the two men happened, that exposed the more dominant ‘alpha’ personality. Early, when Obama tried to interrupt and dominate, Romney stopped him cold, spoke to him in dismissive tones (he was being interrupted and Obama was attempting to improperly seize the conversational ball) and told Obama that it was Romney’s turn and that, “Obama would have his chance”. Obama shut up and sat down. That was, in body language, of critical importance in establishing the non-verbal ‘pecking order’ of dominance.

      “Who can explain to me how a properly designed and thoroughly thought out economic plan can be explained in two minutes or less?

      There’s no need. Or rather there’s no need today, if the proper support for a candidates assertions are in place. All Romney has to do is remind any watching that full details of his proposals are on his website…then make careful, insightful and honest rebuttal to Obama.

      Including that; unless a party has a clear majority in both houses, what can be accomplished legislatively is dependent upon compromise and that the Congress that the next President will have to work with has yet to be determined. So specifics can’t be specified.

      But both candidates economic strategy can be and have been. Obama wants to keep doing what he’s been doing and if, someone thinks that’s working, they should vote for the same. Then Romney goes into his 5 point plan and his business experience and goals.

      “The whole thing is a dog and pony show and all we are left with is to choose between the dog and the pony.”

      But it doesn’t have to be. Yes, Obama has no choice but to attempt to create a dog and pony show but Romney can offer a substantive rebuttal (as I’ve demonstrated) and rely on the fact that the public is desperate for even the possibility of a viable alternative. Simply because everyone, (including liberals) in their heart of hearts, knows there’s no objective reason to think that what Obama’s done is working. He’s proven that he’s not up to the job, in spite of his rhetoric and narcissistic arrogance.

    2. Well, the dog and the pony have left the stage and all we have to choose between are the droppings.

      Sorry. Couldn’t help it.

      By the way, nobody can prove mathematically that his economic plan will work. People talk about tax cuts or increases and they are scored in billions of dollars. But that scoring assumes that people will act exactly the same way if government raises taxes, lowers taxes or holds taxes constant. We know that is not true. We just can’t quantify the extent to which it is not true. So we use the default ceteris paribus assumption even when we know all other things are not going to be equal.

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