Thursday, October 4, 2012

Debate #1

For much of the debate he seemed to be teaching the basics of economics to a recalcitrant and not particularly bright undergraduate. -- Roger L. Simon

Gov. Mitt Romney destroyed President Barack Obama in this first debate. Had it been a boxing match, it would have been called after the first round, supposing that Obama was still on his feet. Tonight’s contest was as brutal a thumping as Americans have seen in a presidential debate to date. The president should have skipped the trip to Hoover Dam and buckled down to his debate prep. Obama was overmatched, badly, all night. And while his energy and demeanor flagged, Romney’s seemed to gather up and gain strength. -- Bryan Preston

Obama’s robotic performance and disuse of several hit points against Romney quickly led to speculation about whether it’s part of a greater strategy on the part of the campaign, banking on those who peak first falling first — even though early voting has already begun in many critical areas. -- Bridget Johnson

The president appeared small and petulant and reactive. Romney looked presidential and secure and proactive. There was only one president on the stage tonight, and he doesn’t (yet) hold the office. -- Stephen Green

When you get up at 4:00 AM every day, you don't watch a lot of (non-prerecorded) late-night television. That includes campaign season debates. Nor did I deign to record the event for later consumption. I prefer to rely on transcripts and post-mortem summaries of such things.

According to all the transcripts and summaries I've seen, Mitt Romney crushed Barack Hussein Obama. I didn't expect that. But then, I didn't expect to like Mitt Romney as much as I do today. No, not for his policy preferences nor his apparent statist inclinations; for his overall character and his remarkable poise.

Of course, poise comes more easily to an accomplished man confident in his abilities and the soundness of his character. Mitt Romney, a "moderate" Republican, has earned his self-confidence, and he knows it. That might lead him to make some unfortunate, Bush-44-like policy choices in the Oval Office, but as with all presidential elections, "There’s always a choice! This is between 'bad' and 'worse' — which is much sharper than between 'good' and 'better.'" [Robert A. Heinlein]

In preparing Romney for the second and third debates, I profoundly hope that his advisors will tell him to "Stay calm, get in there, and finish him off." To expose Obama as a habitual liar and a complete fool is critical to Romney's prospects. Obama's public persona, well developed over his years in the public eye and well burnished by his media allies, is that of a highly intelligent, highly knowledgeable, completely pragmatic statesman. Though nothing could be further from the truth, millions of Americans have bought that persona -- and disabusing them of it is the golden road to ejecting him from the White House.

To repeat myself: Romney will not save the United States from itself. We the People have to do that, mainly by ceasing to practice interest-group politics -- that is, by refusing to identify ourselves as anything smaller than Americans, and by refraining from demanding anything that must come from others' pockets. But he can, and will, buy us time, especially if buttressed by a solidly conservative Congress and kept mindful of the nation's true needs through constant popular feedback. Yes, it will take more than a Romney Administration to return America to Constitutional governance, but like it or not, this must be where we start.

And so, I find the debate transcripts and summaries surprisingly cheering. Romney appears to be properly oriented for the home stretch of the presidential campaign. Obama, in sharp contrast, seems unable to get his wheels on the track. Reportedly, the Obamas have purchased a large, opulent mansion in Hawaii. They might find themselves moving to it rather sooner than The Won had anticipated.

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