Yes, I watched the debate last night. I waffled a little on whether I would or not. I knew it would likely only aggravate me, but in the end, being “politically informed” won out over having an enjoyable quiet evening at home.
What did I think?
I thought it was like Hungry Hungry Hippos out there. Jim Lehrer did an abysmal job keeping either candidate in check. Both Romney and Obama would just go on and on, steamrolling right over any feeble Lehrer complaints. (Romney’s getting pointed at for being meaner than Obama in this regard, but I think that’s just because Romney was coming off as more confident and assertive. Obama ended up speaking 3 or 4 minutes longer over the course of the evening.)
Heading into the debate, I was pretty sure most pundits would call it in favor of Romney, just because if Obama wiped the floor with Romney, then the election might well be decided already, and what the pundits all want is an election that goes down right to the wire. It makes for better television. That said, I certainly did NOT expect viewers to come away so convinced that Romney did better. (Something like 67% thought this, according to a CNN poll.) Obama just looked uncomfortable and like he’d rather be at home watching some sports. (Not that I blame him. I had the Yankees/Red Sox game on as well, and I was organizing Magic cards at the same time. Triple multi-tasking. Oh yeah.)
Of course, now all the fact checking begins, and the who said what, and what does ______ think about it, etc. I get the fact checking in theory, but to me, it’s all sort of like reviewing a game after the outcome has already been decided. Yes, you can find questionable play calls, but so what? It’s over. The time for fact checking is on the debate floor. If somebody’s lying, you need to call him on it right that second, or you lose. Obama did very little of that.
Romney’s being accused of having little in the way of specifics, but again, that’s sort of what Obama did 4 years ago. Promise the world, but don’t lay out the nuts and bolts of how you’re going to accomplish it. Are we really surprised politicians do this?
Some specific comments I wanted to make:
- Ditching PBS and Big Bird–Romney talked about how he didn’t want to take a loan from China to pay for PBS. I get that. Critics say the PBS budget is .012% of the government’s budget, so it would be like me cutting $5 from my yearly expenditures. I get that. But I do believe that there’s a mindset you need to get into if you’re going to successfully start saving money. $5 purchases do add up over time. So as much as I like Big Bird, I’d have to say I come down with Romney on this one.
- The slew of numbers–Both candidates were really big on throwing up a smokescreen of numbers last night. I don’t buy any statistics, any studies, any estimates, any numbers–period. I’m convinced that anyone can crunch the numbers to make them look favorable to whatever argument they’re making. Statistics and estimates are just examples of lying with a veneer of truth. So any argument that comes down to projections about future spending . . . I just sort of ignore. Arguments based on past numbers–hard data–those are more difficult to tweak, and I give them at least some credence. But even then, it’s all how you spin them, so I remain skeptical.
- Green Energy–$90 billion given to green energy companies? Really? I felt like this was one of Romney’s strongest arguments against Obama. I’m all for green energy, and I try to pinch my pennies where I can, while still being environmentally minded. But I haven’t taken out a loan to get solar power, or a wind mill. To fend off this attack, Obama needs to show my why those companies needed that money, and how it ended up saving the country in the last four years. (If it did.)
- Obamacare–I still come down in favor of the law, mainly because I felt like the current system was broken and stuck in governmental gridlock. I still hold out hope that by finally passing something, politicians might just be able to come up with a real solution more people can be happy with. As for the argument that Romney made the basis of Obamacare in Massachusetts, I think Romney should just point out that he’s favoring a state-by-state solution. If MA wants to do healthcare one way, and MO wants to do it another, they should be able to do that. (Although I don’t know how feasible that is.)
Here’s the thing: watching the debate and my Twitter and Facebook feeds at the same time, all I’m really certain of is that people on both sides are firmly entrenched in their opinions. Democrats were talking about how awful Romney was doing. Republicans were talking about how awful Obama was doing. (Well, actually, I suppose a fair number of Democrat friends were railing at how awful Obama was doing, too. I suppose that says something right there . . .)
At this point in time, I’ve got friends on both sides who can’t be convinced to switch, period. And as I’ve thought about it, I think I’ve come up with the reason people like politics so much. It’s like sports, but you never have to lose. There’s never a final buzzer. The next season starts as soon as the last season ends. You can pick your side and focus solely on why it’s right and the other side is wrong, and you never ever have to concede you picked the wrong horse. There are no refs, even.
Going into the debate, I was leaning Romney. I voted for Obama four years ago. I’m still not certain who I’ll vote for this time around. I went with Obama four years ago because I felt like the Republicans had had their chance and done zilch with it, so why not give the Democrats a shot? That’s the same sentiment that’s got me leaning Romney now. But in the end, I’m really not convinced either one of them will make any difference, mainly because all they’re vying for is the chance to argue with Congress, the biggest assembly of Grade A Nincompoops on the planet. Romney or Obama–neither one of them will get anything accomplished, because Congress won’t let them.
Not that I feel disillusioned at all.
But enough about me. What did you think about the debate? And keep it civil, folks.