As President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney stepped away from their podiums on Wednesday night, I was satisfied with the President’s performance. It was only when the post-debate coverage started that I became nauseous.
The mistake I made was apparently listening to what the candidates were saying more than their mannerisms. The general consensus is that Obama looked like he was asleep, while Romney was fired up and confident.
That may be true, but what Romney actually said doesn’t amount to much. At the beginning of the debate, moderator Jim Lehrer said he wanted the candidates to explain their positions in detail. Obama did that, and Romney did not.
Obama gave a detailed account of his work over the past four years, including a surprisingly long string of legislative victories (from Obamacare to the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”) and an explanation of what he will do in the next four, if reelected.
The President talked about investing in education and the green energy industry as ways of improving America’s position in the international community, while growing the economy. He also discussed an ongoing effort to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next ten years. Whether you agree with his policies or not, you can’t say the man didn’t explain himself.
Romney refused to go into details. He said he wouldn’t cut taxes by the rich by $5 trillion, he would reduce the deficit, and that he would or would not do many other things, but he never explained how.
In fact, Romney seemed quite evasive about answering questions on his policies, at least to this viewer. When Lehrer questioned him about federal funding for education, Romney went off on a tangent about Obama’s green energy funding, without even mentioning schools or teachers.
Romney may have been more aggressive, but what he was saying utterly lacked substance. This debate was supposed to be an opportunity for candidates to introduce and elaborate on their plans for the next for years, but all Romney did was attack Obama. We still don’t know any more about his plans for this country than we did on October 2.
Obama made his share of mistakes too: he filled in some of the blanks of Romney’s vague policies to make himself look better, and he really was lacking energy. Still, does that negate outright lying and evasiveness? Does the fact that Romney continued to quote the “$716 billion Medicare cut” number, even though it was debunked during the party conventions, not matter because Obama didn’t smile enough?
People may be disappointed with the President’s performance, but that is no reason to give the win to Mitt Romney. At the very least, it’s a tie, between a man who impulsively says “$716 billion of Medicare cuts and $90 billion to green energy” regardless of their truth or context, and a man who says rational, sensible things in a less-than-exciting manner. I know who I’m voting for.