October 5, 2012

Why Not Practice?

Barack Obama
Photo by Pete Souza
The Obama-Biden
Transition Project
The consensus is that Mitt Romney “won” (whatever that means) Wednesday’s first presidential debate. Romney was articulate and confident, if disingenuous. Barack Obama’s performance was lackluster.

Administration apologists performed their expected job of putting the best face on the presidential performance, but stalwart Democratic commentators whose job description does not include praising the President no matter what he does were forced to admit that Barack Obama did not do a good job.

A unique opportunity was missed in the first debate. The Republican candidate was sinking in the polls, and the President’s numbers, particularly in swing states, were steadily climbing. With the proper strategy, effectively implemented, Obama could have delivered a knockout blow to the Romney candidacy, assuring re-election a month before the final votes are cast.

What were the people responsible for coaching the President thinking? I’ve wondered, for example, if the idea was to give Romney the opportunity to articulate clearly his positions, with the intention of attacking them with no holds barred in subsequent speeches and TV spots. The most credible explanation to emerge, however, is that Obama refrained from attacking Romney’s myriad vulnerabilities on the theory that doing so would not look “presidential.” Give me a break! In his nearly four years in office, Obama may have looked weak or indecisive, but he has certainly looked presidential!

My own theory is that the President and his coaches simply did not take the debate seriously enough. The polls were up, the opposition espoused unpopular policies, and the President was well-informed and a fine speaker What could go wrong? They ignored the fact that Romney’s Mormon upbringing had him giving public presentations beginning in childhood, and his confident and convincing presentation style was a key to his business success.

More than anything, however, Romney practiced. News reports day after day announced that he was preparing for the debate, and it was clear that he was able to insert well-rehearsed arguments into his responses at key points. We heard little about the President’s preparation, and much was made of the fact that he arrived in Denver only hours before the confrontation with his opponent. Only now, in the days after Wednesday’s rhetorical disaster, are the President and his surrogates mounting the attacks on the Republican candidate that should have been directed at Romney when the whole country was watching.

I am reminded of the words of the Flanders and Swan song “The English,” which includes the lines
They argue with umpires, they cheer when they’ve won,
And they practice before hand which ruins all the fun.
Does that describe the President’s attitude toward Romney in Debate 1? Were they thinking that the President would have an easy time of it? If so, their thinking proved to be wrong. Perhaps Obama will practice a bit more next time and enter the ring with the gloves off.

1 comment:

  1. Romney was rude, he told lies, he didn´t look ´presidential¨...he was a ¨used car salesman¨ kicking bald tires and blabbering for a easy sale. The President (the real one) seemed astonished to me, seemed speechless with all the policy reversals and middle class pandering Romney schemes...I wasn´t disturbed by the Presidents ¨hestiation¨ to do mudwrestling with a man who was obviously obsessed with the sound of his own voice...I think the depth of deceit that Romney is willing to go to was REVEALED for the world to see is important news...Romney may still be on a run thinking he´s broken through with his new version of real...I don´t think his kind of salesmanship will last...most will have buyers (buying the hype) remorse before November 6th...vamos a ver. Len

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