U.S. 2012 election presidential debates

Written by  //  October 24, 2012  //  Politics, U.S.  //  1 Comment

The Purpose of Presidential Debates
By George Friedman
(Stratfor) Monday night’s presidential foreign policy debate probably won’t change the opinion of many voters. Proponents of President Barack Obama are still convinced that Mitt Romney is a fool and a liar. Proponents of former Gov. Romney have the same view of the president.
Of course, this is normal in any American presidential race. Along with the eternal conviction that the party in power is destroying the country, we have regarded Abraham Lincoln, during the 1860 election, as a simple-minded country bumpkin with a touch of larceny; Franklin Roosevelt as a rich dilettante and socialist; and Dwight Eisenhower as a bumbling fool who is lazy and incapable of understanding the complexity of the world — this about the man who, during World War II, led the most complex military coalition on the planet to victory.

A debate is not about policy. It is impossible to state a coherent policy on any complex matter in 90 seconds. The debates between Lincoln and Steven Douglas did go far in that direction, but then it wasn’t on national television, and it was for senator of Illinois, not the presidency. That left room for contemplation. It should be remembered that prior to the Kennedy-Nixon race of 1960, there were no debates, partly because there was no television and partly, perhaps, because the ability to debate was not seen as the appropriate measure of a president.
Debates test one thing: the ability to quickly respond to questions of numbing complexity that are impossible to answer in the time available. They put a premium on being fast and clever but don’t say much about how smart a candidate is. Nor are they meant to, in part because being smart, in an academic sense, is not essential to be president — as many have demonstrated. At their best, debates test a candidate’s coolness under pressure and ability to articulate some thought at least vaguely connected to the question while convincing the viewers that you are both personable and serious. Read more: The Purpose of Presidential Debates | Stratfor

David T. Jones: Obama’s foreign policy experience showed, but the third US presidential debate was a draw
(Yahoo! News) Republican challenger Mitt Romney needed to show “presidential” qualities; he did so effectively in the first debate when he was personally dynamic, articulate, and in full command of substance. He blew away the caricature that he was a robotic CEO who would drown kittens after firing you. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama was startlingly flat, almost diffident, and disengaged. One might imagine he had celebrated his wedding anniversary early and was suffering from post-coital tristesse. Observers unanimously agreed Obama had been decisively defeated — subsequently Romney surged in the polls.
In the second debate, “The Empire Strikes Back” could have been the theme. Obama recovered his “mojo” and carried arguments vigorously to Romney who struck back with equal vigor. Obama revived disconcerted Democrats but did not fully counter Romney’s polling surge.
The third debate usually demonstrates an incumbent president’s strength. Obvious policy failures offered Romney numerous attack opportunities: catastrophe in Benghazi; an al-Quaeda resurgence; an “Arab Spring” morphing into bitter winter; Iran’s centrifuges spinning steadily toward providing nuclear capability; implacable Israeli-Palestinian hostility; and relations with Russia impervious to being “reset.” Romney, however, did not exploit the confused, indeed erroneous Obama comments on Benghazi, but rather pushed tougher alternative policies to end Iran’s nuclear program, counter terrorism, and addressing Chinese “trade war” tactics.
Throughout the debate, Obama attacked and interrupted, claiming Romney’s policies were “wrong and reckless” — both in foreign and domestic affairs. Indeed, adroitly confrontational segues into national economic policy probably absorbed a quarter of the debate. Predictably, Obama’s greater experience in foreign affairs showed, but Romney demonstrated sufficient competence to dispel concerns of ignorance. It was a draw — and a draw favors the challenger.
Debate #3 – much better format with the two candidates sitting at a table rather than standing at lecterns. Bob Schieffer was an excellent moderator. As always, the PBS Newshour commentary was worthwhile, especially the discussion between Politics editor Christina Bellantoni and P.J. Tobia, reporter-producer for foreign affairs, who continued the post-debate analysis online, and we loved this from Upworthy In Which President Obama Sinks Mitt Romney’s Battleship but the meme of the night was of course ‘horses and bayonets’

The Missing Debate
By ROSS DOUTHAT
(NYT) The good news in Monday night’s foreign policy debate was that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama basically agreed with one another on almost every issue they discussed.
That’s also the bad news.
…  you would have no sense that there are any alternative grand strategies available to America beyond our current focus on terrorism and the greater Middle East – and, of course, the occasional detour into China-bashing. Some of this tunnel vision reflects the questions that were asked, but neither Romney nor Obama showed any particular interest in changing the subject to Europe or India or Latin America or Southeast Asia. On the evidence of the debate, the world beyond the borders of the United States starts in Mali and ends in Kandahar. Entire continents and major powers might as well not even exist.
2012 Presidential Debate #3 Wrap: Shock and Awe, More Like Kumbaya
(HuffPost) The only shot landed in this foreign relations debate was a retort that hit Romney square in the navy. As the governor criticized the President for the number of sequestration cuts in military spending, referring to ship numbers now being as low as they were before 1917, Obama pivoted. “We also have fewer horses and bayonets too…” the president mocked, noting that our technology has continually evolved over the century to aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines. Later in the debate he continued on that course, also noting militarization of space technology.
This raises a broader point and clarifies the differences between candidates. Barack Obama because of his role as president is intimately aware of military tech and how best to transform and modernize our military through regular council with the Joint Chiefs. Mitt Romney has a more conventional approach to military intervention that might be out of touch with present capabilities.
Otherwise this debate was a rehash of previous topics from debates one and two.
Presidential debate 2012: 7 takeaways
(Politico) The curtain has fallen on the final debate of the 2012 cycle, yet one question remains unanswered — will it change anything?
President Barack Obama was on the attack, Mitt Romney modulated toward the center, and Bob Schieffer played it low-key in the moderator’s seat in the Lynn University face-off in Boca Raton, Fla.
POLITICO’s seven takeaways


The last word on binders full of women goes to the irrepressible Virginia Heffernan: Romney and the binder blunder
The GOP challenger goes after undecided women voters—and steps into a mess of his own making
Romney’s ‘binders full of women’ gaffe, and why women should be furious
(Globe & Mail) If anything gets remembered from last night’s presidential debate it will be Mitt Romney’s answer to a question about helping women achieve pay equity with men that he botched on so many levels.
Binders Full of Women: A Meme That Means Something
(The Atlantic) … Meanwhile, the Boston Globe reminded, “There were no women partners at Bain Capital during Romney’s tenure.”
And that’s the heart of the issue. Romney did a good job appointing women to high office in the context of a bipartisan statewide push to get him to do so as a new governor, but a terrible job in finding and promoting women to senior roles in the context of the high-paying private-sector business he built himself. That may be why, by his own admission, his social power network when he came into office led to an all-male pool of job applicants. And as any woman with a job knows, getting the job is not the same a being paid the same amount as male colleagues for it — the question on the table before Romney Tuesday night, and one he ultimately punted on.
The Economist’s assessment: Although several “instant” polls suggested a narrow win for Mr Obama, Mr Romney said nothing that would undo his new-found appeal among moderates. There has been a curious symmetry to the events of the past few weeks, one Republican operative notes. On the one hand, improving economic data have taken some of the sting out of Republicans’ chief criticism of the president. On the other, Mr Romney’s poise in the debates has undermined the Democrats’ main line of attack, that he is too rich and callous to understand ordinary Americans. That leaves the race about where it has been since the spring: extremely close, with perhaps the narrowest of advantages for Mr Obama.
Obama v Romney: Pundits’ views
Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney clashed in their second debate, in New York. But who won? Predictably each side claims victory for its candidate, but there are some who see ploys everywhere, e.g.  Breitbart says “it was apparent 45 minutes in that between the questions Crowley chose and her handling of who was allowed to speak and when, that this debate was a total and complete setup to rehabilitate Barack Obama.” Can’t wait to see the fact checkers calls.
‘Binders full of women’ drive major Twitter traffic in presidential debate

As with previous debates, the race was on to find the rhetorical remark that would take on a life of its own and become a viral joke that would play out long after the debate wraps.
Mitt Romney seems to have won that race about 45 minutes in when he was defending his record for hiring and creating jobs for women. Romney reminisced about his time in the private sector. He told the audience assembled at the town hall style debate that he complained to his staff that they weren’t finding enough qualified women for job opening. In response, he explained how his employees found and brought him “binders full of women.”

13 October
And the last word (?) from Maureen Dowd An Irish Catholic Wake-Up
NOW you know what Thanksgiving with my family is like.
A donnybrook with Irish Catholic uncles and nephews interrupting one another, mocking one another, arguing over one another, bombastically denouncing every political opinion except their own as malarkey.
12 October
The vice-presidential debate — An impressive draw
(The Economist|Lexington) It was a good, watchable debate, that will probably change nothing at all about this dead-even race. And therein lies a final, gloomy thought for Democrats. If there was any big conclusion to be drawn from tonight’s impressive sparring by two understudies, it was that—if Joe Biden and Paul Ryan can do it—Barack Obama’s dismal, passive performance last week in his first debate with Mitt Romney was all the more baffling and inexcusable.
Analysis: Ryan was solid, but feisty Biden won the debate
(Reuters) – The debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Republican challenger Paul Ryan might not change the minds of many voters. In fact, it could make them less likely to change.
If the two men fought to a draw – as conflicting post-debate polls seem to suggest – that counts as a win for Biden and his boss, Democratic President Barack Obama, who needed to stop the bleeding after his lackluster debate performance last week against Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Adam Radwanski: What Biden did right in last night’s VP debate
Mr. Biden was tasked with reinvigorating disillusioned Democrats, and approached it with gusto. What might have seemed grating – over-animated reactions to Mr. Ryan, constant interruptions, excessive and occasionally schmaltzy references to the “middle class” – was meant to reignite a fire under Democratic activists and hard-core supporters, particularly in the hotly-contested rust-belt states where Mr. Biden’s emotive brand of politics plays better than Mr. Obama’s cool.
Even just coming off hungry, rather than complacent, was a help to the Democrats after the first presidential debate. And Mr. Biden seemed like a guy who really, really wants to keep his job.
Biden comes out swinging at debate, clashes with Ryan
(Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Joe Biden leaped to the attack against Republican challenger Paul Ryan in a lively debate on Thursday, aggressively defending the Obama administration’s economic and foreign policies to try to regain momentum in the White House race. …
First estimates of who prevailed at the debate in Kentucky were split. A CBS News survey of undecided voters showed Biden as the winner by 50 percent to 31 percent, while a CNN poll of debate watchers scored Ryan the victor by 48 percent to 44 percent. (HuffPost) Vice Presidential Debate Polls Show Mixed Results
Martha Raddatz Debate Moderating Draws Praise: ‘Killing It,’ ‘Way Better’ Than Lehrer
(HuffPost) Raddatz immediately proved that she was going to be a more active, feisty moderator than Jim Lehrer was in the first presidential debate. Whereas he opened each segment with broad questions about what the “differences” between the candidates on various issues were, Raddatz asked specific questions. Though Lehrer said in interviews that the new debate format, which features more freewheeling segments, was supposed to reduce the role of the moderator, Raddatz mixed it up eagerly with Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.
Speaking to Biden about the controversy over the attacks in Libya, she asked, “Wasn’t this a massive intelligence failure?”
Speaking to Ryan about Mitt Romney’s response to the attacks, she asked, “Was that really appropriate right in the middle of the crisis?”
‘A bunch of malarky’: Joe Biden goes on the attack to pull it back for Democrats in vice presidential debate against Paul Ryan
(The Independent) A boisterous Joe Biden led a riproaring Democratic counterattack last night on Republicans, using his vice presidential debate with Paul Ryan to repeatedly criticise – and sometimes openly laugh at – his opponents’ policies on every topic from taxes, the economy and health care to the Middle East and Iran.
The 90-minute encounter in this small Kentucky college town may have been as uninhibited as any in debate history, as Mr Biden challenged Mr Ryan at every turn, something President Obama signally failed to do in his first debate with Mitt Romney last week.
With seconds of the start, the two were odds with the young Republican Congressman charging that events in Iran, Syria and Libya showed “the unravelling of the Obama foreign policy.” Mr Biden instantly hit back. “Not a single thing he [Ryan] says is accurate, I don’t understand what he’s talking about. With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarky.”
David Frum: Ryan Solid, But One Major Mistake
(The Daily Beast) … a connection dangerously missing from a Ryan presentation that oftentimes seemed to speak from a position far above the concerns and struggles of the great American middle.
We want everybody to succeed. We want to get people out of poverty, in the middle class, on to lives of self-sufficiency. We believe in opportunity and upward mobility. That’s what we’re going to push for in a Romney administration.
A fine thought. But it would have been more finely expressed had the “we” in Ryan’s mouth more often referred to the country, and less to a party or a political operation.
10 October

John Parisella: This vice-presidential debate is way more important than you think

(Maclean’s) It is already creating more hype than usual in light of President Obama’s (under) performance on Oct. 3. Polls clearly indicate Americans think Romney won the first debate and that Obama’s advantage is narrowing . Some even have Romney in the lead.

Joe Biden is an experienced debater on the national stage while Republican Paul Ryan’s experience doesn’t go much beyond the House of Representatives. A strong performance by Biden could pave the way for an Obama “comeback” on the second presidential debate on Oct. 16. Considering that Ryan is seen as the darling of the conservative movement with many policies and writings on the record, Biden has a lot of material to draw from and Romney won’t be able to easily dissociate himself from his running mate.
While Obama’s odd performance continues to mystify, the key lesson for the Obama-Biden ticket is to focus on drawig clear differences, and challenging any improvised policy reversals on the debate stage. Romney pulled an “etch a sketch” and moved to the center, and it seemed to have caught Obama by surprise. This shouldn’t happen to the more combative and partisan Biden.
Paul Ryan may be by far a stronger vice presidential nominee than Sarah Palin was in 2008, but, to date, his performance on the campaign trail lacks both energy and synergy with Romney. In 2008, Palin was something of a mystery for Biden. He knew she was conservative, but her appeal went beyond her record as governor, and her knowledge—or lack thereof—of the issues. This time around, Biden knows exactly where Ryan stands on budget policy proposals and key Democratic policies such as Medicare and Obamacare. There should be no surprises—and there should be no holding back by of the vice president.

With just 28 days to the election, Democrats losing faith in Obama after debate failure
It’s more than President Barack Obama’s lacklustre debate performance that has some Democrats on edge a month from Election Day.
Party loyalists, in Washington and in battleground states, are fretting that Obama’s campaign has been slow to rebound after Republican Mitt Romney’s commanding debate. They’re worried that the Democratic ticket isn’t aggressive enough in blocking Romney’s post-debate pivot to the political centre. And they fear Romney’s new effort to show a softer side gives the Republican nominee an opening with female voters, who are crucial to the president’s re-election prospects.

8 October

Mitt Romney Will Kill Big Bird and the Middle Class Too

(HuffPost) While the comment sounded humorous when he said it, there’s nothing humorous about eliminating public broadcast and other programs such as Obamacare, Pell grants, Medicaid, Medicare and a long list of others that help and enhance the life of the middle class, when needed.

4 October
Robert Reich: The First Presidential Debate

In Wednesday night’s debate, Romney won on style while Obama won on substance. Romney sounded as if he had conviction, which means he’s either convinced himself that the lies he tells are true or he’s a fabulous actor.
But what struck me most was how much Obama allowed Romney to get away with: Five times Romney accused Obama of raiding Medicare of $716 billion, which is a complete fabrication. Obama never mentioned the regressiveness of Romney’s budget plan — awarding the rich and hurting the middle class and the poor. He never mentioned Bain Capital, or Romney’s 47 percent talk, or Romney’s “carried-interest” tax loophole. Obama allowed Romney to talk about replacing Dodd-Frank and the Affordable Care Act without demanding that Romney be specific about what he’d replace and why. And so on.
At Last Night’s Debate: Romney Told 27 Myths In 38 Minutes

One Comment on "U.S. 2012 election presidential debates"

  1. Diana Thebaud Nicholson October 24, 2012 at 12:10 pm · Reply

    As for the last presidential debate, the word that comes to mind is sterility. The only potential new idea, was Romney’s enthusiastic, but vague,allusion to opportunity in Latin America.Sadly vision will not be strong a factor in guiding American foreign policy for the next four years, regardless who wins.
    The election is at this time, too close to call, but momentum may be swinging Romney’s way, as he seemed warmer, and more acceptable to moderates and independents.
    As we remember the Cuban missile crisis, it is worth pointing out that we do live in a safer world today. It was a turning point in the balance of terror that eventually led to ending of the arms race, and a reversal of the dynamics that led to the bungled Bay of Pigs imitative . Definitely a defining moment in JFK’s Presidency.
    Can parallels be made with Iran? Perhaps, but the world today is infinitely more complex, and power and influence is more widely distributed. In fact Romney backed off from his sabre-rattling, acknowledging that he would uphold the present administrations policies .
    It appears that the result of the election could be determined by two or three Grand Electors, come the Electoral vote in December- maybe we should just have them draw straws. Christopher

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