Thoughts on the 2nd Presidential Debate

Posted by on Oct 17, 2012 in Economy, Politics | 23 comments

Wow. That was more fun than the desultory first debate. Both candidates came out swinging. I thought President Obama did a much better job, and not just by showing more energy and more fire. I thought he was more articulate and passionate when describing his vision, and he more clearly laid out the differences between he and Governor Romney. Indeed, I thought we was simply more Presidential. Here’s what I came away from the debate thinking:

I simply can’t listen to Romney drone on any longer about his “Five Point Plan” and his ridiculous boast that he’ll create 12 million jobs in his first four years in office. It’s just too preposterous to be credible. Even less likely is his claim that he can balance the budget in four years while cutting trillions worth of taxes with offsets only in certain entitlements and deductions. The math simply does not work.

Romney attacked Obama for price increases at the gas pump over the past four years. The fact is, as Romney knows all too well, that market forces create prices, not the government. And Obama correctly pointed out that prices were much lower when he took office because of the financial collapse. Shortly before that, prices were equally high.

Romney was absolutely correct when he pointed out that the middle class has been hit by rising prices and falling real incomes. But it simply isn’t possible to eliminate all taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains for the “middle class” (however that’s defined). That was simply pandering. Obama, on the other hand, stuck to his message that he wants to raise taxes on the top income earners to help pay for tax cuts for that nebulous “middle class”. I wish someone would define that group for me. And explain how the middle class is the same in Nebraska as it is in San Francisco. I also wish the President would wake up and realize that increasing taxes on the top earners won’t even make a dent in the deficit. Only broadening the tax base, by increasing jobs, will do that. And raising taxes does nothing to help create jobs.

Both candidates evaded clear answers to the questions on women’s pay, immigration and guns because they feared any honest answers might offend their bases. How anyone can morally oppose strict regulations on the sale of automatic weapons is beyond me. Immigration policy is difficult but I believe that it’s in the greater good of the country to welcome productive people to this country and allow them to work. And I think Obama handled the question on Libya forcefully and with just the right amount of indignation.

One topic that was not addressed was the issue of women’s reproductive rights. I hope that this is raised in the final debate as the candidates should be compelled to state clearly their positions on this important issue.

Finally, when asked about his last four years, Obama was clear and concise when detailing each of his accomplishments and the promises he’s kept. Romney was equally cogent in his description of those areas where Obama didn’t keep his promises and where he has “failed”, most importantly with an economy that he grown at an every slower rate over the past three years. That might be the most damning argument against Obama at this point.

Ultimately, I’m not sure this debate will change anyone’s mind about who they’re voting for. I think what it likely did was simply make their positions more clear. And the reality is that much of what happens in the ¬†economy is simply beyond the control of our Chief Executive. Market forces dictate the ebb and flow of the economy, and those forces are not quick to change. So I think we are left to vote on moral, or conscience, issues.

23 Responses to “Thoughts on the 2nd Presidential Debate”

  1. Scott Forcino says:

    Thanks Greg. I appreciate your opinion. But I don’t think something as important as the Executive should any longer be left to subjective opinions. As in all tests, there should be criteria as in: whether a candidate answered a question, in the allotted time, whether the answer was replete with details and support and how much was accurate. There could be a point system and professional graders or judges. I don’t know who won the debate. But there should be a way to know

    • Scott, thanks for the comments. Unfortunately, as voting is a purely subjective exercise, one’s reaction to a debate, and therefore the choice of who to vote for is also purely subjective. The debate isn’t a test and cannot thus be judged on objective criteria, although accuracy is extremely important. If we throw out the scores of the Russian and Chinese judges, who’s left to crown the victor?

    • Kent Milsaps says:


      I like your views and your honesty. Personally, I don’t believe that any of our problems will be solved until we get rid of the whole bunch in Congress. Many will say that this is impossible. However, until the American people have the backbone to stand up to these idiots that keep giving themselves raises and unheard of benefits, progress will never be made. Why can’t Congress pay for their own health insurance and invest in 401K’s and IRA’s like the rest of us? We can’t have these guys loading their pockets and we all know that this is happening, Democrat or Republican. Until we term limit these clowns, I don’t see any real change happening. The real kicker is that these so called representatives of the American people took advantage of insider information and made a ton of money. They have found a way around the new laws by hiring others to do their dirty work for them. Wouldn’t it be sweet if “none of the above” were an option?

  2. Mike Dardano says:

    When gas prices go down, the pols take credit. When they go up they pass the blame. Oil is a world commodity. If we have energy independence, we will still be subject to world markets, we just will be paying it to ourselves. That is better than sending dollars overseas.

    Looks at corn and soybeans as an example. We export those two crops to the world. We have a bad drought and we will be paying a lot higher prices come next year for a whole slew of food items. But the dollars (for the most part) will be spent with American companies.

    The people that loved Romney and love Obama will be happy with that happened last night. The people in the middle that will decide the vote are the issue. Obama is liberal. He tries to sound moderate but in many cases he is a liberal. Romney is now saying he is a moderate. During the primaries, he was hardcore right wing. These guys are both slinging crap. The issue is that the problems that we face in our nation and in the world seem to be beyond the abilities of our current crop of politicians. Not just in the US but around the world.

  3. Mike Dardano says:

    I like your blog. There is always good food for thought and thoughtful comments. A lot of social media posts are just loaded with angry bitter people..

  4. Good post. My disappointment though is that we could not produce a better opponent than Romney to highlight the plight of the common folk. That the current incumbent has a chance of getting re-elected despite a poor performance speaks for the quality of leadership that is emerging. I agree with Mike – the current issues seem to be beyond the abilities of the current crop of politicians. Maybe that is the reason we see a lack of specifics in the solutions that are proposed.

    • Ajay. Welcome to the blog. I appreciate your input. I too wish we were offered better choices in all of the elections, not just the presidential election. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem likely; a loss for all of us.

  5. On the issue of equal pay for women, Obama had actually signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. As he said during this debate, it was his first bill he signed as president. While the act simply redefines the statute of limitations for a woman to file a lawsuit for unequal pay (for equal work), it is an important step to end discrimination in the workplace.

    Romney failed to respond to the question about equal pay at all. I didn’t understand his position that by creating more jobs women would somehow also gain equal pay. His premise is not credible. Unfortunately, this form of discrimination will end only when those who practice such reactionary policies are exposed and prosecuted. Obama can take credit for helping to end the practice. Romney and the Republicans can’t.

  6. Jeff Laffel says:

    Well written piece. Unhappily, the third debate will focus only on foreign affairs, so abortion can’t be discussed.

    • Thanks Jeff. I was unaware of the next agenda. It really is too bad that won’t be on the table because it is an incredibly important, and defining, topic. President Obama should do very well on foreign affairs, as should any sitting president.

  7. I agree with your observations 100% Greg. Nothing really new was revealed last night. Can’t understand why there still some undecideds. Just a comment about the talking heads…..what makes them think that women are more inclined to be turned off by a combative debate than men? Why harp on a remark like “women in binders”? I am no Romney fan but that was clearly a misstatement (not a euphemism for a lie)

    • Thank’s Lynn. It is the job of the talking heads to pick up on any verbal gaffes. That gives them something to talk about. I thought his inability to get Lorraine’s name correct was funnier anyway.

  8. Alon Raskin says:

    I loved the “binders full of women” gaffe.

    My favourite part of the debate was seeing how the various media outlets called the winner. Its like they were each watching a different debate.

  9. I thought the debate was almost as brilliant as the glass of wine I had whilst watching it. Thankfully, Obama stopped the bleeding from the first debate and I sure hope people are paying attention to the issues instead of how one may have spoken over the other etc. I’m growing tired of the haves ignoring the have nots. Hopefully, the third debate will carry the momentum. What a refreshing website this is.

  10. One thing that no one ever deals with is the inheritance tax which is such double taxation and lends a drop into the entire budget. In general, and not shocking news, is the candidates are so loathe to give anyone opportunity to grab the 5 second sound bite in this 24/7 needs to be filled news cycle, that nothing of substance is ever really discussed and I can’t imagine the debates really change hearts or minds so much as they provide fodder for the talking heads.

    • Thanks for your input. Nobody wants to talk about the inheritance tax because of the belief that it only affects the very wealthy, which simply isn’t the case. As it was never indexed for inflation, it effects an enormous amount of people, especially business owners and farmers, many of whom will have to liquidate their holdings simply to pay the tax. And you’re right, sound bites have become much more important than true policy statements and honest discourse by the candidates as they seek to offend as few people as possible.

  11. Brian McDonald says:

    I know that this is a mostly serious blog with thoughtful comments, but this is how the moderator should begin #3:
    “We’d like to roll the tanks,
    Cue the Air Force,
    Roll the Army and the Navy,
    Now give us a count in!”

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