Friday Talking Points [229] -- Beyond Debate

[ Posted Friday, October 5th, 2012 – 17:47 UTC ]

The first presidential debate of the 2012 season happened this week, and (it pains us to say) the only person who called the outcome correctly was Chris Christie. Last Sunday, he predicted a "game changer" of a debate, and that we'd all wake up Thursday with a whole new race and a whole new opinion of Mitt Romney. While we rarely agree with Chris Christie about much of anything, we've got to at least hand it to him -- in the midst of the usual pre-debate expectations-lowering game, he went rogue and predicted a big win for his guy, and he turned out to be correct.

I personally became somewhat worried about Barack Obama's debate preparation when I heard that John Kerry was playing Mitt Romney in Obama's debate prep sessions. Now, Kerry's a nice guy and all, but he doesn't exactly seem like someone you'd want to prepare you for a free-for-all with a Republican. OK, Romney and Kerry share lots of superficial characteristics (both from Massachusetts, both wealthy, both devoid of any shred of charisma), but their personalities are completely different. Next time, maybe hire someone along the lines of James Carville for Romney's stand-in, perhaps.

The other big takeaway from Obama's performance in the debate is that quite obviously the folks in the West Wing haven't been reading this column as religiously as they should. There were many opportunities for Obama to pull out a snappy comeback to Romney Wednesday night, and Obama completely ignored just about all of them. If this was some sort of pre-planned strategy, it utterly failed.

Obama did catch a break today, as the unemployment numbers provided some well-needed good news. This good news for America and for the American worker caused the Republican Party to go apoplectic. This is also good news for the White House. Think about it -- the more ranting and raving about conspiracy theories coming from Republicans in the next few days, the more the American people are going to see that one political party is cheering for failure. Republicans want economic failure so badly that they can't even accept news that counters their wish. They're out there fighting for failure, in essence. This is going to, in a very short time, be seen in a very bad light by the public (that's our guess, at any rate).

Politicians (Obama, for instance) are always wary of overselling economic news when many Americans are still hurting, out there. If a politician says "Everything's rosy, folks!" when everything obviously is not, then the voters think he is out of touch and trying to spin the picture for political reasons. But the obverse is true as well. If things are getting better (slowly) and people feel it out there, then politicians who keep right on saying "Everything sucks, folks!" are also seen as out of touch with reality. This becomes even more apparent when the spin turns to "Don't believe the numbers, everything still stinks!" and the denial of reality becomes the main talking point.

So every time you hear the conspiracy theorists on the right in the coming days, be of good cheer. Because the thinly-veiled message is pretty obvious to the public: the Republicans think they'll benefit from economic bad news, and they want this bad news so badly that they'll deny reality in order to champion a picture of the economy that is worse than it actually is. Voters tend to see through such naked attempts at partisan spin, and it won't take long for them to see it this time around either.


Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

Is Big Bird a Democrat? He's got to be old enough to vote, by now. Freakishly Large Avians For Obama!

Heh. Kidding aside, we don't really have anyone who qualified as Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week. We do have an Honorable Mention for Nancy Pelosi, but not for anything she actually did. Pelosi's opponent (yes, the Republicans actually attempt running someone against her every election, even though she has one of the safest Democratic districts in the country) put out an ad which portrayed Pelosi and her followers as a pack of zombies bent on slaughtering a lamb. You just can't make this stuff up, folks. So Nancy Pelosi -- not for anything she did but for the idiocy of her opponent -- deserves some sort of mention for "Most Insane Demonization Of A Democrat This Election Cycle" at the very least. The ironic thing is that any Republican who runs against Pelosi perfectly fits the definition of a lamb being led to the slaughter. If Pelosi wins by less than a 50 or 60 percent margin, it might be news, but ads like this probably aren't going to help.


Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

No surprise here.

President Barack Obama is the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week, for reasons which are (ahem) beyond debate.

[Contact President Barack Obama on his White House contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 229 (10/5/12)

This week's talking points could be labeled "what Obama should have said." Instead of hiring high-priced campaign consultants and debate preppers, we are providing this service to the West Wing folks free of charge, because they so obviously need some help in this area.


   Romney won't tell you

This one is a generic sort of talking point, because it can be used to counter all sorts of gauzy promises. When Mitt says something on any subject where he's been intentionally vague (tax plans, immigration, his own taxes), immediately strike back.

"That's very interesting, because it is easy to stand up here and make grand sweeping promises. But how is Mitt Romney going to accomplish this promise? He won't tell you. How is he going to cut tax rates and not have the deficit go up? Mitt won't say. What is he going to do about Medicare for the next ten years, before it gets turned into Vouchercare? He isn't going to tell you that until after the election. What loopholes is he going to close in the tax code? Romney won't tell you. What should immigrants expect from a Romney administration? Nobody knows. On subject after subject, Mitt Romney simply refuses to level with the American people about what his plans are, or what he's going to do. On question after question, the only answer he has is: 'I'm not going to say, just trust me and elect me anyway.' The only answer he has is no answer at all. Do you really want to vote for a man who won't tell you his plans? Romney won't tell you, because he's afraid that if he does you won't vote for him -- it's as simple as that."


   It doesn't add up, Mitt

This is another good one to use in many situations.

"Mitt Romney won't tell you the numbers he's using when he makes grandiose promises about what he'll do to the tax code. Whenever anyone tries to use real-life numbers, they always come back with the same conclusion: it doesn't add up the way Mitt says it should. This is one of the reasons why he won't tell you whether you'll still get your home mortgage deduction or not under his plan -- because his numbers don't add up. Mitt says not to worry, but he won't put his own numbers on the table. There's a reason for that, and the reason is if he did we could all see what is already painfully obvious -- his numbers just don't add up. If they did, he wouldn't have to keep them hidden from us all. Mitt Romney doesn't add up."



This was the most obvious piece of nonsense which should have been rammed down Romney's throat Wednesday night.

"Mitt, you keep using that 'Mediscare' tactic of bringing up the 716 billion dollar savings in Medicare. But I have a few questions for you. The first is: will seniors' benefits change one thin dime because of the 716 billion in savings? The answer is: no, no they will not. You're trying to scare seniors with a big number, but they will see no difference in their benefits at all. The bigger question is if you're so against this savings, then why did Paul Ryan include them in his budget? The man you picked as a running mate included the exact same 716 billion dollar savings in the budget he wrote. If it's such a bad thing, why was Paul Ryan for it, when he could easily have taken it out of his own budget? If it was such a bad thing, then why did every Republican in the House of Representatives vote for it? Republicans are just fine with these savings when Paul Ryan proposes them, so why are you so against them now? I mean, have you talked with Ryan about this position? Seems like you're on different pages, here."


   We tried that. It didn't work.

This one is also an obvious one.

"Mitt Romney says that by replacing Medicare with Vouchercare suddenly all sorts of savings will appear because of the free market. Well, you know what? We tried that. Republicans sold a plan to the American people which was supposed to do exactly the same thing -- bring costs down by replacing Medicare with private insurance. You know what happened? It costs more money than Medicare does. Medicare Advantage does nothing more than add a healthy amount of profit for private insurers to the bill. It was sold as a way to bring down costs, and it has done the opposite. In this case, we have an example of how Republican math just doesn't add up the way they wish it would. If Mitt Romney was right and Vouchercare was the way to go, then why does Medicare Advantage cost more than expected?"


   Playing the B/S card

Everyone else calls it "Simpson/Bowles" but I like to reverse the two, since the acronym is so much more fun.

"Excuse me, Mitt, but I'm getting a little tired of Republicans trying to play the Bowles/Simpson card. Let's review the facts. The Bowles/Simpson commission never approved a report. That's number one. It didn't approve a report because House Republicans -- led by Paul Ryan -- voted against it. This proved to the entire country that it would never make it out of the House. Secondly, I've been wanting to ask Republicans who now love Bowles/Simpson so much (after voting against it) if they actually support it and would vote for it now. So, if Congress passed Bowles/Simpson, would you sign it as president? I hasten to remind you -- and every other Republican who brings up Bowles/Simpson -- that the plan called for a trillion dollars in new taxes. So, instead of trying to use this against me for partisan reasons, I ask you: would you have signed Bowles/Simpson if Congress put it on your desk, or not? Please, let us all know the answer to that."


   Home state blues

This one is pure snark, but pure snark has a place in American politics, I think we can all agree.

"You seem to have remembered tonight that you were once governor of Massachusetts. It's kind of surprising, because you haven't brought it up in quite a while. You say over and over how wonderful a job you did leading the state. So I have a simple question. Do you expect to win Massachusetts in the upcoming election? I mean, if you did such a great job as governor, you would surely think the people would remember and be supporting you at this point. So, will you win Massachusetts, Mitt? Come to think of it, are you going to win any of the states you can claim as a 'home state' -- such as Michigan, or New Hampshire, or California where you're building an elevator for your cars? I would say something about putting your money where your mouth is, but we all know that the Cayman Islands don't get a vote for president of the United States."


   Republicans want bad news

This is the only one which wasn't a response to Wednesday's debate, but it surely will come in handy for the next debate, in all likelihood.

"I see that Republicans seem not to be able to believe good news when they hear it. The unemployment rate came down to the lowest it has been in four years, and Republicans fight tooth and nail to explain why good news on the American economy is just not possible. Conspiracy theories fill the airwaves, as Republicans gnash their teeth over the fact that more Americans are returning to work. This is naked partisan politics, folks, and it ain't pretty. Republicans seem to really really want to hear bad news about America. They are out there fighting to spin good news into bad. It makes you wonder what their true priorities are -- the American people, or their own political skins."

-- Chris Weigant


All-time award winners leaderboard, by rank
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground
Cross-posted at: The Huffington Post


12 Comments on “Friday Talking Points [229] -- Beyond Debate”

  1. [1] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    This is off-topic, but it confirms my suspicions about the polling out there, Chris. Thought you might find it interesting:

  2. [2] 
    michty6 wrote:

    Before the debate every Republican outlet was crowing about how the 'liberal media would call the debate for Obama. Funny how silent they were on this prediction after.

    But their silence lasted one day - the conspiracy nuts were back at it after Friday's jobs report. It amazes me because anyone who follows this stuff (me) knew that analyst projections were for unemployment to be at 7.9% by election date(revised up from 7.7%). While they go nuts about what the rate would be if x/y/z, I really wish Democrats or the media would do a better job of pointing out that without public sector employment cuts the rate would be <6.8%. But leaving them to their lunatic rants is probably fine...

    But CW you are wrong: Chris Christie was not the only one to predict a Romney debate win. The day after the debate the 3 most Republican leaning pollsters (Ras/Weask/Gravis) were quick out the gate with polls to catch the Romney bump. This suggests some level of preparation. I can only imagine the reaction from conspiracy nuts if the same had happened in reverse! Personally I think that's fine and part of the game - a very clever play to ensure big money doesn't abandon Romney. These pollsters played their part impeccably and Obama has a fight on his hands now.

  3. [3] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    There were many opportunities for Obama to pull out a snappy comeback to Romney Wednesday night, and Obama completely ignored just about all of them. If this was some sort of pre-planned strategy, it utterly failed.

    "...The great James Taranto . . . long ago posited what is called the "Taranto Principle." In short, it means that the liberal media so coddles liberal politicians that they have no idea how to cope outside that liberal media bubble. . . .

    Barack Obama has been so totally coddled by the liberal media that he looked absolutely shell-shocked in this debate. Stunned, unhappy, angry, sour--and at some points genuinely incoherent.

    Romney has had nowhere near that kind of treatment. He had serious opponents in the primaries--all of whom in their own way forced him to confront his ideas in a serious fashion. Conservatives were on his heels. The Obama media never let up. The man went through the political equivalent of boot camp.

    Tonight, the Taranto Principle kicked in. Big time.

    Outside the liberal bubble--forced to be alone on a stage with a very serious, very prepared candidate--Barack Obama was in trouble. Big Trouble."

  4. [4] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    i think SNL had an interesting take on the debate:

    okay so it's not serious, but it's at least as plausible an explanation as CB's "liberal bubble" hypothesis.

  5. [5] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    I don't think a comedy sketch is gonna explain Obama's performance away, poet. Obama is known for shielding himself from the press, prefering late night comedy show interviews and sit-downs with the ladies of "The View" over a press drilling — not that the Washington press corps ever seriously drills their candidate of choice. I recall Hillary Clinton having a problem with the behavior of the press corps on the 2008 campaign trail. And if it weren't for the adoring, coddling press, I seriously doubt Obama would be president today.

  6. [6] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    And if it weren't for the adoring, coddling press

    we're in agreement on that. o's gotten more undeserved love from the press than any candidate since ronald reagan (zing!)

    however, the media swoon has zilch to do with his positions on the tax code or gay marriage, and everything to do with how handsome he looks on camera or in a bathing suit. on the whole, today's media simply aren't deep enough to have a political ideology beyond, "ooh, shiny!"


  7. [7] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    however, the media swoon has zilch to do with his positions on the tax code or gay marriage, and everything to do with how handsome he looks on camera or in a bathing suit.

    I'm thinking his being a leftie might have something to do with it, too.

  8. [8] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    I'm thinking his being a leftie might have something to do with it, too.

    what does "being a leftie" mean to you? i thought it meant having policy positions that favor social liberty like permitting gay marriage, or economic control like increased regulation of business or taxing the rich at a higher percentage than the middle class. if you seriously think those things cross the minds of most MSM reporters when they decide how to report on a presidential candidate, you're giving them a whole lot more credit than they deserve.


  9. [9] 
    michty6 wrote:

    Even calling Obama a 'leftie' is stretching it outside the world of right-wing circles - where saying something as straight-forward as 'perhaps people should be entitled to healthcare regardless of their income or employment' makes you a 'leftie'. If you ever wonder how 'left' Obama is ask the real left-wing thinkers and see that in fact they are more angry than the right at Obama (but for real reasons, not made-up ones like the right...).

  10. [10] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Ah CW, it warms my heart to see such excellent responses.

    Probably because it hurt my soul to see Obama playing the political equivalent of the 'prevent defense'.

    It showed in his gestures that this was difficult for him. I hope he chooses a different strategy for the next debate.

    He also needs to not get bogged down in policy details. He played a few of the cards you mentioned (the math doesn't add up), but they got lost in the minutiae.

    I also would have liked to have seen him bring up Romney's sudden shift to the center. Which Romney should we believe?


  11. [11] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Chris1962 [3] -

    I think it's more the "Oval Office Bubble" but maybe that's just me.

    nypoet22 [4] -

    Yeah, SNL was pretty funny this week politically. Even righties probably laughed at the MSNBC sendup...

    Chris1962 [5] -

    Check out the MSNBC sketch, you'll probably get a laugh out of it.

    David [10] -

    I thought that was Obama's "four corners" defense.



  12. [12] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    I think it's more the "Oval Office Bubble" but maybe that's just me.

    I think that's only part of it. Dana Milbank laid it out pretty well, I thought:

    "...Obama has only himself to blame, because he set himself up for Wednesday’s emperor-has-no-clothes moment. For the past four years, he has worked assiduously to avoid being questioned, maintaining a regal detachment from the media and other sources of dissent and skeptical inquiry.

    Obama has set a modern record for refusal to be quizzed by the media, taking questions from reporters far less often than Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and even George W. Bush. Though his opponent in 2008 promised to take questions from lawmakers like the British prime minister does, Obama has shied from mixing it up with members of Congress, too. And, especially since Rahm Emanuel’s departure, Obama is surrounded by a large number of yes men who aren’t likely to get in his face.

    This insularity led directly to the Denver debacle: Obama was out of practice and unprepared to be challenged. The White House had supposed that Obama’s forays into social media — town hall meetings with YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and the like — would replace traditional presidential communication. By relying on such venues, Obama’s argument skills atrophied, and he was ill-equipped to engage in old-fashioned give and take."

Comments for this article are closed.