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Debate Analysis: Where Was Barack Obama?

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

If Mitt Romney gets a bump out of Wednesday night’s debate, it’ll be because President Obama let him sail through 90 minutes with no mention of General Motors, choice, the 47%, union rights, dumping patients in the emergency room, the phony $716 million cut in Medicare, privatizing Social Security, Paul Ryan’s budget, Bain — you name it.

PBS newsman Jim Lehrer was a huge disappointment, allowing Romney to control the time, take the final answer on every question and generally manage the debate. Of course, Obama himself bears responsibility, too, looking down and away, droning on, letting Romney get away with completely altering his own proposals and plans and simply lying about the facts about his proposal and plans (for example: Romney’s health plan would leave it to the states to make sure people with pre-existing conditions are covered by health insurance.)

“I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans,” Romney said with a straight face. “I will not, under any circumstances, raise taxes on middle-income families.” This is bullshit. But Obama’s antiseptic response was like putting a Band Aid on a gunshot wound.

Obama could have put the race away, demonstrating that Romney cares not a wit about the actual middle class.  Instead, Romney will have new life and even a chance to pull away in the national polls. Maybe not in the states — which is what actually matters — but in nationwide surveys that fuel media and money. Romney came to a knife fight with a shotgun; Obama was busy holding his man parts; Lehrer left his in the green room.

With help from Obama and Lehrer, Romney did the most important thing he had to do: He looked and sounded like a president. His one big mistake: He called for death to Big Bird.

Winner: Romney. Loser: Obama. Biggest loser: Jim Lehrer.

Pot Luck: Debate Advice; Latino Views; Brad $cam

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

On the eve of the Denver Dust-up between President Obama and Mitt Romney, there’s been waaay too much palaver among the yammering class about what Romney has to do: spell out his plans, attack the president, present a human face, yada yada yada.

For our money (and John Harwood at the New York Times confirms our view), there’s really only one thing a challenger to an incumbent president must do in these debates: look and sound like a president.

Does the viewer who still might be persuaded – and there are damn few of them left at this point in 2012 – come away believing that the candidate who wants the job has the skill, temperament and character to handle it? And can we live with him for four years?

Zingers are fun. Put-downs are a kick. One-liners are swell. But unless they cut to an essential characteristic about the other guy, they seldom have much electoral effect. Step back Wednesday night and ask yourself, “Did Romney come across as potential president?” If he does that, he’ll have gotten about all he can get out of the first debate.

The rest is up to his campaign.

Picking Nits Pardon our quibble, but the headline on the UC Berkely-Field Poll release about illegal immigration last week was, we think, off the mark. “California Voters Somewhat Ambivalent About Government Policies Toward Illegal Immigrants Living Here,” it said.

While the data do suggest that on drivers’ licenses and entitlements, California voters have mixed views, on the one issue that matters most – allowing a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants living here now — there is no doubt.

Overall, two-thirds of California voters say there should be a pathway to citizenship, including nearly half – 47% — of the Republicans. But the most impressive number was among Latinos, of whom 85% said there should be a pathway to citizenship. That’s a huge percentage, folks.

As Calbuzz has argued ad nauseum, the Republican Party can hop on one foot, stand on its head and do back flips all day, but until it changes its stand on this issue, it will get nowhere with Latinos. Every Latino has a cousin, aunt or uncle, brother or sister, grandmother, favorite neighbor or someone else in their life who is affected by this policy.

Latino voters don’t care what the candidate’s position is on the economy, jobs, education or public safety if that candidate opposes a pathway to citizenship. That candidate is disqualified from consideration on other issues from the get-go. It’s a threshold issue – not the most important issue – but a filter. You oppose pathway to citizenship, I don’t want to hear what else you have to say. Period.

Nasty Nasty The battle in Congressional District 30 between Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman is getting meaner as it comes down to the wire. Berman, who has the backing of most of the Democratic Party Establishment (the governor, senators, most Congress members and Hollywood royalty), on Monday started advertising via internet, TV and mail, with charges that Sherman loaned his campaigns money in 17 of his 24 years in Congress and, by charging interest, personally pocketed $461,000 from campaign contributions.

Berman calls it a “personal enrichment scam,” which, although not illegal, is unethical – or in their words “raises serious ethical questions.”  In essence, the charge is that Sherman – a CPA who knew what he was doing — used campaign contributions (which paid back his loans) to line his own pockets to the tune of nearly half a million bucks.

Sherman’s response? He doesn’t challenge the facts. He says he charged low interest and besides it’s legal. So what?

Berman’s just trying to “distract voters from his own astonishing record of abusing public office to enrich himself and members of his family,” Camp Brad replied. Berman took 176 trips to at least 59 foreign countries, including free travel for his wife and children; flew first class on taxpayer funds; funneled campaign funds to his brother for campaigns with no serious opposition and did lots of other tawdry things, the Sharman campaign charged.

Our take: Berman is the serious congressman in this race. But Sherman has represented most of the new district they’re running in for years and is a known quantity to more voters. So it’s advantage Sherman, even if he’s the lesser light. Which is why Berman has decided to go negative on Sherman’s ethics.