1. Reality 1, Romney 0.
2. The amateurs asked much more interesting and relevant questions than the journalists: immigration, women’s rights, health care.
3. Crowley ruled. Possibly the best moderator performance evah. Fact-checking Slinky on the spot about when Obama said “act of terror” took preparation and nerve. Prepare for her to be the target of Red-team fury once the results are in.
4. Omama contract up to 65 on Intrade, up 2.5 on the day.


Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

22 thoughts on “Afterthoughts”

    1. why ‘Whew’?
      It’s all about the voting, not the touchy-feeley notions we have watching it.

  1. A better night for Obama, but there are a couple of things it would have been so easy to say where an opportunity was missed. Post-debate “shoulda said” is hard to resist, and I am not capable of resisting the temptation.

    The idea that going to an ER is a substitute for health care was waiting to be exploited, but Obama did not exploit it when Obamacare was the topic of discussion. It would have taken one minute to point out that an ER cannot take care of complicated medical conditions and is not set up to prevent serious illnesses from developing when early treatment is essential. Romney could not have denied having said what he said.

    The 47% came in the last minute of the debate, but it would have been effective for Obama to have said, “Gov. Romney is a good man who loves his family. He is a good man, but has some bad assumptions. He and his running mate see an America divided into makers and takers, into producers and parasites. He sees millions of Americans as wallowing in helplessness waiting to be rescued by the government. Those are bad assumptions, and a good man with bad assumptions will make bad decisions. I see a different America.” This would have been followed by the vision he has articulated so many times, with favorable responses from audiences everywhere.

    1. 47% coming as the last word was no accident. In the first debate, Romney very effectively watered up, turned his big brown eyes to the camera, and said he loved everybody and mister 47% sounded like a naughty guy and not like him at all. Never mind that Mitt reiterated the 47% idea for days after the tape leaked. He tried to preemptively do the same tonight, but it didn’t work as well. Hammering the 47% line when Romney couldn’t respond prevented this ploy.

    2. Ed, that’s a terrific short paragraph. Did you just make that up, or have you seen it somewhere before?

      1. Thanks for the kind words. The line about “a good man with bad assumptions will make wrong decisions” was one I wanted to hear back in 2008 when Obama was running against McCain, whose personal narrative was the backbone of his candidacy. I tried to give the line to a delegate at the DNC that year, but it went nowhere.

        Differentiating between character and assumption has been lost in our public discourse, much to our detriment. The main business of a president is to make sound decisions, not to be an example of personal virtue; a flawed man who can decide rightly is preferable to a goody two-shoes who decides wrongly. We are better served by an executive who drinks a bit too much but who can tell the difference between the essential and the incidental than we are by a sober man who has a hard time telling them apart. In some circumstances, it is important to do A before B can be effective, and in other circumstances, B has to be done before A can work. We benefit more from having an executive who knows which is which and decides accordingly, even if he is motivated more by vainglory than by love of country, than by one whose heart is pure but whose head is muddled about the distinction.

        All this I owe to Alexander Hamilton, who said it best in the first Federalist paper, talking about the fears of the anti-Federalists about the new Constitution. He said that many of their mistakes were “the honest errors of minds led astray by preconceived jealousies and fears. So numerous indeed and so powerful are the causes which serve to give a false bias to the judgment, that we, upon many occasions, see wise and good men on the wrong as well as on the right side of questions of the first magnitude to society. This circumstance, if duly attended to, would furnish a lesson of moderation to those who are ever so much persuaded of their being in the right in any controversy. And a further reason for caution, in this respect, might be drawn from the reflection that we are not always sure that those who advocate the truth are influenced by purer principles than their antagonists. Ambition, avarice, personal animosity, party opposition, and many other motives not more laudable than these, are apt to operate as well upon those who support as those who oppose the right side of a question.”

        We are accustomed to praising the Constitution and the “Founding Fathers,” and we may as well avail ourselves of their wisdom from time to time.

        1. That’s a great quote from Hamilton – though his style of writing would not get him good marks from today’s communications consultant.

          The text puts me in mind of Felix Frankfurter’s comment (before he went to the Supreme Court, probably) that no matter what side of an issue one is on, there are always people on one’s own side that one wishes were on the other side. That’s a more personal and less lofty formulation than Hamilton’s, of course.

    3. I still have not seen a post yet on this, so maybe I have to go back and check my TiVo to make sure — but in the 2nd half, I could swear Romney said that ‘trickle-down economics doesn’t work’ / ‘hasn’t worked’ !!!

      If Obama had stood up right then in his response, and asked Candy,

      “Candy, did I hear that right? Did the nominee of the Republican Party just disavow his own party’s entire economic platform of the past 30 years?”

      THAT would have meant game over. The Knock-Out, the death blow. I wonder how the WSJ and the rest of the conservative class reacted? He had Romney’s chin out there lined up; missiles locked on target, and maybe he was too busy thinking about all the other parts that worked tonight to notice yet another smackdown chance.

      Hopefully someone at DNC saw it, too, so that’s the new ad everywhere: Romney doesn’t think his own party’s platform has worked; because it has not. No reason to think it will this time either…

      1. The “Trickle Down” business was in the first debate, several times. It is a brilliant, and evil, move by the R’s to propose trickle-down policies while claiming the words “trickle down”, which people have learned to dislike, apply to the Democrats. But it’s clear from the non-response that the Dems couldn’t come up with a rebuttal that tested well. As elsewhere, unhinging his campaign from reality is a powerful tool for Romney.

      2. Actually he said “trickle-down government”, whatever the f*ck that’s supposed mean. I guess it means Democrats are just supposed to accept the framing that we’re only about government. Whatever.

        And what Warren said.

    4. Using the 47% as the last word was lacerating and brutal and great. It didn’t give Romney any opportunity to rebut the claim. He tried to “pre-but” it, though ineffectively.

      I thought Obama’s remarks in closing were his most powerful statement of the night.

  2. Crowley had no control of the clock at all, both candidates went over their time each time, sometimes by 100%. But she was awesome when she fact-checked Mitt live on stage, and she was good in bringing people back to the topic.

    The Rs wont have liked those, so expect the rules for the next debate to mandate that the moderator be replaced by a cardboard cutout.

  3. I am new to this community and don’t know the bloggers. Since there was mention in this entry of the “act of terror” I’d like to see one of you address how meaningless “terror” has become. More directly, I’ll assert that the attack in Libya was not a terrorist attack. It was an attack by a militia against our country, just the same as Pearl Harbor was an attack by another country.

    An act of terror is intended to cow the population so they are unwilling to fight. How does the Libya attack meet that definition?

    Even stretching the definition of “terrorist” to be any organized ‘military’ force that is not a national force doesn’t help. This was a Libyan militia and while it may not be their national force it certainly is one of many Libyan based forces.

    Labeling this group terrorists misleads all of us. Our thinking is misdirected so our response is based on a stereotype instead of reality.

    The Libyan populace actually understand this better than us. The populace went after the militia. The populace is calling for the militias to be disbanded. The populace knows this is in our interest and, more importantly, their best interest to see these thugs scorned and disarmed.

  4. “2. The amateurs asked much more interesting and relevant questions than the journalists: immigration, women’s rights, health care.”

    They always do, even with their clunky constructions. Local journalists have done well, too. That’s partly why most debates feature our brain-dead Washington press corps– it’s about them retaining their status.

    1. I number of folks get the knickers in a knot because “they didn’t answer the questions”. While this is true, another measure is whether there was a substantive discussion triggered by the question. This occurred last night which made the debate an overall success.

  5. What a reversal on the Libya question! Should have scored huge points for Romney, but he couldn’t resist using misinformation fed to him by the right wing of his party. Obama’s stern retort was the highlight of the night for me (even more than Crowley correcting him to audience applause). In that moment he showed the difference between being president and running for president. The way he stared Romney down and put him in his place like a teacher correcting a child.

    It infuriates me to hear pundits proclaim that Obama needs to layout a plan for the next four years, buying into the myth that Romney’s 5 point plan is anything more than a bunch of meaningless generalizations. The media’s willingness to go along with that narrative is the only reason I can think of to explain how anyone can be undecided at this point. It is simple; Obama wants to pursue the path set forth by Clinton, Romney wants to reenact Dubya’s. If you think the GOP high risk high reward plan can be accomplished without another disaster vote for Romney, if you’d rather not risk another meltdown vote for Obama.

    I think the media will downplay Obama’s victory, they will call it a slight victory in hopes of stabilizing the race, nothing would make the corporations that run our big media happier than a tight finish. Remember undecided voters probably don’t watch the debates, they just catch the media’s post-debate responses. Hence, why the mainstream media refuses to actually analyze the candidates responses on issues and focus instead on presentation.

    1. The final debate supposedly focuses on foreign policy. Romney’s going to come back hard on the Libya thing. I hope Obama’s team is preparing.

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