Liveblogging the debate

Wasn’t sure I’d be home in time, but since I am I’m going to do it. I don’t drunkblog, but I promise to get plastered if Obama says “There you go again.”

8:55 CNN starts out on a low note with some phony fact-checking. They score Obama’s claim that Romney plans to cut taxes for the rich “false” because Romney says that he intends to offer unspecified offsets. Yech!

8:59 Not clear whether CNN’s reporters are more annoying than the spinmeisters, or the other way around. Wish I were watching C-SPAN.

The CNN fools are even doing dial-twist, despite its demonstrated irrelevance to outcomes.

First Q to Obama: differences about creating new jobs.
Starts by greeting his wife on their anniversary. Good move, I think.
Romney wearing what looks to me like a smirk as he listens to Obama, but I don’t claim to be impartial.
Obama uses the question to contrast “the new American patriotism” with “doubling down on top-down.”

Lehrer invites Romney to question Obama. Romney denounces tax cuts for the rich and says he’s for the middle class.

Obama starts listening to Romney with a more attentive and pleasant demeanor than vice-versa,bthen starts to scowl. I don’t think Romney’s response does much for him.

Of course “jobs” is a fairly dumb question, and attracts the expected economic-nationalist answers from both candidates.

Obama hits Romney hard on the deficit. Romney denies he wants to cut taxes for the rich, and paints himself as the tribune of the middle class.

Lehrer invites Romney to directly question Obama. Good idea, but Romney makes a speech instead. “No tax cut that adds to the deficit.” Is Lehrer going to challenge him on the arithmetic?

9:16 Obama does the arithmetic, and does it pretty well. Romney keeps insisting that if he says 2 + 2 is 5, and calls Obama a liar for doubting it. Lies about the studies. Now Obama is smirking. “For eighteeen months he’s been running on his tax plan. Now, five weeks before the election, he says that his big, bold idea is ‘Never mind.’ ” I think that scored.

Interesting choice on Obama’s part not to respond to Romney’s insult.

This is supposed to be about domestic policy generally. Are we eventually going to get to reprodutive freedom?

9:22 Seems to me Romney is tying himself in knots. He denies he wants to cut rates on the rich, but specifies he wants to cut the rates paid by the owners of the 3% largest “small” businesses. But my debate-watching buddy thinks Obama sounds tentative and that Romney is “kicking his @ss.”

Obama says Romney wants to go back to Bush policies, while Obama wants to go back to Clinton policies.

I think he’s scoring, but my friend says “Why doesn’t he mention 47%? Too many specifics, not enough values.”

Romney says deficits are immoral on an intergenerational basis. Accuses Obama of “wanting to raise taxes.” Proposes “the China test.” My friend says Romney looks engaged, while Obama’s answers seem canned.

Romney says Obama should have grabbed Simpson-Bowles. Is Obama going to say that Paul Ryan killed Simpson-Bowles?

9:33 Romney keeps saying “no taxes, because taxes kill jobs.” I think Obama’s more convincing, but my friend thinks that Obama’s “getting his clock cleaned.” Obama denounces “corporate welfare.” “Right now, you can take a deduction for moving jobs overseas.”

Romney hits Obama on tax breaks for solar and wind.

Romney says Obama needs to get a new accountant. Talk about leading with your chin! Will Obama launch the haymaker?

Nope. O concedes that he and Romney have the same ideas on Social Security, rather than nailing Romney on Ryan’s attack on it as “collectivist.”

Romney tells the $716 billion Medicare lie. Obama hits back on voucherizing Medicare. Romney promises fairy dust. Will Obama say, “If vouchers are so good, why don’t you want them for current retirees?” Probably not.

Now on regulation. Obama “Does anyone believe that the problem we had was too much regulation of Wall Street? If so, Gov. Romney is your candidate.”

Now on Obamacare. Another $716 billion lie. Is Obama just going to take it? Still no 47%. Pretty good pitch for Obamacare, but no hit-back.

Now Romney is hitting Obama on partisanship, as if it were his fault that Republicans in Congress didn’t want to help. Romney is lying shamelessly – the b.s. McKinsey “study” – and Obama won’t hit back.

Romney refuses to say what he’d replace Obamacare with.

Finally, Obama hits back: Romney won’t say what he’s actually going to do. “Is the reason Gov. Romney is keeping all these plans secret is because they’re too good?”

“Gov.Romney doesn’t think we need more teachers. I do.” Romney comes back by saying he loves teachers, but that every state should make its own choices.

Romney hits Obama hard on poor economic performance. Obama won’t hit back. Not a good night. Intrade and Iowa agree Romney’s odds have shorened from 3:1 to 2:1.

Romney accouses Obama of making up facts, keeps denying he’s going to cut anything in particular. More or less accuses Obama of corruption on energy loans. Goddammit, is Obama a potted plant?

Finally, Obama draws some contrasts, in particular Romney’s unwillingness to challenge the extremists in his own party.But then he goes on to thank Romney for a fine debate, as if Romney hadn’t spent all his time on lies and insults.

Romney uses his final statement to keep on lying. Obama has no chance to respond. Yechhh!

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:

30 thoughts on “Liveblogging the debate”

  1. Come on, Obama. This is easy. If Romney doesn’t understand the Me3dicare cuts, let him ask Ryan to explain them.

    Once again, Obama just seems incapable of going on the attack.

    1. Really. Did John Kerry coach him? Could he have at least mentioned that seniors get more benefits with these cuts? That cuts are sometimes hard choices, while Romney’s secret (imaginary) cuts are easy promises?

  2. Romney is losing through winning.
    Everything he’s saying tonight, which sounds like stuff a normal person would say, is running away from what he’s been saying all campaign (yes, even with all the reversals). He’s going to get lambasted by his base and have to walk it all back within 24 hours.

    1. I have to retract this. The story coming out of this is that Romney said Obama is trashing Medicare and Obama had no response. None. I’m sooooooooo glad we’ve got the passive, roll-over-for-your-enemies Obama of 2009-2011. I thought that that worthless hump would be kept in the closet until inauguration, at least. Fuck.

    2. Yeah, I wish this were right, but I think they will respond more to the dominant performance Romney put on (dominant, as in mostly attacking and talking over Obama) than the substance.

      1. Yeah, he even dominated the moderator — right off the bat — demanding a last response because Obama went first, and insisting on having it both ways when Lehrer pointed out that in return for Obama going first on the first question (by coin toss), he would go first on the next. And he got his way. The R’s love this kind of bullying — they think it shows decisiveness and leadership, but to me it just looks like the childishly impolite imposition of the will of someone with an overblown sense of entitlement over everyone else around him.

        Looks like Obama’s stragedy to ignore Rmoney’s fact-challenged statements so that he could spend time pushing his message instead of responding to whackery ended in epic failure. So much so that Rmoney got to be the one to accuse the other of claiming his own facts. Having a fair amount of whackery in his own message (7 trillion Rmoney deficit) didn’t help either.

  3. Intrade and Iowa agree Romney’s odds have shorened from 3:1 to 2:1.

    Buy on the rumor sell on the news…
    What’s the rumor? The political junkies liveblogging this thru political junky eyes.

    For some sense of reality:

    1) I’d go over and read Ed Kilgore first…
    2) What % of the population killed an evening watching this?

  4. Well, let’s hope for some fact checking. Romney lied has ass off.

    Rachel Maddow is commenting on Obama’s passivity and his failure to attack Romney.

  5. I didn’t watch but rather listened to it on WAMU. Romney sounded energized and frankly spun his way through the whole thing. I think overall Romney helped himself. I think the President should have been a lot more aggressive and overall I thought he sounded kind of tired and listless. Hopefully this debate won’t count for much in actual voting. Not a real good evening for him.

    BTW – enjoyed your marijuana panel today in DC. I’ll plan to read your book.

  6. I share the general frustration with Obama’s failure to hit Romney in ways that people can relate to. For example, I hollered at him (through the TV) to say, “The trouble with putting seniors with health problems on private insurance is this: If they say to the insurance company, ‘I will just take my business elsewhere,’ the companies will say, “Be our guest, and take your problems with you.'”

    Either he did not hear or did not care to clobber Romney just when he could have.

    1. Also, I told him to say, “If vouchers are such a great deal for seniors, why deprive today’s Medicare enrollees of their benefits?” He ignored that, too.

      I think he was told not to come across as arrogant, or something.

      Rememberm though, that Reagan was clobbered by Mondale in the first debate in 1984. Maybe we are making a tempest in a Tea Party Pot.

    2. “Competition” works both ways, eh? Insurance companies compete to be sellers, old people compete to be buyers.


  7. Romney accouses Obama of making up facts, keeps denying he’s going to cut anything in particular. More or less accuses Obama of corruption on energy loans.

    Well, yeah. Mitt Romney is in favor of everything unless he’s a against it. As it stands, Obama held his line, Romney attacked with everything in the bag and what we’ve got is that Romney is in favor of everything he’s against. Or against everything he’s in favor of, possibly.

    [‘Time for more commercials.’]

  8. Why, oh why, could not Barack Obama be the first public figure in memory to explain that “small businesses” DO NOT PAY TAXES!

    I know whereof I speak. I am a “small business”. My income for 18 years now has been the BOTTOM line of Schedule C. My business DOES NOT PAY INCOME TAX — not at personal rates, not at corporate rates, not at ANY rates. There is no line on Schedule C that says “Tax you owe …” My business pays no income tax. There is no way to “cut taxes” on my “small business”.

    Who pays income tax is: me, personally. The bottom line of my Sched C goes on my 1040 exactly like your gross salary from a “big” business goes on your 1040. It gets taxed at the “personal” rate because it’s my PERSONAL income. It’s what I have in my own pocket AFTER business expenses like, say, payroll.

    The GOP line is that if I have a PERSONAL income of $300K a year, I somehow deserve to be taxed less than somebody who has a $300K salary at a “big” business. Why not even Obama can call bullshit on that is beyond me.


    1. If he could not do that with Joe the Plumber, why expect him to start now? Joe implied that higher marginal tax rates would keep him from hiring more plumbers, and Obama said something about spreading the wealth, rather than something about all those business costs being subtracted from the business income in the Schedule C?

      Beats me. I had a Schedule C for many years, and that was the screamingly obvious answer to that question.

      Tony P. is quite correct.

    2. The bit about how small businesses could afford more payroll if it weren’t for taxes was especially ridiculous: as he surely knows, businesses pay taxes on profits – and payroll is a fully deductible expense. The other special bit, one where Obama at least tried to push back with the truth, was Romney’s repeated claim that private companies can deliver insurance more efficiently than the government, in the same debate in which he repeatedly claimed Obama was stealing money from Medicare Advantage. That money bring taken from Medicare Advantage is, of course, subsidies currently given to make up for the extra cost of delivering insurance by private companies.

      All in all, Obama turned in a terrible, supine performance. Mitt was talking ten to the dozen, and most of t was lies or non sequiturs – but Obama rarely pushed back,and when he did, Romney just ignored him. I already saw the NBC fact check, and they backed up Obama in every particular – but in a tone of bored neutrality that conveyed the impression that none of it mattered. I am very worried that Mitt’s total disconnectedness from reality and history will be a winning formula.

      1. One bright spot: Romney’s expression when he was NOT speaking struck me as the textbook definition of a “pinched smile”.


        1. NBC was’t showing reaction shots. I don’t know about any other channels.

          By the way: can you believe that I’ve got eight channels of PBS in digital broadcast here in LA, and none of them were showing the debate? I mean, I might have still more PBS channels someplace, I’ve got dozens upon dozens of channels in digital broadcast, it’s probably been a year since I turned on the TV other than for a DVD (except for one day of Olympics), and it’s a pain to look through the channels. Maybe one of those undiscovered PBS stations had the debate, though I rather doubt it. But here we had an opportunity for Public Service Broadcasting, an event moderated by a PBS star, and a candidate promising to lynch Big Bird – and PBS was out to lunch. Shameful.

        2. The smarmy smile that is Romney’s default expression will surely cost him votes. Remember when he came out with his, ahem, sober, serious comments after the attacks on our diplomats in Egypt and Libya, and punctuated each of his craven little lies with that snotty smile, as if to say “ain’t I clever, undermining U.S. interests to advance my political career?” Surely the gods will not allow that to go unpunished.

    3. Another angle to this that needs to be mentioned is that relatively large “small businesses (really taxpayers who file Schedule C)” often have multiple owners. They are partnerships, or LLC’s, or something. In those cases, the tax liability generated of a “small business” with $500K in profits is not the same as the tax liability of someone earning $500K. It’s probably less, even much less, because the $500K is divided up, for tax purposes, among all the owners.

      Of course, this is just another consequence of the fact that it’s not the business that pays the tax.

  9. Obama gave a bewilderingly, stupefyingly lackluster performance. This guy is as smart as they come and brilliant at thinking on his feet and a first-rate speaker, but he seems to have left all that at home tonight. How is it even remotely possible for Mitt Romney to out-perform Barack Obama in this kind of forum? It seemed almost like Obama wanted to lose the election, perhaps so he could be with his sweetie. The consolation is, of course, that this debate doesn’t matter if Obama continues to lead in Ohio, Florida, and Virginia, which he will.

    Did anyone else think his face looked puffy? Maybe there was a physiological thing going on.

    1. Yes. I left after a bit more than halfway through, because I couldn’t stand any more. Tentative, passive, lifeless. What happened?

  10. I think some fault has to go to Mr. Lehrer for letting Romney bully him like he did. He let Romney ask questions directly to Obama but didn’t let Obama do the same. But mostly, where the f*ck was campaign-Obama?

  11. Funny, I listened on the radio and thought Obama won hands down.

    Romney whined (and lied) like a child, and came across as a dick while the prez was measured and professorial.

  12. In the end I think people are going to find that this was a Pyrrhic victory for Romney. Yes, he performed better in the debate, but in order to accomplish that feat, he completely disavowed his primary policy positions, and oddly enough embraced Obama’s popular policies (higher education spending, maintaining Medicare, keeping children on parent’s insurance, etc…). Not surprisingly Romney version 2.0 is actually moderate Governor Romney from Massachusetts.

    Of course the media got caught up in style rather than substance, because one it fits the narrative constructed before the debate (challenger always wins first debate), two it feeds the media’s desire to have a close race (and therefore higher ratings), and lastly it’s considered gospel by every Poli sci major that since the Nixon-JFK debate that appearance matters more than substance.

    I think that in the next couple of days the media (led by John Stewart who will skewer Romney tonight) will pick up on Romney’s lies and contradictions as they did with Ryan Paul’s convention speech which was also originally touted as a great moment for the Romney/Ryan campaign.

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