Liveblogging the rubber match

Human v. android, Round III. Do we really *want* a President who (1) believes in consensus reality and (2) could pass the Turing Test?

UPDATE For once, I was too pessimistic. In the CBS poll of undecided voters, Obama beat Romney as convincingly this time as Romney beat him the first time. In the CNN poll of debate-watchers (who lean Republican) it was O 48, R 40. Not so bad.

Obama landed some heavy blows, while Romney maundered; in a sane world, Obama would count as the clear winner. In the actual world, more or less a draw. Romney’s capacity not to notice when he’s had a hole blown in him is astounding.

Idiot commenters are giving Obama credit for “aggressiveness” rather than bothering to go over the actual points of dispute.

Intrade market on the debate gives O a 95% chance of being called the winner. Intrade market on the outcome still about 6.15 Obama, little changed on the day.

I don’t have the patience to listen to the professional bloviators. Call it a wrap.

10:30 Obama tries to tie Romney to failed Bush policies. After a decade of war, we need to do nation-building at home. We always bounce back because of our character. Greatest nation on Earth.

Now to Romney’s closing lie. “Heading toward Greece” “12 million new jobs” “working across the aisle.”

10:24 Romney says he loves cars, and wanted a managed bankruptcy. Obama keeps saying “Let’s check the record.” It ought to be astonishing that Romney thinks he can get away from this. It’s worse that he’s probably right.

“Gov. Romney, you keep trying to airbrush history.” “You said they could get it from the private sector. That wasn’t true.”

Back after Romney on taxes and the budget: “that will not make us more competitive.”

Romney does the same litany of bad results from the recession. “I love teachers.” But I don’t want the federal government hiring them.

10:15 Question to O about China somehow gets to be “what’s the greatest threat”? O: Obama is an adversary, but also a potential partner if they’ll play by the rules. Brags about WTO actions against China: says Romney criticized tire action as protectionist.

We need strong education for a strong country, but Romney’s budget doesn’t allow for that.

R: We needn’t be adversaries with China, but they need to think we’re strong. “China has not played by the same rules” and that has cost jobs. Label China a currency manipulator Day 1.

Schieffer asks about a trade war, Romney says they’re waging one now.

O: “You’re right. You know about jobs being shipped overseas, because you made a business of shipping jobs overseas.” Hammers him on all the policies he supports that lead to job export, and on the auto bailout: “If we’d followed Gov. Romney’s strategy, we’d be buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China.”

10:09 Another Pakistan question. Are we going to go all night without mentioning Europe or Mexico?

Q to R: should we “divorce” Pakistan. R: no. R now admits that it was right to go into Pakistan to get Osama.

Another Q to R: drones? I support that entirely. Says for about the ninth time that the President was right about something. We have to do more than killing bad guys. “We have to move the world away from Islamic extremism; we haven’t done that.” Clearly has great faith in the power of incantation. Denies that al Qaeda is “on its heels.” Seems like leading with his chin to me.

O’s response is a laundry list: “building capacity.” “The truth is that al Qaeda is much weaker than when I took office.”

10:04 Romney arguing with the moderator again. Will Obama point out more one-point plan in action?

Q to Romney: What if the Afghans aren’t ready at the end of 2014? Romney insists that they’ll be ready: “The troops are coming home.” More or less admits that Obama has succeeded, which I doubt is true. Pakistan is important, because they have warheads and the Taliban. “A Pakistan that comes apart and becomes a failed state” would be A Bad Thing. Conditional foreign aid.

O: Closing out Iraq allowed the surge in Afghanistan. But there’s no reason for Americans to die when Afghans can defend themselves.

Jobs at home. Jobs for veterans.

9:59 Romney ducks the question of what he’d do if the phone call came in from Israel that the bombers were on their way to Iran. Goes back on the attack. “I see our influence receding.” When is O going to hit him for tearing down the country?

O says R has been “all over the map.” More sick smile. On Osama “You said we should have asked Pakistan’s permission.” “When we bring those who have harmed us to justice, that sends a message to the world.”

9:45 Schieffer asks whether the two would be willing to say that an attack on Israel is an attack on the United States. Wouldn’t that be a deterrent?

O: “I will stand with Israel if they are attacked.” Strongest military and intelligence cooperation with Israel in history. Iran will not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. Sanctions are crippling the Iranian economy. Gov. Romney wants to take premature military action. War is the last resort, not the first.

Romney keeps agreeing with Obama. Claims credits for the sanctions, but they should be tighter. Treat Iranian diplomats as pariahs, like South Africans under apartheid (!).

Q to Obama: rumors of talks. What deal would you take? O: reports not true. But the deal is they give up their nuclear program. Sometimes Romney sounds as if saying it louder makes it more effective. There’s painstaking work involved. We got everyone to agree, including Russia and China.

Romney says O showed weakness by wanting to meet with Ahmadinejad. Another “apology tour” lie. Didn’t stand with Iranian insurgents. “Daylight” between us and Israel. “They kept spinning centrifuges.” President must show strength. (I.e., talk louder. My God, are the voters really stupid enough to believe this b.s.?)

Obama challenges him directly: “That’s simply not true.” “While we were putting sanctions in place, you were still invested in a Chinese oil companyt that was breaking sanctions.” “When I came into office, the world was divided, and Iran was resurgent. Iran is weaker than it’s been in many years.”

R: “We’re four years closer to to a nuclear Iran.” Defends “apology tour” claim; “you skipped Israel.” Quotes Obama criticizing former U.S. policy. O “When I traveled to Israel, I didn’t do fundraisers.”

9:36 O hits R on jobs in Massachusetts. R wearing his sick grin again. O brags about education record. Wants to hire more teachers, accuses R of not wanting more teachers and not caring about class size. R grin growing sicker.

Schieffer begs them to get back to foreign policy. R brags about education in Mass. Bipartisan. Doesn’t mention that Mass. has strong teachers’ unions. Obama tries to point out that the good stuff all happened before R took office, and that he cut education spending.

Schieffer asks R how he’s going to pay for it. Get rid of Obamacare, run Medicaid more efficiently. Get to a balanced budget within 8-10 years.

Obama points out the math doesn’t add up: $5T in tax cuts, $2T in military spending. Doesn’t go after Medicaid. More military spending than the ten next countries.

R: I balanced budget in business, at the Olympics, four times as governor of Massachusetts. Navy is smaller than it’s been since whenever. Air force older and smaller than 1947.

“I think Gov. Romney hasn’t spent enough time understanding how the military works. We have fewer ships than we used to; we also have fewer horses and bayonets.” Ouch!

9:29 Vague “vision” question. R attacks on the economy again. Will O accuse him, accurately, of tearing the country down? R wants “a strong military.” Says Israel and missle-in-Europe policies weakened alliances. Attacks O for “being silent” during the Green Revolution in Iran.

O says we’ve never been stronger, and our alliances have never been stronger. Ending the war in Iraq allowed us to refocus. Back to domestic b.s. “retrain our workers for the jobs of tomorrow,” clean energy, etc., etc. Hits Romney on the deficit. “We have to cut our deficit, and unfortunately Gov. Romney’s policy doesn’t do it.” R took Bush as his economic model and Cheney as a foreign policy model.

R recites his five f*cking points again. I think it’s a different five points this time. Swipe at teachers’ unions, demand for balanced budget. Does anyone believe this?

9:16 Now Libya. Hostile question to Obama. I guess Republican attempts to “work” Schieffer by accusing of him of bias worked. O accuses R of recklessness in wanting to give arms to the Syrian opposition that could be used against us.

R ties Syria to Iran. Backs off from direct involvement; calls for U.S. to organize and arm the opposition; agrees with O the risk of diversion of weapons.

O attacks R for chickening out when it came time to finish off Ghaddafi.

Q to R: no-fly zone? Someone seems to have warned Romney that militarism is a vote-loser; he says no military involvement. Not much daylight between the two. R is claiming that O didn’t exercise “leadership.”

O “What you just heard the governor say is that he doesn’t have different ideas, because we’re doing what we should be doing.”

Q to Obama: Do you regret getting rid of Mubarak. A: No! We had to stand with democracy.

Both candidates are emphasizing women’s rights in the Middle East. Guess that suffrage amendment had some impact after all.

O pivots to domestic policy: national-building at home.

R says he agrees with Obama that Mubarak had to do, then blames him for the fact that things didn’t work out perfectly.

R also pivots, quotes Ahmadinejad about debt: will Obama provide the obvious counter? “In no place in the world is American’s influence greater today than it was four years ago.”

9:02 Why are they starting late?

I suppose that opening grip-and-grin is supposed to show civility or good sportsmaship or something. But it always reminds me of the final scene of Animal Farm, when the poor beasts discover that it doesn’t matter who rules them.

First question, Benghzi. Schieffer sets it up for Romney, reciting all the wingnut talking points as if they had substance.

R: Makes a comprehensive and incoherent attack on Obama’s Middle East policy generally. Refers only briefly to Benghazi (guess he decided that dog wouldn’t actually hunt). Weird verbal slip, talking of the victims in Benghazi “Our hearts and minds go out to them”? Huh? Sounds as if he’s conflated a couple of cliches.

Obama hits hard on Libya: we finally have the Libyans on our side. “Your strategy has been all over the map.”

Romney does more chest-pounding. Then turns to bafflegab: “economic development, education, gender equality (!), the rule of law.” Returns to his parade of horribles. Just like domestic strategy; R just wants to say things are bad and hope people will blame Obama.

O goes in for the kill: hits Romney on Russia as the big threat. “The 1980s are asking to have their foreign policy back.”
We need “strong steady, policy, not wrong, reckless policy.” R wanted to leave 10,000 troops in Iraq.

R calls O a liar again, talks over him as he tries to respond. Then O puts him in his place, grown-up to child. Round to Obama.

Human v. android, Round III. Do we really want a President who (1) believes in consensus reality and (2) could pass the Turing Test.
I guess we’ll know in two weeks.
In any case, here it comes.

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:

55 thoughts on “Liveblogging the rubber match”

  1. It’s going very well so far– Romney’s rapid-fire spouting of… whatever it is he’s spouting, makes him look as all over the place as Obama says he is.

  2. Nice zing on the open mike incident, but no followup. All in all a very unimpressive performance by the challenger.

    Unimpressive moderating, too; The least you can expect of a moderator is that he stomp on somebody who talks during the other guy’s turn.

    Obama is still bragging about all the energy produced where he couldn’t block the production. But Romney let him get away with it, so why shouldn’t he?

    Can’t say I’m impressed; Romney might still pull it out, he’s got the Obama economy helping him, but it will be Obama losing, not Romney winning.

  3. “Bush’s domestic policy and Cheney’s foreign policy” is an excellent line – it should be devastating, if anyone is thinking about it.

  4. Romney had 7 points in Israel for it’s security with regard to Iran but has only 5 points for dealing with the American economy. Priorities?

  5. Lame, Romney just doesn’t have the instinct to go for the jugular. Of course, that’s kind of what I like about him: He’s actually a decent guy. Mind, decent doesn’t win debates.

    I rest on my conclusion: Romney crossed the threshold of plausible President, and he had to do that. He has utterly failed to land any decisive blows. Maybe he won’t have to, in a rational world Obama’s record would do that for him.

    1. “Romney just doesn’t have the instinct to go for the jugular.”
      Yeah, that’s always a big problem with predatory capitalists. I’m with you Brett, he should go hard about Obama never using the word “terror” in regards to Libya.

    2. “Maybe he won’t have to, in a rational world Obama’s record would do that for him.”

      Actually, in a rational world, people would realize that a vote for Romney entails more than just a vote against Obama.

  6. Romney keeps agreeing with Obama.

    Romney to nation: Elect me and you’ll get 4 more years of Obama foreign policy.

    The political calculus is simple. The only way to get to Obama’s right is to be crazy. So let’s not be crazy, let’s try to drag this discussion back to wether a Wall Street Trader can do better than POTUS in rebuilding the American economy.

    That is the issue: Do you trust Wall Street to fix America’s economy, or not?

    1. He’s the first of the moderators to actually give them equal amounts of time. That might seem like Romney talking forever, but it was a refreshing change from the first two debates, both of which involved Obama getting significantly more time to speak than Romney.

      But I’d still prefer a mechanical timer.

      1. Brett, you must be a mechanical engineer. Electronic timers are all the rage these days, since the recent invention of the vacuum tube.

        Anyhoo, I’m with you on the point: their microphones should be on timers that cut off when time is up. If anything, it would be a lot more fun to watch.

        1. Brett likes to pretend to be an old man, because he thinks it makes him more sonorous or something, but it turns out he’s really only like 40 or so.

      2. Actually, I agree about the timers. A warning light 15 seconds before time is up and then the mike goes off.

        Now if there were some easy way to cut of non-responsive, pure rehearsed talking point answers, that would be even better.

  7. Well, Romney is certainly more knowledgable about foreign policy than W or McCain. For instance, he knows Libya is next to Egypt.

  8. “I love teachers.” Well, he loves Big Bird, too. When Romney says he loves something, that means he wants to fuck it.

  9. This comments thread needs more about Romney inexplicably claiming Syria is Iran’s route to the sea – a claim that would be more compelling if Iran didn’t have an enormous coastline, and if Iran actually shared a border with Syria.

    Maybe Syria is Romnesia’s route to the sea?

    1. I do not know, but I believe that this had something to do with both campaigns sending strong messages before all three “debates” that questions about climate change were not to be asked. Can’t prove it and don’t have a shred of evidence, but it is hard to think of another explanation. The necessary measures to deal with it will be painful, and no one wins this race by being Debbie Downer.

      1. What is disgusting is that global climate change is a real foreign policy issue. Our military is busy planning on how to manage a world with rising sea levels.

        1. I agree with the man-made climate change being the issue, and Mexican drug cartels and the Eurozone tanking are real foreign policy issues totally ignored.

  10. In the actual world, more or less a draw.

    I don’t think so.

    Romney looked bad. He had no solid criticisms of anything Obama has done, and just pulled out stupid GOP talking points: “apology tour,” “1917 Navy,” etc. (Whoever thought of that last one must be a Democratic mole.) He basically looked out of his depth.

    1. The 1916 navy thing has been a staple since the Republican primary debates. It drives me straight up a wall: we’ve got eleven carrier battle groups, each the equal of any other entire navy in the world and capable of projecting force for hundreds of miles, the next few largest navies are our very closest allies, and he claims we’ve slipped compared to an era before the aircraft carrier, when we had the third-largest navy in the world and were just completing the phase-out of coal-powered steamers (it’s been a decade since I read Dreadnaught, but I think we might have still had sail-powered naval vessels at the turn of the century, and I’m not counting the (technically still commissioned) Constitution.

      1. And Obama nailed that part. “Governor Romney, we have these things called aircraft carriers with airplanes that take off from them and land on them.”

      2. Dreadnaught was launched in 1905 with antique wing turrets but all big guns instead of mixed. In 1906 the US laid down the South Carolina class with all big gun superimposed turrets which were the standard layout of guns now employed for all multi-turret ships. South Carolina’s design pre-dated Dreadnaught. By 1916 the US had the most modern, innovative navy in the world and by the time of the Washington Treaty had gained equality with Great Britain.

  11. The 1916 navy thing has been a staple since the Republican primary debates.

    I know. Ryan mentioned it in the VP debate, IIRC. It’s a minor point, I suppose, but anyone who doubts that the GOP is institutionally as dumb as a bag of hammers ought to be convinced by the fact that they keep bringing this up.

    1. I’ve known some very smart folks who call themselves conservative (smarter than me, anyways), but one constant I’ve found is a general deficit of openness to new or different experience, ideas, or learning, especially when this challenges worldview or identity. I think this is probably linked to fear (of the other, the unknown) being the primary driver of the conservative response to novel environmental stimuli. Very useful for survival when faced with the constant inter-tribal conflict throughout human/primate history; increasingly regressive (seeking familiar ground) and ultimately dangerous when faced with an increasingly interconnected and integrated world. I’m not terribly surprised that the worldview of a considerable proportion of our relatively puerile society, helped along by a 19th century government, looks back 100 years for ideological grounding. So, yeah, what you said.

  12. The Onion tweet wins: “Obama seems suspiciously knowledgeable about foreign affairs for someone born here”

          1. I think calling all toaster’s comment was a reference to earlier in the evening, when an unclosed italics tag in the liveblog main post was italicizing the whole blog.

  13. But it always reminds me of the final scene of Animal Farm, when the poor beasts discover that it doesn’t matter who rules them.

    Presidential elections always remind me that we have yet to discover this ourselves.

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