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In search of the Unified Theory of Conservatism

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LiveBlogging the Presidential “Town Hall” Debate

October 16th, 2012 · 1 Comment

Bottom Line:  I thought Romney bested the President in the first half hour, but the President finished pretty strong.  Since it was boring in the middle, I think that benefits Romney.

Crowley was much better than I thought, but not as good as she could have been.  And she was incredibly misleading about Obama calling the Benghazi incident a terrorist attack, as was Obama, of course.  Again – moderators can’t be trusted to be “fact checkers” any more than the candidates.  But still, Romney missed a huge opportunity on that, and missed an opportunity to really put the President on the spot.  I’m glad there is a final debate focusing on foreign policy.  And I’m equally glad that exchange will now dominate the reaction press until the next debate.

There were three exchanges when Romney was essentially trying to cross examine the President, and the President squirmed.  He needs to do more of that.

If folks were still undecided going in to this debate, I doubt this will change their minds – they will wait until the third.  I think Obama stopped some bleeding, but gained no new ground.  My Facebook feed tells me it was a draw – lots of enthusiasm from my friends on both sides.  And I have to think the President’s sunny picture of the economy will sit in jarring contrast to what people are seeing in their lives.

As always, the Ultimate Poll will tell!

Click here to read the full live blog… 

7:38:  “I believe in free enterprise and individual initiative.”  No you don’t.  If Obama believes what he’s saying, he doesn’t understand what those words actually mean.  And, like a coward, he brings up the 47% thing when he thinks Romney won’t have a chance to respond.  This is a personal attack, and Romney better take charge and answer it, but isn’t allowed.

7:34:  Last question – how have you been mischarcterized?  Romney brings up the “47%” comment first, which is interesting, although he did it obliquely, and then turns it into a closing statement.

7:32:  Crowley with a very fair question about labor costs.  Romney’s answer on Intellectual Property is a good way to approach this – no one can say we can get China wages.  Obama admits this as well, but then speaks only generally about “Super Dooper Manufacturing jobs”.  I put that in the “green jobs” magic box, with comparable expectation of results.

7:30:  Now it’s Obama with his back to the camera.  One audience member looks like he’s sleeping.

7:29:  “Regulations quadrupled.”  And back to Obamacare, which correctly is pointed out as King Regulation.

7:27:  Romney talks China.  Obama looks ready to pounce.  “Trickle down government”.  I feel like all the wind went out of the sales of the whole thing, unless it’s the In-N-Out burger putting me to sleep. 

7:26:  Now Crowley is fighting with Obama over the clock.  Ugh – this is the problem with two-short answers.

7:23:  ANd Crowley now reaches in in a way she’s not done the entire debate to debate against Romney, and cut off discussion of a topic that hurts Obama.  This is why we don’t trust moderators.

7:22:  Fast and Furious – very cool.  Again, Romney makes good use of a question that clearly was weighted against him.

7:20:  I agree that good schools can help reduce violence, particularly in the inner city.  But they haven’t – and we all know which party has dominated inner city education policy, particularly in Chicago.  And parents – YES!  That matters a lot, and I’m glad Romney has the guts to say it out loud.

7:18:  Gun control?  1993 called…  I just don’t understand why this question would be chosen, of all the other more significant issues.

7:15:  I agree with Obama.  It IS offensive that this was politicized, and of course it was politicized by Obama, which is why he’s talking about the tape.  Crowley fact-checks both, to utter confusion.  And the clapping from the audience for each is interesting – undecided indeed…

7:14:  Wait a minute – I thought al Qaeda was defeated?

7:13:  On the other hand, my wife really liked that answer from Romney, and thought it walked a fine line.

7:12:  Romney is pulling his punches on Libya, and I don’t know why.  The debacle was either a deliberate coverup (as the questioner suggested) or it’s massive incompetence.  There is no third option, and Romney shoudl be hitting this harder.

7:11:  Obam greets the coffins.  Sure.  And sends form letters to the families of the fallen.

7:10:  We know who did this.  It was al qaeda.  Obama knew that for weeks, and was still blaming a YouTube video.  And now Obama is blaming… Romney?  Please.  I was a little worried about Romney’s response at the time, but in retrospect, it was remarkably prescient.

7:09:  “Not just representing the US, they represent ME.”  Oh, well then, your majesty.

7:08:  Libya question, hard on Obama.  Things just got interesting again.

7:07:  I love that Romney knows more about Obama’s retirement fund than Obama does.

7:06:  I feel like the debate is starting to drag a little at this point.  If I wasn’t live blogging, I’d be confident, but getting bored and wandering to

7:05:  Good thing we have a moderator to fact check POTUS.  (In all seriousness, I think she’s doing quite well.)

7:04:  That is NOT what the AZ law said – this is a straight lie.  I’ve actually read that bill.  IN fact, it specifically says they CAN’T stop people on that basis.  Wow.

7:02:  The flow of illegal aliens is lower, but that’s because they left when the economy crapped the bed.  I give Obama props for stepping up this enforcement, but it’s not been sufficient or comprehensive.

6:59:  Next question:  Immigration, worded in a standard, leftist way.  I didn’t know that about Ann Romney.  I really like Romney’s answer on this, and I think it’s very much in line with what most Americans want to see – no amnesty, but make it easier to come in legally.  And he’s sympathetic to something like the DREAM Act, which I also agree with (devil in the details, of course).  The line about how you shouldn’t need a lawyer to come in legally” really resonates to anyone who has ever tried to do just that, while watching folks stream in over the fence seemingly without consequence.

6:58:  And finally, Romney explains the mirage that is the “5 million jobs” number.  Excellent.

6:56:  The camera angle isn’t doing Obama any favors.  I feel like he looks like a gargoyle.  Podiums, people.  Podiums.  And why is Obama smiling and nodding as Romney says “food stamps” and “23 million Americans out of work”?  Shades of Biden, and not in a good way for Obama.

6:54:  “I think you know better about the last 4 years.”  “If you reelect President Obama, you know what you’re going to get.”  And now he’s throwing past promises back in Obama’s face.  very, very good.

6:53:  Obama TRIED hard.  #participationtrophypresident

6:52:  “We defeated our enemies.”  Really?  Oh, right – that WAS just a movie review gone bad in Libya.

6:51:  The Wife:  “All these differences Obama is listing make me want to vote for Romney more.”

6:50:  Obama blames tax cuts for the deficits.  Please scroll down to that chart again.  And how have all these tax increases worked out for us?

6:49:  Aaaaaand Obama goes back to his anti-Bush stump speech.  And again, we get back to the difference between “net” and “gross” WRT jobs.

6:48:  And throwing Obama’s 2008 anti-deficit rhetoric back in the President’s face, bringing it away from Bush while still distancing this man from that.  Excellent use of a loaded question.

6:46:  “I still blame Bush.”  Please.  I like that Romney went back on the health care stuff, though.  But back to Bush, and talking about how energy technology is different.  That’s nice.  And China!

6:43:  Obama says the government shouldn’t dictate to women’s health care choices, and then brags about how his Obamacare dictates what women must pay for in their health insurance.  And EVERY OTHER HEALTH DECISION THEY MAKE.  Remember, my liberal friends – any power Obama gives himself will be available if some Big Government In The Name Of Jesus type takes office.

6:41:  Obama gives platitudes, while knowing women IN HIS ADMINISTRATION are paid less than similarly situated men.  Romney talks about what he actually did.  I can’t believe this question is favoring Romney, but I think it is.  I do wish he’d point out Obama’s own personnel issues, though, although he’s probably smarter to stay on his high road.

6:40:  Federalizing student loans is now “cutting out the middle man.”  Of course, it ALSO means that if you LOSE that loan because of, say, a prior marijuana possession conviction, you have NO WHERE ELSE TO GO.  Also, is Obama saying we should “cut out the middle man” in every industry by having the government take it over?  Didn’t a bunch of countries in Eastern Europe try that a few years ago?

6:38:  Question 4 – equal pay for women.  Obama brings up his mother, and pell grants?

6:36:  Obama has NO credibility talking about “blowing up the deficit.”  NONE.  Romney’s answer is good, but let me summarize:

6:34:  Really?  You brought up Big Bird?  You’ve seen the polls after that meme, right Mr. President?

6:33:  Only 3 questions, a half hour in.  Real back-and-forth.  Crowley, with a single exception, is staying out of the way and letting the candidates mix it up with each other.  I’m pleasantly surprised so far.

6:31:  I’m very impressed with how Romney ties in tax rates versus tax revenue, and applies them to job growth.  He’s very good at this.  Ooh!  And he talks about how this is ALSO a “women’s issue.”

6:30:  I’m all for hiring vets, but I’m not sure how that grows the economy (as opposed to hiring non-vets).

6:29:  Is reminding people of Clinton smart, when people can compare that success with today’s failure?

6:28:  Obama cut taxes?!?!?!?!  Again, if we had a “fact checking” moderator, she would be talkign about Obamacare and the difference between net and gross.

6:27:  “High spending equals eventual high taxes on EVERYONE.”  Awesome, and true.  Things that can’t go on forever, won’t.

6:26:  I want Romney to point out here that Obamacare is only Constitutional because it’s a “tax,” which means Obama raised taxes on the middle class more than any politician in American history.

6:25:  I couldn’t even follow this question about taxes and student loans, but I like the effect of a general topic on taxes.

6:23:  And now Romney is owning yet another moderator.  I’m feeling very good.

6:22:  Obama, in a panic, goes back to his stump speech about “the worst economic crisis,” which isn’t true.  And where are these pipelines Obama speaks of?  They aren’t bringing in shale oil from Canada!  And then he goes back to wind power without details.

6:21:  WOW.  Romney just told the President to sit down and shut up, and he did.  I can hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth from MSNBC already.  Romney is dominating this topic.

6:20:  Romney engages the President directly, and the President hems and haws for a full 30 seconds or so, and then didn’t answer the question.  First blood is drawn by Romney on both style and substance.

6:18:  Obama says what Romney says isn’t true, but then gives NO specifics on what, exactly, isn’t true.  And then changes the subject to Bain closing a plant.

6:17:  Great contrast from Romney on energy between promises and policy.  But here comes Crowley asking, “But Mr. President, is this really your fault?”  Please.

6:16:  Love this answer from Romney – Obama actually opposed and fought what he’s now bragging about.  The camera angle is awful, though – really?  We can only afford one, and have to keep it on Romney’s back?  Yet another reason to hate this format, when it’s primarily designed for TV.

6:14:  Because clean energy has been SOOOOOO economically successful.  Well, I suppose it has, if you have connections to the Obama administration and can get free Other People’s Money before going out of business with nothing to show for it.

6:12:  Wow, a second arguably anti-Obama question, regarding energy prices, and the Administrations promises to raise them.  And then Obama tells the same lie from last time that “we” have increased oil production, without saying that it’s only being done on land NOT controlled by the feds.  I’m sure Romney will, as he did last time.  And now Obama loves fossil fuels?  Please.

6:11:  Did Obama really get through lawschool without having any clue how bankruptcy actually works? Wow.   I suppose he spent plenty of time “teaching” Constitutional Law without ever bothering to learn how THAT works…

6:09:  Obama is trying to pull off the smiling interested look, but still looks petulant.  I like Romney pointing out how bankruptcy actually works, but I wonder how this will play.  I LOVE though, that he’s pointing out that GM DID, in fact, go bankrupt.

6:08:  Obama just gave a stump speech, not an answer.

6:06:  5 million jobs.  If we had a “fact checking” moderator, she would point out the difference between “net” and “gross.”  When you count the people who have dropped out of the labor force completely, we’ve lost far, far more than we’ve gained.

6:05:  “Investment in education.”  I hate this phrase, because it assumes ALL education spending will ALWYAS pay off, which isn’t true at all.

6:04:  First question:  “Little chance as 20 year old”.  It’s a good one, and important.  For some reason, it brings to mind faded Obama posters on childhood bedrooms.

6:03:  And we begin.  Crowley wants “concise” answers, which I think is lame.  2 minutes is hardly enough to address complex budget issues.  Good for the media soundbyte biz, bad for policy.

5:59:  The bug/feature of live blogging is that I look at my computer and mostly listen to the debate, so I miss many of the oh-so-important visuals.  But it does look like the “questioners” are wearing suits, which is good.  I hate when civilian participants in an important event like this roll in with sweat pants and a t-shirt and want the President/America to take them more seriously.  There’s a formality that we’ve lost as a society that is worth getting back.

5:55:  Switching to CNN CSPAN, in spite of my crush on Megyn Kelly…

5:51:  As always, there may be toddler induced tape delay.

5:44:  If this blog is too cerebral, I always recommend Stephen Green’s drunkblogging.  Indeed, a hero and an inspiration to me (and I’m dead sober serious about that).

5:40:  Some initial thoughts.  Since I’ve been harping on moderator stuff, let me say it again – the idea that a moderator needs to be anything more than a timekeeper and a gentle enforcer of the relative speaking time between the two parties is nonsense, as proven by the last two debates.  Raddatz made herself known, but at no time engaged in “fact checking”.  Her presence served to obfuscate, not illuminate.

And as much as I dislike moderators, I dislike these “townhalls” more.  Instead of specific, secret questions, have broadly worded topic segments known to the candidates in advance.  This isn’t a quiz show, and I dislike further the “illusion” that “regular people” are just winging screwballs at the candidates.  It’s not any less coordinated by the moderator, and only serves to be gimmicky.

As we learned in the last debate, the longer candidates are allowed to speak uninterrupted by each other or the moderator, the more useful and illuminating the debate will be – and that ALWAYS should be the goal.  Anything else is theater designed to protect candidates from themselves, and when that happens, voters lose.  Hopefully Crowley will understand that just as any high school debater would, but I have my doubts.

Back by popular demand!  We’ll get started in just a few.

Tags: Campaign '12