Watching liberals unravel after last week's presidential debate has been almost as entertaining as witnessing the thumping that Republican candidate Mitt Romney applied to the Democratic incumbent Barack Obama.
Spinning into orbit, liberals have concocted every known excuse for the trouncing: Obama was out of practice; he expected a different Romney to show up; he experienced incumbents' "opening debate syndrome" (that's a new one); he tried to look too presidential and above the fray; he inexplicably failed to exploit Romney's fallibilities (e.g. his reference to the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay federal income tax). And so on.
Most amusing was Al Gore's explanation that Obama choked because the debate was in Denver, the Mile High City. Being an expert on global warming, Gore probably knows what he is talking about when it comes to being lightheaded in thin air.
At least no one blamed former President George W. Bush for Obama's dismal performance. At least no one that I know of.
The explanations are all a function of today's popular liberal narrative: Romney didn't win the debate; Obama lost it. It's a way of minimizing Romney's victory. It's like saying the Cubs lost 100 games because they're terrible, rather than conceding that the opposition just may have been better. It's a difference without meaning.
Romney won because of what I would call the Karate Kid factor. Watching the interaction between Romney and Obama was like watching karate master Mr. Miyagi explaining the realities of life to the kid, Daniel LaRusso. Wipe on, wipe off. Romney clearly was the mentor, Obama was a sheepish protege who was being delivered a lesson. Sitting there if not in silence, in confusion and without a clear, intelligent, unrehearsed response.
It shows Obama's fatal flaw is not just his policies (as bad as they are), but the fact that he isn't and never was cut out to be president. He's not up to it. He's the kid who got thrown into the pool without knowing how to swim. He lacks the experience, composure and certain qualities of leadership required of a president — qualities that Romney put on display. The pro schools the neophyte.
Bob Woodward described it in his new best-seller, "The Price of Politics," which detailed the collapse last year of the "grand bargain" on spending and debt. While Woodward found fault with both parties, he held Obama's insufficiencies mostly responsible for leaving America heading for the fiscal cliff it now faces. Woodward's book describes an arrogant, withdrawn, indecisive and uncompromising president. These are dispositions that would doom Obama to failure as a private sector boss. And ought to in the public sector.
All signs of adolescence, I would say.
Obama's presidency was based purely on hope, change and hot air. Never did he demonstrate executive ability or leadership. He was called brilliant and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize purely on expectation. The debate showed how he has failed to grow into the office.
It's telling that liberals have abandoned the once-popular test of a presidential candidate: gravitas. I never thought that was a legitimate standard, but millions of people who watched the debate witnessed Obama's failure to have it.
True, it's just one debate. As the stock market warning says: "Past performance is no guarantee of future results." In the next debate, Obama may listen to his bug-eyed liberal militants and attempt to tear into Romney. I hope Obama does. I think it could be a further plus for Romney to show off the aplomb and skills he learned as an experienced executive in the public, private and civic sectors. Experience that Obama and his supporters apparently think he doesn't need to be the chief executive of the world's greatest nation.
After last week's debate, it shows.
This is Tuesday's regular column in the Chicago Tribune.