Watching the debate last night, I felt a level of disappointment and frustration that I hadn't experienced since 1996.
Not the election of '96, mind you, but the Chicago Bulls fourth championship season. The year Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, and company set the league record with 72 wins and only 10 losses. Each of those loses - as few as they were - really hit me hard. I truly believed the Bulls were perfect. I was stunned on the rare occasion that they didn't bring their A-game.
President Obama did not bring his A-game to the first presidential debate with Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney was the embodiment of the Detroit Pistons team that had continually thwarted the Bulls' playoff efforts prior to 1991. Talent was beaten by tenacity. Precision lost out to brute force.
The President was forced to play defense and his offense was wholly ineffective against a rival that was willing to do anything to win.
The Massachusetts health care plan with an individual mandate that Romney disavowed throughout the primaries? Last night, he heralded it as a runaway success achieved through bipartisan effort. He conveniently forgot that the only way that he could cover preexisting conditions was to mandate that every citizen buy private health insurance or pay a fine.
With Mitt Romney as president, Americans couldn't be denied coverage for a preexisting condition, wouldn't be burdened by any mandate at all, and health insurance reform would be delivered without compromise by their very own state. I'm sure that's high on the priority list of Arizona, Texas, Iowa, South Carolina, and Mississippi...
What about that 20% tax cut touted by Romney since he began campaigning?
It wouldn't cost America a dime. A President Romney would sit down with the most divided Congress in history and deliver a bipartisan reduction in itemized deductions so that his plan would be deficit neutral. It wouldn't cost five trillion dollars, despite what independent analysts have stated. Economists can't analyze the impact of his 56-point plan because it either doesn't exist on his website (which it does), or it is subject to bipartisan change the day after the election.
I guess we all just have to trust Mitt's assertions that he will make the math work and a lower tax rate will deliver 12 million new jobs...
On and on it went all evening. Each time the President attempted to attack Romney on his campaign's positions, Romney either denied that those positions existed or that they would cost the taxpayers any money (or both). Obama stood there incredulous.
"On issue after issue, Romney promised an unseen plan would reform taxes, reform health care, and regulate Wall Street. Obama spent the first two-thirds of the debate engaging with this on an intellectual level before finally switching to a gut-level attack: 'is the reason Gov. Romney is keeping all these plans secret because they’re too good?'" - New York Magazine
President Obama was debating an Etch-A-Sketch. Romney 2.0. A man who has developed empathy for the 47% overnight. A candidate whose plans are all subject to change based on bipartisan meetings the day after we elect him.
By sheer force of personality, Mitt Romney overcame each of Obama's objections. The free market, with the federal government out of the way, could move mountains and make miracles happen. And it wouldn't cost a dime.
The President did a very poor job of responding to Romney's assertions.
And really, how could he? Romney would keep all the "good" things that the President accomplished or continues to support - coverage for preexisting conditions and young adults up to 26, certain (unspecified) Wall Street reforms, Medicare (for those 60 and up, at least), incentives for small businesses, middle class income tax relief - and pay for them all without raising taxes or increasing the deficit.
Who knew that the extent of our current problems were not caused by prior tax cuts, two unfunded wars, repealed regulations, and 30 years of trickle down economics? I was relieved to hear that Big Bird was the real culprit...
I went to bed last night reeling from the loss of my favorite team.
Anyone who wasn't a fan, doesn't follow the season closely, and hasn't tuned in lately would certainly see last night's performance as a colossal loss. The home team was outplayed by a more aggressive opponent.
But one game does not a champion make.
I fully expect the fact checkers to be out in full force discrediting Romney's claims (like the already debunked $716 billion cut to Medicare he repeatedly made) and reminding voters of Romney's published (and videotaped) positions. Team Obama will certainly be reviewing the highlight reel and adjusting the offense for the next game.
The series is far from over. I have full confidence in the defending champion.
While the President needs to go back to the chalkboard, there are only so many times Romney can re-shake the Etch-A-Sketch.
Romney has revealed that he'll do anything it takes to win, but does he have the skills to go the distance?
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