Sunday, October 07, 2012


We've heard the first of three 2012 Presidential TV debates between incumbent, President Barack Obama and challenger, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.   (Note: I wrote this debate night, but only now am finally re-publishing.)      

The term "debate" is loosely applied in describing how these events are conducted, but this has been true since broadcasting these programs was first conceived many years ago.   This time I listened only on the radio since I’m still engaged in my temporary experiment of life without television.   One significant positive without TV  is that I'm not being subjected to negative Super Pac ads, and possible political use of 501C nonprofits ads. 

Formulating a complete debate event impression is significantly disadvantaged without video to actually see the participant speakers and moderator.  Listening only to a radio broadcast as I did, allowed me to hear the words, note the voice quality, tone, inflections, and formulate my sense of the participants emotions.  I was deprived of seeing the body language and facial expressions -- both major perception influencing factors.

I lacked information derived from seeing an opponent’s reaction to what the other speaker was saying.  Also, I could not see nonverbal signals and actions of the moderator which could influence what I might think about his effort to control the proceeding, or a debater whose conduct failed to respect the standard participation rules.

Soon after the debate began I became acutely aware that PBS moderator, Jim Lehrer, whose broadcasting skills I respect, was losing control of this event.   The shortcomings in this TV version of a debate format couldn't have been more obvious.   Candidate abuse of time guideline limitations is always an issue in these TV debates for which there is no penalty if the speaker does not respect such rules, or respond to being told their time is up. Once one candidate oversteps the boundaries as happened at this debate's very beginning, the other rightfully feels they’re entitled to equal time.  Maintaining and/or re-establishing program timeline direction can be adversely affected as was graphically demonstrated in this most recent debate.

Despite all this my personal opinion is that overall Mitt Romney left more of a positive  impression in this TV debate than Barack Obama.  That is not to say that candidate Romney "won" the debate, that his ideas were superior, or the information he provided was more factual, since some viewers might debate that matter.

Romney did briefly elaborate on some specifics, but continues to leave far too many unanswered questions about exactly how he'll make some changes he says he intends.  Voters would be strongly encouraged before voting to verify the credibility of statements Romney has made.  They would be wise to investigate whether his dollar numbers compute accurately, and actually make sense.  Some of his logically sounding  pronouncements are deceivingly simplistic because of significant factual omissions.

Much that is known of a Romney administration plan is very troublesome, coupled with his positions on so many issues that have been all over the map, so to speak, since he came into the political eye as a budding Presidential candidate.  Those inconsistencies should give many thinking voters serious reason for concern – IF they’ve been paying attention since he first came on the scene.  

We know his policies are predicated on channeling funds to private sector entities, taxes, regulations, subsidies that protect corporate and individual wealth, such as his own, for investment purposes -- mostly under the guise of claiming this will benefit middle class Americans -- presumably this has always been the argument he and such supporters have long professed.  Unless all the percentage figures and pie graphs I've seen for too many years are incorrect, these ethical, morally motivated, magnanimous, generous financial industry, corporate business leaders, politicians (not to be confused with statesmen,) and others, seem to be populated with a high percentage of individuals who've been strikingly unsuccessful in accomplishing their middle class re-birth goal by those means.  

Whatever could have gone awry?  The obvious answer is that greed has raped our capitalism.  I've said for the past thirty years that capitalism has been running amok at an escalating rate and degree.  We've reaped the consequences of this behavior for several reasons including:   betrayal by some leaders and fellow citizens, collusion by others through honest sincere judgment errors and, finally, apathy -- especially egregious with too many voters.  (Check the percentage of people who actually vote in all the elections in your community -- local to national, and not just the Presidential elections every four years.) 

If that small  percentage of citizens and corporations with the most wealth among us truly care about prosperity for all, then they should be willing to bear at least as equal a percentage share of the tax burden as the rest of us.   What is their justification for avoiding paying taxes by using legal shenanigans, paying at a tax rate much lower than the average American, or not at all, then hiding riches in non-taxable offshore accounts?   That's not saving to invest in creating American jobs for a strong middle class -- as we're told is the justification for some of these obscene tax rate differences.  This whole tax matter is symbolic of Romney's attitude toward most Americans.

(I still think Romney's tax returns he so zealously refuses to release would reveal information voters would be wise to know before casting a ballot for him.  We would see by what he has actually done tax-wise and with his wealth what he really believes -- revealing whose interests would be of primary focus from such a leader.)
President Obama is going to have to present his positions much more clearly and forcefully in the remaining weeks before election day.  He is going to have to be more concise with facts and specifics reiterating how he will keep this nation on a road to financial recovery through job creation. 

I want to hear from him more stress on the means by which the nation's middle class numbers will grow in America.  Plus I want descriptions of the measures that will protect those who may have need with reassurance he will resist efforts to eviscerate Social Security and Medicare, instead gradually adjusting these programs with reasoned care.   His policies and plans are not without need for refinement on several matters.   His re-election will not eliminate the fact there will continue to be specific issues requiring the public to forcefully make our expectations known to his administration and legislators as well especially in healthcare. 

President Obama’s responses were often indirect to the issues his opponent raised, plus he needs to hone in with focused rebuttals which he did not do in too many instances.  His statements need to culminate with a transition to a verbally offensive position.  (Easier said than done.) 

Frankly, I learned very little new from this debate, or much that I didn’t already know about both candidates, but there are many issue fine points about which we still need to be informed.   

Of course, the reality is that many people have already voted, others have made their choice, but will await voting until the traditional November election day as I will do. So the candidates’ goals must be to convince potential voters who can still register in some States to do so, then to vote.  Undecided registered voters, and potential unmotivated voters must be stimulated to cast their ballots.   

(Voting on the Internet is now available in California, select other States, with varying degrees of ballot security.  Computer scientists Douglas Jones and Barbara Simons have written "Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count" highly regarded for reading.   Every tech machine vote must be verifiable Simon says, which to date can only be accomplished with a back up paper ballot.   Simon cites Virginia as one State using some questionably secure voting machines (a system Pennsylvania rejected).  Note that Virginia is also one of the States in which accuracy of ballots and totals is considered to be of special significance influencing the national election's outcome this year.) 
I have great difficulty understanding why citizens don’t vote.   I’ve always believed voting is every citizen’s responsibility for the privilege of living in our republic/democracy – especially if we want to keep our nation from becoming an autocracy,  theocracy, plutocracy, or some other undesirable form of government. 

The very least we can do is to educate ourselves on the issues, candidates and vote – to preserve this nation’s government for our children, grandchildren and future generations.  Maybe then we also won't elect leaders whose judgement much too readily takes our nation to war, squandering our resources while neglecting our nation's infrastructure and handicapping the internal structural elements of our society.   

I think voters with passionate perspectives will vote but am concerned that others with more moderate views may be disenchanted with all government.   Moderates have had their ideas and beliefs marginalized, even discounted, by a vocal few for too long.  Disparate groups promoting a variety of extreme positions representing various minority issues have been allowed to exercise a disproportionate influence on congressional legislation, even preventing problem-solving actions – as witness Congresses past four years failure to meaningfully address major challenges facing this nation. 

Those congresspersons have deliberately failed to act in good faith on behalf of most citizens.  Then they tout what they characterize as a high-minded philosophical ideal to justify their inaction as a form of action.   In reality, Romney's political party members  have categorically said they were more interested in getting themselves elected into positions controlling this government than acting in a conciliatory manner respecting any others views than their own to resolve the problems this nation faces -- despite the fact at least half this nation's population does not agree with their ideas.  Now they hypocritically complain about the state of our economic recovery, the national debt, the slowed rate of job creation, health care cost resolution efforts and actually have the gall to blame the entire situation on this current Administration.

Such repeated frustrating behaviors from these political party bullies may have resulted in fostering an apathetic attitude in many moderates and young people who were previously interested in participating in the governing process through voting and/or service.   These discouraged moderate-thinking sensible potential new leaders and voters may have become so disgusted with the distorted influence of those obstructionist groups, that some moderates have been leaving Congress, other moderates among the public and young people are choosing to not vote in this election. 

This is a time when the nation most needs the moderates support to prevent our country from being lead rapidly by a Romney administration toward becoming a plutocracy – government controlled only by the wealthy.  Even our Supreme Court’s recent past years decisions have increasingly fostered our government’s trend in this direction.

The challenge is to reach the individuals in these moderate groups of all ages, dispel their cynicism, incite their passion to support the election of President Obama and other national legislative candidates -- probably Democrats -- in order to break the obstructive stranglehold used to immobilize our government's more efficient functioning.  Perhaps voters can elect more responsible moderates in both major political parties to Congress in the future.

The next debate will be between the Vice Presidential candidates.  There will be two more Presidential candidate debates in the weeks following with date and other specifics at this  Election Central site.   I'll look forward to viewing the next debates via live streaming video if available on the Internet for those like myself without cable or satellite service.   


  1. Obama just looked tired to me. I think that's what being president does to a person.

  2. I preferred the Obama that showed up at rallies the day after the debate -- the witty, humorous, and energetic one! Hope he does better at the 2nd debate.

  3. I'm just back from a nice visit to CA to visit my son. Saw the debate before I left and have seen every debate O has done from 6 years ago when he began in Dem primary.

    His performance was typical as far as I have seen. Stump speeches are different altogether and he excels at them. Romney did well in the debate, but the question is whether you agree with his policies, not whether he is a better performer.

    Jim Leherer explained on Hannity last night that the debate format has changed over the years. The role of the participants today is to ask each other questions and O was unprepared. O is not a very effective guy, but anyone who has been paying attention to the everyday details of his presidency knows that.

    I honestly don't know if Romney would do better, and no one can answer that question. Dianne

  4. Marcia: Your perception that Obama appeared tired might help explain his performance. Simultaneously governing and being a candidate could in itself be tiring compared to that of someone like Romney whose responsibility is simply being a candidate.

    Gigi: Energy with wit and humor will definitely be an asset in these TV events.

    Dianne: Glad you enjoyed your Calif. visit with your son. One of the major problems I have with Romney is that his policies have been all over the place, so that much of what he says comes across to me as actually just a performance that depends on who he's talking to -- which is different than tailoring the same message, but only in another manner to varying audiences. In the latter case the meaning remains the same, unlike with Romney who seems to say a lot of different meanings as in one such instance the tape of his message to his wealthy donors has graphically revealed.

    IF "TV debate" candidates understood the format might not necessarily follow the form announced at the beginning, and, in fact, some issues wouldn't even be addressed, that's one thing. What I heard announced at the beginning did not say that at all, which has left me with the impression Lehrer was doing a newsman thing trying to facilitate the give and take issue discussion most viewers, including me, have long wanted. That's fine, but the participants need to be fully aware in advance that's the intent and I'm not convinced that was the case. Obviously, Romney is not going to complain since he came out looking good, especially when he wasn't taken to task on some of his more grandiose statements. Obama would be thought of as espousing sour grapes if he complained after the program. I'm complaining on general "debate" principle!

    I'll be very interested in how the next "TV debate" monitor(s) describe how they intend to oversee the balance of equal candidate time -- what variety of issues they intend to cover within the total program time, or will they qualify that by saying from the very beginning that the whole form is quite arbitrary? Clearly both candidates best be prepared for a free-for-all with ready rebuttals on a mind-boggling number of issues.

    I wish there would be a fact monitor present to push a button that would cause a loud-sounding "blah-h-h" or foghorn when falsehoods, misleading statements and erroneous numbers are stated by either candidate -- such as Romney's budget total which was grand performance but continues to not add up.

    The difference between Obama/Biden and the present Democratic Party versus Romney/Ryan and the current extremist minority groups controlling a Republican Party that rejects moderate views is far more than these policy issues being debated. Such policy issues are a major consideration, but there are other character and value issues that also contribute to my choice of Obama. I must add that I think it's tragic and sad for the sake of our government -- the state to which the Republican Party has been reduced.

    I think we do know the answer to who "would do better" for the American people and this nation when all of these matters are given serious consideration -- Obama/Biden.

  5. I did not watch the debate. I think these are mostly a waste of time. Yes, the "ineffectual" Obama only saved the banks and the auto industry, passed a healthcare bill, got us out of Iraq and killed bin Laden. What a loser!

  6. What rouses my ire and disgust is how ROMNEY dominates all the debate spin. kentstandit!! As you said, this does not mean he "WON" on the basis of superior ideas. Or honesty--isn't or shouldn't it be a rule in debates not to LIE? I know debates are contests, and our guy clearly was wiped out by something we know nothing about (so far). Lehrer, meanwhile, needs to find a nice retirement gig--moderating a presidential debate in an election year is not it.

  7. What an excellent post JoAnn. I watched the debate and agree that Romney presented himself better than I've ever seen him. But I feel that's just what it was...a presentation. I too don't think he necessarily won. How honest was he....not very. I read an article that said "Romney told 27 myths in 38 minutes" in the debate. He scares me. I think it will be very different in the coming debates.

  8. I am looking forward to the debate tonight... Joe Biden is a favorite of mine and I hope he will carry the night. Altho I was greatly disappointed with Pres. Obama last week it at least has put a fire under a lot of us. We can't afford to be complacent.

  9. I'm afraid I am having great difficulty watching and/or listening to these so-called 'debates'.....I learn nothing new from these exchanges and so much false information is said as 'gospel' makes me sick. For me, Romney is NOT an option, on any level. He is against so many things I am 'for'....So, I know who I am voting for and it ISN'T Romney. Obama will happily get my vote!

  10. Dear Joared, congratulations on summarizing all this so well and for stating the shortcomings of capitalism and the candidates with such clarity. After the debate I kept wondering why President Obama didn't show up. The man I've come to respect and admire simply didn't seem to be there. Perhaps he was tired, but I suspect that he expected Governor Romney to be as he'd been in the primaries--a conservative trying to woo the Tea Party advocates. Instead, he met a more moderate and affable Romney, and President Obama wasn't prepared for that and didn't do well thinking on his feet.

    One of the great strengths of President Clinton is that he can take a complicated subject and simplify it so that we can all understand the salient points. President Obama doesn't have that gift. In fact, he often seems to make something even more complicated because he's unable to get to the essence of the subject matter. He's diverted by subcategories.

    Given Romney's and Ryan's adherence to Ayn Rand, I could never vote for them. But I find myself disgruntled with President Obama's seeming disdain for Romney and for the whole act of debating.

    Jim Lehrer was absolutely ineffectual and this seemed strange given the book he wrote on presidential debates--"Tension City"--which I read and found interesting.

    The vice-presidental debates, as moderated by Martha Raditz went much better but oh we do need to do fact checking!

    Now tomorrow night we will see Romney and President Obama again. I so hope the president shows up this time. Peace.

  11. I become more and more disappointed with these 'debates' especially when I read the day after the event. Given how much both candidates prepare for these 'debates' how can they make so many inaccurate statements? Well I suspect they don't fact check. With so much distortion it's no wonder so many people don't vote as you so well noted in your post. Low voter turnout is one of the major problems of our system.

    Take a bow Joared for another outstanding post.