October 4, 2012

"I got Barry aside and said, 'Look, why don’t we just go for B’s here.'"

David Maraniss — in his book "Barack Obama" — quotes Obama's high-school debate partner, Jeff Cox.
"That way, no big deal. That was my solution. He said okay, whatever." As soon as the debate began, Cox found himself outfoxed. He went into it in traditional fashion, preparing facts to lay out, one argument after another, gleaned from books and Time and Newsweek.
And Barry got up there and he just had a few arguments that I hadn’t thought of.… I was always touching back to this many killed, guns are killing, and he was just bouncing all over the place, but what he did is he went up to that ten-thousand-foot level. I remember him talking about, “How do guns make gun owners feel?” I hadn’t thought of that. How am I going to respond? He was very good on his feet, thinking more strategically on what could benefit him. I was sitting there flabbergasted; I remember thinking this is too heavily a philosophical question for me. And the teacher loved it. Barry was very smooth, and I started stumbling around all over the place. I felt he formulated in his own mind while we were doing it a kind of angle or wedge that was different than the angle I had been going. I was literal— one, two, three, four— and he kind of did some audibles. He wasn’t pulling out a whole lot of facts, he just seemed to have structured a bunch of little islands that he could jump to....
By the time Cox faced off against him, Barry had already mastered the art of knocking a debate opponent off-balance. He had been practicing almost daily on Gramps, who had tried without much success to assume the role of disciplinarian, laying down what the teenager considered to be “an endless series of petty and arbitrary rules” about use of the car and chores around the apartment. Eventually Barry would regret the way he dealt with his grandfather, but at the time he took advantage of his debating skills: “With a certain talent for rhetoric, as well as an absolute certainty about the merits of my own views, I found that I could generally win these arguments in the narrow sense of leaving my grandfather flustered, angry, and sounding unreasonable.”
Unfortunately for Obama, Romney is not the kind of kid who'd make a deal to just go for B's. And Romney's not Gramps, though I note that, in Obama's practice sessions for the debate, the role of Romney was played by John Kerry. And I think Kerry was Gramps.

54 comments:

Mark O said...

Neither of those kids could do much in serious high school or college debate. They don't even begin to understand how it works.

MadisonMan said...

It seems like you're trying to find excuses for Obama's bad performance. Is the underlying supposition that he couldn't be this bad?

What if he could be?

sydney said...

Well, Romney is the father of five boys. He's not a pushover like Gramps, or Kerry.

sydney said...

Plus, Romney has actually had to manage employees - also something that cures one of push-over-itis.

Shouting Thomas said...

I think Obama must be toking up again!

You don't think that the DEA throws away the primo stuff they seize, do you?

He and Hillary have been sharing a giant bong in the Lincoln Bedroom.

Afterward, Michelle and Hillary do the sandwich thing.

Good times!

granmary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freeman Hunt said...

Arguing with your parents and successfully debating some boy in high school are hardly indicative of being a debate genius.

Shouting Thomas said...

Course, I've also heard that it could be Huma and Hillary who are doing the sandwich thing with Bama.

They say Huma's fed up with Weiner.

Matthew Sablan said...

Maybe Obama was going for a solid B+.

MayBee said...

Suddenly Kerry is so bad?

Didn't a lot of people declare Kerry the winner of debates against Bush? I remember when Kerry was such a daunting debater, Bush had to wear a transmitter and wire to one of the debates.

But now that Obama did a bad job, Kerry sucks. I guess.

EDH said...

"This one time... at band camp..."

granmary said...

How long did it take you to come up with that excuse for Obama's sorry performance last night? Obama didn't soar to the 10,000 ft.level. Romney gave him a trip to the moon ala Ralph Kramden.

Quayle said...

...and then one day a boy just blurted out, "The king has no clothes."

Everyone was shocked.

harkin said...

As already noted, Romney has had to manage tons of employees on all levels of management as well as deal with the daily steaming pile of logic from five sons.

Without his teleprompter or a crowd of bussed-in street people to rave his "eat the rich" class hatred, Obama is clueless, the public knows what is happening and the msm can't throw dirt over it quick enough. The meme in the NYTimes and WaPo this morning that "debates don't matter" and "it was a tie!" are surreal, even for them.

TosaGuy said...

We hear about Obama's famed competitiveness. He always wants to destroy his competition.

Romney was supposedly on the ropes before last night. Why would Obama not go for the knockout and destroy Romney once an for all?

furious_a said...

With a certain talent for rhetoric, as well as an absolute certainty about the merits of my own views, I found that I could generally win these arguments in the narrow sense of leaving my grandfather flustered, angry, and sounding unreasonable.

Let me fix that for you...

I found that I could generally win these arguments in the narrow sense of disrespecting the grandfather who took me in and paid for my education at Punahou so that Mom could go chase her rainbows.

That's better.

AprilApple said...

"How do guns make gun owners feel?"

Like a happy little girl. <*><*>

Sounds like Obama was a grand manipulator. Or a grandpa manipulator.

Trying to manipulate the American people for the car keys after you've driven the car over the cliff, is challenging. And oh so boring. Why can't the Pravda media just cover for him? He has such a nice smile.

Shanna said...

I found that I could generally win these arguments in the narrow sense of leaving my grandfather flustered, angry, and sounding unreasonable.”

Wow.

vet66 said...

Kerry for a fill-in for Romney? That is a joke. Kerry swift-boated himself with his own made-up fabulousity while Obama had someone else manufacture his fabulousness. Both are living in a dream world devoid of real world experience. Once again, the elitist millionaires have proven themselves to be dreamers with other people's money paving the way to Sysiphean punishment. Will they ever learn?

gmama3 said...

Yeah it's easy to impress your lefty teacher with charm and emotion. Like previous posters said, he'd be out first round at your local high school debate tourney this saturday, and they are still in the novice season.

Balfegor said...

Re: MayBee:

Suddenly Kerry is so bad?

Kerry isn't actually a bad debater, but he wasn't stunningly good either (Bush II was not a particularly good debater though he made his points effectively). I suspect the problem that Kerry had was he tried to roleplay Romney (Portman apparently does an excellent Obama impression himself), and fell into the trap of roleplaying the self-congratulating liberal caricature of Romney.

SteveR said...

Kerry hardly shone in debates with GWB, considered by many of Obama's followers in academia and the media, as the dimist bulb ever to be president.

Being a big shot in high school and outfoxing gramps, could be the ability to "handle" being stoned. Some are better than others

Balfegor said...

How long did it take you to come up with that excuse for Obama's sorry performance last night?

How is this:

Unfortunately for Obama, Romney is not the kind of kid who'd make a deal to just go for B's. And Romney's not Gramps,

An excuse for the President's performance? I think a big part of the President's problem was that he has been built up in the media (and his own mind) as a great persuasive speaker, sharp and informed and quick on his mental feet, while in fact he is none of these things. But it's also possible to think Obama simply misjudged his opponent badly. That's a pretty clearcut failure. Either on the President's part, or the part of his handlers.

Matthew Sablan said...

Obama has, from the start, not realized that Romney actually is prepared and assertive. He assumes that Romney is not prepared and unwilling to fight. More's the pity.

Larry J said...

The Obama Administration is what America gets when it elects someone with no executive experience, an academic mindeset (minus the intellect) and no work ethic to be the Chief Executive. Let’s learn from that mistake and never repeat it.

McTriumph said...

Obama's grandfather must have been quite the pussy. I my home growing up, obnoxiously debating and manipulating the Colonel would risk losing your front teeth or at least being restricted to home for the weekend.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Shouting Thomas said...
He and Hillary have been sharing a giant bong in the Lincoln Bedroom.

Afterward, Michelle and Hillary do the sandwich thing.


I hope you mean head to Subway, otherwise.....Bleech!

edutcher said...

Barry is not somebody you can trust, obviously.

And I love the line, "He wasn’t pulling out a whole lot of facts, he just seemed to have structured a bunch of little islands that he could jump to....".

That's what happened last night.

Problem was, he was up against Douglas MacArthur who had enveloped his islands and was running B-17s and B-24s round the clock to decimate his position.

Shouting Thomas said...

Afterward, Michelle and Hillary do the sandwich thing.

Haven't you heard?

Barry likes older men.

Balfegor said...

Re: Larry J:

The Obama Administration is what America gets when it elects someone with no executive experience, an academic mindeset (minus the intellect) and no work ethic to be the Chief Executive. Let’s learn from that mistake and never repeat it.

Yes, but a little off topic. It doesn't require executive experience to smile politely for the camera while your opponent is speaking rather than pursing your lips and glowering down at the lectern, or regurgitate your campaign's talking points in a credible manner.

Obama's failure last night does point to the ways in which he's been grossly overhyped as a communicator, but that's neither here nor there as far as basic executive competence.

McTriumph said...

Obama spent his whole political career debating straw men, why would anyone be surprised by last night's results.

McTriumph said...

New MSNBC meme, Romney won, but he LIED to do it.

Dan in Philly said...

Obama is smarter than most he encounters, but alas he thought that meant he was smarter than anyone else in the room. Too bad for him he never got the kind of dust up he received last night when he was younger, he might have learned some humility, which is his great weakness. If you truly cannot see your own flaws you are just an easy target, no matter how smart you may be.

edutcher said...

I think we know what happened to the chair Clint used.

MayBee said...


Blogger Matthew Sablan said...

Obama has, from the start, not realized that Romney actually is prepared and assertive. He assumes that Romney is not prepared and unwilling to fight. More's the pity.


Yeah, that's what makes me think Obama actually considers himself to be doing a good job. He thinks Romney is just like him.


bagoh20 said...

Althouse, be honest with yourself. This was not just poor prep. You would expect a sitting President to be better than that with no Prep at all. Debating is his trade - his training - his strength. He simply isn't good enough even at what he's best at, and you hired him to do something much harder and infinitely more important. What exactly does a person develop at law school?

Christopher in MA said...

“With a certain talent for rhetoric, as well as an absolute certainty about the merits of my own views, I found that I could generally win these arguments in the narrow sense of leaving my grandfather flustered, angry, and sounding unreasonable.”

Ignorant, snotty, self-centered punk then, ignorant, snotty, self-centered punk now.

If there is a heaven, I'll bet Gramps is looking down and thanking Romney for giving Barry the ass-whipping he should have had years ago.

bagoh20 said...

"I could generally win these arguments in the narrow sense of leaving my grandfather flustered, angry, and sounding unreasonable.”

I have no doubt that's how Obama remembers it. I'd like to get Gramps' take on it. I wouldn't be surprised if these debates with Gramps were actually between Obama and his Power Ranger doll.

Larry J said...

Obama's failure last night does point to the ways in which he's been grossly overhyped as a communicator, but that's neither here nor there as far as basic executive competence.

Basic executive experience teaches you to listen to other viewpoints instead of believing you're the smartest person in any room. An executive has to evaluate information, ask good questions and make decisions, not just read the bullet points. It also means you have to be able to evaluate people and select good ones to work for you. A first rate leader selects first rate people to work with him. A second rate leader picks third rate people so they won't outshine him. Personally, I doubt Obama is even a third rate leader. He shows little ability to learn from failure (by advocating socialist policies that have failed the world over), meaning he isn't intelligent and most definitely isn't wise.

Last night, the real Obama stood on the stage and the world got to see that he's the President with No Clothes. He isn't even an empty suit or chair.

deborah said...

edutcher said...
Problem was, he was up against Douglas MacArthur who had enveloped his islands and was running B-17s and B-24s round the clock to decimate his position.

''''''

Good one.


furious_a said...

Balfegor: ...does point to the ways in which he's been grossly overhyped as a communicator, but that's neither here nor there as far as basic executive competence.

...except that Pres. Obama and his administration repeatedly cite messaging as his administration's biggest weakness.

It would seem that the ability to realistically self-evaluate (and, if necessary, adjust) -- neither of which this administration has manifested -- is part of basic executive competence.

edutcher said...

Thank you, ma'am.

PS That quote Ann used brings up another problem attributable to Axelrod and Plouffe.

As they say in show biz, never believe your own PR.

I'm sure Barry went in there convinced the Romster was the dullard people like shiloh keep telling us he is.

Because they drink Barry's Kool-Aid.

Seeing Red said...

--...except that Pres. Obama and his administration repeatedly cite messaging as his administration's biggest weakness---

SOP for liberals.

IF ONLY I had explained better, you'd understand.

SOS.

karrde said...

@furious_a,

I get the impression that most of the friends of Obama (including many folks in the TV entertainment-as-news business) sold him as a great communicator.

However, after responses came in that were not expected (among them his speeches not swaying public opinion on ObamaCare), Obama and his staff blamed problems in messaging.

As always, it helps to remember who referred to Obama's communications skills in what ways, and when.

Balfegor said...

re: furious_a:

...except that Pres. Obama and his administration repeatedly cite messaging as his administration's biggest weakness.

It would seem that the ability to realistically self-evaluate (and, if necessary, adjust) -- neither of which this administration has manifested -- is part of basic executive competence
.

True. Although I think your point points to something a little more subtle, which is that the administration has enough awareness to recognise the President has difficulty communicating (something which conflicts with the media narrative), but thinks it's the messaging, not the message or the messenger. It may actually be all three.

Hagar said...

I have seen comments that George H.W. Bush lost to Bill Clinton because he just refused to take Clinton seriously as a candidate for the Presidency.

I think we saw some of that last night. Obama detests Romney personally and all that - in his mind - Romney stands for. Thus the body language and disdainful facial expressions. That smile is also something you see on Obama when he meets up with something he truly does not like and does not want to hear about.

Amartel said...

"He wasn’t pulling out a whole lot of facts, he just seemed to have structured a bunch of little islands that he could jump to...."

Teacher's pet talking points.

All talk, no walk. Last night, neither of the above.

KLDAVIS said...

I did "serious" high school debate...won several tournaments on the national circuit. I agree with the premise that there was a certain level of thinking where the competition took place, and in brief moments of lucidity (that are not common among teenagers) some participants could rise above it and convince the judges to go their way, despite any real clash with the opposing team's argument. Generally they appealed to the (mostly liberal) sensibilities of the college students and high school teachers who were playing the role of adjudicator. This style was most often popularized in the form critiques ('Kritiks', actually, to those in the know...or even just Ks), but Ks as generally observed just packaged some of this higher-level analysis into a format that could be regurgitated by the rest of the kids. It's a rare individual who can kritik 'on the fly' at that age. I probably accomplished it only a handful of times in my career.

Mary Beth said...

I thought that saying there was a failure in "messaging" was just a way to say that the American public is too stupid to understand what Obama intuitively knows.

Joe C. said...

"'He said okay, whatever.' As soon as the debate began, Cox found himself outfoxed."

He pulled an Alinsky, before he was even aware of Alinsky.

Goju said...

So basically, Obama made a shady deal to fix the game - then doublecrossed the guy. He won that one cuz the other guy ws busy trying to get Barry's knife out of his back.

Mitt knows better than to trust Barry.

Goju said...

Obama only looks god if the game is fixed.

Goju said...

god=good Spellcheck is not always my friend.

DEEBEE said...

Is that failure breeding failure? Or the long term capital gains from swift-boating?

Andy Freeman said...

> I found that I could generally win these arguments in the narrow sense of leaving my grandfather flustered, angry, and sounding unreasonable.

Note that Obama never considers whether Gramps was correct.

With Obama, it's all about whether he gets his way. It's never about what happens when he gets his way.