October 10, 2012

I watched the debate again... and I didn't think Obama was that bad.

Last night — between sleeps — I found the debate in my iPhone and watched it straight through (except for the closing statements). Last week, watching the debate live, I did not think Obama was especially bad, and I was surprised when the liberal pundits, instead of providing the usual spin — ideas about why their candidate was better — all simultaneously collapsed into grief over how horrible Obama was. He was tired, confused, disengaged. It was as if he were not there at all.

And so the aftermath unfolded, with this talking point — which everyone had by the time the debate had ended — got repeated over and over. The New Yorker did a cover depicting the debate with Obama represented as an empty chair.

I watched again to see what I had missed. I was an undecided voter at the time, and to me — you can see it in my live-blogging — Obama seemed low-key and mellow, "rolling out policies, pretty wonkily." That last quote referred to both men. I said: "They're not really attacking each other."

Checking my observations on second viewing, looking to see what all the commentators claim to have seen, my experience was the same. Obama's performance was surely defensible. He didn't hem and haw or pause or look sleepy. He drifted from topic to topic too much and absurdly returned to schools too many times, but it seemed to me he had chosen a strategy, which was to be a decent, thoughtful, moderate guy, perhaps because it would appeal to women (like me) and to moderate undecideds (like me).

Why didn't the commentators who should have defended him defend him on that ground? Even if you think I'm wrong, we're talking about spin. What I'm saying is at least plausible spin, but we didn't hear it. Why? That's the puzzle before me, and I have the answer. There had to have been a coordinated decision to go with the talking point: Obama was terrible. He was tired, disengaged, unprepared. Shocking! But why would Obama's supporters coordinate to tell the story that way? What a weird thing to choose to put in our minds?

Here's why they did it. Romney was so much better than Obama. Romney was vigorous, vividly in command of the facts, principles of economics, free-market ideology. Like Obama, he had a strategy to appeal to moderates, and he jumped into the moderate ground and occupied it — stunningly — with modesty and charm. He radiated competence and readiness to work for us. There he stood, the brilliant candidate, who wants only to help us, knows how to help us, and deeply, passionately cares that we need help. Wow.

Don't let that be the story! Don't look at that! Look at pathetic woeful Obama. He was off his game. That's not good for Obama — as his drop in the polls shows — but it was better than the alternative: talking about how Romney dramatically topped the President — the President, who came to the debate with all the gravitas of the presidency and all the knowledge and understanding that he has through working as the President these last 4 years.

The meme The Bad Obama was — colluding pundits decided — preferable to The Great Romney.

228 comments:

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chickelit said...

What'd you get?

I do get other kinds of offers though...

Saint Croix said...

Romney will never be a gifted speaker like Reagan or JFK or Roosevelt or Lincoln. We won't be quoting any amazing Romney speeches. (Nor do we quote any amazing Obama speeches!)

What made Romney's debate performance so amazing was that he took a boring, wonky subject--economics--and made it interesting. As an economics professor I would give him A++. I would take his class and I would tell other people to take his class, too.

Ryan is very much like Romney in that regard. These are very smart guys when it comes to money and finance.

If I took Krugman's class I would throw my shoe at him.

Obama's class? Easy A, but you don't learn anything.

sleepless nights said...

Michelle Obama made a comment to the effect that she felt like a parent watching her kid perform at the Olympics only she had to keep a poker face - that's how my (female) relative felt as well, only she supports Romney.

She could not even bear to watch the debate, so prepared was she was the pro-Obama media deluge. It upset her too much.

I think a lot of the post-debate hysteria, the tearing of hair and rending of garments, is due to how loaded the dice usually are in favor of Obama and the subsequent embarrassment. I don't think it was planned spin, more a spontaneous expression of bias.

The Crack Emcee said...

Saint Croix,

What made Romney's debate performance so amazing was that he took a boring, wonky subject--economics--and made it interesting. As an economics professor I would give him A++. I would take his class and I would tell other people to take his class, too.

he said HALF of Obama's "green" investments failed - that was so wrong it was criminal.

"Interesting," maybe, but waaaaah?

damikesc said...

I like that Obama, who says he was up 2-0 in a 7 game series and just dropped one --- was too polite in the debate.

Keep believing that. Who doesn't love petulant Obama?

damikesc said...

What made Romney's debate performance so amazing was that he took a boring, wonky subject--economics--and made it interesting. As an economics professor I would give him A++. I would take his class and I would tell other people to take his class, too.

Indeed. He seemed to CARE about what they were talking about and that goes a long way in making sure others care as well.

Matthew Sablan said...

"he said HALF of Obama's "green" investments failed - that was so wrong it was criminal."

He said many (and as an aside, he thought maybe half), so he was right in his statement (about 10% of the 26 have failed, that can be characterized as many; if 10% of the people you knew keeled over dead, if you lost 10% of your money, etc. you'd call it many,) strong, but whatever. What he thought, as an aside, was wrong (assuming he's pulling from the same 26 that FactCheck wants you to pull from, and not from the list Heritage wants you to pick from.

TomB said...

That's not good for Obama — as his drop in the polls shows —

Wait a sec, I thought you said previously that pollsters were skewing their polls for propaganda?

---

Yes, garage, those polls. The original post did not say anything about the numbers in the polls, but the drops in the polls. A given poll skewed may have results not reflecting reality, but that same poll with the same skew showing a change in numbers after a time is accurate against itself. While the hard numbers may be off, the *change* in numbers is believable.

DADvocate said...



The "gain control" part is the only part that doesn't fit. Unless you look at it as gain control of yourself and your thoughts, which is a perspective used by psychological types.

The Crack Emcee said...

Matthew Sablan,

"He said many,..."

No, he said half - Jon Stewart featured it on The Daily Show.

He was also the guy who first made the point that Romney won with the TV's sound down, so this idea he did some bang-up debating job is bogus:

I watched with my roommate and he could barely keep his eyes open.

Romney was just more energetic,...

Methadras said...

Lol, a massive post to justify trolling as a way to obfuscate and remediate Urkel's performance. R-fucking-OFL!!!

Methadras said...

The Crack Emcee said...

Matthew Sablan,

"He said many,..."

No, he said half - Jon Stewart featured it on The Daily Show.

He was also the guy who first made the point that Romney won with the TV's sound down, so this idea he did some bang-up debating job is bogus:

I watched with my roommate and he could barely keep his eyes open.

Romney was just more energetic,...


And yet, Urkel had every opportunity to repudiate it and didn't. That's what a debate is and his thinking on his feet means he has lead weight in them. Heavy, dense, and unresponsive. In effect, Urkel is as Urkel does.

Carl said...

Crack Emcee, you seem fascinated by cocksucking.

I really don't want to know why, and I hope you don't say.

Amartel said...

The answer is "C," both. Obama was bad, Romney was really great.
I suspect you're once again trying to find cleverness in the Obama/media strategery where none exists.

Obama was bad at the debate. It's probably not a fixable situation. He had no reason not to anticipate this brilliant fellow who showed up. That's all crap. All of his excuses are crap. And even if he didn't prepare adequately he did not adjust to conditions of the debate as they played out. He projected loser almost from the get-go. Pointing out the obvious deflates the progressive ego which is so invested in smart. Much like Fredo Corleone, progressives all think they're super smart. Obama is finally finding out what it's like to be under the bus.

Jane said...

So I'm not bothering to read the comments because I just wanted to say there were two truly awful things Obama said.

#1: Romney characterized Obama's plans for the economy as "top-down" and Lehrer asked if he agreed with that characterization. Rather than answer, O. just launched into what was clearly a memorized piece on education.

#2: end of the debate. How will you reach across the aisle? Romney: I have a track record of reaching across the aisle because I did it in Mass. O.: except for trivial points of agreement, I won't reach across the aisle. I'll just say no.

The Crack Emcee said...

Methadras,

And yet, Urkel had every opportunity to repudiate it and didn't. That's what a debate is and his thinking on his feet means he has lead weight in them. Heavy, dense, and unresponsive. In effect, Urkel is as Urkel does.

And Mitt "The Trees Are Just The Right Height" Romney thinks fast on his feet? Come on, Methadras:

He did well because he got no push-back, for whatever reason, and to blow that up into a claim of genius just shows how idiotic our system of electing professional liars - and the people who do so - is.

This is why, every four years, we end up being led by a fool and/or a liar - people who make more "gaffes" in their lives than I've ever made in mine or ever will - when there are credible choices around. That's not what we're looking for - we're Americans - mostly looking for easy answers, the easy way out, "fun," (as Ann recently noticed I'm resistant to) and, as Alexis de Tocqueville noticed oh so long ago, too easily dazzled by twinkly lights. Look at us now:

Once again crowning a clown as Savior Of The Republic - so little of a man he needs a crazy cult to sustain him - because we're too fucking ignorant to insist on doing the hard work of governing ourselves responsibly.

The whole set-up is delusional to the core,...

Pastafarian said...

Althouse's analysis sounds about right.

I wondered about the muted defense from the left and the media (but I repeat myself) too. Certainly Obama's performance wasn't indefensible -- not to these people, who find Fast & Furious easily defensible.

And I thought: Maybe the left has thrown in the towel at this point. Their month of obviously falsified polls, trying to will Obama into re-election, clearly wasn't going to work, and they decided en mass to give up.

And once they give up on a candidate, everything goes to shit for that candidate, because the left can't allow leftist ideas to be seen as the reason for a defeat: At that point, they use the media to vilify that man. Under the bus he goes.

But no, I don't think they could ever bring themselves to do that to Obama. They've invested too much into him emotionally, and in terms of their reputations. The left will sink or swim with Obama.

And it looks like they might sink to the bottom of a very deep cesspool where they'll remain for about a decade, with luck.

Amartel said...

More thoughts on this.

The media (and OFA) have built up an image, actually multiple images, of Bad Romney. In real life, none of the imaginary Bad Romneys showed up to the debate. Actual Romney showed up. Actual Romney is an excellent debater, commands the facts, commands the narrative, commands the moderator.

The media (and OFA) have built up an image, multiple images again, of Good Obama. Intellectual brainy Obama. Caring Obama. Hip, cool Obama. This guy is imaginary. He's like Big Bird; he doesn't really exist except in childrens television workshop.

The media reacted to their hero clearly not being heroic. They are so invested in him. It was a spontaneous frenzy of emotion, much like they said happened when those wacky Muslims supposedly saw that video. It wasn't a big plan to screw over Romney's clear advantage intellectually.

Chris Lopes said...

The difference between "Obama had a really bad night" and "Romney was outstanding" is that the former is correctable. If Romney really was that good, nothing Obama can do will change the election dynamic. So yes, the "Obama had a really bad night" meme makes more sense if you are a liberal.

wildswan said...

Many people in this country had never ever heard Romney and had never ever read or heard challenges to Obama. I saw the debate with people like that. They were stunned by how little Obama had to say about major problems confronting the country and by how much Romney had to say. (And they are disgusted by the Big Bird controversy.)
Also from a debater's perspective, which is the one the media would take, Obama was trounced. The media debates and watches debates all the time - to them Obama would seem just awful. Romney accused Obama of distorting Romney's record - no comeback; accused him of ignoring facts like a teenager - no comeback. Romney said there was no tax break for exporting jobs - no comeback; listed flaws in Dodd Frank - no comeback and it went and and on and on like that. Also Obama rambled and was quite confusing several times. He spent time recapping Romney's points. He began to try to conciliate Romney - that is weak to the max. I think the media was truly appalled. Maybe afterward they did decide to focus on Bad Obama and ignore Good Romney because they didn't want to go on record with how good they thought he was. But I think they were all appalled by an lazy and inept performance in a field in which they are adept performers.

pm317 said...

Ann, I think you're right.

Those fucking mfuckers. But look at it this way. This was a risky move and they have paid the price. Losers don't have options.

treeofmamre said...

You nailed it with your comments on the debate. It was pretty much my take as well. But how could you seriously be undecided this late in the game?

bonerici said...

Why on earth althouse are you pretending to be undecided, you hate obama or rather you dont hate him, you his policies and support Romney's policies. You have attacked Obama mercilessly day after day, and then you one day you say that you are "undecided".

Come on.

Why be "pretend undecided". Do you want to be woo-ed at an "undecided voter" or something, I just dont get it.

Craig said...

Romney "won" the debate, to whatever extent he may have, because he had to win. If he didn't the race was over. His back was against the wall and he came out kicking, biting, gouging, scratching and clawing. And to Romney's credit he did it without coming across seeming as desperate as he actually was and still is. Surviving the first round is only a victory compared to the alternative, staring at the ceiling from flat on his back in the middle of the ring.

dave in boca said...

If Ann is still undecided, I have just lost a great deal of respect for her because of her ability to snuggle into that academic cocoon. Romney is tacking toward the center, but BHO is simply a wonk without substance. Like your average professor.

Robert Cook said...

To those who wonder how, at this late stage, any voters could still be undecided, it's clear when one realizes that both candidates are terrible!

How do you pick between bad and bad?

But, most voters feel they have no choice but to cast their ballot for one or the other of the two major party candidates.

This is a loser's game. The two parties and their candidates are no more interested in addressing the concerns of the electorate than is Wall Street in repaying the American people for the billions they've stolen from us or the munitions manufacturers are interested in the end of war.

When one decides that the hemlock offered by either party, distinguished only by the packaging and (faintly) different flavoring, is unacceptable, one's decision becomes easy.

Diogenes of Sinope said...

Romney was so superior in every way and the media did not, does not want to report Romney as being excellent. So their way out was to report Romney was nothing special. The only reason Romney looked so good is because Obama did so poorly. But Obama did not do poorly, he did the best he could with his skills, knowledge and record. Romney is a superior presidential candidate.

city said...

thanks for sharing...

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