Debate Post Mortem

For Obama the debate was an unmitigated disaster. It was a low energy performance by a man who seems to think he is sitting on a lead and has to play a conservative game. Obama kept looking to moderator Jim Leher to be the fact checker on Romney’s rather outrageous statement that his tax plan didn’t mean what it means. But Romney had already intimidated Leher, who effectively became the empty chair.

From a body language perspective, Obama seemed listless and disengaged, almost as if he didn’t want to be there. He kept looking down and seemed to be constantly on the defensive. Most of all his “no drama Obama” demeanor was the wrong tone to carry in the face of such aggressive attacks from Romney. If Axelrod and Plouffe advised him to abstain from attacking Romney (not one mention of 47%, Cayman Islands, Vouchercare) they made a terrible miscalculation. Even if that was the game plan, why didn’t Obama realize it wasn’t working and assume a more aggressive stance in the second half?

Now it will be up to Joe Biden to take Paul Ryan to the woodshed next week. And then Obama will have to drink a double espresso in two weeks and come into round two ready to confront Romney on every issue.

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55 Responses to Debate Post Mortem

  1. RYP says:

    I was watching them when they were “off” camera. Obama seemed smug and dismissive as if he didn’t want to engage the prewritten pap given to Romney. Romney seemed more earnest but focused on trying to remember his talking points were. Both apparently were told by their handlers to “be nice”

    Neither engaged the audience emotionally or had a candid moment. Obama is intellectually arrogant which may work in college but not on TV, Romney is a little more corporate and vacuous. Neither of them told the truth. That whoever wins, they are both diving deep into our pockets next year. As you point out there were no intellectual gymnastics, just two lawyers arguing a pro bono case before they head to the links :))

    To get my entertainment, I will wait to see Jon Stewart slaughter Bill O’Reilly.

  2. len says:

    Obama looked like a man with a full time job and a part time hobby called the campaign. Romney acted like a man who’s hobby had just become his full time job and he was delighted.

    Romney flip flopped on every campaign promise but one: getting the wealthy to pay their fair share. He’s agin’ it. If I were a serious conservative I’d wake up thinking what a great candidate for getting rid of the guy we don’t like, but I’d have this nagging feeling that I might be getting into the fire from the frying pan and that would make me gleefully nervous.

    It may be the replay of last year’s LSU vs Alabama first encounter. One team won but barely and the other wasn’t ready to play hard. Later that year, situations were different.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I didn’t see the debate. Wall-to-wall meetings. Saw the snippets later. There’s a lot going on here. I think you have it right that Obama was playing ‘Prevent’, and that never seems to work. He figured he just had to sit on an apparent lead. While nobody expected Romney to come out as tough and strong as he did, anybody who paid attention to the Republican primaries knows that he can go the distance and is very good at taking down the ‘frontrunner of the week.’

    The thing that surprised me was the anti-Obama from the left. On MSNBC, other than some woman in a red dress who was fixated on ‘likability’, the rest were brutal. I had expected them to claim victory no matter what happened. They didn’t, so I can only imagine how bad Obama’s performance must have been.

    So why was Obama’s performance so bad? Yeah. It might have been no ‘eye of the tiger.’ It might have been a flawed strategy. But there’s also the reality of the state of the union. The economy is terrible and there’s no sign that it is getting better. That may or may not really be Obama’s fault, but certainly, he’d be taking credit for it if it were good so…

    There’s also the reality that he is either out of ideas, or thinks it would hurt him if he said what he was really going to do with a second term. So he literally had nothing to offer. If you think about it, there’s no ‘up’ for him. Suppose he is re-elected. Most likely, he’s going to be facing pretty much the same house and a slightly more Republican senate. What’s going to change? The Republicans aren’t going to be chastened into submission by an Obama victory, that’s a ridiculous theory. They are all going to think their own elections were valid. So making any sweeping promises is a laugher. The best he can promise is that he’ll play Prevent on Obamacare, but since the public pretty much thinks that’s a turd, there isn’t a win for him there. Thus, the dirty reality is that the next four years will look pretty much like the last two if Obama is re-elected. And Obama certainly doesn’t want to run on that. If the public didn’t like the last two, the 2010 election results showed that they weren’t really thrilled about the first two. He’d better stay away from that.

    So what is it that he can talk about. What is it he can inspire about or be sunny about?

    Obama’s problem is that he’s got to play the hand he’s holding and it’s a bad one.

    That leaves him one place to go — attack the opponent. Works great in commercials. Looks bad on stage. And looks really bad when you don’t have the initiative and your opponent is extremely well tuned to rebut your attacks (that’s where eye of the tiger comes in).

    The attacks on Romney looked lame when on a naked stage. The work fine in the media environment, but up there on stage, the race suddenly shifts to the debate Romney will win every time, and that is the referendum on Obama’s first four years.

    So where does this go? By the very nature of the debates, the spotlight stays on Obama unless they can craft some strategy to go after Romney in a way he won’t see coming. That’s going to be hard. How do you get Bain into a foreign policy debate? How do you do it without looking like a rectum and thus risking your likability. That’s Obama’s problem. He does sunny brilliantly in a speech. He looks like petulant wiener when he does it in a debate.

    And foreign policy is going to be worse. A few jabs about Romney’s gaffes in London might work, but I’m not sure Obama wants the Churchill bust coming in. Plays to the ugliest part of Obama’s narrative. Arguing that Arab spring is a real great thing isn’t going to move the ball down the field. Does he want to explain in that environment what, ‘I can be a little more flexible after the election’ means in terms of Russia. Iran and Israel aren’t glowing pictures of success and even the trump card to end all trump cards, ‘I killed Bin Laden’ is not only plated, but marked at this point. Doesn’t much matter when Al Qaeda has come back stronger than ever. And any discussion of that opens the door for Benghazi.

    So you add this all up and you see that Obama’s problem wasn’t that he was having a bad night because he missed his anniversary dinner. He had a bad night because he was alone on the stage with Romney and a very bad hand to play.

    His performances will get better and I’m sure the dealers will be going from the bottom of the deck, but I’m not sure there are any good cards for Obama down there, either.

    So, other than trying to attack Romney in obvious places that Romney is prepared for (and we learned last night that Romney is prepared, as well being in full training after the Republican primaries). What would you do if you were Obama’s team? Let’s assume you also control the moderator. What would you do for the next debate?

  4. len says:

    Romney’s campaign for President has gone on for a decade. It is his hobby and as his wife’s horse proves, he can afford expensive hobbies.

    Past behavior predicts future performance. Should he win, governing America will be a rich man’s hobby.

    Should Obama choose, he has Romney AND the pundits exactly where he needs them.

  5. Roman says:

    What’s puzzling, no troubling, is both political actors and their supporting casts “know”.

    They know what the other will say, how it will be said, and how to react when it’s said. They also know what they need to say, how to say it and how to react when the other guy reacts to what they just said.

    Point being, the debates aren’t debates at all, they’re tightly scripted, well rehearsed, TV spots, where image is everything. Joe & Jane don’t tune-in for a glimpse into the candidates’ minds, they come to ‘look’. The resulting impression creates an emotional reaction, and it’s that reaction that either triggers or represses a response to vote.

    That having been said, Obama and Co. knew exactly what they were doing last night, and it was unnerving to say the least. “No drama Obama”? Hardly. I sensed arrogance, defiance and just plain old ‘pissed-off’. More than once I had the distinct impression Barry thought himself ‘above’ the whole process. Sort of like ‘why engage if I already know the outcome’. Interestingly, it’s the same feeling I had during the health care debate. There’s that word again, debate. Come to think of it, that wasn’t much a ‘debate’ either.

    And what was the wardrobe and make-up team asked to do last night? Barry looked like a SNL actor. Salt & pepper hair with dark eye brows? Just because Bill and Joe can pull off the ‘silver mane’, well, Bill can, for Joe it’s more like ‘silver plugs”, doesn’t mean Barry can. He can’t. I found it very distracting, no, disconcerting actually.

    But again, Mr. A knows exactly what he’s doing. So what was he doing? He knows Barry’s (white) voice, confident tone and metro-sexual look drove men and women, particularly from the suburbs, to Barry in 08′. I couldn’t help but wonder if they weren’t driving the same – away in 12’. Why?

  6. len says:

    Romney has no experience as a successful governor. He is a businessman, not a leader. Governance is for him, an act. He has stood in front of the customers of companies he was turning around and pretending to reassure them when actually he was carving them up to satisfy his real customers, the investment bankers and hedge fund types. He stood in front of employees he promised to lead to a more secure future when in fact he was assessing who would be laid off first, next and after next. The employees and company customers were products he would sell after selling himself as something he is not: a leader, a creator, a man of his word.

    One thing differentiates the hobbyist from the professional in most cases: when directly confronted on their credentials for the professionalism of their act, a hobbyist becomes irate. A true professional looks back in puzzlement, shakes their head, and tunes their axe, checks their set list and goes about doing the job. They may decide to brush up on some skills and improve their act. Being second rate is not the same as being a hobbyist.

    So yes, Roman, I’d say Mr A. has his man. Obama simply needs to brush up his act. Romney, on the other hand, just showed you the best he’s got.

  7. Roman says:


    Good on you; clever metaphor – ‘hobbyist’ vs. ‘professional’. And characterizing Romney as a hobbyist seems apropos.

    BUT, how would you characterize Obama? A professional whose life’s work hangs in the balance, or a hobbyist who’s having second thoughts about renewing his contract?

    Strip away the trappings of the office and what are we left with?

  8. len says:

    He’s a pro. He’s also the President. That is not his problem.

    His problem is he is a biracial kid raised by his grandparents. For Michelle, black haughty comes naturally. For Barack, it is as adopted as his first name: a willful construct.

    This makes him insecure when confronted on ANY issue. He needs to get over it and remember not only did he win, he has done the job. He doesn’t need to recite the numbers. He needs to be the one who won and close that crack in his personality so he can be confident and warm up as only confidence warms. OTW, he will be decorating the new house in Hawaii next year and Mitt Romney will be raising his taxes.

  9. Alex Bowles says:

    The excellent Diane Ademu-John summed it up like this

    Romney: my plan has unicorns! Obama: there are no unicorns. Romney: wrong again, Mr President!

    But now it looks like they’re about to drop the hammer on the guy. And but that I mean they’re going to absolutely demolish him – not just as a candidate, but as a human being.

    “On Wednesday night, some saw Mitt Romney sounding polished,” a 4:15 AM press release conceded. “But when the dust settles, Romney’s dozen flat-out falsehoods will be the only thing remaining from his debate performance — because avoiding the truth has been the very definition of Romney’s candidacy, and he can’t escape that with a single smooth appearance.”

    I doubt Obama’s performance was a calculated rope-a-dope play, but given his comfort with that maneuver, I don’t expect him to respond casually. Mitt had a bright moment, but that “win” wasn’t cheap. According to one count Mitt managed to squeeze 27 lies into 38 minutes of airtime.

    That’s a lot of ammunition. And then there’s Ryan, who is like Romney on steroids when it comes to bullshit. If Biden focuses his prep on spotlighting not just Romney but the full Romney/Ryan ticket as congenital liars they can put a lock on this. The goal ought to be ruining what little reputation Romney has for integrity before the next debate, so when they start talking foreign policy, Obama can move on to the raw incompetence of a man who thinks John Bolton is a smart guy to take his cues from. Done right, their next meeting should be the coup de grâce.

    It was a bad night for Obama, but for Mitt the ‘victory’ was Pyrrhic.

  10. Roman says:


    Agreed, Barry’s a professional – ‘politician’. But, as with many ‘professionals’, he’s he’s not particularly good at his chosen profession. Sure, he’s got good chops and crowd skills, but he’s no Lyndon Johnson, or Bill Clinton for that matter. Adversaries don’t fear him and supporters can’t warm to him.

    And agreed, a lack of confidence seems to be the root cause of his mediocrity. And perhaps it’s attributable to a racial stigma he’s been unable to overcome (i.e. bi-racial, raised by a single white mother and white grandparents etc.). But race has always impressed me as a convenient scapegoat for Obama supporters.

    No, Obama’s confidence issues are directly related to his having been asked to come into his own far too early. Being the 172-day wiz kid certainly has it’s upsides (how many get the opportunity to ‘truly’ make history?), but it has its downsides too. Rising too far too fast left Obama without the professional experiences needed to succeed in things like trench warfare with Congressional bulls (many of whom were from his own party), and detente with foreign countries – allies and adversaries alike.

    Although Romney took the first debate, the race remains Obama’s to lose. He’ll prevail, but as I pointed out months ago, not because of a win, but because he wasn’t defeated. And maybe that’s what he was reacting to last night, the tediousness of it all when the outcome is already known (again, think health care ‘debate’).

  11. Alex Bowles says:

    On the bright side, the Chinese have taken an exceptionally keen interest in American politics. I don’t think this bodes will for the Communist Party.

    Culture is still our greatest export.

  12. Alex Bowles says:

    Aaaaand there it is; Romney lies is the new party line. No time wasted on that one.

  13. BobbyG says:

    Depressing. Obama’s body language at times seemed to say ‘[Bleep] this [bleep], you want this clown, America, he’s all yours. I am really tired of this endless Clown Show. Maybe he’ll appoint Trump to Secretary of State. I’m set for life. I’ll have more time for pick-up. You buy this Romney crap, you deserve what you get.’

  14. len says:

    And agreed, a lack of confidence seems to be the root cause of his mediocrity. And perhaps it’s attributable to a racial stigma he’s been unable to overcome (i.e. bi-racial, raised by a single white mother and white grandparents etc.). But race has always impressed me as a convenient scapegoat for Obama supporters.

    It is in some cases but note the video dropped as Hannity said “as a bombshell” on the Obama campaign where Obama speaking to a room of mostly blacks uses a black accent. Talking black or talking white is a well-understood practice in the cultures and not really an issue. OTOH, if you have a tincture of insecurity, that can be used to rattle a person. I don’t think the video was meant to reveal anything to the voters; I think it was meant to rattle Obama. Anything else is gravy.

    It’s not that he can’t overcome it. It was timely, aimed and hit the target. It was opportunistic. It also reveals more about the Romney Campaign then the President. I’ll be not displeased to see the smirk wiped from Romney’s face as he is shown to be the rich hobbyist who would be president who grew from a kid who liked to torment other kids, dress up as a cop, campaigned for a war he refused to fight and now uses a race-baiting video to embarass a sitting President.

    Kind of a preppie meanie….

  15. Jeff says:

    It was an very very long 90 minutes. I kept looking at the clock wanting the pain of it all to be over. I even had bad dreams because of Obama’s horrible performance. If I knew nothing of the issues and the candidates involved I think I would have definitely been persuaded into thinking that Romney was the guy for the job. Obama kept looking down as Romney was talking to him and trying to be eye to eye. Obama stammered right from his opening remark and never recovered. Neither of those guys that were in the debate are the candidates we’re used to seeing. Romney lied about so many of the positions he holds and Obama had no fire, no passion and no ability to connect to people with his usual oratorical flare. Who were those guys we watched last night?

  16. Rick Turner says:

    If that had been a boxing match, Obama would have been accused of throwing it. What a pathetic performance, though in line with his presidency. I gave up “hope” when he failed to get us the hell out of the Middle East. He’s become a tool of the right to leverage the country into a being totalitarian plutocracy. Yes, I’ll still vote for him, but I’m about to get a my “Hillary in 2016” bumper stickers printed.

  17. Rick Turner says:

    Would someone define “middle class” for me”? Where does the income level start and stop for a family of four? (that seemingly being the benchmark) What’s the net worth of that family of four? Is “middle class” different in, say, North Dakota than it is in California? Or in a county in rural Mississippi vs. Marin in California? And if the states are running medical insurance, what happens in a poor state vs. in a rich state? Isn’t that discrepancy one of the things that a national program would level out? And isn’t that whole issue of a level playing field for everyone in the US the whole point of being a nation rather than a conglomeration of competing states? I still say that if “states rights” were paramount, we’d still have segregated schools and axe handle wielding governors…

  18. len says:

    Romney said middle class was around $250k a year.

    Where I live, that’s palatial and posh.

  19. Fentex says:

    Would someone define “middle class” for me”?

    I imagine in the U.S, where I believe people recoil from the idea of class division, the temptation is for a definition that turns on income although the term was coined to mean people between the nobility and the peasants.

    At the beginning of the twentieth century it was reinterpreted to mean people who earn income from professional work or who manage groups of other people – to distinguish those people who don’t live off capital nor live day to day or hand to mouth off their easily replaced labour.

    It’s a mistake to think of it as income delineated because the meaning of the measure is supposed to be about the opportunities that exist for non-easily replaced labour.

    When one says the middle class is contracting one is saying an economy is becoming a low waged and low skilled economy – the threat isn’t simply that people are getting poorer but that their economy is losing opportunities for advancement through learning new skills.

  20. Rick Turner says:

    $250,000.00 Is that the median? No, it isn’t. According to a couple of quick looks, the family median income is around $50,000.00 a year. If that’s the middle, does it define middle class? Where does it start? Where does it end? Do either of these clowns know any famlies who makes, say, about $50,000.00 a year?

    Two out of touch guys. No wonder they have no clue as to how many of us actually live; they’re way too rich to understand jack shit about median income families.

    Try pricing health insurance as a single male, aged 60, no company plan. You’ll be lucky to find anything decent for less than about $700.00 a month…$500.00 if it’s just catastrophic. Now try insuring a family. Self-employed? Forget about it. Your health plan better be Christian Science…

  21. len says:

    Rick Turner :$250,000.00 Is that the median? No, it isn’t. According to a couple of quick looks, the family median income is around $50,000.00 a year. If that’s the middle, does it define middle class? Where does it start? Where does it end? Do either of these clowns know any famlies who makes, say, about $50,000.00 a year?

    No it isn’t. Perhaps the most damming aspect of Mitt *Boss* Tweed’s effect was how he replaced engineering jobs that he exported with jobs at Staples. If you’re going to get in a fight with a chick with long legs and a big butt. you can do better than Big Bird.

  22. len says:

    Too distracted to quote well. My mind wandered to Shannon Tweed.

  23. Alex Bowles says:

    My twitter feed has picked up on the rope-a-dope idea. Even if that wasn’t the intention, enough people are realizing how badly Romney just exposed himself – apparently without realizing it – to see this debate as Act I in a three act play; the Comedy of Mitt’s Errors.

  24. Alex Bowles says:

    Also noted: the guy who “won” the debate spent the next day backtracking and making “corrections”.

  25. MS says:

    I am among the minority who thought Obama did OK in the debate (which I saw with a totally partisan crowd at the Hotsy Totsy Club).

    Now my faith is further renewed by this very snarky, very funny rendition of the debate at


  26. len says:

    Alex Bowles :Also noted: the guy who “won” the debate spent the next day backtracking and making “corrections”.

    I wonder if it matters. The scariest comment made to me on FB during the debate was from a young lady who said, “Both of them are lieing. I like Romney’s lies better.” The pervasive cynicism after the Bush years added to the massive whiplash of the over promising from the Obama hordes resulted as predicted: a distinct lack of belief from habitual disappointment. That’s a tough three corner shot to make.

  27. len says:

    I don’t buy the rope a dope idea. Obama’s errors are not rope a dope errors. He was out of practice. Fix that. Romney will be expecting it. They have to take advantage of the probability that that was Romney’s best effort and his flip flopping to destroy his credibility as a professional leader. Businessmen are usually lousy civil servants. Every instinct they have plays against playing well with anyone outside their own class.

  28. Roman says:


    “The scariest comment made to me on FB during the debate was from a young lady who said, “Both of them are lieing. I like Romney’s lies better.””

    That shouldn’t cause a double-take, let a alone a shiver. They ALL lie. We know that. We accept that. The most skillful tailor their lies to meet their audience’s expectations. It makes us feel good about our guy. They tell us what we want to hear, and are mindful not to let the truth get in the way. We even have a special classification for political lies we find humorous, they’re called ‘gaffes’ (see Joe Biden). Nothing new here.

    Both needed to accomplish two objectives Wed evening; one, engage their base, two, repress the other guy’s base. Both sides know they won’t win over any base converts. To win, their base needs to remain engaged and show up on election day. Simple.

    The ‘un-decided’? At this point, most have made up their minds regardless of what they’re telling family, friends and pollsters. The lunch counter sentiment also indicates they’re the most likely to sit this one out.

    So, if the key to victory is turning out the base (and or repressing the other guy’s base), could something happen between now and the election to effect that? Yup.

    Is there an Oct surprise concerning Mitt in the offing? Bush’s DUI landed days before the 2000 election. Imagine the response of Romney’s base if something similar broke just days before Nov’s election? Would enough sit this one out? Yup. Game over.

  29. MS says:

    Big Bird has apparently carried the day, following the Debates.

    As quoted in Daily Kos. []

    “Days after the debate, the one policy that Americans are still talking about is Romney’s promise to cut funding for PBS.” [from Newseum]


    “The phrase “Big Bird” was appearing 17,000 times every minute on Twitter. At midnight, CNN reported that mentions of Big Bird on Facebook were up an astronomical 800,000%.” [from the National Constitution Center]

  30. Rick Turner says:

    One way, the Wall St. bankers win.

    The other way, the Swiss and Cayman Island bankers win.

    I guess it’s win/win, innit? How’s that for cynicism?

    All that it’s about is the Supreme Court. Fully right wing or slightly right wing…we get to choose.

  31. Alex Bowles says:

    @Roman I get that lying looks like flattery when you change the angle, and that ultimately it’s all about what the audience wants to hear, so of course you appeal to them in whatever way you must if you want their support.

    But here’s the thing: not all audiences are created equal. Some crowds are smarter, wiser, more generous, and more far-seeing than others. That is to say, some reflect the values essential to good governance better than others (negative example: Enron’s Board of Directors). They demand more honesty, and the fictions they insist on have more to do with courtesy, and less to do with outright denial of reality.

    The question, then, is which crowd is bigger? I’ve always thought that’s what elections are really about. They’re signaling mechanisms that large groups of people use to communicate with each other. They’re inevitably imprecise in that they represent an average. At the same time, the average is hugely important in bridging the gap between the differing bits of anecdotal evidence we all have, and the bigger picture that these examples may or may not represent.

    The other night, when Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren were both asked who they saw as a model Supreme court justice, Brown answered “Scalia” and got loudly booed. Then he scrambled, saying he also liked Kennedy, Alito, and even Sotomayor! (no mention of Roberts). He was just getting hammered, and when the question turned to Warren, who was laughing when she answered “Kagan” to a huge roar of approval.

    The whole thing was theater, to be sure, but it was also building and reinforcing consensus, which is enormously important to governing effectively. Presently, we (the people) are busy establishing a new consensus against resistance that doesn’t want to see this change go through, but is getting shoved, pushed, bullied, and otherwise railroaded into it.

    On some level, I think a majority of folks have realized that the ignorance, bigotry, and unhinged rage that define those getting sidelined isn’t gaining strength with the passage of generations. That is to say, it’s no longer something that must be tolerated or negotiated with in the course of daily civic life. In fact, the tipping point (2008) is behind us, which makes it possible to go on the offensive, accelerating the richly deserved demise of the conservative “movement” and establishing a new social order in which black people can be president, gay people can live as equals, and the selfish winner-take-all ethos of purely economic actors can be legitimately subordinated to the common need for a stable and non-toxic environment that meets the needs of everyone sharing it.

    So yes, candidates on both sides lie. That comes with the territory. But the story doesn’t end there. Some lies are bigger, brasher, more frequent, and frankly more foul than others. The girl len mentioned had a fair point when saying – quite honestly – “I prefer this set.” The bad news is that’s how we operate. The good news is that the folks who do think her way are increasingly unable to use the democratic process to put a representative majority in power.

    It’ll take a decade for the message of 2008 to sink in, for people to see that it represented a sea change, not just a shift in the wind direction. But as the political futility of hate and denial option sinks in, it’s going to become less and less attractive. The voices promoting it will become fewer and more muted when it becomes clear that they’re those of permanent outsiders, not insiders-in-waiting. When that happens, the disintegration will accelerate in earnest. After all, conservatives thrive on in-group / out-group distinctions to a far greater degree than liberals. Their NEED to be with the in group is far more acute. Safety in numbers, and all that.

    This may be wishful thinking on my part, but I see churches as having a pivotal role here, one they can play by focusing on the message of trans-generational stewardship. That’s what separates them from the short term institutions of businesses, the medium term institutions of states, and puts them on par with the long term institutions of cities, of which they are, in fact, intrinsic parts. Churches that figure this out are going to provide a path for disaffected conservatives to reconcile themselves with post-Obama America.

  32. Rick Turner says:

    Alex, I’m sorry, but what I see is devolution into mob rule and governance by scare tactics.

    The issue of the Military Industrial Congressional Complex wasn’t raised once except with Romney’s bully-boy keep America strong bullshit. Strong for what? Why? To spread our corrupt form of democracy around the world? And then what happens when a population democratically elects a leader we don’t like? Say, for example, Salvador Allende… We go in and kill the elected ruler is what we do. I’m amazed Hugo Chavez is still alive…

    And no mention of the war closest to home…the drug war in Mexico in which more people are being killed daily than in Afghanistan or Pakistan.

    Education…the real problem in California is failing minorities, particularly black and Latino. It’s not failing teachers; the teachers are overwhelmed and are scrambling to bring undereducated kids up to grade level…kids whose parents may not speak English, who probably don’t have libraries of books at home, whose very cultures are not in line with standard school curricula which is, for better or worse, based on white European scholastic standards. Why not actually acknowledge that fact and then do something about it?

    Health care. Why didn’t Obama fight back saying that maybe the Federal government could be more fair than profit motivated insurance companies. Why have NO Democrats fought back and tell the truth…that insurance companies ARE death panels. They refuse certain treatments, they’ve gotten away with cherry picking their customers for years, and in turning people down for “pre-existing conditions” they have sentenced many to misery or death.

    Social Security and MediCare…all they have to do is raise the yearly income cap so that “middle class” income above the $90,000.00 (or whatever the current figure is) is subject to SSI withholding.

    Deficit? Well, deficit = war. Stop war, end deficit. Simple as that…well, there’s the sins of the past to pay for… And you want to know the cost of these stupid wars? Fast forward to health care expenses for brain damaged vets in ten to twenty years. It’s going to be scary. They may look fine, but you’re going to see a lot of premature dementia, and we’re going to be paying for it. I’ll bet the costs of these wars hits four trillion when the true accounting is done thirty years hence.

  33. Alex Bowles says:

    @Rick Turner You may have a point about rule by fear and the mob. Rep. Paul Broun’s (R-GA), for instance rustles votes by asserting that evolution, embryology, and the big bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of hell”.

    Meanwhile, back in Washington he sits on the Science and Technology Committee, where he’s the chair of the Subcommittee charged with investigations and oversight. Added bonus: this guy is also on the Homeland Security Committee, where he’s the counterterrorism Vice Chair. So yes, a case-study in rule by ignorance and fear.

    Just about everything you’ve listed seems to be the product of deeply entrenched interests that can run circles around Congress when they’ve got guys this dumb looking over their shoulders. But before anyone gets upset with Georgia for foisting this dipstick on the nation, it’s worth remembering that the state has suffered hugely contentious redistricting battles, and that what they’re dealing with is a grossly unrepresentative system.

    It’s a big part of what allows guys like Broun to pander like they do with no fear of educated challenge. The disenfranchisement drive now making headlines is another part of a sprawling and concerted effort to suppress, rig, and dilute the vote. Private election finance is yet another component. The revolving door between the Capitol and K Street adds further conflicts to “representatives” interests.

    I remain exceedingly frustrated that Obama isn’t doing more (read: anything, really) to spotlight this entrenched distortion and corruption, which thrives on the security provided by obscurity. The White House has an unmatched ability to rally support behind the kinds of measures that would force reps. to reform the vote and subordinate themselves to it, or lose their seats to people who will.

    I realize that creating that situation demands serious confrontation, but it also calls for some really shrewd deal making, which is why I don’t think it’s a fight that Obama is cut out to lead. But what he can do is ensure that the Court is ready with a favorable backstop when the effort finds its feet. In the meantime, consensus around a non-tribal, non-xenophobic ethos grows.

    And who will be the catalyst? Impossible to say, but I’ve got my eye on Cuomo.

  34. len says:


    Be clear that it isn’t good enough, but also be clear that those who disparage what Americans have done for themselves in the last four years after years of watching high income engineering jobs shipped overseas to be replaced by service jobs at Staples, laughed at by the same people who wrought that economic trade, be clear they are not job creators, they are vultures and when they tell you that this isn’t a good number they are something else: losers.

    May the bird of paradise fly up their nose. May Big Bird caress them with his toes.

  35. Alex Bowles says:

    @len I agree that any accomplishments made in the last four years have a glow of extra-supreme accomplishment surrounding them, given that they were made in the face of a Republican Party that was hell-bent on blocking all and any growth whatsoever. Their odious strategy was based on the (entirely accurate) theory that it would make their opponent look good while reflecting terribly on their own stewardship (I use the word loosely).

    These people wanted America to fail. Or rather, they wanted it to continue failing until they were back in power. That’s an extraordinary headwind.

  36. Rick Turner says:

    It’s entirely in line with the “Had to destroy the village in order to save it” mentality of the war mongering right wing.

  37. len says:

    May their wives have runners in their hose.

    This will come down to who shows up. I hope it is women. Romney lies easily. Ryan, not so much. He actually believes his crap. On the other hand, there is a woman at work with his photo on her screensaver. She says, “He’s good looking.” One wonders if this election is a referendum on the American female en masse as thinking voters.

  38. len says:

    Or a referendum on Americans as thinking voters. A depressing thought…. this election is a bit too much like the pilot episode of Nashville up on the web. All the fakery and money and sex and distractions without substance…. although a night at the Bluebird not fully filled is … imagination in service of plot.

    But damm… weaving that many threads from the zeitgeist into one believable seductive plot, that is freakin’ brilliant. And scary as hell.

  39. Roman says:

    @Alex Bowles

    Lying and politics are inseparable. It’s one of those irrefutable facts of life. Why? Politics mimics life, no, it is life, just played within more clearly defined boundaries.

    Politicians of all persuasions know we constantly lie – to our spouse, family, friends, co-workers and most importantly – to ourselves, and they pander accordingly.

    The fact that someone was bold enough to acknowledge her vote was motivated by the likability of a candidate’s lies shouldn’t be a cause of concern. We all do it.

    Sadly, in politics, we’re not motivated by the truth (if we were we’d all be Ron Paul supporters), we’re motivated by ‘bringing home the bacon’ and support whomever our tribe chooses to provide that ‘bacon’.

    Not sure where Obama fits into the whole ‘2008 tipping point’ discussion, particularly in light of the subject at hand. Important no doubt, but I’ve come to regard him as less of an influence than, say, that little black box or tablet in your hand. Technology, not ideology, religion or personality is bringing about the catharsis you’re referring to.

    Post-Obama America? Perhaps. But I think “Post-Jobs America” (as in ‘Steve Jobs’) is more accurate. Who would have thought America’s race sins would be supplanted by i Phones, i Pads, Twitter & Facebook? But it’s happening…

  40. len says:

    I realize the feeling I have about the people defending the Republican brand is the same feeling I have about the Penn State officials and alums who defended Jerry Sandusky until they could no longer ignore the victims. At some point, you are tarred by the crimes you ignore to maintain a point of view about yourselves that simply isn’t supported by your behavior. Clue.

  41. len says:

    Lying and politics are inseparable. It’s one of those irrefutable facts of life. Why? Politics mimics life, no, it is life, just played within more clearly defined boundaries.

    No. That’s equivocation for the sake of pederasty. If you live a life as a pederast, you seek generalities to defend the behavior. You say for the sake of the game we have to accept the victims of the game. It is easily refuted. Live clean; play clean; enjoy an immaculate reputation. Then people follow willingly and with joy, not begrudgingly with fear.

  42. Roman says:

    len :
    At some point, you are tarred by the crimes you ignore… Clue.

    Many are grappling with this same issue.

    The information age has made it increasingly difficult for standard bearers at all levels (local, state, national). Years ago, blind faith was the norm, who really ‘knew’? Today, we do, and a kind of ‘support conundrum’ has resulted.

    Today, there’s no excuse for not ‘knowing’. If you ‘don’t know’, you do so by commission, not by omission. So, knowing what you know, or what you should know, when should support stop and shouting start? Is there a line, where once crossed, complicitousness begins?

    Just a WAG, the general election will mark a low point for voter turnout – too many ‘know’ and can’t stomach being “tarred by crimes ignored to maintain a point of view about themselves”. (pardon the paraphrase)

  43. len says:

    True. I am seeing people on FB say they will no longer accept or respond to posts about the election based on the level of vitriol. The passionate become burned out and the crazies and zealots take over the conversation.

    And for the committed, eliminating rational voices as well as fatiguing voters is a primary objective. I do hope the next debates focus on uplifting inclusion rather than smirking and lieing. Some of the local races in Alabama are starting from that point of view: we have to govern ALL the people, but without a means to point out the flaws in some, it isn’t a debate. It’s a revival. And some beasts are best left dead.

    Republicans are willing to admit Romney is lieing and flip flopping. They claim all sides do it and then when a point of view is moderated sensibly, they say “There you go again” or if the mote in their eye is pointed out they say “There you go again”. This nah nah boo boo tactic makes debate impossible and makes them look as if they are winning.

    Getting around that is a challenge.

  44. len says:

    The Republican Party willingly conceded leadership and policy to the worst and lowest of their ranks. They embraced imbeciles and covered for criminals. This isn’t about being Americans, blessings or wrapping ourselves in flags. This is about lieing, forging, hiding and dealing against the common good. If America means that much, then fight for America against all enemies foreign and domestic. This is not a football game. This is not about equivocating for the sake of getting along. That is cowardice disguised as smoothing over differences. The Republican Party is destroying our country. Call it what it is or admit to being afraid to admit it or fight it. There is no middle ground this time.

  45. Alex Bowles says:

    @Roman The thing about lying (or just bullshitting) is that it’s not a constant. Lies can vary tremendously is in scope, scale, and duration, not to mention frequency, motivation, and effect.

    A certain amount is expected – indeed, demanded – of candidates (“what an adorably baby, ma’am!”). Were the mendacity more evenly distributed, it might even be churlish to mention it. But what we have here is one party – just one – that has gone absolutely off the charts, and not just with the lying, but with every other measure of decency, judgement, good-will, and political sense.

    As len notes, “The Republican Party willingly conceded leadership and policy to the worst and lowest of their ranks.” It’s government of the people by the trolls for the trolls. I share Rick’s sentiment about the reactionaries. The most important thing is this election is the Court, since that’s going to be the backstop is and when we get a president ready, willing, and able to provide checks on a Congress gone mad. Obama’s hope that “the fever” will break on its own seems optimistic.

    Our warped electoral system has given these folks undue influence, which accounts for the extraordinary belligerence. A more properly representative system wouldn’t give them the time of day. Not when “them” is a group defined largely by region, gender, religion, and age. Those factors combined produce a group far too narrow to hold down one pole in a two-party system.

    Consider, for a moment, a Republican party that enjoyed majority support in most, if not all, of the country’s most heavily populated regions. Seems absurd, right? Imagining how much they’d have to change to pull that off underscores how unfit that are to govern in their present state. I mean, FFS, they’ve put a guy on the Science & Tech committee who says that science itself is a “lie straight from the pit of hell”, propagated by people who want to obscure that fact that you “need a personal savior in Christ.”

    Meanwhile, back in reality, the Big Bang theory he rails against was first articulated by Monseigneur Georges Lemaître, who was both a physicist, and a Roman Catholic priest.

    Again, Rep. Broun didn’t give himself his seat on the Science & Tech committee, and nor did Akin approve himself for a parallel position in the Senate. They were both put there by the party’s leadership. It’s complete madness.

  46. len says:

    I’m trying to understand the polls that give Romney/Ryan an upsurge among women. I don’t get that. At all. Can someone explain it?

  47. JTMcPhee says:

    Humans are stupid beasts, cursed with a forebrain that’s constantly at war with the rest of the grey matter, the massive part that runs the physiology and houses what its ancestors who survived found to be successful — f__king, and killing, and hanging around and f__king and killing with people whose physiognomies met certain criteria for demonstrated survival success. Ryan’s abs, and heavy beards, and big tits and lyre-shaped hips.

    Too bad John Denver didn’t proceed to ask George Burns, “Oh God,” what else He might have messed up in the design of, beside the avocado, of which He instantly acknowleged that made the pit too big.

    Too late for a change order… ?

  48. len says:

    The lyre shaped hips thing…. I’m for it.

    The Pew poll is an outlier. As noted elsewhere, particularly Nate Silver, the other polls don’t support the upsurge. It appears to be a manufactured for the headlines kind of advance. The women I know are looking back at me with WTF eyes.

    That said, the Republican Party and Jerry Sandusky have a lot in common this morning, the run to the center, for example, while the wife stands by her man. RoboRomney agrees with everyone as his owners, The MICMasters Corporation gets another generation of high school seniors suited up to go be the emissaries of death and profit. Damm his mechanical eyes.

  49. Roman says:

    @Alex Bowles

    Points well taken. Suffice it to say, US politics has attracted more than its fair share of ill equipped, disgraced, and just plain ‘brain dead’. Some have been hoisted upon us by election, others by appointment.

    Endemic to one particular party? Not as far as I can tell. Both seem to be equally capable of attracting and elevating marginal talent (to be kind) to positions of responsibility and influence.

    As with lying in politics, nothing new here, except for new faces and their colorful (or bleak) back stories.

  50. Rick Turner says:

    I wish I had your optimism, Len…

    Unless Biden and then Obama come out really strong and counter the fear mongers, it’s over and the Supreme Court will be a cess pool of “conservative” shit for the next twenty years.

  51. len says:

    Endemic to one particular party? Not as far as I can tell.

    Nah, the Repugs are way over the top or bottom this time. Only there do you see a man on the Science committee who denies evolution and climate change and the most basic facts of science. The demos can be scurilous and untrustworthy but not uneducated and brain dead.

    I wish I had your optimism, Len…

    If you worked where I work with who and what I work with or listened to the radio hosts here, you would because otherwise you’d slit your own throat or be packing up and headed to New Zealand.

    I think Obama and Biden can turn this around if they want to do so. It will be squeaker close and my worry there is mischief at the polls and the aftermath. OTOH, consider what is coming after the election and ask if you really want to clean the stables after four years of Repug obstructing the cleaners so the horses will be particularly smelly.

    As I said, parties aside, candidates aside, this election is a referendum on the American voters themselves. Can they still reason clearly? If not… it will be bad. Say Weimar.

  52. Fentex says:

    Nah, the Repugs are way over the top or bottom this time. Only there do you see a man on the Science committee who denies evolution and climate change and the most basic facts of science

    A british comedian, who happens to have cerebal palsy, on a comedy news show last week observed (I paraphrase from memory)…

    “You’ve got to admire the Americans inclusiveness, they elect so many handicapped people. Who would’ve thought they’d be so liberal?”

  53. JTMcPhee says:

    Tangentially off track sort of: Yves Smith’s observation today that “Mirabile Dictu: The Media Notices The Sucking Sound of Growth (What Little There Was) Leaving The Economy And Underplays IMF Malpractice.” I first thought maybe this was an opening with a louder voice than mine into the revelation that “growth” is actually a pretty toxic state (and yeah, I know, there’s all kinds of “growth,” not too much of the kind that creates self-sustainability though, for all the Innovation in Annenburg. But it’s actually kind of worse than that:

    Starting late last week, there’s been a marked shift in the mix of headlines in the major media outlets. While it may simply be post fall equinox moodiness or a confluence of downer reports leading to a rare moment of sobriety, suddenly the big venues are concerned about the economic outlook. It’s not like 2007, when a lot of people knew the good times were going to come to a nasty end, but the big money felt it had to stay in to the last possible moment, since getting out early might prove to be too early. This time, while comparatively few expect anything much better than a weak recovery that will hopefully gain strength, the quiet consensus was that any downside (at least in the US) was capped by housing “recovery,” less awful employment data, and above all, the Fed.

    Against that, even before the latest reports, you could pit the continuing slow motion train wreck in Europe, not so hot reports out of China, and our coming fiscal cliff, where even if the pols win (as in force their toxic Grand Bargain on the rest of us), we lose. Deficit cuts, even if they are attenuated and back loaded, will still be a dampener. And even though the ESM officially came into being today, the surplus countries still retrading elements of various agreements, raising the market-rattling possibility that the various bailout schemes could come unglued. Of course, as we’ve pointed out, with the best case scenario being grinding periphery Europe into penury and taking down the core, staving off a crisis does not mean the alternative is cause for great cheer.

    One simmering background issue has moved to the fore: most US public companies have had very little in the way of revenue growth since the crisis. Their record earnings have been the result of aggressive cost cutting. And this isn’t a crisis related development. Andrew Haldane did an analysis that confirmed that, indeed, there is evidence that investors are unduly short-term oriented; they require unduly high returns, which leads to underinvestment, particularly in ventures with back-loaded payouts, like infrastructure. Even the limited literature indicated this bias had had considerable influence on corporate decision-making…

    Read that again. 20% implicit required returns in a ZIRP environment. The only way you can make that sort of money in most large companies consistently is by looting or other forms of abuse of the public. But since a lot of customers are less well off than they used to be, even that strategy isn’t as easy to execute as it once was. So the next best thing is the other low risk way of improving earnings, which is cost cutting, meaning headcount cutting. One hedgie reader has been telling us of the poor quality of earnings and how little the media has taken notice of how frequently earnings guidance being revised downwards over 2012. Reuters reported last Friday that the S&P earnings are anticipated to have fallen last quarter:

    Third-quarter earnings for companies in the S.& P. 500 are forecast to have fallen 2.4 percent from the year-ago period, which would be the first decline in three years, according to Thomson Reuters data.


    And gee willikers, Daddy Warbucks, what’s going to happen now? Do you think the present President or his impatient would-be replacement have A Plan for dealing with all that? Seven Billion Humans’ Worth of WIse Ideas? Other than a Monty Pythonic “Run Away! Run Away!”?

    I hope that Barbara Tuchman’s views of humanity and history are “incomplete,” for the sake of my grandkids, but it sure looks a lot like it’s snowing the same snow as fell in East and West Europe and the rest of our fun human planet, at the runup to the last mass extinction (1914-1918, New Christian Era…)

  54. Alex Bowles says:


    The only way you can make that sort of money in most large companies consistently is by looting or other forms of abuse of the public.

    And the only way to maintain either of these rackets is via a one-two punch of regulatory capture and the systematic disenfranchisement of voters disinclined to see 94% of recent income gains going to 1% of the population as a good thing.

    That’s a challenge ALEC is happy to accept.

  55. len says:

    Big picture what a terrible species we are aside, the one question that I’ve been considering this morning is am I really better off than I was four years ago. That’s easy.

    Yes. By a considerable amount. They say:

    1. Gas prices are through the roof.

    Sure are. Difference is now I can get a car that gets 40mpg and buy American because Obama saved the American car industry.

    2. Al Qaeda is rebuilding.

    Sure are. Because they’ve been eviscerated and using drones, their leadership has to buy hairspray for their wives through Dutch mercenaries. Major dictators are gone and yes, militants attacked our embassies. Difference is the local populations then attacked the militants.

    3. Jobs.

    I have one. And soon I may have a better one. Four years ago I was at the mercy of a guy who stole us blind. Today, I am back at the trade that built my career and working hard. It is hard. It is sometimes depressing. That’s ok.

    4. Savings.

    Four years ago my 401k was eviscerated by a banking scandal of historic proportions. I think more heads should be on pikes for that but that aside, my 401k is back and getting better. I don’t make as much money. Ok, I will.

    5. Dick Cheney is not vice-president.

    Enuff said.

    6. Health was in danger and kids were going to school and I was without a job.

    The job is taken care of. The kids have scholarships AND healthcare.

    7. Honey Boo Boo is a hit.

    So is Nashville. Four years ago I was begging members of this list to use their considerable skills to change the culture, to make it think, to relearn quality. Well, they are. Kudos to Callie and T-Bone.

    There is a longer list, but that’s a good start. We can whine our way to Hawaii or we can step up and think about this soberly. We are waaaay better off.

    What happens if we don’t:

    In the next two years, the kids lose their health care, any savings will evaporate in taking care of my mom, we’ll be back in a major war in the middle east (and losing, trust me on that), Dick Cheney will be a consultant in the White House, and gas prices will still be through the roof and even worse because of the war, and I will be trying to keep a four-cylinder Ford Focus on the road through it’s 20th year. Any grandkids I have will have to watch the latest Honey Boo Boo freak show because Sesame Street will only be available on old tapes or DVD.

    Seems like an easy choice.

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