It seemed like all three debates proved to lack little political magic in defining what the issues were, the primary issue supposedly “the economy,” which, amazingly, received short shrift by the moderator, CBS News’ Bob Schieffer, who mentioned that this day was the anniversary of JFK’s engagement in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and how would each of the candidates deal with it if they were in the catbird seat.
In fact, the question projected the economy into irrelevance from the get-go. Obama, who had taken a note-taking back seat in the first debate for “lie detection,” came out swinging as in the second debate, defending himself with confidence. The post mortem “lie-tally” for Romney was the now famous “37 myths in 28 minutes.” Obama had his share of misstatements as well, though not so blatant or egregious.
The thrashing Biden gave Paul Ryan in their separate debate seemed to rouse Obama’s fighting spirit and he came back strong enough in the second and third presidential debates to equalize any losses if not gain a small lead. But again, Romney seemed to lead the third debate (merely though his interruptions of Obama and Schieffer on a variety of questions), getting tougher on terrorism (is that possible?), enlarging the Navy and military, which has not asked for more help, and getting tough mostly with Iran. In fact Monday night, Romney’s lessons from Netanyahu kicked in big time.
He made AIPAC sound like Sunday school, demanding more painful, punishing sanctions for Iran, bringing back the old chestnut that Ahmadinejad wanted to “erase Israel from the map” which in fact was a mistranslation of his words. He also claimed we were being played because we only told Ahmadinejad and the Iranian leadership we would go “all the way” if any military action (especially nuclear) were taken on Israel. Even when Obama agreed that was and has been his plan, Romney reiterated we were weaker in political positioning with Iran four years later. This, obviously, so all the Jews from Boca Raton to Beirut could relax, or at least, ease some of their existential angst.
China was also picked on and then embraced for its aggressive manufacturing policies by Romney. Russia, as Obama pointed out, was played with a 1980s “Cold War” tonality, and a worn-out 50s and 70s rhetoric.
The Mormon Romney with his died black hair and two inches of gray sideburns, smiling compulsively, gave the impression of a door-to-door salesman of bad products. He brought his Bain Capital mentality with him, delivering his compliment for China knowing how to produce economically and sell with hefty profit margins. Slave labor always helps. And boy, you felt, how he’d love to do it here, starting with teachers and their unions, mentioned several times during his spiel.
Obama was the only one who talked about education, about developing skilled labor for today’s jobs in science, math, and technology.
Romney’s attempts to inject his business experience was laughable, especially knowing of his Cayman Island tax-free accounts, his Bermuda shell company, Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors, created in 1977 to be involved in Bain’s biggest deal, including the takeover of Domino’s Pizza, and of his Geneva accounts, where more tax-avoidance money must be stashed. For me, he’s a walking case of tax evasion waiting for arrest and jail time. He should step down as a candidate.
Once a hedge-fund player, always a hedge-funder, going back to his pre-debate comments that “he liked to fire people,” which was part of his modus operandi at Bain, that is after pirating the companie’s treasuries with overly high management fees, debt and neglecting to install new infrastructure, and at the point of collapse, firing the employees, then cutting the corpses of the companies into pieces and selling them off to other ghouls, who live off dead parts. He claimed he advised Obama to put GM through bankruptcy first before giving them bailout money, though Obama had pared down the car giant down in other painful ways before the bailout.
You got the feeling Romney never meet a bankruptcy he didn’t love, to eliminate employees, pensions, healthcare, equipment, till nothing remained but some dead equity to sell off. This is not a man to be president, even of a hedge fund. He is the spoiled son of George Romney, who was a genuine auto manufacturer, building American Motors, not taking pride in burying companies. This was boy/man Mitt who never learned the lessons of want or war, of going without, of not having every opportunity for advancement at his fingertips.
Together with Obama, he carried on the pissing match of who was tougher. Here Obama notched his belt with the murder of Osama bin Laden, the 30,000 troop surge in Afghanistan, the drone surge there, too, and in Pakistan, not to mention the creation of the NDAA with its pernicious clause of indefinite detention by the military with no proof, trial, or lawyer, of anyone accused of supporting terrorism. Obama also proudly took credit for the slaughter of Libya via his unapproved-by-Congress “no fly zone” (some 60,000 people lost in continuous NATO bombing), and the slaughter of the leader of a sovereign state, Muammar Gaddafi, who was laid to rest in a market’s butcher shop for all to see. A year later Libya remains in chaos as does Syria, though Assad is probably smart enough not to suffer the same end as Gaddafi.
Politically, Romney could point to nothing but his record as governor of Massachusetts (that carried the low approval rating of only 31% of the state’s population) and his work with the Winter Olympics in Utah. He did use his rhetoric to puff it up to sound like the second coming in education and social management. What a gift for bullshit this guy has. Imagine him as your World Traveling Salesman, America. He never mentioned his V.P. Ryan’s plans to cut Social Security and Medicare, or to control when a woman gets an abortion, though he did mention that he would turn Medicaid over to the states, even though they’re drowning in debt as we speak.
The only thing worse than this last third debate was the CNN, post debate coverage. I turned to it only at the request of an old friend who had come to visit for the evening. The “bullshit factor” was ramped high with Wolf Blitzer and the crew, claiming that they knew Obama had beaten Romney by a 49 to 40% margin shortly after the debate. Then there was a focus group from Boca Raton that was supposed to give us more insight, which was as meager as a scruffy young man saying, “I will stick with Obama because he talked about jobs and I’ve had three of them in the past year.” A man in a suit, white shirt and tie declared his choice of Romney because “he seems to be a good businessman.” Duh, and stuff like that, with flashing graphics, three announcers who talked at once in a non-debate and Anderson Cooper looking like a fashion model for Vanity Fair.
Well, it was hopeless. Dull as death to the last handshake. Fortunately, I turned to the top of the ninth inning of the last of the seven game play-off for the National League Championship, as the San Francisco Giants held a 9–0 lead over the visiting St. Louis Cardinals in their last at-bat. The rain was pouring down as if waiting to float Noah’s Ark into the stadium among the 50,000 plus cheering crowds.
The rain might have stopped the game if the stakes were lower, but the umpires let the game go on till the last pop-out provided the Giants star shortstop, soon to be Series MVP, Scutaro, with the third-out catch and the stadium went bonkers.
Well, at least here was some true joy at last, the crowd as one soaked to the bone, umpires, Giants’ CEO, manager, players, fans, et al, happy as happy could be. And I thought, America, you do have it in you to be a brave, skilled and joyous people. If the whole exhausting playoff series provided nothing but this moment, it was worth it all. And in comparison, if the three aggressive sleep-inducing debates provided nothing but mediocre political ideas, indicating we have more work, much more work to do, more innings to go to realize or just envision our full potential as a people, as a team in search of liberty, equality and fraternity, the magic of threes.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer and life-long resident of New York City. An EBook version of his book of poems “State Of Shock,” on 9/11 and its after effects is now available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on politics and government as Associate Editor of Intrepid Report (formerly Online Journal). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.