Is there some sentimental reason Jim Lehrer still moderates presidential debates? He has a queasy smile and the backbone of a conservative at a wine-tasting for Middle-East oil sheiks, or a liberal on a committee to form a committee to increase regulation on Wall Street bankers.

Most people are saying Romney won the first presidential debate. They’re wrong, but it’s an understandable misunderstanding. Most people go on first impressions and don’t understand the fight game.

Romney didn’t suck, and Obama just coasted on his own perceived superiority.  You can be sure Obama will come out swinging in the second debate, putting aside some of the wussy pseudo-statesmanship. Nobody can rope-a-dope like Muhammad Ali, and they shouldn’t try.

My inbox is being flooded with desperate Democrats pleading for money. Romney has inspired his supporters! We need to act fast! Send money now!

Well why the hell didn’t Obama do better in the debate; do you think that might have been a better solution than begging for money after he failed to even attempt a knockout punch? He didn’t know this would be important? He was too busy to prepare? He’s too good to get down to the fight and go on the attack? Where was the fight in Obama?

So the answer to the problem for the Democrats is more money? Just throw more money at a problem and it will go away? How about someone kicking Obama in the ass? That I’ll pay to see.

Obama’s the reigning champion. Champion’s don’t have to win fights; it’s the challenger who has to win. A tie goes to the champion. And this was only the first round, the “feeling out” round for Obama. Dancing and weaving a bit, not showing his real stuff. You want to see what your opponent brings to the ring. Stay safe and see if he comes in cold and tight and makes rookie mistakes.

If Obama coasts in the second debate he is screwed. He will need to come out like a pitbull on a chain of spaghetti marinated in Massachusetts marinara sauce.

Romney came out strong, not backing into the ropes. He succeeded in sounding somewhat intelligent and not saying anything inane, like why can’t you roll down airplane windows, and women can avoid getting pregnant after being raped by practicing good family values, or something like that. What’s a slip among friends.

If that’s your criteria for victory, then congratulations Mitt Romney. You won one for the Gipper. You didn’t suck.

Most people have trouble deciphering a presidential debate. Who won? Who made a gaffe? What the hell were they talking about? Most people have no idea about the issues being debated. Most people don’t care, they just want to see someone say something stupid so they can vote for him. In the Jerry Springer culture, stupid is cool.

First Presidential Debate: Obama vs. Romney (Complete HD – Quality Audio)

President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney discuss domestic policy in the first debate of the 2012 presidential election from Denver, Colorado.

Obama says Romney wants to raise taxes on the wealthy by 5 trillion dollars. Romney says that’s not true because he will close “loopholes” and “exemptions” in tax law. So the truth lies somewhere in the future, to be decided if Romney can make good on his promise to close loopholes and exemptions. But by then, everyone will have forgotten about his promise except for a few guys hired to create attack ads.

Romney says Obama will cut $716 billion dollars from Medicare, but what he didn’t talk about is the savings Obama has put into his comprehensive healthcare plan, such as  improve efficiency through the creation of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and better supply-side incentives through the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP). Wall Street Journal criticism notwithstanding, there seems to be some benefit.

“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 was projected, at the time of its passage, to cut the budget deficit by $143 billion over 10 years. Now it looks like a more plausible estimate would be closer to $113 billion. Timothy Noah —

That’s $113 billion in savings we can add back to the $716 billion dollar cut from Medicare. How much are we spending on the war in Iraq again?

“. . . in early 2008, we put the total cost to the United States of the Iraq war at $3 trillion. . . 

But today. . . it appears that our $3 trillion estimate . . . was, if anything, too low. . .

When the United States went to war in Iraq, the price of oil was less than $25 a barrel. . . With the war, prices started to soar, reaching $140 a barrel by 2008. We believe that the war and its impact on the Middle East, the largest supplier of oil in the world, were major factors. . . 

Higher oil prices had a devastating effect on the economy.

Federal debt

There is no question that the Iraq war added substantially to the federal debt. This was the first time in American history that the government cut taxes as it went to war. The result: a war completely funded by borrowing. U.S. debt soared from $6.4 trillion in March 2003 to $10 trillion in 2008 (before the financial crisis); at least a quarter of that increase is directly attributable to the war. And that doesn’t include future health care and disability payments for veterans, which will add another half-trillion dollars to the debt.

As a result of two costly wars funded by debt, our fiscal house was in dismal shape even before the financial crisis — and those fiscal woes compounded the downturn.

The financial crisis

The global financial crisis was due, at least in part, to the war. . .

. . . loose monetary policy and lax regulations kept the economy going — right up until the housing bubble burst, bringing on the economic freefall.

. . . To put it more bluntly: The war contributed indirectly to disastrous monetary policy and regulations [my emphasis].

The Iraq war didn’t just contribute to the severity of the financial crisis, though; it also kept us from responding to it effectively. . . The result is that the recession will be longer, output lower, unemployment higher and deficits larger than they would have been absent the war.”

[Sorry, I digress. My WordPress editor won’t let me left justify here. What follows is a quote from another source, back to the topic of dissimulation in campaign rhetoric.]

“One way or another, Barack Obama, Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney all have supported the $700 billion in cuts to Medicare spending now in place under the Affordable Care Act.

But you wouldn’t know that by listening to the current debate.

The Romney-Ryan campaign in its latest TV ad assails Obama for approving the cuts in 2010. “Obama has cut $716 billion dollars from Medicare,” says the narrator. “The money you paid for your guaranteed health care…is going to a massive new government program that’s not for you.”

Voters might be left with the impression that Romney and Ryan have both opposed the cuts. The truth is that Ryan himself endorses them in his signature budget plan – the same plan Romney has said he would sign as president if it reached his desk.

Those Medicare savings -achieved through reduced provider reimbursements and curbed waste, fraud and abuse, not benefit cuts – appear in the House Republicans’ FY 2013 budget, which Ryan authored.

His plan would in part repeal the entirety of the Affordable Care Act — except the reductions in Medicare spending now at the center of debate, according to analysts with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Where Romney and Ryan find shelter for their new line of attack is in what they claim they’d do with the savings.  As the ad suggests, they don’t want the money to underwrite Obamacare, but for deficit reduction or other spending instead.

“We’re the ones who are not raiding Medicare to pay for Obamacare,” Ryan said tonight in his first solo interview with Fox News Channel’s Brit Hume.”
Jack Tapper —

So is it fair for the Romney campaign to attack Obama for spending cuts to Medicare they themselves support because they rationalize differently how those cuts will be used? It would be fair if the issues were presented in this way, but they aren’t.

The issues are complex, and understanding complex issues in 2 minute  sound bytes isn’t possible. So what’s the point of the debate, really? What’s the point of reading crap like this about the debates? The truth is,

“. . . nearly all the prognostication you’re hearing on TV and radio . . . is done by an intentionally ignorant professional class who just wants their team to win.”

Elections are run by the public relations industry. Its primary task is commercial advertising, which is designed to undermine markets by creating uninformed consumers who will make irrational choices – the exact opposite of how markets are supposed to work, but certainly familiar to anyone who has watched television.

It’s only natural that when enlisted to run elections, the industry would adopt the same procedures in the interests of the paymasters, who certainly don’t want to see informed citizens making rational choices.

The victims, however, do not have to obey, in either case. Passivity may be the easy course, but it is hardly the honorable one. 

There is an element of theatricality. Remember how painful  it was watching Richard Nixon’s upper lip beading with sweat, quivering under the hot lights? He looked like a rodent caught in the act, sort of how he looked leaving office, arms flailing in ironic, pathetic gesticulations of “peace with honor” as he and Kissinger plotted secret bombing campaigns in a war they knew they couldn’t win, killing tens of thousands of American soldiers. Garbage in, garbage out.

Watching how each man comports himself under fire gives us a sense of his character. Is this a guy who can remain cool under pressure? Can you see fear in the whites of his eyes? How does he act when forced onto the defensive? Does he choke? Would you trust him to babysit your daughter? Could he pick up girls in high school?

Romney was well-coached for the first debate. He had his lines down. He spoke eloquently for a man who’s not used to grappling with ideas. He nailed his attack points.

I even choked up a bit when he launched into stories about all the regular folk struggling to make ends meet. I could feel the deep sense of compassion and commitment he has for those poor miserable slobs, how deeply he connects to common America.

“I was in Dayton, Ohio, and a woman grabbed my arm, and she said, ‘I’ve been out of work since May. Can you help me?’ Ann yesterday was at a rally in Denver, and a woman came up to her with a baby in her arms and said, ‘Ann, my husband has had four jobs in three years, part-time jobs. He’s lost his most recent job, and we’ve now just lost our home. Can you help us?'”

Well, that depends. How much Federal income tax did you pay?

And Obama, trying to look presidential, overdid his statesmanlike cool and lost his edge. He failed to project real confidence, conviction and passion. He looked soft, not like a leader with the kind of pickup-truck, Formula 1 grit Americans like to see in their champions. How would rope-a-dope have looked against Scott LeDoux?

Presidential Debate obama romney

Wordle Cloud of the Presidential Debate (Photo credit: lassi.kurkijarvi)

What it really boils down to is fairness. If someone becomes rich in America . . .  how do you define rich? And after you have decided someone is rich, how much of that wealth do they owe back to society for giving them an arena for getting rich?

So there is a duty to society, which must be weighed against freedom. I earned the money, so who is the government to take it from me?

Once you move beyond the issues of freedom and fairness, the debate gets framed by how to best get the economy moving again. Romney wants to cut taxes for the wealthy because conservatives believe by giving the most productive sector of the economy more money, they will use that money to become more productive.

That’s an increasingly hard sell after the financial crisis caused by the uber-rich bankers and financiers, who bundles so much fraudulent garbage into “mortgage-backed securities” that the Federal Reserve now has to buy $40 billion dollars a month of the crap just to keep the ship from tipping. But this isn’t really government spending, Bernanke wants you to know. This is the government investing in your future.

Just giving the uber-wealthy class more money — Reagan’s “Trickle Down Economics” —  doesn’t grow the economy by itself. It didn’t work under Reagan and it didn’t work under Bush. This “give more money to the rich” supply-side economics and the dismantling of reasonable regulation and oversight is what got us into this devastating financial mess. We are kicking the can down the road, but make no mistake. The ship is on course to sink.

That’s not to say it can’t be done, that we can’t make supply-side voodoo economics work, but we haven’t figured out how yet. Maybe Romney’s the guy who can get it done.

Maybe he really will pay for everything the American people need like healthcare and welfare and retirement and education and schools and roads and defense and research and critical infrastructure while cutting taxes on the richest Americans by cutting out all the corruption and waste and graft in government programs and tax codes, rooting out “loopholes” and “deductions” to make it all work.

Vote for him if you believe that. Vote for him if you trust the party that gave us George Bush. Vote for Romney if you believe the wealthy will start working as hard as they can to give you a high paying job if they get to pay lower taxes, because that’s what Romney’s counting on. It’s the same old song and dance.

So when Romney’s buddies in the oil or pharmaceutical or war industries ask to keep a little loophole in place that allows them to wiggle out of a few billion dollars in taxes here and there that no one will notice or care about, Romney’s going to slam the door in their faces. No more special interests. Nope.

Obama says we have to raise taxes on the wealthier segment of society as one way to help balance the budget, because as a society we spent more money than we made. That has to be made up somewhere, somehow. And government has to play a role in leveling the playing field in the jungle of free market private enterprise, especially with bankers in charge.

The problem with liberal politics is that government bureaucracies are notoriously corrupt and incompetent, and people don’t like having their taxes raised, even if it is for the good of all. The idea of having a corporate bureaucrat decide which doctor will operate on me when I break my neck is almost as frightening as having a private, for profit corporation decide if my $500,000 medical care will be covered or excluded in the 4000 pages of fine print.

Special interest pork barrel projects are a staple of government. With private enterprise, people can vote with their pocketbook, and do every day. With elected officials, people have to study and understand the issues, participate in the political process and then go out and vote. They need to have a voice. Can you hear me calling?

Romney’s a conservative who will give you four more years of George Bush. Money will continue to flow to large corporations and wealthy individuals. George W. Bush may have been the worst president in US history, although to his credit, Romney has tried to distance himself from that loser.

But did Romney tell the truth in what appeared to be his moment of victory?

“Romney continued to lie about his plans. He said he wouldn’t cut taxes for the wealthy, slash education spending, cut health care, Social Security, or Medicare for current seniors. He went after Obama for cutting social programs. Romney, in essence, debated like a liberal Massachusetts Republican. Nothing he said was true, in all likelihood.”

On the other hand, we’ll have to see what Obama can bring to the fight in round 2, because his record at governing will make it difficult to score points.

The reason Obama did poorly is simple. He is bad at governing America. He hasn’t solved the foreclosure crisis, the jobs crisis, the climate crisis, the energy crisis, the financial crisis, the debt crisis, the health care crisis, or really, anything.

Obama’s a liberal who believes an unfettered free market is not always best for the majority. He thinks the central government can play an intelligent, sometimes effective role in planning and creating a more equitable distribution of wealth.

It’s worked pretty well for China, so far.

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