You know the President had a bad night when the “tingly leg” crowd at MSNBC is openly angry at Obama for having failed them. By a wide consensus the first Presidential debate of 2012 was a resounding victory for Mitt Romney. How this happened is being dissected at countless other sites, here we will explain why it happened.
There are three factors behind Obama’s embarrassing, and petulant, performance in the debate.
1. Obama has a poor record of accomplishment as President. This poor record is made all the more stark when viewed in light of his lofty promises. Obama promised to cut the deficit in half, instead he doubled it. Obama promised to repair the economic woes he attributed to his predecessor, instead the economy has floundered and stagnated. He promised to heal the planet, instead war, violence, and uncertainty have spread. Obama promised to unite the country in a post-racial embrace, instead America is more divided than ever. Obama promised hope and has instead mired the nation in malaise.
Rush Limbaugh explained the Obama record succinctly. To paraphrase, if all our troubles are the fault of W. Bush, Obama has shown himself unable to fix them. If the troubles are not the fault of W. Bush, Obama himself is to blame. Either way, there is no argument for another four years.
2. Obama suffers from the Taranto principle, something I have previously discussed on this blog. Whereas Mitt Romney came into the debate fresh and tested by a tough primary battle, and whereas Romney regularly faces unfriendly interrogators in the media and elsewhere, Obama was unprepared.
Obama has subject himself is little more than a half-dozen press conferences since taking office. When he deigns to take direct questions, the generally supportive media fail to hammer him on controversial points. Rather than hone his craft and defend his record, the President has busied himself with soft-ball interviews and appearances on late night television. The Taranto principle posits that because Democrats are less vigorously questioned they not only lose their edge, but develop a false sense of confidence.
During last night’s debate Obama seemed to know less about his policies than did his opponent. His demeanor was rather irritated – and it showed during split screen appearances. It was clear to all who watched that Obama wanted the debate to be over. In contrast Romney seemed to relish displaying his command of facts and data.
3. Finally, Obama stumbled during the debate because his talking points were insincere. He can mouth the usual tropes about free markets and personal liberty, but Obama does not fundamentally believe in those things. Without the teleprompter to guide his flourishes his discomfort is exposed.
Whether you want to call him a Progressive or a socialist, Mr. Obama’s core tendencies are further to the left than is advisably advertised for a prime time audience. Obama can speak from the head, but he cannot speak from the heart when discussing the American dream, nor can he express the general civic patriotism that comes so naturally to millions and millions of Americans.
Taken together, the poor record, the atrophied sparring, and the philosophical leanings of President Obama conspired to ruin his evening, and perhaps, cost him an election.