Wow. That was more fun than the desultory first debate. Both candidates came out swinging. I thought President Obama did a much better job, and not just by showing more energy and more fire. I thought he was more articulate and passionate when describing his vision, and he more clearly laid out the differences between he and Governor Romney. Indeed, I thought we was simply more Presidential. Here’s what I came away from the debate thinking:
I simply can’t listen to Romney drone on any longer about his “Five Point Plan” and his ridiculous boast that he’ll create 12 million jobs in his first four years in office. It’s just too preposterous to be credible. Even less likely is his claim that he can balance the budget in four years while cutting trillions worth of taxes with offsets only in certain entitlements and deductions. The math simply does not work.
Romney attacked Obama for price increases at the gas pump over the past four years. The fact is, as Romney knows all too well, that market forces create prices, not the government. And Obama correctly pointed out that prices were much lower when he took office because of the financial collapse. Shortly before that, prices were equally high.
Romney was absolutely correct when he pointed out that the middle class has been hit by rising prices and falling real incomes. But it simply isn’t possible to eliminate all taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains for the “middle class” (however that’s defined). That was simply pandering. Obama, on the other hand, stuck to his message that he wants to raise taxes on the top income earners to help pay for tax cuts for that nebulous “middle class”. I wish someone would define that group for me. And explain how the middle class is the same in Nebraska as it is in San Francisco. I also wish the President would wake up and realize that increasing taxes on the top earners won’t even make a dent in the deficit. Only broadening the tax base, by increasing jobs, will do that. And raising taxes does nothing to help create jobs.
Both candidates evaded clear answers to the questions on women’s pay, immigration and guns because they feared any honest answers might offend their bases. How anyone can morally oppose strict regulations on the sale of automatic weapons is beyond me. Immigration policy is difficult but I believe that it’s in the greater good of the country to welcome productive people to this country and allow them to work. And I think Obama handled the question on Libya forcefully and with just the right amount of indignation.
One topic that was not addressed was the issue of women’s reproductive rights. I hope that this is raised in the final debate as the candidates should be compelled to state clearly their positions on this important issue.
Finally, when asked about his last four years, Obama was clear and concise when detailing each of his accomplishments and the promises he’s kept. Romney was equally cogent in his description of those areas where Obama didn’t keep his promises and where he has “failed”, most importantly with an economy that he grown at an every slower rate over the past three years. That might be the most damning argument against Obama at this point.
Ultimately, I’m not sure this debate will change anyone’s mind about who they’re voting for. I think what it likely did was simply make their positions more clear. And the reality is that much of what happens in the economy is simply beyond the control of our Chief Executive. Market forces dictate the ebb and flow of the economy, and those forces are not quick to change. So I think we are left to vote on moral, or conscience, issues.