Thursday, October 18, 2012

Scoring the Second Debate

On Tues., Oct. 16, the second presidential debate took place on the Hofstra University campus in Hempstead, N.Y. It will likely be remembered for the tense confrontation over Libya, when both the Republican Mitt Romney and the Democrat Barack Obama plainly revealed what scant admiration they have for one another.

Both men were well aware they could not allow the viewing audience to perceive from their words or demeanor that they were being dominated by the other guy. At times that prickly aspect of the hour-and-a-half of questioning, answering and posturing put the moderator, Candy Crowley, in a position something like that of a put upon referee for an athletic competition. 

Depending on one’s point of view, Crowley either did a good job with a tough assignment, or the CNN political reporter overstepped her bounds as moderator.

As a 15-round boxing match, roughly with 15 questions, I had it scored with Obama winning nine rounds, Romney winning three rounds, with three rounds even.

The instant polls I've seen today found in Obama’s favor, too: Reuters had it Obama 48 percent, Romney 33 percent; CBS had it Obama 37 percent, Romney 30 percent; CNN had it Obama 46 percent, Romney 39 percent.

The debate’s noteworthy Libya moment had Romney saying Obama and his administration waited a couple of weeks to label the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans on Tues., Sept. 11, as a terrorist act.

Obama pounced on the opportunity and corrected Romney. In his defense Obama pointed to his own comments on the day after the incident: “The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack ... no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation."

Nonetheless, Romney challenged the veracity of his opponent and then Crowley spoke up to say the president was right about what he had said, even if at the time there was still considerable confusion about actually happened in Benghazi.

Obama also bristled at Romney’s suggestion that politics somehow had played into the scenario, and he chastised the former Massachusetts governor that it was “offensive” for him to make such insinuations.

Romney never explained why it is so important for the White House to rush to label every act of violence in the world as terrorism, or something else, before all the facts have been studied.

Both candidates ducked some questions. Both candidates milled around uncomfortably on their feet. At times the stage didn’t seem big enough for both of them.

Romney’s best moments were spent talking about the need to create more jobs, energy policy and tax cuts.

Obama’s best moments were spent talking about saving the automobile industry, equality for women in the workplace and foreign policy.

Complaining about how bad a ref was is what sports fans who are disappointed with the results of a game do. The fans of the winners of the game don't usually have much to say about referees.   

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