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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Debate: Style vs. Substance

Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)
Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)

By Robert Reich
Robert Reich's Blog
04 October 12
 
n Wednesday night's debate, Romney won on style while Obama won on substance. Romney sounded as if he had conviction, which means he's either convinced himself that the lies he tells are true or he's a fabulous actor.

But what struck me most was how much Obama allowed Romney to get away with: Five times Romney accused Obama of raiding Medicare of $716 billion, which is a complete fabrication. Obama never mentioned the regressiveness of Romney's budget plan - awarding the rich and hurting the middle class and the poor. He never mentioned Bain Capital, or Romney's 47 percent talk, or Romney's "carried-interest" tax loophole. Obama allowed Romney to talk about replacing Dodd-Frank and the Affordable Care Act without demanding that Romney be specific about what he'd replace and why. And so on.

I've been worried about Obama's poor debate performance for some time now. He was terrible in the 2008 primary debates, for example. Expectations are always high - he's known as an eloquent orator. But when he has to think on his feet and punch back, he's not nearly as confident or assured as he is when he is giving a speech or explaining a large problem and its solution. He is an educator, not a pugilist, and this puts him at a disadvantage in any debate.

Romney stayed on script. If you look at a transcript of his remarks you'll see that he repeated the same lines almost word for word in different contexts. He has memorized a bunch of lines, and practiced delivering them. The overall effect is to make him seem assured and even passionate about his position. He said over and over that he cares about jobs, about small businesses, and ordinary Americans. But his policies and his record at Bain tell a very different story.

The question now is whether Team Obama understands that our President must be more aggressive and commanding in the next two debates - and be unafraid to respectfully pin Romney to the floor.


Robert B. Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock" and "The Work of Nations." His latest is an e-book, "Beyond Outrage." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.
    READER COMMENTS   
 
+22 # cbascom 2012-10-04 06:59
It matters not a jot who wins the debates.....or the elections.

Either President Obama or Romney will be no more than the Store Manager of the USA branch of the global corporate plutocracy. We need to deal with the CEO or shareholders hiding anonymously behind the scene.

Long Live the Occupy Movement, they really get it !!!
 
+12 # LiberalRN 2012-10-04 08:59
I completely agree that we need to deal with the CEOs and "anonymous" players, not so much behind the scenes now in the post-Citizens United environment. I couldn't disagree more that it doesn't matter who wins the elections. Yes, this presidency has been flawed, at times deeply. The alternative of a Republican choosing our next Supreme Court justices, and the implications of an administration responsible to Grover Norquist and not the rest of us "people who will never take responsibility for our lives" is unbearable - and unacceptable.

Build change from the ground up, most definitely! Put our efforts where our thoughts and words are - and vote the choice we have.
 
-6 # HowardMH 2012-10-04 09:57
Agree Occupy is the only hope we have left.

Obama the Wimp.
 
+84 # Ray Kondrasuk 2012-10-04 07:06
"...an educator, not a pugilist..."

Nicely put, Robert.
 
0 # LiberalRN 2012-10-04 09:00
Quoting
"...an educator, not a pugilist..."

Nicely put, Robert.
Style over substance in America: style wins, every time. Alas, were it not true!
 
-23 # wantrealdemocracy 2012-10-04 07:08
It doesn't make any difference which of the corporate candidates wins. The effects will be the same. More war and punishing austerity for the working people. Vote for one of the other candidates. The fix is in and one of the corporate duo will be declared the winner. Voting for a non corporate candidate will allow you to express your concern and disgust at our rotten two party system. We need more choice than puppet D or puppet R.
 
+94 # natalierosen 2012-10-04 07:42
This is where I disagree with my left of center compatriots. I agree economically much is the same but there is a HUGE differences if you are gay, if you are a woman, if you are black, if you are Hispanic and if you are disabled. It is true if you are, by the way, an atheist who does not want religion mixed with state.

Romney comes with a LOT of sidecar baggage in the form of the social issues and the religious right, the antiabortionist s, the anti marriage for everyone. It also includes 10th amendmenters who want to take Federal government oversight of most everything and gut it.

Romney WILL put in a court that overturns Roe v. Wade, gut women's equality issues and possibly a Congress that overturns DADT if Republicans come into Congress with a Romney win. Those sidecar affects as I call them, INCLUDING science denial, climate change and drilling everywhere for oil no matter the risk will be DEVASTATING
 
+17 # Smokey 2012-10-04 08:53
[quote name="natalierosen"]This is where I disagree with my left of center compatriots. I agree economically much is the same....

(Sigh) This is the way it is in American politics at the start of the 21st century. Debates about gay marriage, abortion, religion, and other social matters are permitted. Meanwhile, the big corporations dominate the economy and even "progressives" like Obama have to declare that "free enterprise is what makes America great." Yeah, sure... I believe that it's the land and the people that make our country great.... Although the big corporations want to own everybody and everything.... Leaders who will say "no" to the big energy companies, the big medical lobbies, the financial industry, etc., are hard to find, even among "the liberals."
 
+6 # LiberalRN 2012-10-04 09:02
THANK YOU, natalierosen!
 
+8 # Cassandra2012 2012-10-04 10:03
And for all the blah blah about how 'generous' Romney supposedly is, hasn't anyone noticed that the ONLY charities he gives money to, or 'tithes' to, are ALL MORMON??

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