Jim Lehrer was terrible, and the President allowed himself to be pushed around. I doubt that the election will turn on the debates but the President lost this round. He hesitated in every sentence, he acted "professorial" when debate in presidential politics is a lot closer to wrestling and boxing than to making thoughtful, pause-filled responses.
Why the President allowed Romney to basically "say anything" without saying, "No one believes your tax plan. No one understands your tax plan. You want to turn Medicare into a voucher program. You want to turn Medicaid, a federal program that does enormous good for the elderly middle class in nursing homes and poor people who desperately need help, over to states who can't afford to handle this themselves and also to hospital emergency rooms. That's not a policy; that's a surrender and once, again, a give-away to the people in America who already have enough. Romney was saying, "You're on your own" to the need," and to the middle class.
I'm a MSNBC fan but I think the President was way too laid back, way too professoral. The data suggest that debates don't determine the outcome of the election, and it could be that the President and his advisers decided to do most of the wrestling with television ads and not in the middle of the debates and risk making the President seem too agressive.
Senator Kerry laid the second George Bush out in the first debate and George Bush won a solid victory. So we may be too worried about theatrics.
The one elected official who commented after the debate was Senator Bennet from Colorado and he watched the debate from the audience in the hall and not in front of television and he thought that Romney came across as a guy who still will say anything to be elected. The Senator said that most voters know he's a rich man who revealed his true colors in his 47 percent comment.
Another weird note: I went to the same high school that Jim Lehrer did; he was two or three years ahead of me, Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio. He's a nice guy, smart, wise, but he let Romney run the debate. I'm not sure that matters to the average undecided voter. More than that, I was on McNeil-Lehrer once and we talked after the interview (on drinking and driving) about high school and politics, and Lehrer was thoughtful and, well, biased in favor of reasonable government activism. But tonight he simply had no control over Romney.
Lehrer simply let Romney take command of the debate, and perhaps it doesn't matter if debates don't matter as much as we all think. Obama lost and that's not good.
Yet others were saying that Obama and Lehrer allowed Romeny to go on the record and brag about "Taxachusetts" having the best schools in America, and the right wing may have been sitting there and saying "Hey, are you bragging about high taxes?"
It was a weird disappointing night yet I kept thinking, Kerry wiped up the floor with Bush, and Bush won. And surely the Obama people know that. Maybe the Obama people were determined to allow the reckless, heedless Romney to show his true, "I'll say anything to be president," colors.
Was that a debate or was it a Mohammed Ali "rope-a-dope" trap laid out for Romney to show the Tea Party that they were being played for fools.
Biden may help pull the Democrats back into the ring, and it's likely that Obama is still ahead, but not by so much. It is easier to do what Romney did with his "say anything" style and no one can pin me down. But the president needs to fight for his programs, and aggressively.
No matter who won, Mr. Obama should remember, "No more Mr. Nice guy." I don't think Romney caused many people to change their minds on matters of policy but Obama came across as passive and too laid back.