An Audience of 60 Million Watched a Presidential Disaster
Continued from previous page
See, in a discussion of the role of government, Mr. Obama could have brought up Mr. Romney's widely-known opinions on 47 percent of the populace, and annihilated for all time the idea that half the country is comprised of victims who only want to live on the public dole. He didn't. Mr. Obama could have brought up the state-level GOP government jihad on women's reproductive rights, and indeed on women's very lives.
Mr. Obama served up another word-salad instead, and allowed Mr. Romney to escape a moment that could have defined not only this campaign, but the ongoing argument in this country. Mr. Obama had the opportunity, in front of 60 million people, to tattoo the catechism of the far right onto Mr. Romney's forehead, but once again, he let the moment slide by.
Which brings me, most frustratingly, to moment number three.
In minute 77 of the debate, Mr. Romney donned a big, sad hound-dog face and rolled off a litany of economic woes currently being endured by the American people. Here is the big chance, I thought as I watched, for Mr. Obama to put the bricks to his opponent in undeniable fashion. Here is the moment to repeat everything Romney said about high unemployment, more people on food stamps and all the rest of that sad, accurate assessment of modern American life...and then remind the country of the Republican Party's catastrophic record during the 21st century, remind everyone that Romney is a Republican, and say, "You built that."
Talk about a zinger.
But of course it didn't happen. Mr. Romney was allowed to go on and on about the economic problems America is dealing with without ever once having to recognize and answer for the fact that it was the policies of his own party - indeed, the policies he still espouses - that caused this whole debacle to begin with...because Mr. Obama failed to hold all that against him. It isn't as if Mr. Obama doesn't know these things. He does. We all do; it's axiomatic at this point. He just failed to call the guilty parties to account, on national television, in front of 60 million Americans, at the moment when doing so would have, quite simply, sealed the deal.
Mr. Obama had opportunity after opportunity to draw a bright, shining line between the policies he is pursuing and the demented nonsense being espoused by his opponent, and he could not summon the will to do so. Mr. Obama had the opportunity to underscore the dangerous madness boiling behind the scenes of Romney's plastic-fantastic campaign, and he failed to do so. Allowing such a freight of nonsense to pass undisturbed gives that freight unwarranted legitimacy, and Mr. Obama was too polite - or too whatever - to call out The Crazy for what it is.
Here's what I know for sure: The "mainstream" news media has been slavering for an opportunity to explode the headlines and TV shows with "Romney's Back, It's Close!" stories, because a close race is what moves the money their way. They got their chance on Wednesday night, and they will take it. Welcome to the rest of the week, and the weeks to come.
Here's what I know for sure: blaming the moderator is a weak excuse. Jim Lehrer was terrible, but Mr. Obama is very suddenly running out of time to demonstrate that he is the President of the United States of America, and not just a nice guy who allows himself to be interrupted with a pained look on his face by a professional liar and an incompetent media fossil.