Debate, or Debacle?

Normally, I would just launch into a piece exploring specifics of Wednesday night’s debate, grudgingly giving Romney a thumbs up for what appeared to be a winning performance, but was later determined to be a bunch of half truths and lies mixed with a smattering of reality. But the thing that plagued and intrigued me most was: what was President Obama thinking while he was behaving in such a, for lack of a better way of putting it, unpresidential manner. Once the thought appeared in my head it became the gift that kept on giving. Don’t get me wrong, Obama’s still my President. One bad performance doesn’t change that for me, and nothing could turn Mitt Romney into someone who should, in my opinion, in any way be trusted to run the country I love, nor should his party of “me first, me first, me first” be given an opportunity to drag us back to a time best forgotten. So:

What was Obama Thinking?
  • Looking at Mitt’s perky pink face is the last thing on my list of “how I want to spend my anniversary!”
  • Is he reading my mind? Did I just hear him open with: “And congratulations to you, Mr. President, on your anniversary. I'm sure this was the most romantic place you could imagine here — here with me, so I — (laughter) — congratulations.
  • Michelle really does look so beautiful.
  • Wait a minute! What’s that he just said about protecting the middle class? That’s not what he’s been saying! I don’t think I can call him a liar. Damn!
  • Is it me, or are Mitt’s eyes blinking like a broken traffic light?
  • Wait another minute! Now he’s shifted his position on Healthcare and Medicare and using my words to do it. What’s with this guy?
  • Wow there he goes again, pretending he’s smart, when he’s clearly swallowed Mitch McConnell’s Kool-Aid:
  • I gotta get in a remark about the 47 percent, but wait a minute; did he just say Big Bird?
  • Am I hallucinating? ‘Cause I thought I just heard him put down Big Bird.
  • Aw, come on Mitt, leave Jim Lehrer alone!
  • There he goes with that shit-eating, eye batting grin again...
  • Phew, only fifteen minutes to go. What could happen now?
  • Oh, hey that was an outright lie!
  • And another! Can I call him on it or will that sound uppity?
  • Liar, liar pants on…
  • Oh, shit. What’s the point?

Why Obama Lost

On a more serious note, I’m posting an article by George Lakoff, whom I greatly admire. He is the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, and a founding senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute. 

Why Obama Lost the First Debate 
by George Lakoff (Photo: Reuters)
Published on Thursday, by Common Dreams

You don’t win a presidential debate by being a policy wonk. Obama violated all the basics of presidential debating. The best defense is a good offense. You have to set the terms of the debate and press those terms. Obama failed. Here are those:
  • State your moral values. Contrast them with your opponent’s.
  • Project empathy and enthusiasm. Connect.
  • Communicate clearly and simply.
  • Be authentic. Say just what you believe.
  • Project trust.
  • Present an authentic view of yourself that the public can identify with and be proud of.
Obama did none of this. Instead he talked about policy details. 
He needed to come on strong from the first sentence. 
Democracy is based on citizens caring about and taking responsibility for both themselves and for the well-being of all. Government is the instrument that citizens use to guarantee protection and empowerment for all. We all, together, provide what is needed for a decent life. Individual accomplishment rests on what other Americans have provided and keep providing. 
Building the economy requires public investment — in public infrastructure, education, research, and much more. 
Success is much more than money. It is your contribution to America as a whole — whether it is teaching, raising children, providing food, healing the sick, making useful products, guaranteeing our rights and our safety, or running businesses that make life better. America needs us all. And we all depend on each other. Personal responsibility is necessary. But it doesn’t. 
Obama made a lame attempt to correct Jim Lehrer’s use of “entitlements.” He should have pointed out that such money is earned through a life. People have worked for, and contributed earnings. 
All policies rest on morality — upon being the right thing to do. Obama needed to make the case that it is right, as well as to support women’s rights, and gay rights, safe food, education, basic research, and on and on.
Obama believes this. To win, he needs to say what he believes, and press Romney. 
George Lakoff is the author of The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic (co-authored with Elizabeth Wehling). His previous books include Moral Politics, Don't Think of an Elephant!, Whose Freedom? and Thinking Points (with the Rockridge Institute staff). He is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, and a founding senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute.

I would recommend one other article, which was sent to me by my friend Blake Franklin. It is an editorial titled, Obama for President: A Second Term for a Serious Man. It ran in from the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the newspaper that I read every day for the two years I spent as a student at Washington University.

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