Crikey. So apparently the entire world, except for morons and some talking heads (but I repeat myself) thinks that Obama won that one.
And the entire world is correct.
Even Luke “I cover Capitol Hill for NBC News. Been sweating it out in the streets of a runaway American dream since 1985.” Russert knows Obama calmly and politely dropped Mitt to the floor and trod on his balls for about 75 minutes, and Luke Russert is a dumb as paint.
If you have not watched the debate, then you should. Seeing Mitt’s slick demeanor slowly disintegrate into that of a narky, jittery, fussbudget snake-oil salesman is a pleasure all of its own, but what is more fun is watching Obama pleasantly yet firmly take control of the evening, and use his time to lay out clearly what he has achieved and what he wants to achieve if he is given the chance. This was a President talking to his nation, and it was good.
There is a transcript here (hopefully this link will work FYWP) as well.
I find the beginning of the debate so fascinating that this post is all about the first seventeen minutes or so, and I will deal with the rest tomorrow. This post is quite long, so you may wish to make yourself a cup of tea.
Mitt starts out in affable mode. His major theme for the evening is “I know how to make jobs because five point plan”. He brings it out first thing and he keeps returning to it like stink on a badger all night, no matter the question he has been asked. One of the root causes of Mitt’s problems, I suspect, is that he is a CEO. He is used to sticking up a powerpoint that says:
1. Give me money.
and having everyone applaud. As CEO he doesn’t need to know how the numbers work, or interact with the people who know how the numbers work (or indeed if they do work). He certainly doesn’t have people pushing what he says back at him. He’s not good at affable unless it’s with people who are also smug entitled pricks. And it shows.
Romney: And likewise you’ve got more and more debt on your back. So more debt and less jobs. I’m going to change that. I know what it takes to create good jobs again. I know what it takes to make sure that you have the kind of opportunity you deserve. And kids across this country are going to recognize, we’re bringing back an economy.
It’s not going to be like the last four years. The middle-class has been crushed over the last four years, and jobs have been too scarce. I know what it takes to bring them back, and I’m going to do that, and make sure that when you graduate – when do you graduate?
ROMNEY: 2014. When you come out in 2014, I presume I’m going to be president. I’m going to make sure you get a job. Thanks Jeremy. Yeah, you bet.
I didn’t quote some waffle about empowering students, but that’s pretty much Mitt’s opening. It’s quite sad, and reminded me very much of this (except with even less gorm):
Obama comes out swinging. It’s such a good opening answer I’m going to quote the whole thing.
OBAMA: Jeremy, first of all, your future is bright. And the fact that you’re making an investment in higher education is critical. Not just to you, but to the entire nation. Now, the most important thing we can do is to make sure that we are creating jobs in this country. But not just jobs, good paying jobs. Ones that can support a family.
And what I want to do, is build on the five million jobs that we’ve created over the last 30 months in the private sector alone. And there are a bunch of things we can do to make sure your future is bright.
Number one, I want to build manufacturing jobs in this country again. Now when Governor Romney said we should let Detroit go
bankrupt. I said we’re going to bet on American workers and the American auto industry and it’s come surging back.
I want to do that in industries, not just in Detroit, but all across the country and that means we change our tax code so we’re giving incentives to companies that are investing here in the United States and creating jobs here.
It also means we’re helping them and small businesses to export all around the world to new markets.
Number two, we’ve got to make sure that we have the best education system in the world. And the fact that you’re going to
college is great, but I want everybody to get a great education and we’ve worked hard to make sure that student loans are available for folks like you, but I also want to make sure that community colleges are offering slots for workers to get retrained for the jobs that are out there right now and the jobs of the future.
Number three, we’ve got to control our own energy. Now, not only oil and natural gas, which we’ve been investing in; but also, we’ve got to make sure we’re building the energy source of the future, not just thinking about next year, but ten years from now, 20 years from now. That’s why we’ve invested in solar and wind and biofuels, energy efficient cars.
We’ve got to reduce our deficit, but we’ve got to do it in a balanced way. Asking the wealthy to pay a little bit more along with cuts so that we can invest in education like yours.
And let’s take the money that we’ve been spending on war over the last decade to rebuild America, roads, bridges schools. We do those things, not only is your future going to be bright but America’s future is going to bright as well.
Textbook. Then Mitt talks blah I love cars blah and then Obama manages to rattle Mitt with a few gooduns and never really looks back, particularly when the evil left winger Crowley steals Mitt’s chance to reply.
OBAMA: Candy, what Governor Romney said just isn’t true. He wanted to take them into bankruptcy without providing them any way to stay open. And we would have lost a million jobs. And that – don’t take my word for it, take the executives at GM and Chrysler, some of whom are Republicans, may even support Governor Romney. But they’ll tell you his prescription wasn’t going to work.
And Governor Romney’s says he’s got a five-point plan? Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan. He has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules. That’s been his philosophy in the private sector, that’s been his philosophy as governor, that’s been his philosophy as a presidential candidate.
You can make a lot of money and pay lower tax rates than somebody who makes a lot less. You can ship jobs overseas and get tax breaks for it. You can invest in a company, bankrupt it, lay off the workers, strip away their pensions, and you still make money.
That’s exactly the philosophy that we’ve seen in place for the last decade. That’s what’s been squeezing middle class families.
And we have fought back for four years to get out of that mess. The last thing we need to do is to go back to the very same policies that got us there.
CROWLEY: Mr. President, the next question is going to be for you here.
And, Mr. Romney – Governor Romney – there’ll be plenty of chances here to go on, but I want to…
ROMNEY: That – that Detroit – that Detroit answer…
CROWLEY: We have all these folks.
ROMNEY: … that Detroit answer…
CROWLEY: I will let you absolutely…
ROMNEY: … and the rest of the answer, way off the mark.
CROWLEY: OK. Will – will – you certainly will have lots of time here coming up.
This throws Mitt badly and he never gets it entirely back. His polite yet pushy routine becomes just a little bit more pushy. He decides that he is going to address Obama directly, and at the beginning of Mitt’s own time for reply no less, and argy bargy ensues:
ROMNEY: But that’s not what you’ve done in the last four years. That’s the problem. In the last four years, you cut permits and licenses on federal land and federal waters in half.
OBAMA: Not true, Governor Romney.
ROMNEY: So how much did you cut (inaudible)?
OBAMA: Not true.
ROMNEY: How much did you cut them by, then?
OBAMA: Governor, we have actually produced more oil –
ROMNEY: No, no. How much did you cut licenses and permits on federal land and federal waters?
OBAMA: Governor Romney, here’s what we did. There were a whole bunch of oil companies.
ROMNEY: No, no, I had a question and the question was how much did you cut them by?
OBAMA: You want me to answer a question –
ROMNEY: How much did you cut them by?
OBAMA: I’m happy to answer the question.
ROMNEY: All right. And it is –
OBAMA: Here’s what happened. You had a whole bunch of oil companies who had leases on public lands that they weren’t using. So what we said was you can’t just sit on this for 10, 20, 30 years, decide when you want to drill, when you want to produce, when it’s most profitable for you. These are public lands. So if you want to drill on public lands, you use it or you lose it.
Obama wins the argy and the bargy. During that last bit, Romney stands by facing Obama like a blank blinky automaton patiently waiting for his turn. Obama even wanders forward on the stage a bit so Mitt has to turn his entire body to keep facing him. Finally Mitt decides he needs to engage.
ROMNEY: OK, (inaudible) –
OBAMA: And so what we did was take away those leases. And we are now reletting them so that we can actually make a profit.
ROMNEY: And production on private – on government land –
OBAMA: Production is up.
ROMNEY: – is down.
OBAMA: No, it isn’t.
ROMNEY: Production on government land of oil is down 14 percent.
OBAMA: Governor –
ROMNEY: And production on gas –
OBAMA: It’s just not true.
ROMNEY: It’s absolutely true. Look, there’s no question but the people recognize that we have not produced more (inaudible) on federal lands and in federal waters. And coal, coal production is not up; coal jobs are not up.
I was just at a coal facility, where some 1,200 people lost their jobs. The right course for America is to have a true all-of-the-above policy.
Mitt is edgy all through this while Obama is calm. Oh, and that last (inaudible)? That was Obama saying “I’ll give you your time. Go ahead.” The knife it is sharp and you barely feel the sting. If you look closely Candy laughs.
Mitt can’t help himself though. He’s clearly been told that he has to get the upper hand just like last time and so (like a moth battering itself at a light) he addresses Obama directly again.
I don’t think anyone really believes that you’re a person who’s going to be pushing for oil and gas and coal.
Obama stands up, presumably because he has been spoken to, and right there, Mitt pretty much loses the debate.
ROMNEY: You’ll get your chance in a moment. I’m still speaking.
OBAMA: Well –
ROMNEY: And the answer is I don’t believe people think that’s the case –
OBAMA: – Governor, if you’re asking me a question.
ROMNEY: That wasn’t the question.
ROMNEY: That was a statement.
Charles Pierce aptly described the moment last night.
Outside of street protestors, and that Iraqi guy who threw a shoe at George W. Bush, I have never seen a more lucid example of manifest public disrespect for a sitting president than the hair-curling contempt with which Romney invested those words. (I’ve certainly never seen one from another candidate.) He’s lucky Barack Obama prizes cool over everything else. LBJ would have taken out his heart with a pair of salad tongs and Harry Truman would have bitten off his nose.
All these things are very true.
It was the CEO talking down to the mailboy or a particularly impertinent Junior Vice President for Marketing. It was Mitt retreating in his extremity to the strategy that always works with the maids or the Latino gardener when they get beyond their station. It was the beginning of a very bad night for Mitt.
It was unpresidential. And I suspect it lost Mitt the election.