Tag: Presidential Debates

RNC Whining vs. DNC Whining

After the last Republican debate, the GOP was miffed about the tone and content of the questions asked. Almost everyone thought the questions were terrible, that the commentators interrupted too much and the debate was even less informative than these things tend to be (all except Vox, because of course). In the wake of the debate, the RNC has suspended their partnership with NBC.

(One thing to clear up. This does cancel the broadcast of GOP debates on Telemundo, which is supposedly racist or something. But that’s a temporary thing. They could easily find another Spanish-language outlet. ABC has an association with Univision. Fox has their own Spanish-language channel. This is about NBC, not Telemundo.)

In the wake of this, every liberal outlet is bashing the GOP for “whining” about the debate. According to them, the Republicans are big babies. Their proof of this? Fox News asked tough questions too. But in making that comparison, they illustrate precisely the problem. Fox News’ questioning was pointed, but it was not ridiculous. It was managed well and it did not try to pit the candidates against each other or focus on trivial nonsense. At one point during the debate, Chris Christie got some of the biggest cheers of the night for castigating the hosts for asking questions about fantasy football. Everyone — liberal and conservative alike — thought Fox’s questioning was at least solid. No one — liberal or conservative — thought CNBC’s was.

But here’s the real rub. The Democrats did the same thing in 2007, withdrawing from a debate hosted by Fox News because, ostensibly, they didn’t like some things Roger Ailes had said about Obama. They couldn’t specify what precisely Ailes said, but they assured us that, whatever it was, it was really really bad. The really real reason, of course, was that they were pressure from MoveOn and other liberals orgs that hated Fox News. So the Democrats did not have a Fox News debate in 2008. And they won’t have one this year. I realize that the Left has decided that Fox News is Objectively Evil. But I can’t help but wonder … just a bit … if that decision was made because Fox News is the only news channel that would challenge the Democrats. Every other host — NPR, PBS, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, F/X, ESPN, VH1, TLC, MTV, Disney, Nickelodeon, the Cartoon Network, the Sci-Fi Channel, THC, NG, CSPAN — would be friendly to them.

So … who exactly are the whiners who can’t face tough questions?

Monday Morning Giggle: SNL Debate

I don’t usually watch Saturday Night Live, but had to catch it this weekend to see what they would do with the debate. They did not disappoint. The opening sketch was great, but they absolutely hammered MSNBC, particularly Al Sharpton. My favorite quote: “Nearly 70 million people watched the debate on TV, DVR, online or from one of the podiums.”

Post Debate Thoughts

It’s been two days; work and a nasty cold kept me from rolling out my thoughts on the debate. But I think it’s worth reviewing and discussing.

First, Obama got creamed. I think part of that is that he was caught off guard. Romney tacked sharply to the center, conceding policy ground on almost everything — regulation, Social Security, Medicare, Dodd-Frank. Obama was prepared to attack Primary Romney, the severe conservative. He was not prepared for the return of the moderate Massachusetts governor. And he was certainly not prepared for Romney to be so smooth and … well … presidential. Romney was on form, parrying all attacks, knowledgable about policy details and eschewing ideology. Obama simply was not ready for that, having convinced himself that Romney was an idiot that he would easily steamroll.

And he should have been prepared. Primaries are always played to the fringe; the election to the center. Obama, who shifted gears himself in 2008, should have known this. Romney won election in a heavily Democratic state; he knows how to play to the center. Romney was a consultant and an executive; he knows how to pitch.

Why wasn’t Obama prepared? There are a lot reasons for this but I think Megan McArdle’s breakdown is the best, particularly this point, which I also hashed out with Maggie McNeill on twitter:

The president lives in a bubble, and this president, in particular, has attracted a sort of worship that hasn’t followed any president since Kennedy, or maybe Reagan. (There’s a cult of Reagan now, but I don’t know whether that was true in 1984). You see it in things like the invitations to set up a wedding registry for donations to the Obama campaign, to send a Mother’s Day e-card celebrating the administration’s policy achievements, and of course, that infamous paragraph in the 2008 speech he gave after he locked up the Democratic nomination.

The fact that someone on his team wrote that line, and that no one else stopped him from delivering it, is remarkable. Even more remarkable is that four years later, many of his supporters do not grasp why so many people outside the Obama bubble–I’m tempted to say everyone who is not a die-hard supporter–find it hilariously narcissistic.

That is going to make it hard for the president to get good debate prep. With the time pressure he’s under, he needs to make every second of his debate prep count–which is to say, he needs an opponent who will absolutely pummel him. It seemed clear last night that they’ve been pitching him softballs, which is why he struck out on even completely obvious, predictible questions.

(I’ll speak to the Reagan thing: in Dinesh D’souza’s biography, he noted that Reagan was aware of the regard people had for him and, for that reason, rarely let his advisors know his opinion in advance of internal debates over policy. He feared that, once they knew where he stood, they would cant their arguments to support him.)

We’ve talked about the Cult of Personality before. You can see it the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments in the Left Wing commentariat over the debate performance (and their blaming of the useless Jim Lehrer). On MSNBC, it was like someone had died. Andrew Sullivan was practically in hysterics.

I think Obama has, on occasion, had a vague sense of this. But he hasn’t really made the kind of changes you need to make to keep the bubble from affecting your thinking. He seemed completely unprepared for Romney shifting his positions to the center. He was unable to mount even the most basic defense of his record. He seemed to think that just laying out his case would carry the day. He seemed to think that Romney would be as deferential and the audience as worshipful as … well, everyone around him.

(This Cult of Personality is, ironically, one of the reasons I would not be terribly distressed if Obama won, as long as the Republicans can get both houses. Having one of the most worshipped Presidents in recent history rendered impotent in his own White House would do a lot to crack the Cult of the Presidency and shift power back to Congress, where it belongs.)

Probably Obama’s only wise decision was to avoid attacking Romney on the 47% thing. While it enraged the liberal base, Obama clearly knew that Romney would be ready to parry it. Indeed, Romney today brought out the response line he never got to use. And it was not a bad one. I also suspect that Obama held back on attacking Romney because he knows the media will do it for him.

As for the substance of the debate, Reason has a lot of great analysis of the debate and why it was a nightmare for believers in limited government. Here for example, is a breakdown of the promises to reign in spending. Romney, in particular, was ludicrous, saying he was going to balance the budget while increasing defense and Medicare spending and not touching Social Security or Education. That’s … unpossible. Here is Nick Gillespie, pounding both candidates on education, immigration and Social Security.

In the end, I expect the debate will shift some voters to Romney but I doubt it will shift enough to decide the election. We’ve been enduring this for … well, for four years really. Most of the people who haven’t made up their minds can’t figure out how to operate a television anyway. But for the rest, I suspect Romney scooped them up. So there’s a thin hope that Obama will get tossed to the curb. And that’s better than things were a week ago.