Looking Back At Obama’s Debate And Forward At Biden’s

There have been many attempts to analyze Barack Obama after the first presidential debate. I believe Joe Klein has a fairly accurate description. First he debunked any arguments as to Obama’s ability to speak on the issues:

The President is no dummy; he’s as well versed in the nuances of policy as Bill Clinton, if decidedly less compelling. Watch him in any press conference. Go back and look at his question-and-answer session with House Republicans after the 2010 election. He knows his stuff. But there haven’t been many press conferences–or town meetings, for that matter. His kinder debate critics said he was rusty, which is true, but there’s more to it than that. Obama chooses to be rusty. This is also strange: he’s warm and informal in person. He enjoys a good policy discussion–and I mean discussion, in which he actually responds to things you say or ask rather than speechifying. In my experience, though, he hates small talk, especially flattery, and that gets us closer to the heart of his current troubles.

Klein gave more examples. Even read the transcript of the debate. Obama actually did have the answers to many of Romney’s erroneous statements. The problem is that the delivery was so bad that the message got totally lost. Klein got into why Obama wasn’t into this type of debate:

>When I asked several close Obama associates about the President’s reluctance to sell his policies, they admitted their frustration. They said he hates doing things that he considers transparently political. He hates the idea of inviting a bunch of pols over to the White House for a drink or a movie, because they’d see it as an obvious bribe. He’d have to fake small talk; they’d try to Holbrooke him. He hates press conferences because the gotcha questions are calibrated to generate heat rather than light. He hates the notion of launching precooked zingers in debates. He hates debates, period, with their false air of portent and stage-managed aggression. These are inconvenient prejudices if you want to be re-elected. Such ceremonies are the price of admission if you want to be a politician.

Tonight is Joe Biden’s turn. He might be better suited for this format than Obama is. Biden is far more likely to use simple slogans as opposed to wonkish, professorial explanations which don’t work in this format. “GM is alive and bin Laden is dead.”That is not Obama’s style, but that is what is needed in this type of debate.

Hopefully after the first debate, Biden could get in a few simple points. Debunk the distortion that Obama is cutting Medicare and point out how the Romney/Ryan plan harms Medicare. And yes, that includes many currently on Medicare. Point out how the math is simple when looking at Romney’s tax plan. Either the deficit gets much higher or the middle class pays more in taxes (and probably both). Point out how after Romney claimed his health care plan protects people with pre-existing conditions in the first debate his campaign admitted the following day that the plan did not guarantee such coverage.  Remind women of how Romney would allow the government to interfere in what should be the private decisions of the individual. Plus, for many women the loss of Planned Parenthood is an economic issue as well as a social issue. Remind viewers of how badly Romney messed up when talking with foreign leaders. Bring back the 47 percent and questions as to why Romney won’t release his tax returns.

Should Ryan try to play Romney’s game and deny the positions they have been running on, in addition to pointing this out Biden should also point out how government works. If Romney is president will he really veto extremist policies passed by the Republicans–who have already voted to end Medicare as we know it and increase government intrusion in the lives of individuals? Will Romney appoint Supreme Court justices who support reproductive rights? I doubt it.

Most important of all, a good showing by Biden would get the media to stop repeating the simplistic storyline that Obama lost the debate. The fact remains that, despite a poor presentation, Obama was right on the issues, and the candidate on stage who was most qualified to be president.

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