The second presidential debate was an intense pugilistic contest between two men, one a fit, confident contender, the other a street-fighter from oligarchic gangland. The contrast is as stark as that in the epic battle between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire. Foreman, the champion, was a slugger, a street-fighter like Romney who believed that he could pummel Ali and win on brute strength.
President Obama is a far more nimble and versatile opponent than Romney. Romney, the street-fighter, believes that he can bully his opponent with sly, underhanded blows when he is not looking. It turned out, that the far more sophisticated Obama, parried his opponent easily and jabbed incessantly with body blows for which Romney had few defenses. Obama’s body blows reminded me of the style of a Rocky Marciano, who would grind his opponent down with blows to the abdomen, combined with the skill of Ali’s thrust and parry.
On the killing of the US ambassador in Benghazi, Romney thought that he could get his opponent on the ropes and bludgeon him into submission with trite, false accusations. He accused the president of taking two weeks to come out with the fact that the attack was an orchestrated terrorist attack. It turns out that the President had called the assault a terrorist attack on the day after the event. He turned the tables swiftly, just as Ali often did, calling the politicization of the attacks “offensive”, which they were. Any commander-in-chief would wait until he was in possession of the facts before deciding whether something like this is a planned attack by terrorists or not.
According to journalists on the ground in Benghazi, the video insulting Muhammad was quickly circulated in Libya and caused an initial response from protesters. Some individuals, possibly members of Al Qaeda, used the protests as an excuse to attack the mission. Libya is awash with weapons, which they used in the attack. According to watchers, it was a poorly executed attack, and was probably spontaneous rather than planned. The President clearly knocked Romney to his knees with his jabs.
This nation does not need another incompetent president, like Bush, invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 armed with false evidence about weapons of mass destruction.
When Romney claimed that he had a five point plan, the details of which were sketchy or non-existent, the president counter-punched with the charge that Romney has a one point plan, which was to ensure that wealthy became even wealthier. Everything that I have seen of Romney’s plans would enrich the top 1% and crush the Middle Class with higher taxes.
Romney criticized Obama for not allowing oil drilling on federal lands, which Obama calmly sidestepped and jabbed with the fact that they took licenses away from companies that were not using them, and also that drilling had actually increased on his watch. Romney criticized Obama’s veto of the oil pipeline from Canada, to which Obama claimed that they had built enough pipeline to stretch around the globe. Score yet another blow for Obama.
On assault weapons, Romney plainly wants anyone with a pulse to be able to purchase these weapons, a huge assault on the safety of people that want no part of military-style weapons. Obama again forcefully said that he has put forward legislation to curb ex-felons from obtaining these weapons of great destructive power. In addition, he pointed out that Romney has been endorsed by the increasingly strident extremists in the National Rifle Association.
On China, Romney became positively belligerent, typical of the kind of bullying angry white guy politics for which he is becoming famous. He blatantly broke the rules of the debate by invading Obama’s territory and accusing the president of having investments in China. The difference between the investments that Romney and Obama have are quite stark. Obama quite probably has mutual funds over which he has no control. Romney, on the other hand is personally involved in companies that blatantly outsource jobs to China, while getting laid off American workers to train their Chinese replacements. The unnecessary confrontation initiated by Romney was rather like Foreman attacking Ali after the bell sounds for the end of the round.
Romney claims that on day one he would label China a currency manipulator, yet another issue that he would tackle on an extremely busy first day that will include eliminating Obamacare. Aside from the fact that such an action would have an immediate response from Beijing, there are ways to accomplish this type of thing with diplomacy. This country does not need a President that violates international etiquette rules and sparks a round of bitter recriminations from friend and foe. Obama, naturally, responded that he has worked within the rules of the WTO to prevent countries from China from engaging in unfair trade practices, as he is supposed to do. That is why the United States was one of the initiators of the organization. China is also forced to operate within those trade rules.
Romney’s comments on the energy economy just stretches the bounds of credulity. To create three million jobs in the energy sector is highly unlikely. There are only so many jobs that you could create out of an oil pipeline. Even if you add all the jobs that you might create with new oil rigs off the coast, natural gas fracking within the continent and an ecologically risky pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast, there are just not enough jobs to create three million positions. It just is not feasible. Obama’s plan is far more nuanced and sensible, taking into account the natural resources that we have in this country in terms of oil and gas, and adding in newer green technologies like wind, solar, geothermal and hydro, in addition to implementing fuel economy standards that help to conserve energy. Obama clearly battered Romney on this point.
On trade, Obama scored more points when he mocked Romney’s get tough on China stance. Romney is the man who bought up shares in failing companies, fired their workers, gave himself and his predatory firm, Bain Capital enormous dividends, and outsourced jobs to China. He was one of the architects of the China policy that many large corporations follow today.
Romney attempted to paint the president as someone that added trillions to the national debt, without acknowledging that the President inherited enormous debts from his predecessor, including two ridiculous and unnecessary wars, an unpaid for medical benefit, and a collapsing economy due to the housing crisis. Obama deftly parried these attacks, despite their effectiveness, with a discourse on his record, including pulling this country from the depths of the greatest recession in 70 years, and increasing jobs at the same time.
All in all, Obama was agile, deft in his thrust and parry, by far the superior in the ring that night, as poetic as Ali with his “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”, scoring blow after blow against his inept, angry opponent. His opponent never managed to connect to the crowd, or present himself as someone presidential enough to assume the office of the president.
After a hard-fought night of blow and counter blow, the climax could not have been more poignant. Romney started by blaming Obama for all the negative advertising, while his own campaign machine gun ran through magazine after magazine of bitter negative advertising. And then he made his fatal mistake. He said, in a belligerent manner that no matter what anyone said about him, he cares about 100% of the people.
The President pounced, like Ali seeing an opening weakness in his opponent. He brought out the fact that behind closed doors, Romney declared that 47% of the people are lazy moochers that consider themselves victims and don’t take responsibility for their own lives. Obama told the audience that these people were people on Social Security, veterans, students and soldiers, not lazy moochers that only take from the government.
While Romney was flailing through the air with a half hearted right jab, Obama slipped in and finished the fight with a strong uppercut to Romney’s extended jaw. It was a fitting TKO to a debate that was testy, heated, in which Obama was assertive and dominant and Romney an out-of-shape angry, white, rich guy.
On to November 6th.
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