Debate wrap up

Only hyper-partisans today are saying that President Barack Obama won Wednesday’s debate. The rest of the world saw a halting, tentative president who failed to press home points as effectively as his Republican rival,  Mitt Romney, did.

Mitt’s a good debater. I’m just OK,” Obama said at a rally that presaged three days of debate prep here in Southern Nevada. Turns out, he was absolutely right.

Romney may have done himself the most good by repeatedly saying how much he loves the middle class. (Contrast that with what he told those donors at a $50,000-per-plate fundraiser: His job was not to worry about the 47 percent of people who are dependent on government benefits and could not be convinced to take personal responsibility and care for their lives.)

But Obama scored a couple of points that were lost amid the chaos of the format at Romney’s relentless messaging.

First, he raised the math question that still plagues Romney’s shifting tax plan. How can Romney credibly claim he will cut the deficit and reduce debt when he’s going to cut taxes as well as spend more on defense? Romney replied that he wasn’t going to cut taxes that much — cheer at this brand-new revleation, conservatives! — and that he would eliminate deductions and loopholes while he lowered rates.

But, the president replied, if that’s so, won’t popular deductions such as those for mortgage interest, charitable contributions and health care fall? And if they do, isn’t that the equivalent of a tax increase? And would that not burden the middle class? And would we still not need fairly deep cuts into essential programs to make this all add up? Good questions all.

Second, Obama attacked the latest iteration of the Romney Medicare plan — to introduce a voucher-style privatized plan alongside traditional Medicare, giving people what Romney called a choice. Obama warned that private plans would glean as many healthy (and, thus, lower cost) patients as possible, leaving Medicare to insure sicker (and, thus, higher cost) patients. That could imperil the government-run program, which now pools healthy and sick alike.

There were other details lost in the debate — for example, Romney referred repeatedly to the 23 million unemployed Americans, but Obama never replied that he’s finally seen a net increase of private sector jobs from the beginning of his term. Obama was unable to answer when Romney reminded him of his unfulfilled promise to cut the deficit in half. And Romney no doubt disappointed supporters of Ron Paul with this line; “You can’t have a free market work without regulations.” (Of course that’s true; it’s just nice to hear a supercapitalist admit the free market is anything but free.)

Oh, one last thing: The wrangling over health-care plans bordered on silly. Romney’s position was that it would be perfectly OK for states to each implement Romney-style, mandate-driven health care reform plans, but that it’s not OK for the federal government to do so. (We know that’s wrong, since the Supreme Court has settled this question.)

Romney was at pains to distinguish his plan from Obama’s — he claimed it was bipartisan, that it didn’t raise taxes and that he didn’t have an unelected panel to decide what coverage would be offered.

To those points: Romney in Massachusetts did not face what Obama did, a relentless Republican opposition dedicated to stopping any and every initiative at any cost, having declared his defeat their No. 1 priority. (Romney, instead, dealt with a Massachusetts Legislature made up of majority Democrats open to providing health-care to the Bay State’s citizens.)

Obama’s health-care plan doesn’t raise taxes — that is, unless one chooses to ignore the law and not get insurance.

And the “panel” argument? (Romney didn’t call it a “death panel,” although that clearly was the implication.) That panel exists to find cost savings in providing care, something that all intelligent medical systems should seek to do. (A recent report by the Institute of Medicine found $750 billion in wasted health care dollars in a single year.)


8 Responses to “Debate wrap up”

  1. ColinFromLasVegas says:

    Enjoyed the article, Mr. Sebelius. And I pretty much agree. Except for who won. President Obama stuck with the facts, while Romney dealt with the superficial, the non-specific, the right wing rhetoric, and absolutely no transparency. We’re pretty much left with no information about him STILL.

    Everybody is coming forward and loudly proclaiming Romney won. But when you look at the important stuff, I believe President Obama stuck with facts, while Romney went all over the place. Kind of hard to argue with someone who believes the world is flat. No matter what kind of proof you offer up.

    In short, Romney’s campaign slogan still remains the same. And it goes like this….

    Tax the poor,
    Not the rich,
    People are starvin’,
    Ain’t that a…bummer.

    (Tricked ya, didn’t I? You thought I was gonna cuss like the retired Sailor I am, didn’t ya?)

  2. Edward Hamlton says:

    Prez Obama lost the debate despite the additional 4 minutes –according to CNN debate timekeeping–he extracted from the moderator. He spent 3 nites and four days relaxing in Lake Las Vegas Resorts, not too far from my home. Maybe he drank too much Lake Mead cocktails …

  3. Jerry Sturdivant says:

    I wish you’d fix that “Black List” setting.

  4. Jerry Sturdivant says:

    Wow! Debates are easy for Romney: “I’m not going to abolish the Department of Education after all.” “I’m not going to cut education after all.” “I won’t cut grants to people going to college after all.” “I’ve changed my mind; we DO need more teachers after all.” I’m not going to repeal the Dodd-Frank law after all; I’ll replace it – I just can’t tell you with what.” “I’m not going to make a $5 trillion tax cut after all, it’s revenue neutral, (but I’ll cut taxes).” “I was just kidding about that tax cut for the rich being paid for by the middle class.” “I’m not going to cut taxes for the rich after all. (And when I do, you’ll have to trust me on what deductions I’d take away, and that it will be just for the rich).” “I actually like the middle class (don’t believe that 47% thingy).”

  5. Jerry Sturdivant says:

    Well, I had about three pages of Romney dodges, but I’ll just end it with these:
    “I’m going to replace Obamacare but I just can’t tell you with what; (other than it will increase costs to seniors).” “Those regulations on Wall Street actually ARE good after all; ‘Regulations are essential,’ I just can’t tell you what those new regulations will be (that I don’t want but will put in).” “No tax cuts I make will add to the deficit (except they will, just like Bush’s).” “There are enough deductions and loopholes to make up for the $5 trillion in tax cuts (that I’m not going to make). And those removed deductions and loopholes will only affect the rich (except I said they wouldn’t), not the middle class.” “These are MY new plans (even though it’s the House Caucus – Teabaggers – that have to switch over to it from their Ryan plan).” == “Gee, debates are easy, just lie and flip-flop.”

  6. Chandler Chandler says:

    Steverino, it is nice to see that even you, a man of such discerning intellect, may be dazzled by a display of style over substance. But in the same way we do not ask presidential candidates ‘who they are wearing’, we must concentrate on WHAT IS ACTUALLY SAID. Unfortunately, it seems that sober discourse was trumped by emotional bravado. Pity you prefer the angry child.

  7. Chandler: I don’t know what to say other than that this post was entirely about substance over style.

  8. Steve says:

    This was the first unscripted presidential debate I have ever seen.

    Defend him all you want guys, Obama lost that debate. From the outset.

    Steve has the guts to say so. In fact he said so 18 minutes after the debate.

    Kudos Steve, even as you try to defend him you know this has implications right up to the election.

    I still maintain the election is Obama’s to lose but Obama has taken his first few steps down that road leading to loss.

    After Biden and Ryan spar next week, the second debate is Obama’s only hope to fix this but by them viewership will drop and it will be the media who reports on the debate that Obama will have to rely.

    Look for Obama to do some real debate prep next time.

    On a positive note. I have been told and have experienced, Vegas always gets even. Last night Vegas got even.

    I can now vote Romney with a clear conscience.