Two Debates; Two Observations

Let me frame my observations with some disclosure: I would describe myself as a pro-commerce liberal. I favor workmen’s comp; I opposed mandatory employer-paid, non work-related disability insurance (required here in NYS). I oppose the minimum wage; I favor higher marginal rates on upper income earners. I favor (some degree of) favorable tax treatment for investment income; I also favor inheritance taxes. I fume over that 47% bullshit because I see the bite Uncle Sam takes out of my workers’ pay each and every week.

Now, my observations:

#1: Where was last night’s Obama two weeks ago? Yes, I know, this is not an original observation, but what I mean is I’m puzzled by the degree of variance. It was like a sub-10 second sprinter showing up at the Olympic trials and running a 12. The only thing that explains it to me is that two weeks ago Obama had the flu, and two weeks later he’s well again. Otherwise it’s simply a failure of will on Obama’s part, which is a little distressing.

#2 Why was Romney such an prick to the moderator last night? This not totally unsurprising; he pushed things in Colorado, but last night he was (to me at least) over the line. Is he really so tone-deaf and lacking in self-control? (Add misogynistic if you’re so inclined.) Whatever Romney’s personal quirks that make him inclined to act like an entitled prick, as with my hope that Obama would simply be able to “bring it to Colorado” because that’s his job, you’d think someone of Romney’s experience and accomplishment would be able to, simply through an act of will, behave better. But he didn’t.

At any rate, I’m looking forward to the opening of several coal-fired power plants here on Long Island and not paying any income tax on the $1.27 in interest my bank paid on our savings account this year. Fanfuckingtastic.



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38 thoughts on “Two Debates; Two Observations

  1. Good questions. I was wondering why last night’s Obama didn’t show up to the first debate myself. If this guy shows up to Debate 3, I guess I’ll chalk up the first performance to having an off night. Unfortunately, the first debate probably counts the most. I suspect Debate 3 is going to be a real grudge match, especially given Romney’s peevish behavior last night. This is a guy who really thinks he should get the last word. What was it with his muttering “government doesn’t create jobs” a couple times after the debate was clearly over.

    I don’t think this Romney was any different than the one who showed up to the first debate. He was rude and overbearing at both. The difference is that both Obama and Lehrer let him steamroll them the first go round, whereas this time Obama and Crowley didn’t let Mitt bully them, which clearly pissed him off. Romney’s a guy who is used to be the first among unequals; he sure doesn’t like it when the peons fight back.


    • They’ll remember the third one the most. Closing arguments are remembered better than opening ones.

      Romney’s a real asshole. The problem is, he doesn’t know how to turn that stuff off.

      Obama’s best job skill is not sounding like a dick.

      Memo to Obama: In debates, Don’t Doodle!


  2. 1) It was Denver. Strategems aside, Romney seemed a little exhilarated by the oxygen deprivation, and Obama a little hazy.

    2) Troll someone hard enough, and their true colors start showing. Romney’s ALWAYS a dick — this is the guy who told some old ladies kind enough to give him their famous cookies “these are pretty good… where’d you get ’em, 7-11?” Dick move, sir. And utterly pointless — why waste the votes?

    Well we didn’t get such a good pic this time (McCain’s is hilarious though, so I’m reposting):


  3. Your observation about how Romney came off is spot on, and something I was asking myself about last night. It’s almost as if you don’t quite have enough to judge Romney by on his own, and everything has to be seen through the prism of who he’s standing next to.

    I keep trying to think about *what* Romney did last night that was so different from two weeks ago, and I can’t think of anything. The President was worlds different, though, and I wonder if the way we perceive Mitt needs another person as a comparative counterpoint.


    • For whatever reason, the winning smirk/grin that Romney worn in Denver was changed to a pained grimace in Hempstead. As filmmaker, the grin/gimmace thing is something I’ve studied A LOT. Not in a what-part-of-the-brain neuroscience way, but in a gut-check how-does-this-read-on-the-screen way. The differences between the two are often physically subtle, but (I believe) we are hyper attuned to those difference.

      The other thing I saw on Romney’s face was a sort of water-eye near tears look that I often feel on my own face when I’m frustrated because I feel like I’m not getting my way, being treated unfairly and feel powerless to do anything about it. I recognize it in myself as my wounded inner child bubbling up, in spite of my actually being a reasonably successful 46 year old man with a high degree of agency. The word I would put on the feeling/look is “petulant”, which is exactly what my wife said without my prompting her. Like I said, we (we humans) are hyper-attuned to facial expressions in other human and what those expressions convey.

      Anyway, that’s what seemed different about Romney to me, Denver vs. Hemptead.


  4. Oh, and regarding your first observation, I think that you’ve made it clear what FOX’s post-debate narrative should be:



    • Heh, I had the same thought.,

      Apropos, the last two have been nights Verlander pitched, and the next one is the same day as the (if needed) game 7 of the NLCS. It’s like God and/or Bud Selig don’t want is to watch them.


    • Interestly, the Fox take on the debate was that Romney won in a blowout. Frank Luntz interviewed a focus group of Nevada “undecideds”. (although, in the course of interviewing them, two described themselves as undecided between voting for Romney or not voting at all, but hey).

      They were really fixated on Obama’s (mistaken) assertion that oil extraction on Federal lands ws up, and that Candy Crowley intervened on Obama’s behalf with regards to Obama’s morning-after-Bengazi reference to”acts of terror.”

      On the other networks I managed to TiVo, the strong consensus was that Obama “won” the debate, but by nowhere near the margin by which Romney won the first debate. I would tend to agree with the latter assessment, but think that a mshup–without commentary–of Romny’s “dick” moments (bickering with the moderator, trying to bully or dismiss Obama, whining about the clock) would make a stunningly effective Obama ad.


  5. I think we saw a forecast of what Debate 3 will be about from Romney: Libya, and “Apology Tour”.

    I thought Romney was strong on the Libya topic in the debate (not his meandering press conference, crass politicizing, etc). Obama better get ahead of the Libya issue quickly, or he will be pummeled.

    The Apology Tour stuff is pathetic. But you know we will hear it in spades next week.


    • You may very well be right. Bear in mind what that particular line is intended to do: increase enthusiasm amongst people who already dislike Obama so they turn out to the polls. It is not intended to make the handful of undecided voters still in play pick one over the other. It’s about GOTV in the late phases of the game, not persuasion.


  6. Well I for one was pleased to see that someone on the Obama campaign bothered poking O with a stick to wake him up before they sent him out onto the stage. It’ll be interesting to see whether this moves the polls.


  7. If one were to apply Occam’s Razor:

    1) Obama really is somewhat arrogant. I think POTUS thought he could coast a bit. Prior to that debate, you’ll remember, Romney was self-immolating over the 47% comments, plus other political misplays, so Obama thought he could stay above the fray and let Romney just burn. In addition, at that time there were party faithful publicly decrying how poorly the Romney campaign was going. The expected play was for Romney to use that debate to reassure those who were wavering by playing up the Hard Right Romney of the primary season, so when Moderate Mitt showed up, Obama was caught flat-footed.

    2) Romney really is a prick. As Michelle writes above, the difference this time was others stood up to him. Romney has no experience being called out and he HATES it.


    • Well sure. Yeah. And if that, like I said, troubling.

      But also, if it was hubris, arrogance or other personal short-coming, once he saw he had a tougher fight on his hands than expect, how did he end up just standing there.

      Not looking to make excuses. The fellow’s already got my fairly tepid vote in a state that’s not up for grabs. But as I search my mind for a way to relate to his passivity, all I can come up with is how I felt when I had Lymes disease. From the outside you look fine, but inside the fire has gone out. Three days of antibiotics later, you feel like your old self again.

      If it’s not that, well then it’s just, like Romney last night, a lack of mental and emotional discipline, something I know more than a little about, but I expect a little better from presidents and aspiring presidents!


      • Insider’s view: The team didn’t want a repeat of Clinton/Dole. That said, Obama performed HORRIBLY, and their rope-a-dope scheme failed. Hard.
        [I’m not the insider, a friend is.]

        Obama is about the worst Presidential debater since TV. He’s an introvert, and he doesn’t think well on his feet.

        Also, I blame denver, and lack of oxygen (had it happen to me when I was there). Who knows? Obama may very well be a carrier for sickle cell…


    • I’ve kinda wondered if, you know, there might have been Presidency-things going on.

      Unlike the challenger, the incumbent has a full-time job. And unlike Congressmen, the President can’t really blow off a few votes for debate prep or some extra Zs.

      It’s bad form to show it, and I doubt “Sorry I sound so tired, but I was up with one of those three AM phone calls last night” would actually poll well (it sounds like an excuse, it makes you look like the job is too much for you, etc).

      He could also have been sick. I really don’t think it was arrogance — debates are the President’s weakest area, the polls were showing a Romney uptick before the debate (and you can bet the President’s political operations internals had picked up on it), and Obama’s really never seemed like the coasting sort. (Those types rarely become President, I’d imagine).


  8. Honestly, I really think we’re underestimating the anniversary thing. I know a President should be above that, but he’s also a human being. Plus, I’d rather be spending a couple hours with Michelle than Mitt. :)


  9. At any rate, I’m looking forward to the opening of several coal-fired power plants here on Long Island and not paying any income tax on the $1.27 in interest my bank paid on our savings account this year. Fanfuckingtastic.

    I love the fact that he’s proposing that no one has to pay any income tax on their investment income as a counterbalance to removing deductions, and I’m making sure to tell everyone I know about that ‘solution’. I get exactly the same sort of response you just gave. ;)

    Jesus H. Christ, Romney, do you even _live in the same universe_ as human beings? Human beings do not have investments that are earning taxable interest. If they are very lucky, they have some _tax-deferred_ investments(1), but the vast majority of non-retired people do not have any interest payments they declare on their taxes at all. Especially since _ interest rates are at all time low_, so this is an exceptionally stupid time to pretend people are worried about interest tax.

    1) Which they will pay taxes on after they retire, so a) is not important now, and b) they will be paying taxes on when they have almost no other declared income, and hence will pay _almost no taxes_ anyway. And thus cannot possibly make up for removing deductions _now_.


  10. If we care about growth, employment, opportunity and overall prosperity, I think one would have a difficult time arguing for any capital gains tax at all. I could give a flying fish whether Romney or Buffet pays a higher or lower rate than me when we add income from wages and income from capital gains. The assumption that the two should be taxed the same is kind of silly.


    • your last statement is undoubtedly correct. As to the others, I disagree, strongly. Why should a schmuck get to do nothing for his entire life, and contribute nothing to the rest of the world, just because his pap was smart?


      • How is investing in a legitimate business or endeavor that creates value doing nothing?

        I agree that we should be fair in how we tax different people on wages. And fair on how we tax different people on capital gains. But I see no reason why we should tax capital gains based upon how we tax wages. The two are different, and the economics and incentives and optimal taxation rates are different.


  11. “I think one would have a difficult time arguing for any capitol gains tax at all”

    Really?? Capitol gains rates have been at historically low rates for over a decade and yet growth, employment, opportunity and certainly “overall prosperity” fell over the course of the Bush Administration who implemented said rates. How does a fundamentalist supply-sider such as yourself account for such empirical difficulties? Remember when Clinton’s raising of the capitol gains rate was supposed to bring on the end of capitalism in America and usher in a 2nd Great Depression? Consider the period from 1998 to the present. Capital gains taxes fell in both 1998 and 2003, yet the GDP growth rate fell steadily over this same period.

    And of course, there’s the utterly depraved immorality of claiming that wealth is more valuable than work (thus deserving of lower taxation). The reality is that prosperity is created from the bottom-up, by creating a prosperous middle class that generates the economic activity that the rentier class can then skim off, not from a surpus of money at the top echelons who then trickle it down upon us lesser peons. And you don’t create a prosperous middle class by eliminating capitol gains taxes (and thus forcing that revenue to be made up by wage earners), which serves only to accelerate the gap between top and bottom and destabilize society. Vast inequality is a negative drag on growth. Low capitol gains rates and top marginal tax rates create incentives for businesses to “cash out” instead of investing in growing their businesses and creating a more broad-based prosperity.

    Further, the idea that those with wealth will not invest unless their capitol gains rates are brought to zero is belied by just about the entirety of world history. What are we going to do with our already vast fortunes, put it under our mattresses? Put it in a savings account at .1%? Capitol gains rates are not choking the economy on any level and should probably be raised, and absolutely not lowered. If lowering the rate (and other voodoo economic Bush/ Reagan nonsense) really was what was holding the economy back, then we should all be rolling in prosperity now since rates are at historic lows. And of course the 90’s should have been America’s darkest hour instead of the greatest decade of prosperity since the 1950’s (cap. gains rate 25%).

    PS. I’m a developer/ investor and an increase in capitol gains rates would negatively impact my immediate bottom line.


    • What the heck is a fundamentalist supply wider, and when did I join that club?

      I agree that prosperity is created bottoms up, but I think an important part of that is entrepreneurial investment. This supplies the new ideas, the new products, the new technology and all the capital necessary to hire people and make them more productive.

      You see, I totally disagree with the zero sum vision you portray between labor and capital. In reality, their relationship is a cooperative one, where they work together to better serve the needs of consumers (all of us). Productivity is where prosperity comes from, and capital is crucial for investments in increasing productivity.

      As for inequality, I do not care if Buffet makes a gazillion dollars as long as he does so by enriching workers and consumers via his investments in our prosperity. I would rather be making $30,000 per year and Buffet a billion than $20,000 and Buffet makes the same. Wouldnt you?

      Nor did I say they wouldn’t invest unless the rate is lower. I will say that they will invest more if rates are lower over the long haul.


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