by Pamela Powers Hannley
The second 2012 presidential debate was a rousing throwback to old school American politics. Both candidates were "fired up and ready to go." Both delivered a few zingers and gotcha moments. Both explained their plans for America's future... well, sort of.
Republican challenger Mitt Romney-- obviously hoping for a repeat of the frist debate in which he appeared energized, arrogant, and on top of his game, if you ignore the lies and the moderator bullying-- started the second debate smiling and upbeat. About 30 minutes into it, Romney was scowling in the background as President Barack Obama actually answered policy questions. By the end of the debate, when the families came on stage, both Romney and wife Ann had those "holy shit what just happened?" looks on their faces.
So, why was the second debate so different from the first one? Obviously, after the first debate, Obama realized that Romney wasn't going to play by anyone's rules but his own (ie, stick to the truth, stick to the question topics, stick to his previously stated views, or stick to the agreed upon debate rules). In the first debate, Obama seemed confused and frustrated by Romney's reckless but masterful disregard for propriety, and Obama didn't call him out on it, which is why, I believe, many people said Obama was "off his game" that night. Where was our witty, intelligent guy? Why didn't he point his finger at Romney and say, in prep school style, "You, Sir, are a liar!" Or, in Chicago style, "What you talkin' bout, n....?" [Sarcasm alert.]
Last night, Obama-- and moderator CNN's Candy Crowley-- took the gloves off with the prep school bully turned vulture capitalist. Obama and Crowley both called out Romney when he didn't answer the questions or answered a completely different question than what was asked. In his element with the town hall format, the president was quick-witted and light on his feet, when he said that Romney's economic plan was a "sketchy deal"; when he said that Romney didn't have a five-point plan, he had a one-point plan; when he ripped Romney's infamous 47% comment (after Romney opened the door by saying he cared about 100% of Americans); or when he answered the first college student's questions about post-graduation employment with a specific list of policies (when Romney had just shined the student on with platitudes).
But I think the best performance of the evening was by Crowley. Let's face it. Jim Lehrer blew the first debate. He allowed Romney steamroll him... repeatedly. The debate was such a mess that it was difficult to figure out the format or what the questions were half the time because both candidates (but mostly Romney) were allowed to stray. Crowley-- who is being attacked today by the right for her active role in actually moderating the debate-- did her best to keep the debate moving and make the candidates stick to the format and the questions.
Personally, I don't see how anyone could be undecided after last night, but if you are, undecided, check out this story by the New York Times after the jump and get off your duff.