The debate summaries

This is going to be a quickie, just for the record:

Presidential Debate #1: The consensus is that Mitt Romney won this because he was fiery and energetic, but that conclusion misses the mark. The fact is, the President was off his game or had a terrible strategy or something like that. Whatever it was, President Obama lost, but Mitt Romney did not go out and win this. He wasn’t even that energetic. No, he was like the 2006 Cardinals or 2007 Giants, simply there to accept the collapse of his opponent – at least on style. On facts, it is the consensus that the President easily won the debate.

Vice Presidential Debate: Joe Biden came out strong, calling Paul Ryan a liar every which way without actually using the word “liar”. It was almost sad to see the seasoned veteran beat down what appeared to be a small-time local politician who was in way over his head. But, of course, the conservative media didn’t see it that way. They whined that Biden was rude and that the moderator was unfair. Notice the fact that the liberal media did not do this when President Obama performed poorly.

Presidential Debate #2: The President won this town hall style debate. He called Romney out on his falsehoods much more strongly and he was engaged. He was just as firm this time on the facts as he was the first time, but he delivered everything in an effective manner. Romney, however, did well enough that no one remembers anything important he said.

Presidential Debate #3: Once again, the President came out on top. Romney spent most of the debate agreeing with the Commander-in-Chief, making President Obama look all the more presidential. Surprisingly, the GOP candidate didn’t go hard on Benghazi. Ultimately it is an issue that no one will discuss when looking back at President Obama’s time in office, but it is a big deal when under the microscope that comes with a presidential election. Romney made a mistake by not trying to hammer away at it.

Conclusion: The President and Vice President won all four debates on the facts. They have been consistent in their message and arguments, and they both had a better grasp of the issues than their opponents. Paul Ryan did especially poorly considering his status as “a numbers guy”, but even for just being some schmuck his smacking was notable. Unfortunately, the debate that mattered the most was the first one by virtue of being first, and that is where the President did not fair well and Romney won by default.

Thought of the day

I can’t believe that Mitt Romney is going to get over 40% of the vote, much less close to 50%. Aside from the day to day (and sometimes same day) shifts on position, he hardly even appeals to the Republican base. He strikes me as the most pointless presidential candidate I can remember in my lifetime.

Bill O’Reilly is a hack and a liar

I was going to title this post “Bill O’Reilly is an idiot and a liar”, but I like to be careful with who I call stupid. Sarah Palin is a moron. Jack Hudson is genuinely dumb. But Billo? I think he’s a hack and his zone is nothing if not spin, but I don’t think he’s stupid. In fact, he seems to be a fairly smart guy with pretty decent wit. It’s just too bad he’s also a liar sometimes.

I don’t make it a habit to watch The Factor, but I did catch a couple of minutes of it tonight. The guest was some sort of body language expert who was analyzing the President and Romney from the most recent debate. When she got to the part where Romney stepped into a trap that was half his own doing, claiming the President never called the embassy assault an “act of terror”, Billo had two big points to make. First, he said he thought Romney won that exchange. Seriously. He actually thinks Romney didn’t look like a complete fool. If that isn’t hackery, I don’t know what is. Second, he said he had already debunked on a previous show the notion that the President used the phrase “act of terror”. Let’s go to the tape:

The knockout punch begins at the 57 second mark.

Now, there is plenty of room for discussion here. As moderator Candy Crowley noted, and as Romney was attempting to say, this recent attack was not labeled terrorism is any meaningful sense until weeks after it occurred. Mixed messages were sent and I suspect there are two good reasons why. First, it’s politically inconvenient for a president to say terrorists successfully attacked us, especially right before an election. Second, intelligence information takes time to stream in and it gets updated frequently early on. This was probably exasperated by the fact that the FBI was unable to get into Libya for some time. (Hell, CNN reporters are the ones who waltzed in to find Ambassador Chris Stevens’ private journal.) So, sure, a real discussion can be had over all this, but that doesn’t change the fact that the President called this an “act of terror” the following day, Mitt Romney did not know that fact, and this exchange constituted one of the highlights of the debate because the former governor was flummoxed and fact-checked on the spot.

Next thing you know, these Republicans are going to start saying Jim Lehrer did a good job, Martha Raddatz was the worst moderator ever, Paul Ryan either tied or won his debate, and Candy Crowley pandered too much to women by asking topical questions…

How Mitt Romney proposes his $5 trillion tax cut without raising the deficit

Mitt Romney has spent the past year talking about his tax cuts for the wealthy (and, as of the last debate, everyone else), but he hasn’t spent any time talking about any specifics. Not a one. Fortunately, now we can all just look for ourselves at the details of his tax plan.

Catch up

My blogging has slowed a little bit, so I haven’t been keeping up on a few stories. I’m going to quickly mention a few topics here.

First, California has recently passed a law which bans gay conversion therapy. This is a good thing not only for gay people and the way the public perceives them, but it’ also a good thing for science. As the governor correctly stated, such therapies are nothing but quackery.

Second, it has been awhile since Mitt Romney made his comment about 47% of Americans not paying taxes and feeling entitled to government handouts. I’m usually pretty cautious about jumping all over politicians for the missteps they make. For instance, when Romney said he doesn’t care about the very poor, it isn’t difficult for me to recognize that he meant his focus is on preventing people in the middle class from needing to utilize government safety nets. In turn, he hopes that that (as well as corporate welfare and the like) will help out the very poor. This, however, is different. There is no spinning what he meant in the secret video of him: He believes nearly half of all Americans are lazy moochers who don’t want to take personal responsibility.

Third, I made a post a little while ago where I said I was calling this NFL season as invalid. The replacement referees were horrible – an opinion I held before the Seattle/Green Bay game. There was just no way that the outcome of any game could be considered legitimate. I stand by all that. Even though the real refs are back in place, we still had 3 weeks where teams were getting screwed because Roger Goodell is the worst person in all of sports. Three weeks may not sound like a lot, but it would be as if Major League Baseball replaced its umpires with unqualified people for about 30 games. It’s a huge chunk of the season. For that, there is nothing valid about the entire 2012 NFL season – even if my beloved Patriots win the Super Bowl.

Romney picks Ryan

I’m happy with this:

Against the flag-draped backdrop of the USS Wisconsin, Mitt Romney formally introduced Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman from Wisconsin, as his vice presidential running mate on Saturday. Ryan’s budget-cutting ideas have the potential to transform the presidential race. Support for his proposed mix of spending cuts and tax cuts has become a litmus test on the right–and opposing them has become a rallying cry on the left.

Instead of going with the only guy who could help him with the Latino vote in a crucial swing state – Marco Rubio – Romney picked the guy who wants to slash and cut and change everything that impacts the lives of seniors, women, minorities, and poor people.


Dishonest politics

I really despise when politicians refuse to understand the point of the opponent. It isn’t merely an inability to respect a different perspective because it may be so foreign or opposed to some long-held point of view that gets me. No, it’s when someone expresses a point in clumsy language and the other side pounces, being an absolute bitch about actually listening to the real point. Take, for example, when Mitt Romney said he wasn’t concerned about poor people. Of course he cares about them. He just happens to believe that they currently have a relatively adequate safety net, a net which can be improved (and made unnecessary in many lives) via certain economic policies. (That isn’t to say he really understands them, nor that his policies would actually work, but I do not think he is quite as callous as his original comment might suggest.) Or, even worse, look at John Kerry’s treatment a few years ago. He tried to say that we’re stuck in Iraq because Bush is dumb. The way it came out, though, made it sound like he thinks soldiers are stupid. It was an absurd distraction that was dishonest to its core. I hated every second of it and I think it’s terrible that he had to apologize at all.

Fast forward to the present campaign season and we have the President saying this:

If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.

Whoa! Holy smokes, Batman! The President of the United States just said that small business owners – especially mom and pop shops that have been in the neighborhood for 43 years, giving out free meals to needy orphans and puppies every Thanksgiving – deserve zero credit. Zero. Rumor has it that once off camera, he even went so far as to grab the head of a struggling business owner, pull the guy’s face right up to his ass, and fart. I bet he laughed and laughed. Communist.

Oh…wait. I guess there’s more to the quote:

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

Oh, snap. Shitty, amirite conservatives? I guess what the President meant was that everyone has had help from others at one point or another. He then gave teachers as one example. Then he says that somebody helped to create the system in which businesses thrive. Then he uses roads and bridges as an example of what has helped businesses thrive. Next we have the big doozie of the whole thing: He says that businesses – gasp! – didn’t build our roads and bridges. For the reading impaired, let me reword the President’s sentences in a way which conveys the exact same meaning with a little more clarity:

Somebody invested in roads and bridges, and if you have a business, you didn’t build that.

Or how about this?

Somebody invested in roads and bridges, and if you have a business, you didn’t build that stuff.

Or maybe this?

Somebody invested in roads and bridges, and if you have a business, you didn’t build those.

Okay, here we go:

Somebody invested in roads and bridges, and if you have a business, you didn’t build those roads and bridges I just mentioned. In fact, the transcript of my speech should be written with a semi-colon so as to show what I am saying about businesses not building roads and bridges. For example, “Somebody invested in roads and bridges; if you have a business, you didn’t build that.”

And despite all this context, there’s even more to the speech:

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

Nothing the President has said is remotely remarkable here. He was simply making the point that everyone needs help in life, and a lot of that help comes from government-funded programs, works, etc. Most teachers are paid by the government. Most bridges are built by acts of Congress and state legislatures. That isn’t to say that businesses deserve zero credit. He outright says that one of the reasons businesses see success is individual initiative. That just isn’t the only reason they see success, is all. But hey, I know how to end this argument with one simple question:

Did Wal-Mart build the Interstate it uses to truck its goods around the country? No? Argument over.

Where were Mitt’s taxes born?

Everyone seems to want Mitt Romney to release his tax returns from his days at Bain. This makes sense since Romney has staked a good portion of his candidacy on his record as a businessman. He doesn’t get to say he was good at something and that that something is relevant while simultaneously claiming that the details of that something don’t matter. He should just release everything.

Of course, I hope he doesn’t.

I have no desire to see Mitt Romney win anything and this is a great issue to hurt him. It’s his birth certificate. The only difference is that the stuff his opponents are saying about him is true.

Affordable Care Act: Romney campaign makes a decision

Yesterday I wrote about the lack of choice Republicans were (and will continue) to make regarding how they describe the Supreme Court ruling on the individual mandate from the healthcare bill. They want to call it both a tax and a fine, but those are not the same thing – nor, more importantly, do they have the same ideological basis. If they call it a tax, okay. That fits their (false) rhetoric that President Obama has done anything to raise taxes. But if they call it a fine, that is because they believe it is anti-liberty to force people to buy something. The Romney campaign sees this and has made a choice:

A senior adviser to Mitt Romney appeared to undercut a central argument Republicans hope to use between now and the November election against President Obama — that although his signature health care reform law may be constitutional, it amounts to a tax.

In an appearance on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown,” Romney strategist Eric Fehrnstrom was asked whether Romney agreed with last week’s Supreme Court ruling.

“The governor believes that what we put in place in Massachusetts was a penalty and he disagrees with the court’s ruling that the mandate was a tax,” Fehrnstrom said.

When pressed by host Chuck Todd about whether Romney supported calling the financial burden placed on Americans who choose not to buy health care “a penalty or a fee or a fine” rather than a tax, Fehrnstrom replied: “That’s correct.”

It’s interesting that they want to call Romneycare a penalty – it undermines his argument that he’s all about liberty and freedom and guns and tits – but it’s a clear choice (at least for now – I mean, this is Romney). Now we just have to see if other Republicans will follow suit.

“Booooo” Santorum

Rick Santorum is campaigning in New Hampshire, one of the few states that does not discriminate against gays in marriage and the site of the first Republican primary. I don’t think he’s going to do well there, but then who knew he was going to do well in Iowa. Of course, while Iowa also does not discriminate against gays in marriage, many of its citizens would prefer to turn the clock back. That gives Santorum and all the vile things he says a little power there. That probably won’t be the case in New Hampshire, and it certainly was not the case in front of a bunch of college students in Concord:

Rick Santorum was booed after a lengthy back-and-forth with several students in Concord, N.H., on the issue of same-sex marriage, which is legal in New Hampshire.

As Santorum addressed a group of college students, one asked him how same-sex marriage affects him personally and why not have legal same-sex marriage as long as it’s not religious in nature.

Santorum answered that for “230 years marriage has been between one man and woman. So if you want to change the law…you have to make the positive argument about why.”

This actually is sort of correct. In order for change to happen, those in favor of said change need to say why it should happen. However, the game has been rigged. People like Santorum never made their positive argument for marriage 230 years ago. They didn’t even give a second thought to gays and so marriage was assumed to be between one man and one woman. The onus is actually on him.

And what are his arguments? Appeals to tradition and inapt comparisons. The former is just an extension of the rigged game and is thus logically invalid; it isn’t a positive argument at all. The latter is why “Santorum” has the frothy definition it does.

But to Frothy’s credit, he stuck by his guns and tried to make the students justify their positions:

Santorum responded, “Are we saying that everyone should have the right to marry?”

Several members of the crowd loudly yelled, “Yes!”

At that point, the former senator from Pennsylvania compared same-sex marriage to polygamy.

“So anyone can marry can marry anybody else? So if that’s the case, then everyone can marry several people … so you can be married to five people. Is that OK?” Santorum asked.

I’m a little disappointed in the response. Students shouted back that they weren’t discussing polygamy. That is true and Frothy was creating a red herring, but I’m perfectly happy responding to his question: Yes, it is okay for a number of people to get married to each other at the same time. The only issue anyone can draw about that is how taxes would work out. New codes and laws would need to be created, and I’m not sure how that would or should go. But on the moral question, there is no doubt: there is nothing wrong with polygamy.

Frothy then got a little weird:

The student answered that [people] should [be allowed to do what makes them happy] as long as no one was harming anyone else. Santorum countered, raising his voice and asking, “Who decides if they are harming other people? Is there an objective standard?”

Wasn’t it Frothy who told people they needed to make positive arguments in order to defend their positions? If it is his contention that people are harmed by gay marriage, then he needs to say why. I have yet to see a remotely convincing argument for that position. Ever.

Santorum continued, but threatened to end the discussion, telling the crowd, “I’m going to give people one more chance and then we are going to move on. I’m going to ask the question again. If three people happen to get married based on what you just said, what makes that wrong and what you said right?”

“That’s irrelevant,” the student responded. “My personal opinion is, ‘Yeah go for it,’ but what I’m asking [is] for you [to] justify your belief and your high morals about all men created equal-”

At that point, Santorum cut off the student and, for the third time, asked, “What about three men?

Emphasis added.

Politicians tend to be pretty good when it comes to rhetoric. They certainly misstep, but they’re still better than the average Joe when it comes to this stuff. That includes Frothy. Except in this case. Using good rhetoric means, in part, appealing to one’s audience. If he was speaking to a bunch of sexually immature, sexually insecure Evangelicals, then sure, mention the idea of three men having sex. That would gross them out. “Icky!”, they would think. But saying that in front of a bunch of pro-equality college students is going to fall flat. In fact, it just made him look even worse.

When he wrapped up, several questions later, the crowd loudly booed him.

I think Frothy still has some learning to do. Maybe he should look to his biggest opponent. After all, I’m sure Romney wouldn’t have had a problem saying whatever would have please the crowd.