First half a draw, second to Romney

(Can’t get to my computer, so forgive brevity and typos posting from my phone.)

Both candidates were aggressive and effective in the beginning. I couldn’t pick a winner. But beginning with Romney clobbering Obama on the economy while the poor guy had to just sit there, he gained a small but decisive win in the second half. 

Obama stood up to try to repair the damage after the shellacking on his economic record (what he could have said I can’t imagine) but got sent back to his chair by the moderator. I felt bad for
the guy. Obama then failed to decisively prevail on the women’s pay and immigration questions, which should have been easy winners for him.

Libya was uncomfortable for the president even though Romney should have hit harder. Crowley was despicable in falsely coming to the president’s aid, saying he did call the attack terrorism in the Rose Garden. He didn’t. And even that was before his “natural protests” remark. Romney had a fabulous answer to gun violence and poverty by championing marriage. Obama got in the 47% only at the very end, but it might have taken some wind out of Romney’s sails in an otherwise superior second half for him.

It was either a Romney win or a draw. I don’t see an argument that Obama pulled this one out or changed the trajectory of the race away from Romney.

TVD: Biden Wins, Sort Of

My call: Biden threw away a clear win with his bad behavior. In a way, he was more presidential in his manner and poetic approach, but also less presidential when he blew his cool about halfway through. Fortunately for him, he caught himself and finished strongly.

For Ryan, he personally broke even, didn’t hurt himself or the ticket. I think had he been more combative on Biden, it would have hurt him—his best moments were in keeping his adult cool when Biden interrupted and misbehaved.

In the attack dog column, Ryan landed a number of effective shots on President Obama, whereas Biden’s slams on Romney were demagogic, trying to exploit “47 percent” and other rhetoric, not substance.

As with the Clint Eastwood thing, the GOP strategy is to get America to give itself permission to toss Obama and not be afraid of Romney-Ryan. Ryan furthered that plan, scoring some blows on Obama and doing nothing to hurt the GOP ticket.

For Biden, Job One was stemming the bleeding after Obama’s own disastrous performance. This he comfortably achieved, so where Ryan broken even, Biden was a plus for his ticket and campaign.

To judge who “won” the debate is academic, since it’s not really a debate, it’s just one more facet of the larger campaign. Biden helped his side more, so he gets the nod if we’re keeping score. But if “undecideds” tend to break for the challenger, Ryan may have made it easier to dump Obama and not be afraid of the alternative, so it can’t be said he lost either.

[None of this gets into the actual substance. Not sure it matters. Also, CNN had one of those moment-to-moment tickers and females were not digging Joe’s act until he settled down at the end.]

Serious Cat Paul Ryan vs. Bubbly Joe Biden: Don’t Hurt ‘Em, Hammer

It’s just not fair. Our sassy and vivacious Vice President is about to get smushed by his younger, smarter, wittier, more able, more fit, more handsome, more charismatic, more knowledgeable, more prepared, more everythingish rival for the job.

Look away. Send the children out of the room. But on the other hand…

Doesn’t everybody like Joe? I sure do. Pert and perky without a mean bone in his body. Whether he’s making a routine fool of himself or a very big fool when he’s in over his head, it’s all good, it’s Joe. Rides the same train to work in DC every day for decades as the Senator from Delaware, just another commuter. Hey, howya doin’, Joe, thumbs up, a wink. Good man.

Uh oh. Here comes Paul Ryan. Elected to Congress at age 28, VP nominee at 42, that mean, hungry look in his eye. Not only understands the budget, he’s the only man in Washington who could actually write his own budget, he actually did—wonkier than the wonkiest wonk, and wonkage is the Democrat game, a serious cat. Attila the Republican.

It’s not whether he’ll smash up poor pert and perky Joe Biden, it’s only how many pieces. 10, 20, 50, 1000?

So I think of Gerry Spence, master trial lawyer. Screw representing Dow at $700 an hour if you can sue ’em and get a third of a multi-million dollar verdict. [Do the math. How many million hours in a year?]

Plus, as a plaintiff’s lawyer, you’re permitted a little flair, it’s expected: Gerry Spence is this guy, buckskin and fringe, a legend in the plaintff’s bar and in American lawyerdom.

Story is, in his earlier days, Gerry has this unloseable case, a pooch that can’t be screwed, and takes it to jury trial. He has the greatest time in the world, delighting in his own brilliance:

When I was a young lawyer feeling my power, my strategy in a
certain case was to attack and destroy every witness the other side
put against me. I took on the witnesses, old men with watery eyes
who I knew were but company sycophants trying to keep their jobs. I
took on the experts, scholarly actors who I knew were but paid
witnesses attempting to earn their fees rather than reveal the
truth. Cut them up, shredded them, pulverized them.

The jury was out only fifteen minutes before it returned a verdict against my
client.I was devastated. Hadn’t I won every battle? Hadn’t I destroyed the witnesses?
Hadn’t my power on cross-examination been overwhelming?

As the jury was filing out of the courtroom, one of the women approached me. She looked up at me with tears in her eyes. It was obviously hard for her to turn my severely injured client out of a court of justice with nothing.

“Mr. Spence,” she said quietly, “why did you make us hate you so?”

So if I’m Joe Biden’s cornerman, I say just let the Ryan kid talk. Just be Joe Biden, the guy on the train who everybody likes, good man. There’s more than one way to skin a cat—especially a serious cat feeling his power—and the best way is to let him do all the work. They already like you, Joe, and the only one who can make them hate Paul Ryan is Paul Ryan. So do not stand in his way.

First Reactions on Romney’s Big Win in the First Debate

The consensus seems to be that the President underestimated his challenger.  CNN’s poll says 67% of registered voters thought Romney won versus 25% for Obama. I watched the debate, took notes during, turned the TV off afterwards and went to dinner.  I thought I’d transcribe my notes here along with my reactions.  I initially wondered whether I was being too generous to Governor Romney in my assessments, but as I watch CNN’s talking heads, I think they’re within range.

MR:     “Trickle down government.”

HA!  A wonderful aphorism that tackles the FDR legacy progressive liberalism in which rights come from government – or “trickle down” form government, as we might as well say.

I predict Trickle-Down Government will become a part of our political lexicon.  Best moment of the night as far as I’m concerned.  Not only a witty turn of the tables on the related expression, but it aptly captures the difference of “big ideas” in this campaign: classical liberalism in which rights come from God and nature versus modern progressive liberalism where rights come from — or trickle down from — government.

Watching the CNN replay later that showed the response of undecided Colorado voters, MR got very positive sustained response while making and expounding on this idea.

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Din’t Catch the Debate But Tellya Who Won

As it is the wife-unit’s birthday today, I took her out to a long overdue movie, some recreational shopping at the second-hand store and then to the dollar mart. And as she’s not the political-talk type [too much yelling], I even spared her the debate on the radio as a birthday perk.

[The Avengers good, 3 bucks at the second-hand movie theater, Hawaiian shirts and some pumps half off at Goodwill, aspirin and some really killer pretzels at Dollar Tree. If you think you’re seeing a pattern here, you are.]

Anywayz, we walk in the door back @ home, and since I’ll confess that frankly this Republican was scared to death that Mitt was blowing it and condemning us to another 4 years of this barackian misery, I first put our dearly-gotten gains away in fridge and cupboard before daring to flick on the low-def fog that is our once-state-of-the-art big screen.

First to Fox News, natch. Hannity seems OK: not a disaster for Romney, then. Some hope for America remains. Then to the acid test, where if there is bad news, it will be neon lights and brassy fanfares—the dreaded MSNBC.

Rachel is interviewing the always-chirpy Rudy Giuliani. Nothing to be learned yet—Rudy is Rudy and professional opinionator Dr. Maddow plays it straighter at moderator than most of her “impartial” colleagues.

Interview over, and then Rachel turns to Chris Matthews. One look at his ashen face tells me all I need to know, then some blahblah, then the first remark of substance is a complaint about what President Obama shoulda woulda coulda said. Mitt has won. Probably bigtime.

Over to a quick sit at the computer, and the early returns from The League comments sections declare Mitt Romney absolute toejam and the absolute loser both now and in November. Then I know for sure that the republic is safe, at least for now. I permit myself a small smile and a much larger sigh of relief. For now.

Don’t Bother Watching: Barack’s Campaign Concedes First Debate to Mitt

You heard it here first. Actually, second. Via InstaP:

Obama campaign deputy manager Stephanie Cutter:

“[W]e’re coming into this debate very realistic that Mitt Romney is likely to win if he plays his cards right. If he performs and fills in those details and has that [conversation] with the American people, instead of having, you know, a punching match and just leveling insults at the President like he’s done over the past two years. If he fills in his policy details, talks in specifics about his plans for the future he could win this debate.”

In other words, if Romney doesn’t get in his own way, doesn’t play dirty, and argues his case and the facts, he wins on his merits and the Obama presidency’s lack of them.

Now, Elizabeth Price Foley at InstaP thinks it’s a Rope-a-Dope, to goad Romney into throwing all the punches, committing to policy prescriptions that the Obama campaign can easily dismantle if not demagogue. She prefers Romney to treat the Obama presidency as a punching bag:

1. A complete inability/unwillingness to own up to the threat of the “t” word– terrorism

2. A complete disconnect with the desires of the American public re: health care reform

3. A dangerous policy of downplaying the Iranian nuclear threat at the expense of Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East and one of America’s closest (and most important) allies

4. An utter disregard for the Constitution, as evidenced by executive orders that completely undercut the legislative branch

5. A completely failing economy, by any measure you prefer– jobs, GDP, median household income, deficits, downgraded credit rating, etc.

I like both strategies meself, although not exactly these particular points. I think Mitt will take it slow and display aggression only when needed—the one thing he learned in quietly losing to McCain in 2008—sometimes you have to hit back, and when you do you hit back hard. Mitt did it this time around to his primary challengers in 2012: when one rose up he smacked him down, with deadly force.

I think Mitt’s mastered his temperament, that huffing and puffing eager beaver gasping for air as he says too much instead of a confident too little.

This is Mitt’s first time on the Big Stage, The Really Big Stage, for all the marbles. Primaries and conventions ain’t spit. This time, the whole world is watching, not just the malignly curious and the Values Voters who leave Fox News on in the den or in the kitchen 24/7.

It’s a pity the US presidency comes down to acting ability, but political leadership has always been so. George Washington had his uniforms tailored and rode a big white horse. FDR was the jaunty cigarette holder, the aristocrat who loved the common man—and could win for him. Churchill the speechifying bulldog was an act that saved the world; de Gaulle admitted that archetypical Frenchman was a character he created. Reagan, the Aw Shucks president, Clinton the amiable bumpkin with an IQ of 165, Bush43 the cowboy boots ex-drunk who saw through all the BS; Barack Obama, our FBP with two autobios under his belt before he’d done anything besides get born, go to school, and drift about a bit trying to find himself.

The funny thing is that Mitt the Mormon is really a lot like those stories they ginned up about George Washington. If you heard that Mitt Romney chopped down a cherry tree and copped to it when his dad pressed him on it, you’d believe it.

And find it boring as hell. I don’t know if the joke is on him or on us.

“[W]e’re coming into this debate very realistic that Mitt Romney is likely to win if he plays his cards right.”

Just play ’em straight, Mitt. It’s the only thing you have going for you, and hey, it might just be enough.

Me On Conservatism

Strictly speaking, “conservatism” only plays for a tie.

In American conservatism, there’s a bit of revanchism, but only so much of a rollback is even possible: overturn Roe and the question reverts to the states as a matter of policy rather than constitutional right.

Of the New Deal and Great Society, the only question is how to save Social Security and Medicare, not abolish them. Of the record 46.7 million now on Food Stamps, how many will one day come off them, and how many who just got on them will simply stay on them, that’s hard to say.

Conservatism’s greatest enemy is “the ratcheting effect,” where bad ideas or temporary fixes tend to become a permanent way of life.

As for drugs, I just don’t see it in the polls. Like illegal immigration and prostitution, I’m more of the see-no-evil persuasion, neither formally endorsing them by legalizing them* nor in favor of draconian enforcement. Me, I can live with gray areas and the use of a little wisdom: These things are only a problem when they become a problem, and you need the tools to deal with them when they do become a problem.

As for fiscal conservatism, free markets, economic liberty, low taxes and a constitutionally limited state, that doesn’t even seem to be the topic here. I would say as a thought I read somewhere else, that we actually tend to vote for what we believe will be good for the other guy, not ourselves but the great suffering masses out there whom we conceive of in our mind’s eye.

Sort of the “fellow-feeling” of the 17th century British philosophers, that empathy is part of human nature. I rather agree with this, and it’s a way of viewing the conundrum without assigning base motives to either side: One can think “fairness” via politics is the best way, one could think that creating wealth and plenty via markets and competition is the best way to achieve the same desired end—a society optimized for “human flourishing.”

I think there are some people who vote for government handouts for themselves and some who vote for lower taxes for themselves. But I think most of us vote for what we think is best for the next guy, and for our nation as a whole. I don’t think there’s anything the matter with Kansas OR the Upper West Side.

* Yes, “legalizing” does carry a level of societal, even moral, endorsement or at least acceptance. That’s what drives a lot of the gay issue culture war—on both sides. As it’s sui generis, it’s often not very applicable to the rest of the picture. Indeed many of its advocates insist that it’s sui generis and NOT the top of a slippery slope that descends to polygamy, etc.!