My Advice for Both Candidates in Tonight’s Debate

In a way, Romney and Obama both need to do the same thing tonight. And no, I’m not talking just about winning.

Both Romney and Obama need to make the case for why their preferred policy agenda will actually “empower” Americans. It sounds cliché, and it is; it sounds simple, but it’s not.

Personally, I’d like for Romney to come out swinging, and continue the mantra from his Party’s convention a month ago. I’d like to see him candidly ask the President: why do you want to raise taxes and regulatory burdens on small businesses and job creators?

We are facing one of the worst recessions in the last 100 years, and all you want to do, Mr. President, is make it harder for the private sector to start growing again.

Families are hurting, wages are stagnating, and unemployment is still too high, and you’ve now had four years to fix it. And in all that time, the only answer you’ve come up with is to stifle the energy market, encourage draconian regulations on businesses, and raise taxes.

Mr. President, the government isn’t what got us into this mess* and it’s not what can get us out of it. It’s hardworking people who have made the American economy what it is. We built it. Not Washington D.C. And until we start letting Americans keep more of what they earn, make more of the choices that are theirs to make, we aren’t going to be able to get the economy going again and be prepared to face the rest of the challenges that await us in the 21st century.

Blah, blah, blah—so on and so forth.

I would urge Romney to make education and health care two key components of this line of attack. Not only does Obama want to overregulate and overtax the private sector, he also wants to take choice out of the hands of families, and rely on the government to decide things instead. Talking points about Obamacare** and charter schools ensue.

President Obama has to take the same approach, but with the opposite spin. He needs to look squarely at Romney and say that government isn’t THE solution, it’s PART of the solution. Corporations and the stock market have bounced back, and the rest of the private sector is slowly but surely starting to grow more as well. But while the private sector is doing its job, the government needs to keep doing what it can to ensure the recovery continues.

This means support for families trying to get back on their feet, more investment in public infrastructure and education, and continued relief (payroll tax cuts, keeping various deductions, etc.) for those hit hardest by the recession. We can and should keep government off the backs of small businesses and corporations, but we also need to keep supporting struggling households by *insert talking points about jobs/recovery act*.

Tonight’s debate is about domestic policy, and as such I’d like to see both candidates take a strong stand on what they, or at least their Party, claims to believe. I’d also like to see statistics and numbers used in more than one response, but on this front I am much less hopeful.

That being said I’ll leave you with a few thoughts and one question:

  • Whoever runs first from one of their perceived weaknesses, rather than boldly confronting it, will lose the debate.
  • Romney should try to use whatever clever one-liners he can, as long as he doesn’t flub them. A botched zinger hurts more than a good one helps.
  • At some point Obama will look somewhat incredulously wide-eyed at Jim Lehrer, asking if he can’t respond to whatever bull$#!%  that other guy just said.
  • At many, many, all too many points in the debate, Romney will squint so severely that it’ll look like he’s smiling. He’s not, Apple is still just working out a few bugs in its iRomney 6 operating system.
  • Finally, what beer should I (and anyone else) purchase to celebrate the night’s festivities with? Names according to preference (IPA/Lager/etc.) much appreciated.


*He most definitely can’t say this, because Republicans have spent too much time making the less politically sellable point that the financial collapse was the government’s fault (because super de-regulation is the same as over regulation, or something).

**Romney needs to own health care in Massachusetts. The short version of this argument, which dovetails with my “it’s the people that will lead this recovery,” is the one he’s tried to make in the past, but re-packaged: What I did was right for the state of Massachusetts, what you did was wrong for the entire country. We have states and federalism for a reason, Mr. President, and the way to address health care in this nation is by competition between states, and between providers and insurers—not by giving up control to bureaucrats in Washington D.C.

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7 thoughts on “My Advice for Both Candidates in Tonight’s Debate

  1. Good post, although I think the notion that Obama has over-regulated small businesses is right wing hype that’s usually not followed up by any evidence. Also, I’m not sure it will matter so much what is said, as I’m betting both will spout their usual talking points, but how it’s said. If Romney can manage to get through a debate without condescending, issuing his patented fake chuckle, or looking robotic, he’ll do well. Bonus points if he gets off a one-liner that’s actually funny.

    Likewise, if Obama can get through the debate without condescending, staring off into space with his head cocked at that odd angle that makes him look constipated, or sounding too lawyerly or professorial, he’ll do well. Bonus points if he sings.

    As for beer choices, for mass-marketed ale, I favor Sierra Nevada. But here in Greensboro, we have a local brew IPA–Natty Greene’s–that’s even better.

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    • “Evidence,” and in fact “truth,” are extra credit assignments. “Plausibility” is the threshold here. And when you think about it, “plausability to one’s own base and the six dozen or so still undecided voters in Ohio and Florida” is the actual threshold.

      I usually think IPAs are too bitter. But I just had Costco’s store-brand IPA this weekend (I don’t know who it’s ghost-branded for), and I put a slice of orange in it like it was a hefeweizen, to sweeten up the hoppiness. I wound up being pretty happy about that.

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  2. Regardless of who “wins” the debate or even the election, there will be no significant changes to any current admin policy. Changes on the margins aren’t going to cut it.

    And one other thing. This debate, like all those in recent memory, will be notable for one other thing. Those subjects that both candidates have agreed not to discuss, like immigration, etc.

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  3. ” I’d like to see him candidly ask the President: why do you want to raise taxes and regulatory burdens on small businesses and job creators?”

    And I’d like the President to answer: I don’t and I haven’t. *Launch into litany of tax breaks and comparison of tax rates under his admin vs. Reagan, and then challenge Romney to name the regulatory burdens beyond those imposed on Wall Street for obvious reasons **

    As for beer, I’m debating (heh) between Yard’s General Washington Tavern Porter or Founder’s Dirty Bastard. May have both on hand and drink as appropriate to how the candidates behave – as statesmen or brawlers.

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    • There’s a local bar that usually has Narragansett on tap, and it is a decent and decently-priced beer. Maybe I’ll head over there tonight to see if they have this one, Oktoberfest-style beers often just being damn good beer-type-beers, if you know what I mean.

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  4. This is a great post, Ethan. I was lamenting the lack of comments on it, then realizing I hadn’t.

    I am working through my mind how much of the debate is constrained by the substantive disconnect in the GOP between rhetoric and governance, and how much of that apparent disconnect is something I am seeing wrongly.

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