Opinion: Presidential Debates 2012, Part 1: If You Lie, You Will Win

Jenn M. Jackson, Water Cooler Convos

Remember when one of Romney’s surrogates, Eric Fehrnstrom, said that the Romney campaign was like an “Etch-A-Sketch?” Well, we got our first taste of what that really meant at last night’s debate. The first debate took place at the University of Denver. While Jim Lehrer struggled to wrangle the two candidates, the debate was viewed as a make or break opportunity for Republican candidate Gov. Mitt Romney. President Obama, on the other hand, was poised to obliterate Romney as he’d done in the 2008 election cycle against fellow democratic presidential hopefuls and, inevitably, Sen. John McCain (R – AZ). Most news sources have called the debate in Romney’s favor but when many of his major points were blatant lies, does the win actually count?

One major stretching of the truth from Mitt was his assertion that “23 million” people in this country are out of work and have stopped looking for a job. This is definitely not his worst lie because the number has some merit. If he is including the unemployed and underemployed in his approximation, then the comment stands. The only problem is he wasn’t trying to paint the true picture with this statement. He made the remark for shock value regardless of how misleading it was.

Another argument Romney has been unapologetic about has been his desire to cut taxes. Not only did Romney deny the $5 trillion tax cut he has been campaigning on for over a year, he stretched his lie by simply not giving any details about what he plans to do about the much needed tax reform. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found that his tax policies would directly impact the middle class (see link to Daily Kos). This was yet another fact that Romney vehemently denied in yesterday’s debate. So, how do we know exactly where Romney stands on tax reform? Well, we don’t. And we probably won’t until the end of this campaign cycle, or maybe we never will.

Lastly, and probably the most egregious, was Romney’s “Etch-A-Sketching” on healthcare. His platform has been couched in his desire to distance himself from the majorly successful healthcare reform he passed in Massachusetts to best poise himself against President Obama’s expanded healthcare for all, or, as most people know it, “Obamacare.” I prefer not to call it that but since President Obama expressed fondness of the term, I will respect his wishes. Last night, it was almost as if Romney liked “Obamacare.” He shook his Etch-A-Sketch and voila! He decided to keep the popular pieces of the legislation. He took the liberty of bringing up the “death panels” that have been long gone and pretty much never existed to begin with. And, he dishonestly asserted that pre-existing conditions would be covered under his medical reform package. Now, the real question is, is he lying now or was he lying before when he said that “Obamacare” was bad for the country?

To sum this all up, it seems pretentious and a bit misinformed to call the debate for the candidate who basically violated every rule of debate etiquette. Did he ignore facts? Yes. Did he stretch the truth? Certainly. Did he intentionally mislead viewers? Indeed. But, President Obama did little to stop him. Maybe it was President Obama’s lackluster presence and less than diminutive tone that led viewers and commentators to believe that he lost the debate. But, I care to differ. Maybe President Obama was unimpressed with the wavering, capriciousness of his “Etch-A-Sketch” opponent. It was pretty obvious that anything President Obama said would be followed by a witty retort as opposed to a detailed policy statement.

What was the most conspicuous fact coming out of last night’s debate  was Romney’s continued brazen charge away from reality. Not only did he lie, he was proud of it. He grinned the entire time and dropped a snarky remark or “zinger” at each opportunity he got. At one point, Romney even compared President Obama to lying children, hardly the language appropriate for a standing President of the United States. And maybe that’s the real problem here. The debate seemed more like an episode of The Bachelor than a substantive debate on real issues. Romney was obviously thoroughly prepped with falsehoods and rhetoric but little on facts.

Overall, I too call the debate in Romney’s favor. He played the game and he played it well. President Obama did not. Romney served the Kool-Aid, shook the Etch-A-Sketch and a lot of people drank it right up. Maybe President Obama prefers vino and a nice book. Either way, the President has a lot of work to do between now and October 16th if he has a chance at beating Mitt “Etch-A-Sketch” Romney in a debate.

If you’d like to watch the full debate, see below.

Or, for a vetted transcript, see here.

See here for a schedule of future debates.



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