Tag Archive: Presidential Debates

Oct 23 2012

The 3rd Obama – Romney Debate: Foreign Policy

The third and final debate between President Barack Obama and his challenger, Governor Mitt Romney took place in Boca Raton, FL at Lynn University moderated by Bob Schieffer, host of CBS’s “Face the Nation.” The focus was on foreign policy with most of the questions centering on the unrest in the Middle East, the conflict in Afghanistan, the military and the war on terror. Many of the pundits and snap polls gave the “win” to Pres. Obama, who let loose with a few well placed “zingers” in response to Gov. Romney’s criticism of his foreign policy. The “horses and bayonets” quip countering Gov Romney’s criticism of the US Navy’s fleet strength. Here is some the more balanced analysis from the left who had as much to say about the Obama administration’s bungled foreign policy, as they did about the dubious future policies of a President Romney.

From David Dayen, FDL News Desk, article, We Don’t Have an American Foreign Policy Debate

While Mitt Romney hid behind Barack Obama and displayed about as much independent thought as a college student who didn’t cram enough the night before the test and spent the whole time looking at his neighbor’s paper, his neighbor Barack Obama reflected so strongly the smoldering wreck that is this nation’s foreign policy consensus.

It’s amazing that the Republican Party, once associated almost totally with a “strong national defense,” would give up so completely on foreign policy, to the extent that they have no identity whatsoever on the issue. Romney agreed with every Obama position but said the nation needed a “comprehensive strategy” to deal with the world, the equivalent of Gerald Ford’s “Whip Inflation Now” buttons, a signifier without anything behind it.

But it’s also amazing to me that anyone would call the Republican candidate Peacenik Mitt, since on the one area by which we wage war in the 21st-century world, Mitt agreed “completely” on the use of drones. That’s increasingly the only way America and the west fights wars these days. So agreement on drones means agreement on the war strategy for the world powers over the next several decades. [..]

When war policy gets reduced to “send flying robots overhead to strike,” eliciting no sacrifice on the part of the general population, it becomes much easier to make these calls, to sign off on interventions in Libya or Somalia or Yemen or Mali or wherever else. [..]

From Glenn Greenwald‘s comments during the live blog of the debate at The Guardian:

9.34pm: Both candidates are eager to ignore the topic of this debate – foreign policy – in order to talk about the economy because they perceive, accurately, that this is what most voters care about, and because they don’t really have much to disagree in the foreign policy area. And so they are now dispensing with any pretense and regurgitating their economics debate.

But US foreign policy actually does have a significant relationship to the economy- namely, the massive military, the constant aggression, war and occupation, the hundreds of military bases around the world all drain resources away from far more constructive purposes – but neither of these two candidates will dare to question any of those imperial premises, so they can’t actually address the prime economic impact of US foreign policy. [..]

10.22pm: A primary reason this debate is so awful is because DC media people like Bob Scheiffer have zero interest in challenging any policy that is embraced by both parties, and since most foreign policies are embraced by both parties, he has no interest in challenging most of the issues that are relevant: drones, sanctions, Israel, etc.

10.34pm: That was just a wretched debate, with almost no redeeming qualities. It was substance-free, boring, and suffuse with empty platitudes. Bob Scheiffer’s questions were even more vapid and predictably shallow than they normally are, and one often forgot that he was even there (which was the most pleasant part of the debate.)

The vast majority of the most consequential foreign policy matters (along with the world’s nations) were completely ignored in lieu of their same repetitive slogans on the economy. When they did get near foreign policy, it was to embrace the fundamentals of each other’s positions and, at most, bicker on the margin over campaign rhetoric.

Numerous foreign policy analysts, commentators and journalists published lists of foreign policy questions they wanted to hear asked and answered at this debate. Almost none was raised. In sum, it was a perfect microcosm of America’s political culture.

10.56pm: Echoing a common refrain of progressives, Andrew Sullivan after the debate says that Obama has “restored America’s moral standing in the world”. I suppose one can say that if one excludes the entire Muslim world from “the world”, as many do, because in that rather large and important part of the world, there has been no restoration of any kind. Quite the opposite. See, just as a beginning, here, here, here, and here.

From lambert‘s Mission elapsed time: T + 45 and counting* at Corrente:

Obama vs. Romney Round III. Recently, I’ve started taking the bus into town, so I can caffeinate myself and work on my laptop in a milieu that could make me feel like I lived in a city again, if I were able to suspend disbelief, which I can’t.

Point being that I take the last bus home, and the last bus here, like last buses everywhere, is filled with characters. A selection of characters I’m highly confident is drawn from populations that are under this or that form of supervison. Most exhibit detailed knowledge of pharmaceuticals, especially barbiturates. Their language is technical and official. They are expert in brands, dosages, arrests, trials, hearings, sentences, and treatment regimens. They trade tips. Most present well; they speak fluently and often, especially of compliance, recovery, and the disasters of others.

And heaven knows what they do when they get home.

So, tonight, listening to our affectless, sweating, droning candidates speak so fluently and present so well, I couldn’t but be reminded of junkies on the last bus. Because it really is about the next fix with these guys, isn’t it? It always is, with junk. Oil, money, power: Junk. Right in the imperial vein.

From Gary Younge‘s comment at The Guardian:

Obama fires and Romney falters but third debate fails to find a flourish

The president did better than an unconvincing Romney – but it’s difficult to imagine this debate changed minds or won hearts

If the world could vote on 6 November, Barack Obama would win by a landslide. A global poll for the BBC World Service revealed that 20 out of 21 countries preferred the president to his challenger. But when you watched the presidential debate on foreign policy on Monday night you had to wonder why. Not because Mitt Romney was better, but because on matters of policy, Obama was almost as bad. It takes a friend to reveal the harsh truth to the global community, so here it is: “Obama’s just not that into you.”

No one could love Israel more, care less about the Palestinians, put more pressure on Iran or be a greater fan of drone attacks or invading Libya. Both candidates agreed that America’s task was to spread freedom around the world: nobody mentioned Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib or rendition. “Governor, you’re saying the same things as us, but you’d say them louder,” said Obama. It was a good line. The trouble was it condemned them both.

Charles Pierce, in his analysis at Esquire noted some significant glaring ommissions:

A discussion of foreign policy that did not mention climate change. (Four debates and nary a mention. Somebody else is going to have to tell the polar bears.) A discussion of foreign policy that mentioned teacher’s unions exactly as many times – once – as it mentioned the Palestinians, and I am not making that statistic up. A discussion of foreign policy that did not mention hunger, or thirst, or epidemic disease, but spent better than ten minutes on The Fking Deficit. (Here Romney cited in defense of his position that noted political economist, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.) A discussion of foreign policy that was all about threats, real and imagined, and wars, real or speculative, and weapons, and how many of them we should build in order to feel safe in this dangerous world.

There is no light between them.

Oct 18 2012

“A Different Set of Rules”

From Glenn Greenwald: “A violent breach of everything America stands for,”:

In Tuesday night’s debate, President Obama delivered a bold, powerful, aggressive performance that has Democrats across the land cheering. One of his most effective lines about the oligarchical fraud known as Mitt Romney was this one:

“Governor Romney says he’s got a five-point plan. Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan; he has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules.”

It would be terrible indeed if “folks at the top” were able to “play by a different set of rules”. It might mean that Wall Street tycoons could perpetrate a massive fraud that virtually collapses the world economy and causes massive economic suffering, yet suffer no consequences of any kind thanks to a subservient Justice Department – all while ordinary Americans are subjected to the world’s largest and one of its most unmerciful penal states. It might mean that the nation’s largest telecoms could enable illegal spying on millions of their customers and then be retroactively immunized from all civil and criminal liability.

We cannot afford this from either party.

Oct 18 2012

The 2nd Obama – Romney Debate

Since I support neither Barack Obama or Mitt Romney and do not intend to vote for either one of them, no matter how well they do in this debate farce, I can objectively say that Pres. Obama had the upper hand and was pretty much the clear “winner” of debate #2. Gov. Romney showed his privileged elitist 1950’s side in his demeanor. As Jeralyn Merrit at Talk Left pointed out he showed his dominant trait: rudeness:

Mitt Romney is one rude guy. It’s not that he’s a bully, it’s that he is impervious to anything and anyone around him. It’s all about him. And when he doesn’t get his way, he stomps his foot like a spoiled brat.

He’s rude and impatient. Which is a sign he doesn’t play well with others. He thinks he knows best. Would he even listen to his own advisers, or would we be in for four years of Mitt knows best?

He was awful tonight. He may be one of the most unlikable politicians to come along in a while.

Mitt Romney needs to go to charm school. I bet he didn’t have many friends as a kid.

Yes, Gov. Romney was rude but I disagree with Jeralyn, he was also  bully, a typical trait of someone raise in privilege and a corporate CEO. What other candidate would have had the unmitigated audacity to say to a sitting President of the United States, “You’ll get your chance in a moment. I’m still speaking.”? As Charles Pierce at Esquire Politics Blog noted:

Wow. To me, this was a revelatory, epochal moment. It was a look at the real Willard Romney, the Bain cutthroat who could get rich ruining lives and not lose a moment’s sleep. But those people are merely the anonymous Help. The guy he was speaking to on Tuesday night is a man of considerable international influence. Outside of street protestors, and that Iraqi guy who threw a shoe at George W. Bush, I have never seen a more lucid example of manifest public disrespect for a sitting president than the hair-curling contempt with which Romney invested those words. (I’ve certainly never seen one from another candidate.) He’s lucky Barack Obama prizes cool over everything else. LBJ would have taken out his heart with a pair of salad tongs and Harry Truman would have bitten off his nose.

But the best assessment of the night has to be from Jon Stewart:

Oct 17 2012

2012 Presidential Debate 2

Moderator Role Under Scrutiny – Before the Debate

By Mark Halperin, Time

October 14, 2012

In a rare example of political unity, both the Romney and Obama campaigns have expressed concern to the Commission on Presidential Debates about how the moderator of this Tuesday’s town hall has publicly described her role, TIME has learned.



In the view of the two campaigns and the commission, those and other recent comments by Crowley conflict with the language the campaigns agreed to, which delineates a more limited role for the debate moderator.



According to the debate-format language in the agreement, after each audience question and two-minute responses from the candidates, Obama and Romney are expected to have an additional discussion facilitated by Crowley. Yet her participation is meant to be limited. As stated in the document, “In managing the two-minute comment periods, the moderator will not rephrase the question or open a new topic … The moderator will not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate or otherwise intervene in the debate except to acknowledge the questioners from the audience or enforce the time limits, and invite candidate comments during the two-minute response period.” The memo, which has been obtained by TIME, was signed by lawyers for the two campaigns on Oct. 3, the day of the first presidential debate in Denver.



Crowley seems unfazed by the behind-the-scenes maneuvering. Even after concerns were raised in the wake of the Malveaux interview, Crowley made additional comments that make clear she does not feel bound by any agreement between the commission and the Obama and Romney camps. On Oct. 11, the day of the vice-presidential debate, she told Wolf Blitzer, “I’m always interested in the questions because you don’t want to – in a debate, you don’t want to go over plowed ground. Now, this is the vice-presidential candidates as opposed to the presidential candidates. So is there room there to come back to a presidential candidate and say, Well, your vice-presidential candidate said this? I’m always kind of looking for the next question … So there’s opportunity for follow-up to kind of get them to drill down on the subjects that these folks want to learn about in the town hall.”

Sources say both campaigns are preparing their candidates for the debate under the assumption that Crowley might play a bigger role than either they or the commission want. At the same time, some officials familiar with the deliberations of the campaigns say they hope that by publicizing the expectations for the moderator’s role in the town hall and making public the language in the memo, Crowley will be less likely to overstep their interpretation of her role. One key source expressed confidence on Sunday afternoon that, despite Crowley’s remarks on CNN, the moderator would perform on Tuesday night according to the rules agreed to by the two campaigns.

Transcript

The lame rules for presidential debates: a perfect microcosm of US democracy

Glenn Greenwald

Tuesday 16 October 2012 16.03 EDT

The way the two major parties control the presidential debates is a perfect microcosm of how political debates are restricted in general. Though typically shrouded in secrecy, several facts about this process have recently come to light and they are quite instructive.



Under this elaborate regime, the candidates “aren’t permitted to ask each other questions, propose pledges to each other, or walk outside a ‘predesignated area.'” Worse, “the audience members posing questions aren’t allowed to ask follow-ups (their mics will be cut off as soon as they get their questions out). Nor will moderator Candy Crowley.” The rules even “forbid television coverage from showing reaction shots of the candidates”.



Here then, within this one process of structuring the presidential debates, we have every active ingredient that typically defines, and degrades, US democracy. The two parties collude in secret. The have the same interests and goals. Everything is done to ensure that the political process is completely scripted and devoid of any spontaneity or reality.

All views that reside outside the narrow confines of the two parties are rigidly excluded. Anyone who might challenge or subvert the two-party duopoly is rendered invisible.

Lobbyists who enrich themselves by peddling their influence run everything behind the scenes. Corporations pay for the process, which they exploit and is then run to bolster rather than threaten their interests. The media’s role is to keep the discourse as restrictive and unthreatening as possible while peddling the delusion that it’s all vibrant and free and independent and unrestrained. And it all ends up distorting political realities far more than illuminating them while wildly exaggerating the choices available to citizens and concealing the similarities between the two parties.

To understand the US political process, one can just look to how these sham debates are organized and how they function. This is the same process that repeats itself endlessly in virtually every other political realm.

The 2012 Debates – Memorandum of Understanding Between the Obama and Romney Campaigns

Leaked 2012 Presidential Debates Contract: Few Critical Points Worth Raising

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Monday October 15, 2012 8:25 pm

It is what should be expected from candidates from the two most prominent political parties in America, which wrested control of the debates from the League of Women Voters back in the 1980s. The two parties launched the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which has conducted itself like the corrupt organization it was destined to become by working to exclude third party candidates, debate moderators and key issues/topics for decades now.

The contract shows no one is to “issue any challenges for additional debates” or “appear at any other debate or adversarial forums except as agreed to by the parties.” They are also not to “accept any television or radio air time offers that involve a debate format or otherwise involve the simultaneous appearance of more than one candidate.” What this means is that when news programs like “Democracy Now!” or HuffPost Live hold debates or CNN host Don Lemon hosts does a segment where third party candidates are invited, neither Obama nor Romney can participate because of this agreement. They also cannot accept invitations from the NAACP to participate in forums or groups like Free and Equal, which is committed to openness and fairness in elections. The two campaigns agree to close off debate and limit democracy in the election.

If candidates outside of Obama or Romney are “invited to participate,” they must sign the secret contract and agree to these terms. Should they refuse, they cannot be part of the debate. Someone like Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein might get a bump and have enough support in a poll to be in a debate but, if they refuse to cooperate with a organization with such a shady history, they will not get to go before an audience and share their platform.



For the town hall debate, the contract instructs the moderator to go through a cumbersome process of approving audience questions prior to the debate for the benefit of the candidates, who would not want to be caught off guard by a question the carefully selected media personality had not finessed and sanitized for public consumption.



There are also to be no cut-aways to candidates not answering a question or not giving a closing statement. This is why candidates are shown in a split-screen on television. That is not prohibited in the agreement and is also not a cut-away. In any case, the campaigns mean to limit viewers’ ability to react to body language.

There is nothing in the “leaked” secret contract on third party candidates, beyond the note that additional qualified candidates must sign the CPD agreement. The selection criteria, however, is posted on the CPD website. It makes clear a candidate must be “constitutionally eligible, “appear on enough state ballots to have at least a mathematical chance of securing an Electoral College majority in the 2012 general election” and  have a level of support of at least 15% “of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations’ most recent publicly-reported results at the time of the determination.”



The selection criteria is why Johnson took the step of filing an antitrust lawsuit against the CPD. According to the Los Angeles Times, the suit argues the Republican and Democratic national committees engaged in a conspiracy by meeting and creating rules for the debates in secret, which exclude third-party candidates. It also alleges they participated in a “restraint of trade” that violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. (The challenge is different from a challenge brought by Ralph Nader that argued the CPD was violating the Federal Election Campaign Act by endorsing, supporting or opposing political candidates or political parties.)

Tomorrow, during the second presidential debate, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson will not be on stage. A functioning democratic society would not tolerate a political process where these individuals were not treated fairly. At minimum, each general election cycle would begin with a debate with all candidates that were on enough state ballots to assume the presidency and were registering a percentage of support in national polls. That would typically be four to six people and not unreasonable.

Regardless of whether the rigged system makes it possible for them to win or not, they should not be excluded. Secret contracts have no place in any society claiming to have fair elections. And, the CPD-which is a symptom of the bipartisan racket that is US elections-should be dissolved. It does not encourage open, free and fair politics but rather exists to protect the status quo or current order that benefits the richest one percent and the guardians of the national security state.

*Tune into “Democracy Now!” as they expand the debate Wednesday morning after the second presidential debate with Jill Stein, Rocky Anderson and Virgil Goode, who will answer questions they should have been asked personally the previous night.

Me?  I’m going to be watching Professional Wrestling because I know that’s not fixed.

This is an Open Thread.