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HOUSE OF THE WEEK

Monday, 8 October 2012

Why Mitt Romney Won The First Presidential Debate


US President Barack Obama (L) and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney finish their debate at the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado, October 3, 2012.


President Obama, Mitt Romney do their thing during Wednesday night's debate.

You want to know why Mitt Romney looked better than Barack Obama did last Wednesday night, why he came out of that debate looking like a winner? Because Romney was more persuasive making up stuff than the President was, that’s why.
That is what the election of 2012 might come down to at the end, if you are one of the people who actually needs these debates to make up your mind about Obama or Romney: Which one of them is better able to sell you a vision for the future like they are selling you a used car.
Or perhaps a used country.
Oh, Romney was much better at it in Denver. This was the first time his career in business seemed to help him. This was Bain Capital Romney, the guy who used to make leveraged buyouts sound like the closest thing to heaven on Earth. Didn’t matter how he scored points. Just that he scored them.
It’s why we should not only start keeping score at these things, but think about using a game-show format, one where misleading voters, or simply lying, costs you points. That way we won’t have to wait for MSNBC or Fox to tell us what we just saw, all we have to do is look at the scoreboard.
If diligent fact-checkers can work like demons in this fact-checker campaign of 2012, if they can sort out fact from fiction for newspapers in real time, why can’t they do it on television?
In the future, let’s have commercial breaks every 15 minutes. Then when they come out of those breaks and go back to the stage, the moderator can say things like this:
“Gov. Romney, you said that preexisting conditions will be covered in your health care plan — whatever that plan happens to be tonight — and you know that’s not true. In your plan, preexisting conditions are only covered for people with continuous coverage. So that’s going to cost you 100 points.”
Or: “Mr. President, did you really try to suggest before the break that Donald Trump runs a small business? Really? With all due respect, sir, that is going to cost you 100 points.”
Maybe this way the candidates could actually start telling truths to each other and, more importantly, to us. Newt Gingrich, who has occasional moments of clarity, called this the most important election of our lifetimes during the Republican debates. That means it ought to be about more than lying with a straight face.
There are two more presidential debates to come. Somehow, if these debates really are going to matter, there has to be a way to get these candidates off Fantasy Island.
The wisdom on this comes from Gov. Mario Cuomo, once the governor of New York, a man who should have been President himself once. Back in 2008, the early innings of Obama vs. Hillary Clinton, I asked Cuomo what he thought about what he had seen so far. “It should be about clarity and solutions and ideas and real vision,” Cuomo said. “But unfortunately, it will probably come down to the things it usually does, which means money and charisma and mistakes and bull---t.”
We need a buzzer going off at these debates, every time either Romney or Obama tries to get by with what is occasionally outrageous jive, even by the low standards of modern politics. No wonder Romney thinks he can get away with acting as if the Mitt Romney who got the Republican nomination never existed.
And he doesn’t get away with making the outrageous accusation that somehow the White House is cooking the books with unemployment numbers. And the President doesn’t get by just saying Romney is looking for $5 trillion in tax cuts without presenting actual math to back that claim up. Both candidates talk a lot about the middle class and the mortgage crisis that nearly sunk us all in 2008. But if either one of them gave out as much misinformation about themselves to bankers as they gave the country the other night, they’d both be turned down cold.
This is an America where our candidates actually seem to buy into the alternate reality presented by their TV ads, then raise tons of money in September so they can buy more ad time, and sell even more unreality to suckers.
One of them will have gotten by with a better brand of the last word Mario Cuomo talked about four years ago, right after he talked about mistakes. Starts with a B. Not for Barack.
We hear all the time about the real world, and real-world problems, and how both of these guys care about the struggles of real Americans. Only now we get this kind of campaign, like they’re running for President of Fantasy Island.


Edited By Cen Fox Post Team
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