Three Noteworthy Moments from Debate Number Two

Inasmuch as President Obama and Mitt Romney in their second debate came tantalizingly close to engaging in fisticuffs, but alas only teased us with that possibility, the debate was an overall disappointment and bore.

There were entertaining moments, to be sure, such as the following exchange between the two candidates:

ROMNEY: I don’t think anyone really believes that you’re a person who’s going to be pushing for oil and gas and coal. [OBAMA stands up from stool, ROMNEY holds hand up and extends his arm towards Obama] You’ll get your chance in a moment. I’m still speaking.

OBAMA: Well–

ROMNEY: And the answer is I don’t believe people think that’s the case–

OBAMA: If you’re asking me a question–

ROMNEY: That wasn’t a question, that was a statement. [Continues talking about Obama’s oil policies.]

I thought that was a beautiful moment, that Obama, who has for the last four years played the role of bully very well, was put in his place by a man he personally despises.

Something else struck me enough to want to write about, and that was the very first question, asked by first-time voter Jeremy Epstein:

[A]s a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors, and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?

The question betrayed the young man’s political persuasion. He does not want to know what policies will help encourage business owners to hire young college graduates; he does not want to know why his professors and neighbors tell him that the job market is emaciated; instead, he wants the candidates to tell him something that will make him feel good. “Reassure me,” he says. This first-time voter will vote for whichever candidate lies to him so much as to give him unfounded optimism. This first-time voter, I would bet money, is a liberal, and far from being undecided, notwithstanding the assurances of CNN that undecided voters were the makeup of the debate audience.

Another question came from a Ms. Susan Katz who asked arguably one of the most absurd questions I’ve heard in a debate thus far:

I do attribute much of America’s economic and international problems to the failings and missteps of the Bush administration. Since both you [Romney] and President Bush are Republicans, I fear a return to the policies of those years should you win this election. What is the biggest difference between you and George W. Bush, and how do you differentiate yourself from George W. Bush?

I say this was “arguably” one of the most absurd questions because some have argued that it was not so absurd. But I would have loved Romney, just this once, to channel 2008’s Republican contender, John McCain, when McCain finally turned to Obama and said, “Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago.”

Romney should have said something along those lines. To wit: “Well, I’m not running against George Bush and George Bush is no longer the president, but let me explain how I am different from him.” He could have kept that part jovial and non-confrontational by lightly chuckling as he said it. (And after he answered the question, it would have been a golden treat, though inadvisable, had he added, “Speaking of past presidents, should we ask President Obama how he is different from past Democratic presidents? Say, Presidents Carter or Woodrow Wilson?”

In the end, though, I am happy with the debate. When focus groups of undecided voters not only on Fox News but on MSNBC give the win to Romney, what really is there to complain about?