Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On Last Night's Obama Triumph in the Third Presidential Debate

And so the books are closed - or, better screens - on the third and final Presidential debate of 2012.  The President did poorly in the first debate, dominated in the second debate, and did even better in the third debate.

Romney offered little but weak agreement with Obama, and a customary stream of misleading statements and lies.   As in the second debate, Obama did well in challenging these statements, and urging people to go to the record for the truth.

A prime example last night concerned Romney's claim that he didn't want American car companies to fail, but rather wanted the government to shepherd them to health through a "managed bankruptcy".  When Obama correctly called Romney on that, indicating that Romney had never wanted any government money to go to car companies, Romney said Obama was misrepresenting his position.  Romney said people should "look up" what he in fact had written.  Obama said people would.

Here is the applicable sentence in Romney's "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" op-ed in the November 18, 2008 New York Times - the only sentence that talks about government financial guarantees:  "The federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk."  Clearly, the "guarantees" that Romney is talking about are to consumers - car buyers, not car companies - to make sure "their warranties are not at risk".  Such guarantees offer no government assurances of post-bankruptcy support for the car companies.   Romney's idea was to let the car companies fail, but make sure consumers were not left holding the bag.   This was admirable regarding consumers, but Obama realized that consumers and the nation would be better served not by letting the car companies fail and then rebuilding them, but doing something to keep the car companies afloat long enough to recover.

And indeed, if we continue to the concluding sentence of the op-ed, we get Romney's summation of his argument: "In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check."  But, in fact, Obama's transfusion of funds, which allowed the car companies to meet their debts and remain viable, did not "seal their fate," and to the contrary served as a springboard to their becoming the most successful car companies in the world today.  Obama's "bailout check" has been totally repaid - literally and figuratively.

Obama bested Romney is just about every exchange last night. (Obama remains vulnerable to Romney's observations about what has not improved in the economy in the past four years, and will remain so until Republican obstruction in Congress is cited by the President).  In the nonverbal realm, Romney looked tired, pasty, out of his element, and far worse than Obama did in the first debate.  But will winning this third debate be enough to win the election in two weeks?   So far, Obama's success in the second debate has perhaps stopped the pace of Romney's surge, but has not put the President clearly back on top.

The election in two weeks should help answer the complex question of the impact of the debates, and well as the related and much more important question of who will be President for next four years.

See also On Last Night's Obama Disappointment in the First Presidential Debate and On Last Night's Biden Success in the VP Debate and On Last Night's Obama Triumph in the Second Presidential Debate
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