by Nancy Thorner and Ed Ingold of Mundelein
For months, President Obama's campaign committee has tried to define Mitt Romney with slurs, accusations and outright misrepresentations.
Many of these were "strawman" attacks, after the medieval practice of creating a straw effigy, embuing it with the sins and misdeeds of the past year, then burning it in order get better luck in the future, which falsely claimed Governor Romney has one position or another, then attacking that position.
Well, on Wednesday night, in the first presidential debate, the "strawman" had a chance to speak.
Predictably, President Obama repeated his accusation that Governor Romney's tax plan would give tax breaks to the wealthy and raise taxes for the middle class.
As Governor Romney explained in his response, he never proposed anything of the sort. He would keep the so-called Bush tax cuts for everyone. In time, he would reduce the tax rates for everyone, but reduce the deductions and tax breaks in order to keep the same effective tax rates while simplifying the tax code and compliance.
Accused of not being specific, Governor Romney explained he would set the guiding principles, then work with both parties in Congress to fill in the details.
Per Obama, Governor Romney would continue the practice of giving tax breaks to companies for exporting jobs to foreign countries.
Romney rightly countered that in his 25 years of business experience, no such tax breaks had ever been given. If they were available, perhaps he needed a different tax lawyer.
One of Romney's better debate lines was in describing Obama's position that government was the solution to everything, calling it the "Trickle Down Theory of Government." That was a clever (and accurate) way to preempt the Democratic rant about "Trickle Down Economics" of Milt Friedman (and Reagen). useconomy.about.com/od/Politics/p/Trickle-Down-Economics-Does-It-Work.htm
President Obama's "Nixon" moment, referring to the famous 1960 debate with Jack Kennedy, was a consequence of the split screen, which showed both candidates' faces simultaneously.
Governor Romney paid respectful and intense attention to President Obama when the latter spoke (One learns in business that it is important to listen, and not concentrate on your next chance to speak.).
When Romney was speaking, the President was seen to look down, mutter to himself, make faces, and to look like he wanted to be somewhere else.
Perhaps the most significant accomplishment for Governor Romney was that the debate, face to face with the sitting President, gave him official standing.
Before the debate, he was just another Republican contender (admittedly the last one standing), barely worthy of a ten second sound bite on the evening news. In contrast, Obama's speeches were often broadcast in their entirety.
Small wonder that most people had no idea what Romney stands for, except as defined by his opponent.
Governor Romney was polished, polite and most important, prepared. The President was none of these. For more than four years, Obama has been coddled by the press, asked such probing questions as "What do you find most exciting about being President?", while surrounded by advisors who are afraid to speak their minds.
Reaction to the debate in the liberal media was a combination of disappointment and anger - anger with the President that he didn't bring up the issues thought embarrassing to Romney, and anger with the moderator, Jim Lehrer, for no particular reason.
According to Politico, for example, Romney wants to fire Big Bird. In fact, Romney said he wants the government to stop funding anything not critical enough to borrow money from China to support, including PBS.
The Governor qualified this by stating he liked PBS, Big Bird, and you [Jim Lehrer] too, but it's not government's responsibility to support them.
It's not likely the big yellow bird will be called to the office the day after Romney is inaugurated.
The next day, in Denver, Obama, a chastised but re-energized President, said he didn't know who was on the stage with him, but it wasn't the real Romney. "The real Romney," he went on to say, "is in favor of giving tax breaks to the rich, paid for by the middle class." "He wants to give tax breaks to companies who ship jobs overseas."
This shows that the President, despite appearances, was actually paying attention during the debate. President Obama must have heard Governor Romney's remark of how people repeat distortions in the hope that they will eventually be believed when Romney said, "I raised five sons, so I've heard all that before."
The first debate on October 3 on Domestic Policy from the University of Denver in Denver, Colorado, can be viewed at: www.youtube.com/politics?feature=etp-gs-ype
The President got it half right, anyway. Obama's misstatements about Mitt Romney are now unraveling.
As it turns out, the strawman is real, and the emperor has no clothes. In contrasting to the Wizard of Oz, Obama's protective cloak has now been removed.