Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Honest Take of 2nd Presidential Debate

I watched the debate last night and several people asked me today "Who won?"  My answer was "your candidate won".  It's interesting how we all suffer from cognitive bias, ignoring the things that go contrary to what we want to believe.  So I am going to attempt to be as honest as possible about last nights debate.

The Moderator

I read reports that Candy Crowley was planning on playing a bigger role in the debate, asking additional questions.  She apparently has demonstrated a bias towards President Obama in the past, so the fact that she was selecting the questions concerned me.  I however, was pleasantly surprised.  The questions seemed balanced.  Regarding her additional questioning, I actually liked it.  Candidates do a good job of answering any question with their talking points.  She seemed to attempt to make them accountable.  Apparently she interrupted Governor Romney significantly more and gave President Obama more time.  I'm not going to criticize the little stuff.

The Candidates

It would be really nice if the candidates, after being asked a question, would look the person in the eye and give them a specific, direct, honest answer.  Of course, they couldn't do that, but it would be nice.  However, these guys are good on their feet!  I liked their response to "How is Mitt Romney going to be different than George Bush?"  Governor Romney made the respectable case for what he would do better. Obama responded that Governor Romney is different from Bush in that he was going to be worse than Bush on social policies.  Very clever on both their parts.

President Obama

I thought he had some great responses.  The most impressive was his passionate argument about how much he cares about the problems in Libya.  He also pointed out his record on opposing the war in Iraq and then pulling out.  That's quite an accomplishment.  I noticed a couple of negative patterns.  One is an insistent  construction of a straw-man portraying Romney as a selfish, greedy, uncaring Mr. Potter from "It's a Wonderful Life".  The other pattern is that addressing problems always seems to involve other people.

  • Got a debt problem?  Make rich people pay for it.    
  • Need healthcare?  Require insurance companies to cover you and require that health providers do more for less compensation.  
  • Having problems in the Middle East?  Blame an anti-Muslim film, your intelligence community, etc. 
  • Stuck with a bad economy?  Blame Bush.  
  • Have trouble keeping your promises?  Blame Republicans in Congress.  
  • Need to improve pay for women?  Pass a law (meanwhile no significant improvement has been made [1] and even his own staff suffers from unequal pay [2])

Governor Romney

It's not fair that Governor Romney has the actual record of an incumbent in a bad economy to point fingers at.  He definitely  does an excellent job of exploiting this advantage.  I really wonder if Romney had been elected in 2008, how the record would be different.  There's really no telling, but my guess is it would be better.  He got feisty, which is good and bad.  Good because I want to know that he is able to fight the current power brokers who seem to be failing us.  Bad because it doesn't seem presidential.  Of course, he never was silly like Joe Biden's performance last week.  I think he made a mistake on the Libya issue.  I still feel he blew it on Sept. 11 when it made the attack on Benghazi political.  Sure the White House has sent confusing signals on what they think caused the attack, but we should be united in our fight against this.  Finally on the deficit, I'm going to have to trust that the jobs Governor Romney's plan will create will result in enough revenues along with the cuts are enough to balance the budget.  The way I figure it, 16 million new jobs can generate at most around $250 billion in revenues (maybe double that counting all payroll taxes and taxes on increased business).  With entitlement costs rising and current deficits at $1000 billion, that's a lot of cutting.  He's way smarter than I am, getting an MBA and Law Degree simultaneously, running a business and make millions along the way, so it remains to be seen.  I'd like to see what he could do.  I wish he would have used the line "Is it worth borrowing money from China to pay for this government program?"

More Deficit and Debt

I think the way our current political system is set up,  it's impossible for a candidate to be "candid" about our debt and still get elected.  I think we are reaching the tipping point where we won't be able to afford the interest payments on our debt and the slightest bump in the road is going to upset the cart.


I'm not sure how well I did at overcoming my own biases, but at least I tried to acknowledge the positive and negative points for each candidate.  That's more than I can say for most of what I've read today.

Update 10/18/2012
I just read that Federal welfare payments exceeded a trillion dollars last year ($1000 billion), so it looks like there is more savings than I originally thought.  If more people have jobs, fewer are on welfare.

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