Obama vs Romney II – The Presidential Debate Recap

By: James Di Fiore

In the run-up to the second presidential debate there was an interesting caveat being discussed by the self congratulatory cable news network, CNN. Eager to guarantee themselves as large an audience as possible, CNN talking heads focused much of their pre-debate coverage on moderator Candy Crowley. Crowley was the first woman in 20 years to moderate a presidential debate, and her performance may have set back female moderators another 20 years.

Crowley could not keep either candidate under control, with Mitt Romney talking over her for nearly a full minute at one point. Barack Obama was also uncooperative, extending his answers long after Crowley had attempted to move to new questions or follow up discussions. Romney went as far as flatly rejecting Crowley with a stern “No!” as she tried to wrestle back her role, an awkward moment making Romney look like a bully and Crowley a meek intermediate.

The debate featured two candidates with starkly different approaches and delivery styles. Obama began the debate with an almost whiny cadence, a bi-product of both the town hall format and his tactical strategy of not repeating the staleness of his first debate. Whenever Obama tried to hammer Romney with effective responses he delivered them with all the zeal and excitement of a laundry list. While he did run down all the most glaring inconsistencies in Romney’s platform, he seemed annoyed at Romney instead of being energetic and substantive with his delivery.

Romney’s problems were more on the surface. He fumbled his words and came up with bizarre ad libs when under the gun. When trying to convey his record as governor of hiring more women to his cabinet than any other state, he spoke of receiving “binders full of women” from women’s groups, setting off the Twitterverse and cementing the debate’s most talked about quote. He also borrowed a page from Obama’s first debate strategy by not addressing the most aggressive accusations from the president, including the across-the-board 20% tax cut and which tax loopholes Romney would close. The one seemingly easy issue to hammer Obama with was Libya, but Romney fumbled that topic by challenging what Obama said a day after the attack. Obama correctly told the audience that he referred to the attack as an “act of terror”. Romney awkwardly suggested the president did not call it an act of terror until 2 weeks after the tragedy took place, prompting Crowley to weigh in and inform Romney that Obama had indeed made the statement. If Romney was more savvy he would have focused on the Obama administration’s inconsistent statements and called out the White House for being either incompetent or dishonest.

Obama appeared to win the debate, although it wasn’t the obvious landslide Romney had in their initial head-to-head. The president’s delivery was once again a tad lackluster, but he did not avoid laying out some of the most obvious arguments this time. Romney had far too many errors in judgment and silly improvisational phrases to be considered the winner by most serious pundits, and he will have to shed that unsettling laugh if he wants to win over the audience for the last debate on October 22nd. Obama should not get cocky either and needs to understand that while he won this debate, it was not as good a performance as Romney had in the first debate, despite the half truths and outright distortions.

As an aside, America’s undecided voters might be some of the most attention starved individuals on the planet. If you are unsure who you should vote for between these two candidates this late in the game, not only are you not paying attention, you are also not a very serious person. But that, as they say, is an entirely different kind of debate.


Loughner Killings Spotlight Left vs Right Dogma

Tragedy spawns new low in American civil discourse

By: James Di Fiore

The polarization of politics in America has been a thorn in the side of its democracy for decades. While Presidents like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were able to overcome most dethroning attempts from their party’s opponents, the current state of rhetoric and behaviour displayed by political ideologues has reached a possible tipping point. The idea of civil discourse in America seems as likely as Mike Hucklebee presiding over a gay marriage ceremony, and the Left VS Right paradigm is in full swing, much to the discontent of centrists, moderates and proponents of reason.

Shining a spotlight on this predictable ongoing squabble is the case of Jared Lee Loughner, the man allegedly responsible for killing 6 people and injuring 13 others, including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The shooting is unfortunately nothing new in a country like America where this kind of killing spree happens every few years, but the politicization of the event has spawned accusations of influence from the right by the gatekeepers of left wing ideology.

And they say tragedy can bring two sides together.

Politics had an opportunity in the aftermath of this crisis to calm the waters of political rhetoric and take a moment to cooperate and harmonize their messages of condolences, sadness and reflection. Instead, commentators on the left took this tragedy and systematically pointed fingers to those on the right who had used inflammatory language or gun metaphors during political campaigns and speeches. With the finger print ink barely dry on Loughner’s guilty hands, the responsibility of his crimes were being laid on the doorstep of Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and other right wingers who have a tendency to speak without thinking, or speak with a tone of division and partisanship. Instead of civil discourse the public was being drowned in the typical sound bites all too common in today’s political arena.

The right wing is not innocent in this situation either. After being put on the defensive through the irresponsible comments by Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, who should have stuck to finer points about the case and the evidence, and commentators like Keith Olbermann, right wingers began to label Loughner as a left wing nut and communist. And the battle of ‘which ideology was the most dangerous to the American public’ was on. Don’t bother trying to find a winner in that unfortunate contest. Instead, try to separate your political leanings from your logic and understand that this Left vs Right battle is the main flame-thrower in the deterioration of discourse in politics. Jon Stewart, who took shots from both sides after his Rally to Restore Sanity tried to take a ‘both sides are equally irresponsible’ approach to help explain today’s lack of decorum, gave an off-the-cuff monologue to start his show on the day of the tragedy. His message: that while today’s political rhetoric is inexcusable and childish, it is impossible to blame the rhetoric for this particular tragedy. He cited blaming heavy metal music for Columbine as an equally distorted viewpoint. Most centrists or non-affiliated politicos would agree with that comparison. As for Palin, she posted this video in an attempt to explain her own version of events, but what started out as sympathy for the victims turned into a manifesto, an over-explanation and underwhelming attempt to paint the left with her ominously partisan brush.

But non-affiliated political enthusiasts are not part of the dialogue in this tragedy. The microphone is being drenched by the mouths of the same usual suspects, wagging their collective tongues at what they see as a chance to score political points disguised with sympathy for the victim’s and their families. Instead of a politician from the right or left coming forward and denouncing the tactics of blame and division, America has to once again look to its political comedian for reason.

In a situation that has no punchline, the rhetoric remains something of a joke.

If Wyclef Were President

Haiti is a place where the rule of law is consistently trumped by the rule of foreign economic influence. Even former President Bill Clinton, when pressed to talk about some of his regrets during his time in office, named Haiti policy as his number one regret.

“It was a mistake … I was a party to … I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did – nobody else,” Clinton said to the US Foreign Relations Committee back in April.

While there is nothing too surprising about a former world leader taking some responsibility when it is far too late (still waiting on Bush Jr. to own up for some of his colossal blunders), it would be nice if a leader would take responsibility while still in power. Or better yet, not create detrimental policy to begin with.

So when Wyclef announced his intention to run as President of his native country, many began to question his qualifications as a world leader. His charity’s financial irregularities became the rebuttal to his political aspirations, and this might be the most valuable timing since Laryn Hill’s verse on ‘How Many Mics.’

“If you make a mistake you have to admit that it’s a mistake. The taxes weren’t filed on time, so what do I do? I said, find me the best accountant because this foundation is going to the next level. So we brought in RSM McGladrey, and now everything is being filed on time.” Jean gets to answer for his mistakes before the election, rather than pontificating on them after he leaves office, provided he wins of course.

And if Arnold Schwarzeneggar can be a governor and Al Franken can be a senator, there is no reason why a hip hop icon can’t be President.

If Wyclef was President…..who knows? Is he a socialist? In Haiti, hopefully. The last thing that country needs is a capitalist who panders to the whim of foreign powers. (cue the right wing scoffing).

Let’s hope his track “If I Was President” isn’t prophetic.