I’m putting this diary up as an “open thread” for people to discuss the first Obama-Romney debate (begins at 9 pm), as well as for me to add whatever thoughts (if any) that I happen to have. Also, prior to the debate, I’ll be participating in an on the record, pre-debate “prebuttal” blogger call with representatives from the Obama campaign (Ben LaBolt, National Press Secretary; Melissa Ryan, Progressive Media and Blog Outreach; Erica Sackin, Progressive Media and Blog Outreach). Should be interesting.
Other than that, I strongly recommend partaking in your comfort beverage (or food) of choice for this debate, as it’s going to be extremely painful watching the pathological liar, Willard “Mitt” Romney, try to pretend that: a) he’s got a plan that makes any sense; b) he’s in any way qualified to be president, let alone better qualified than President Obama; c) he’s in any sense someone you’d want to have a beer with, let alone have on your TV screens for four loooong years; and d) he can string more than a few words together without lying or distorting something.
UPDATE 10:52 pm: So, bottom line of this debate is that we learned nothing new about either candidate (the debate itself was about as enjoyable as a root canal; Romney’s nasty, Obama was sort of passive, Lehrer was a potted plant). For instance, Romney reinforced that he’s a slick, pathological liar with an economic philosophy that’s guaranteed (and proven) not to work, with no details on anything he’d do, with a completely malleable view of “reality.” Obama’s steady, cool, professorial, clearly not a big fan of debating this pathological liar. Will this change any votes? Maybe a few towards Romney, as he got to stand on the same stage as the President and did a decent job if you don’t count all the lying and vagueness. President Obama basically was playing not to lose, very cautious, which might be a smart strategy, but I would have preferred that he pounded Romney on the 47%, “let Detroit go bankrupt,” etc. Anyway, I guess we’ll just have to check the polls the next few days to see if this made any difference in the race…
UPDATE 10:29 pm: Closing statements. Obama – Took office 4 years ago in the midst of major crisis, but my faith is undiminished thanks to the American people. Give people a fair shot, opportunity to succeed, everyone playing by same rules. I promised I’d fight every single day on behalf of middle class, I’ve kept that promise, will fight just as hard in second term.
Romney – This is an important election and I’m concerned about America, direction of last 4 years. Two very different paths you’ve seen laid out tonight, lead in very different directions. If President is reelected, you’ll continue to see a middle class squeeze. I’ll help create 12 million new jobs with rising incomes. Claims disaster will occur if Obamacare stays in place. Claims (lie) that there will be a $716 billion cut to Medicare. Claims (lie) there will be dramatic cuts to military under President Obama.
UPDATE 10:25 pm: Last question, on partisan gridlock. Romney – In Massachusetts, worked with overwhelmingly “Democrat” legislature. Had to work across the aisle to get anything done. I will sit down on Day 1 with Democratic and Republican leaders. We have to work on collaborative basis, because there’s common ground (yeah, tell that to your Tea Party supporters! LOL). “Republicans and Democrats both love America,” but we need leadership.
Obama – Gov. Romney’s going to have a busy first day, he’s also going to repeal Obamacare, which is not going to be very popular when you sit down with them. (Zing!) I will take good ideas from anyone. That’s how we made so many accomplishments, even with Republican control of House of Representatives. You have to say exactly what you’re going to do, not just “I’ll sit down.” Also have to say “no” occasionally. Some of these are fights we needed to have. What you are for but also being willing to say no to things, Romney hasn’t displayed that willingness to say no to more extreme elements of his own party.
UPDATE 10:19 pm: Question on education. Romney – School choice. Obama – Race to the Top program worked with both Republican and Democratic governors to initiate reforms that are working right now. Budgets matter, because budgets reflect choices. Romney says he wants to cut taxes to the wealthiest Americans, will pay for it by cutting federal support for education. Rep. Ryan put forth a budget that reflects many of the principles Romney’s talked about. It wasn’t very detailed – this seems to be a trend – but it would slash education budget. Our priorities make a difference. Gov. Romney says you should borrow money from your parents to pay for college…many people don’t have that option.
Romney – You’re not entitled to your own facts, I’m not planning on cutting education funding. You put $90 billion into “green jobs.” “I’m all in favor of green energy,” but that would have hired teachers…blah blah blah. (what on earth is Romney blabbering about?) Don’t pick winners and losers, take over health care system (blah blah blah; this guy is utterly insufferable, slick, slimy, liar). “I don’t just talk about it, I’ve been there.”
UPDATE 10:13 pm: Role of government. Obama – The first role of federal government is to keep American people safe. I’ve worked on and thought about that every day as Commander in Chief. Also need to open up opportunity where Americans can succeed. Genius of American system is free enterprise, freedom, but as Abraham Lincoln understood, there are things we do better together (e.g., transcontinental railroad, Academy of Sciences, land grant colleges). If all Americans get opportunity, we’re all better off, actually enhances everyone’s freedom. Federal government can’t do it all, but it can make a difference.
Romney – I love great schools, ranked #1 in Massachusetts. I believe in great teachers, more teachers. Role of government is to promote and protect the principles of the Constitution. Life and liberty. Military second to none, don’t cut military. Maintain commitment to religious tolerance and freedom. Those less fortunate cared for by one another. Government shouldn’t substitute itself for rights of free individuals. That’s what we have now, it’s not working, proof of that is bad economy. “It’s time for a new path.”
UPDATE 10:02 pm: Romney says he liked the way we did it in Massachusetts. Claims Obama pushed Obamacare through on an entirely partisan basis, along with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. We didn’t raise taxes, we didn’t put in place a board, we didn’t cut Medicare (of course we didn’t have Medicare), blah blah blah.
Obama – This was actually a Republican idea. Romney said what we did in Massachusetts could be a model for the nation. We used the same advisors and they say it’s the same plan. The board Romney keeps referring to is about reducing the cost of care in the system overall. There are ways to make cost of care more effective, like Cleveland Clinic model. They do some smart things there, like preventive care, pay providers on the basis of performance not on how many procedures they’ve engaged in. The board identifies best practices, says let’s use purchasing power of Medicare…Over last two years, health care premiums have gone up slower than any time in the past 50 years. Romney hasn’t described what he’d replace Obamacare with. There’s no indication that his plans will help people with preexisting conditions, etc. 50 million people could lose health insurance under Romney’s plan.
Romney – Claims his plan does all kinds of wondrous things, bashes “unelected board” again. Government not effective in bringing down cost of almost anything, according to Willard. Blah blah blah “government takeover of health care” blah blah blah.
Obama – This board can’t make decisions about what treatments are given, that’s explicitly prohibited in the law. Romney’s plan duplicates what’s already the law, that doesn’t help millions of people out there with preexisting conditions. There’s a reason Romney set up plan he did in Massachusetts. Romney says he’ll replace it with something, but can’t detail with what exactly. Romney says all kinds of things, but he won’t tell us the details. At some point, American people have to ask themselves why Romney’s keeping all these plans secret, is it because they’re too good? No.
Romney – Can’t be “my way or the highway.” Model=Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan. There are alternatives to accomplish my objective…but he won’t say what those are, certainly not in any detail. “Whisking aside the 10th Amendment” (Romney goes Kookinelli on us).
UPDATE 9:57 pm: On to “Obamacare.” Romney says he wants it repealed, claims costs of health care is prohibitive and Obamacare will cost $2,500 per year more than traditional insurance. Expensive things hurt families. It also cuts $716 billion from Medicare to pay for it (LIE). Puts in place an unelected board (sounds like “death panels” craziness). Why did Obama spend his energy the first two years on Obamacare instead of fighting for jobs for the American people. Better to craft plan at state level, like I did.
Obama – I had the same conversations Gov. Romney referred to. There were very strong reasons for spending energy fighting for health care reform. Millions of families couldn’t get coverage, were denied coverage, etc. We worked on this, alongside working on jobs. This is part of making middle class secure is all about. Obamacare says insurance companies can’t jerk you around. The irony is we’ve seen this model work really well – in Massachusetts, where Romney set up what is essentially the identical model to Obamacare.
UPDATE 9:51 pm: On to federal regulation. Romney – regulation is essential to a free market working. Regulation has become excessive, has hurt economy. Example – Dodd Frank, need to repeal and replace it. Obama – This is a great example, the reason we’ve been in such an enormous economic crisis was prompted by reckless behavior across the board, not just on Wall Street. Banks were making money hand over fist churning out products they didn’t even understand. We stepped in and had toughest reforms on Wall Street since 1930s, can’t engage in risky behavior that’s putting Main Street at risk. All the help we provided those banks was paid back with interest. In the past, Romney has said he just wants to repeal Dodd-Frank. Does anyone out there think the problem was there was too much regulation of Wall Street.
Romney – That’s just not the facts. Blah blah blah. My god, Romney is like the Terminator, just keeps going, on and on, relentlessly, all lies and distortions of course. Blech.
UPDATE 9:41 pm: Question on entitlements. Obama – Social Security is structurally sound. Talks about his grandmother working her whole life, putting in money to Social Security and Medicare. People who receive “entitlements” worked hard for their benefits. We saved $716 billion from Medicare by not overpaying insurance companies, used that money to lower prescription costs for Seniors. The way to deal with Medicare is to lower health care costs.
Romney – Our seniors depend on these programs. Neither the president nor I are proposing any changes for retirees or near retirees for Social Security or Medicare. Repeats the $716 billion Big Lie about Medicare. Tries to claim he’s stronger on Medicare than President Obama? Is this a joke? How many times is Romney going to repeat his $716 billion lie? A lot!
Obama – Romney’s plan would turn Medicare into a voucher program. Idea originally presented by Congressman Ryan, “your running mate.” Would leave folks like my grandmother at the mercy of the private health insurance system. AARP thinks savings we obtained from Medicare strengthened the system. If you repeal Obamacare, those seniors right away will be paying copays, more for prescriptions, and primary beneficiaries will be insurance companies. That’s not the right approach.
Romney – I support no change for current retirees or near retirees for Medicare. For younger people, they can choose Medicare or private plan, their choice. Idea came from Bill Clinton’s chief of staff. I believe in competition.
Obama – Every study has shown that Medicare has lower admin costs than private insurance companies. Private insurers also have to make a profit. Money for Romney’s plan has to come from somewhere. Voucher system puts seniors at mercy of insurance companies. If Medicare decays or falls apart, they’re stuck. AARP said Romney’s plan would weaken Medicare substantially.
UPDATE 9:38 pm: Romney attacks Obama for providing help to “green energy.” Says he’s been in business 25 years, companies don’t get a break for shipping jobs overseas. States can care for poor better than federal government. The usual Republican boilerplate – supply side, trickle down, blah blah blah.
UPDATE 9:27 pm: Moving on to the federal debt. Romney says it’s a critical issue, not just economic but moral issue. “The president would prefer raising taxes…I want to lower spending.” Eliminate all programs – Obamacare, subsidies to PBS, anything that’s not crucial that requires us to borrow money from China to pay for. Make government more efficient, cutbacks through attrition, blah blah blah. Trillion dollar deficits the past 4 years.
Obama – When I walked into the Oval Office, had enormous deficit greeting him, and we know where it came from. Two wars not paid for, massive economic crisis, new entitlement not paid for. We cut 77 government programs, went after Medicare fraud more aggressively than ever before, worked with Dems and Republicans to cut $1 trillion out of discretionary domestic budget. We all know we need to do more, I’ve put forward a specific $4 trillion deficit reduction plan – $2.50 for every cut, we ask for $1 in additional revenue from the wealthiest Americans. Bowles-Simpson suggested we move forward in balanced way. This is a major difference Gov. Romney and I have. He was asked would he take $10 in spending cuts for just $1 in revenue, and he said no. That’s a completely unbalanced approach, will cause massive cuts in programs. That is not a right strategy to move forward. Rommey – should have grabbed Simpson-Bowles. Obama – That’s what we’ve done. Romney – We still have trillion-dollar deficits, you said you’d cut the deficit in half, that doesn’t get the job done. Shouldn’t raise taxes in a slow economy. Your plan will kill 700,000 jobs. Obama – We’ve had this discussion before, there has to be revenue in addition to cuts. Romney – the revenue I get is by more people working, you’ll never balance budget by taxing people more like Spain. Obama – If we’re serious we’ve got to take a balanced, responsible approach. Oil industry gets $4 billion a year in corporate welfare. Does anybody think that ExxonMobil needs some extra money? If you have a corporate jet, you can pay full freight. Don’t give tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas. Balanced approach allows us to help young people afford college, invest in education. Budgets reflect choices. Without any revenue, we’ll have to get rid of a whole bunch of stuff, lead to severe hardship for people, wouldn’t help us grow.
UPDATE 9:12 pm: Romney denies that he has the plan he has. Claims middle income Americans have been buried/crushed, gasoline prices have doubled, blah blah blah. “By the way, I like coal.” “I’m not looking to cut massive taxes…no tax cut that adds to the deficit.” Obama says he cut taxes for middle class families, by about $3,600 per family. That helps the economy. The problem with Romney’s plan is that he can’t identify how to make his plan add up. Independent studies that have looked at Romney’s plan say he’d have to raise middle class taxes by $2,000 per family. “That kind of top-down economics…that’s not what I believe is a recipe for economic growth.” Romney claims Obama’s characterization of his tax plan is incorrect. Romney says he has 5 boys so he’s used to hearing things that aren’t true. WTF? Apparently, Romney’s debate strategy is to lie, lie, and lie some more. Obama calls him out for it, saying “nevermind” what I’ve been saying for the entire campaign. Says it’s simply arithmetic that Romney’s plan doesn’t add up. Under Romney’s definition, “Donald Trump is a small business.” Romney says to 3% of small businesses employ half of people employed by small businesses. “I don’t want to cost jobs…My priority is jobs.” Obama says if you believe we can cut taxes by $5 trillion, add $2 trillion in military spending, pay for that by closing loopholes and deductions, but math, common sense, and our history show that’s not a recipe for job growth. We’ve tried Romney’s approach, same sales pitch made in 2001 and 2003, we ended up with slowest job growth in 50 years, went from surplus to deficit, ended up with worst financial crisis in decades. We’ve got some data on which approach will create jobs for Americans. Romney again says he doesn’t support a $5 trillion tax cut. Says his plan is not like anything that’s been tried before. People are suffering in this country, my priority is putting people back to work.
UPDATE 9:05 pm: First question is on jobs. Obama lays out the narrative of what happened the past 4 years, how we’ve fought our way back from a horrible situation, but we have a lot of work to do… Should we embrace a new economic patriotism or double down on top-down economics? Romney emphasizes the pain of the recession, says he can help with a different approach, 5-part plan. Path that we’re on has been unsuccessful, completely mischaracterizes Obama’s economic philosophy. Obama talks about what he thinks needs to be done, “Race to the Top,” education, lower corporate tax rate but close loopholes that give incentives to ship jobs overseas, boost American energy production, close the deficit. Gov. Romney’s central economic plan calls for $5 trillion tax cut, plus Bush tax cuts, plus $2 trillion in military spending the Pentagon hasn’t even asked for.
UPDATE 9:02 pm: Moderator Jim Lehrer is laying out the rules, introducing the candidates.
UPDATE 7:36 pm: Ben LaBolt says Romney’s been preparing furiously for this debate, will be well prepared for this debate, including with “zingers.” The American people don’t want “zingers,” they want specifics on the economic choice. President will talk past the pundits tonight, lay out his accomplishments, plans. Republicans have been obstructionists. It’s time for Romney to put some meat on the bone, explain how his plans add up, make any sense, won’t raise taxes on the middle class and small business owners. Don’t take what Romney says at face value. No responsible deficit reduction plan would start with $5 trillion tax cut to millionaires and billionaires. Romney will promise to “create 12 million jobs,” but that’s what independent analyses say will happen regardless. American people won’t score this debate by the number of “zingers,” despite what the pundits say. Be ready for some people to say Romney’s won the debate, simply because he’ll be standing next to the President of the United States.
LaBolt says 35 days is a lifetime in politics, we take nothing for granted. So far, though, Romney’s numbers haven’t moved with their self-identified key moments. They’re hoping for a Reagan-like breakaway performance tonight, we’ll see if they get that opportunity.
LaBolt says “You didn’t build that” attack by Republicans didn’t resonate with Americans. The Romney campaign loves taking out-of-context remarks, distorting them, and using them to attack President Obama. The Romney campaign has been a “parade of lies,” including just yesterday taking Biden’s comments out of context. We’ll be prepared for that tonight if Romney goes there again.
Education is a major area of difference between President Obama and Mitt Romney (who cut funding for education in Massachusetts). Romney’s been blurry on his education policies. We’ve made a lot of progress under President Obama.