An undecided voter and the first-debate blues

An undecided voter and the first-debate blues

Summary: We expect our presidents to be the best America has to offer, with the strength and determination of a Superman and a Batman in an emergency, the essential honorableness of Clark Kent, and the business acumen of Bruce Wayne. These guys. Not so much.


Well, the first debate has come and gone, and I'm -- if anything -- even more undecided than before. I'll admit a few things to you.

First, after the Democratic convention -- and Bill Clinton's speech -- I was leaning towards voting for the President. I'll admit it. I'm a sucker for a Bill Clinton speech, and it has some level of staying power. Now, don't get your GOP knickers in a twist: if Ronnie was still around, he'd have had the same effect.

Sadly, there aren't any other Bills or Ronnies running around the political playing field. We're stuck with Barack and Mitt.

I'll admit one other thing to you. As a quant who lives in PowerPoint, I'm a bit more comfortable with Mitt Romney (when he's not carrying around the baggage of the entire right wing) than I am with Barack Obama (now that he's seemed to have lost the magic). At his core Mitt Romney is a quant who likes making his case with PowerPoint. I can get behind that.

I've also worked with a bunch of Bain folks, and they're not the evil money-sucking people-haters they've been made out to be. They're very smart, very capable, very professional, and reasonably kind.

If it was just Mitt Romney running, I'd probably vote for him. But Mitt wanted to become the Republican candidate, and that meant he had to sell his spreadsheet-loving soul to the media and the right wing. As a result, we have no idea how Mitt Romney will do anything, especially since he's completely repudiated most of his stronger statements from his times running for Gov and Senate.

That leaves us with President Obama, that inspiring orator we've come to know and love. Well, actually, the inspiring orator we vaguely remember from 2008 -- 'cause we haven't seen that inspiring guy for four years.

Instead, we get Robaracknic, the robotic form of the President.

If you'd told me that the real Barack Obama had been replaced by his robot double, and the robot double was the one in the debate, I'd have to believe you.

The man behind that podium wasn't engaged, he repeated pitch points over and over, he barely connected with the audience on anything, he couldn't even look at the Romneyizer, and -- worse -- he didn't bring any fight.

It's as if all he really wanted was a nap. He seemed petulantly resentful, as if Michelle had taken his cookies away just before he went up on stage. And he still wanted a nap.

Let's be fair to the President though. Prior to the debate, all Mitt Romney had to do was prepare for the debate and do a little campaigning. Prior to the debate, the President also had to prepare for the debate and campaign, but he also had this little day job of running the country in the middle of economic and international crisis.

If President Obama didn't quite have time to debate prep because he spent all his time in the Situation Room, we'll understand, right?

No, actually, we won't. We expect our presidents to be the best America has to offer, with the strength and determination of a Superman and a Batman in an emergency, the essential honorableness of Clark Kent, the business acumen of Bruce Wayne, and the charm of Jay Leno, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton, all wrapped into a single human.

There are 330 million Americans and only one gets to be president. We expect that one to be the very best of us, not the cranky man who didn't get his afternoon cup of hot cocoa.

One of the strategies in preparing for a presidential debate is practicing against a strong debate stand-in. In other words, if Mitt Romney was going to debate President Obama, to prepare he was going to have to do a bunch of trial debates with someone standing in as the President. Ohio Senator Rob Portman played this role, and by all accounts, made Romney jump through enough hoops so the former governor was prepared once he went on stage.

Now who might you think did debate prep for President Obama. Remember that President Obama is the President of the United States and quite literally could have any American run him through the pre-debate ringer. You would think he'd choose the toughest possible trainer and coach, the person who'd make him really stretch and learn and prepare, right?

Nope. He chose John Kerry.

Instead of choosing a powerful debate partner, he chose a loser who merely looks like his opponent. I don't know. Maybe their strategy was that way, at least the President would be comfortable on stage, looking at his opponent and feel like he was in familiar territory. Oh, wait. He couldn't do that, either.

I've said this before and I'll say this again. For the Democrats to succeed at anything, they need to grow a spine -- and they need to somehow deep-six John Kerry. Trade him to the Russians, make him baseball commissioner. Do something that will get him as far away from the Democratic party as possible. Despite his wife's Ketchup fortune, John Kerry is political kryptonite to the Democratic Party.

John Kerry did debate prep for President Obama. The results were there for everyone to see. Even those who are life-long liberals were disappointed with the President's performance.

Now, as to the debate content, there's really only one conclusion: W-T-Feh. Seriously, as my wife said, it's impossible to tell when each of them were lying. Clearly Romney came out with statements that were completely the opposite of what he's been saying up to this point. Romney just seemed to make up his compassionate conservative positions on the spot -- 'cause we didn't hear that stuff at the convention.

Robaracknic, on the other hand, just kept repeating himself, and most of what he repeated was mistaken claims about what he wanted to have heard the other party say. Meh.

Remember how you can tell if a politician is lying? His or her mouth is moving.

Left with absolutely no truthiness from what these men said, we're simply left with their demeanor. Mitt Romney seems to really want the job. Barack Obama seems to really want everyone to go away and leave him alone.

Now, after the first debate, I find myself slightly leaning in Romney's direction. Sure, he's a quant willing to say anything and sell his soul to anyone to get the gig, but he does at least seem willing to show up. On the other hand, no real good can come from the Republican tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy-and-frak-the-rest-of-ya-all domestic policies -- even if Romney now says that's not what he's planning.

And yet, the Democrats remain as ineffective as ever. Sure, Obama, Reid, and Pelosi finally managed to pass some sort of health reform. But it sucks. It's thousands of pages that no one can possibly understand, a love letter and wet dream for the insurance companies, and a mandate we all buy "affordable" insurance.

Answer this: is paying more than you do for housing each month -- for a promise that insurance companies will pay your medical bills in the event of a catastrophe (a promise you know they will do their very best to weasel out of) and still probably doesn't cover your day-to-day health care expenses -- is that "affordable"?

No, it's not. It still doesn't solve the problem, and it still doesn't make American manufacturers competitive against countries with public health care programs.

In at least one statement, Romney was right. The Dems squandered all their efforts on this train wreck of a bill and paid very little attention to the lack of jobs for Americans, people losing their homes, and all the rest. As a result, four years later, many Americans are still in a world of hurt.

Sigh. That's why I'm still undecided. I don't want Romney's baggage in the White House. I really don't. But I also can't tell if Obama is still up for the job, and he sure hasn't impressed me over the last four years.

Can we please have a do-over? Let's just dig up President Reagan or dust off Bill Clinton. Seriously, I'd vote for Zombie Ronnie or Burger Bill in a heartbeat over these two.

Robot Ronnie? Anyone? Anyone?

Oh, well. At least we get Biden and that other guy on Thursday. Joe Biden's always fun. Unless, of course, the Dems pick Joe Lieberman do Biden's debate prep. Sheesh.

ZDNet Government's coverage of Election 2012:

Topics: Government US, Government


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • Can we stop the whole economic crisis BS?

    Honestly it's like no one remembers 2008 at all. Real estate market bombed, stock market was half what it was today, the auto industry was on life support and unemployment was much higher.

    Today the stock market is higher than it's been in 5 years, the unemployment rate is lower than when Obama took office, American auto makers are posting very profitable quarters and lines waiting for the iPhone 5 were blowing more records (along with Apple's stock). So please stop the whole crisis BS.
    • Nope...

      You (and I, for that matter) might be fortunate enough to be working. But when I go out and talk to people, they're really struggling. There are a tremendous number of people who are desperately hurting in this country. For them, the crisis is far from over.

      Have some compassion, willya?
      David Gewirtz
      • jmiller1978 is a fool

        Stock market is simply propped up by printed money. Look at the record # of people on food stamps and those dropped out of labor pool despite vast amount of debt Obama threw at the economy. Those #s cannot be beautified by printed money. This is a deepening depression.
        • Very true

          And for years (source: on the issues . org), politicians have voted to continue giving taxpayer money to corporations that offshore... in a free market, no corporation should be receiving a penny as government involvement is bad, but apart from the manipulators who said we're a free market?

          The only BS is coming from those who claim there is no problem. And they must live highly sheltered lives.
          • "continue giving taxpayer money to corporations"

            Are you referring to tax credits allowed on expenses corporations pay to operate their business?

            If so, then it's the same "taxpayer money" that politicians offer on mortgages to encourage home ownership.
      • Compassion?

        Compassion for what? An unskilled labor force who got too complacent in the "happy days" while corporations ship all the jobs they can overseas to save a buck? Everywhere I look I see help wanted signs and jobs sites with unfilled positions that stay open because people still think "hard" work and a high school diploma are enough.

        Sorry but the only sectors really hurting and continuously hurting are manufacturing jobs and every week I watch "Shark Tank" and they convince someone to produce overseas to save a dollar manufacturing their products.

        I guess it's easier to blame those who can't fix things fast enough instead of the party that put them there in the first place.
        • Hurry up since you will be deemed "unskilled" next

          The people who spread that meme used workers to train their own H1B replacements, amongst scores of issues... the workplace has been contracting here, while our tax money has been given to companies that offshore. You may keep your memes, but many have dared to think outside your box.
        • P.S.

          Companies want bachelor's degrees, 5 years of experience for a product that's been out for 2, "help wanted" signs are for companies that do not want higher-educated people because such people will leave for proper opportunities once they arise.

          In short, you are acting like the sheltered one who hasn't had to deal with the new normal...
        • Lastly, about "unskilled" workers,

          now look up obscene college costs, inflated grades, no these colleges are not union-ran, and the obscenely low pay that goes for "entry level" jobs that still require 5 years' experience despite it all... not all of those factors are true at once, it depends on the college and other individual factors, but my job is not to counter every glib generalization with enough detail to put people who do nothing more than spout glib generalizations to sleep...
          • and the for-profit schools that

            make a big stink of kicking out nonperformers that demand others do their work for them, hit on other students, etc, but then not do so because their warm bodies bring in big bucks...

            But at least I get out of the house...

            Zero ethics in this country, and the glib generalizing folks think it's all A-OK... maybe they evolved from inbred parrots...
        • Fascinating

          You keep digging a deeper hole with each post. The company that laid off a few 100+ person departments is a BANK. And this bank is still not done. This is typical of most if not all banks these days. Sure it's so much easier to claim that the only sector to be hit is manufactuing but the truth is manufactuing is just the beginning.

          I guess it's easier to stick one's head in the sand.
        • Everywhere I look I see help wanted signs

          Well! Where do you live? Hopefully these aren't part time (no health benefit that way) at your local Aldi with cashier and stocking experience required.

          Yes, I'm old and think of myself of conservative, but that doesn't mean a dogmatic fanatic.
          • Yes, you're old...

            if you're out looking for help wanted signs. Want a decent job, there were more than 1,000 full time permanent IT jobs posted on today alone. Instead of whining about Aldi being the only employer hiring, try actually looking where the jobs are being advertised. The reason our unemployment numbers are so bad is because our workforce isn't prepared for the jobs that are out there. We've got more than enough cashiers and stockers, but not nearly enough programmers, DBAs or systems analysts.
        • You are perceiving an alternate reality

          A large company I know of has a decent number of job openings in the professional sector (engineering). The offered salary is lower than it was 4 years ago. The majority of our applicants are from overseas. Why? It's not that local folks are not qualified, but rather that hiring sector used to be middle class. The new salary range starts well below the middle class level.
          This same format plays out across a lot of the US economy sectors. Pay was good. Jobs were cut. Jobs were added. Pay is much lower.
      • RE: Somebody watched Bill Maher Friday night?

        That's what he said and yes he does live a sheltered life and he bases his conclusion on the full malls, restaurants, and IPhone lines he sees while going around the country. He is seeing the 70% who were not really hurt by the recession spending again after the panic and driving up the stock market. The rest may never get another job or are lucky to get temp/contract work with no benefits as renewed inflation caused by everybody else starting to spend puts them over the edge. I read everyday in every MSM publications that the bailouts saved us from a great depression. The apparent widespread belief in this is dangerous. The problems that caused the crash have such as to big to fail, betting on people losing have not been solved at all (And I am not convinced at all by Romney's sudden concern). The bailouts did not prevent but postponed another great depression that will be even worse because we will be deeper in this ponzi scheme.

        Obama has not debated in 4 years Romney has had dozens of them in the primary season and it showed. Obama should be better 2nd time around. Better style I don't care.

        So you saw some Bain guys and they are alright. Good salesmen, that's what they do. What Bain does has been evil. Rolling Stone exposed this in August Since they are a lefty publication you should be suspicious but I have not seen the substance of the article refuted so I have to assume it's true. Over simplifying the article they, invest in company/victim A pay $5, borrow $95 from a bank force company A to pay back the bank and if they can't handle it offer to manage their new DEBT for a fee of course. This means they decided who gets fired so his "I like firing people" is backed up by the record. If victim A has survives great for Bain, if they are forced out of business Bain still has their fees at little cost.

        Now for Obama whom the tea party wrongly calls a socialist. He is a fascist. From Obamacare to bailouts the line between company and government blurs. Obamacare is a boon for the heath industry. Then he passes laws where he or the military can assassinate anybody, detain people indefinably without trail anywhere anytime. Is America not a fascist state in 2012?

        So who do you vote for the person who helped build the economic model that caused the crash or a fascist who has undone some basic principles on which this country was founded on while altering but keeping the basic ponzi scheme that is sustaining our economy for a time going? I will vote third party candidate. if polls are to believed you will vote for the person you decided is lesser of two evils a long time ago. Me and Gerwitz are part of the smallest amount of our type in modern memory and me even a smaller minority because I believe my vote will be "wasted" by voting for someone whom I believes will be a grave danger to the future of America unlike the 99% who see it the other way around. Prayer anyone??
        • You do realize Bill Maher is an idiot, right?

          That guy is so far left, most democrats stear clear of him.

          No lie is off limits to Bill Maher. Once you learn that, you get your info from a reputable source.
          William Farrel
          • Well....

            If you think Obama is a muslim, socialist, communism loving fascist then you are beyond any help known to me. Perhaps a brain transplant....
          • Hmm.

            Blames a film no one saw for Muslim uprisings. Invites Islamic terrorists to the white house. Releases Al Qaeda who promise to "behave" in Afghanistan. Gave bin Laden an honorable muslim burial at sea. Bowed to the Saudi king, calls the Muslim brotherhood moderate, opened negotiations with "moderate" taliban. Sounds pretty Muslim-friendly to me. Socialist/Communist/Fascist: Appointed avowed communists to his administration. Launched his campaign in terrorist and murderer Bill Ayers home, has expressed admiration for Chavez. Has expressed envy for Chinese communists and the ease with which they can circumvent legislatures, made illegal recess appointments, has used executive orders to routinely bypass congress. Has publicly stated that he wants to nationalize health care. Has publicly stated the Constitution is a flawed document because it is filled with negative rights limiting the power of government. Is a racist (grandmother is a typical white woman). Sounds very communist/socialist/fascist friendly to me.

            The parent is not the low-information voter in need of a brain transplant.
          • Well let's just compare shall we?

            "Releases Al Qaeda who promise to "behave" in Afghanistan." Continuation of a Bush ea policy. "Gave bin Laden an honorable muslim burial at sea." As opposed to letting him go which was the Bush solution. "Bowed to the Saudi king..." As opposed to kissing him full on the lips like Bush. "opened negotiations with "moderate" taliban." Another continuation of Bush era policies. "made illegal recess appointments." Another continuation of Bush era policies. "has used executive orders to routinely bypass congress." Another continuation of Bush era policies. "Has publicly stated that he wants to nationalize health care." Like expanding Medicare under Bush for example? "Has publicly stated the Constitution is a flawed document because it is filled with negative rights limiting the power of government." Rather than calling it a flawed document, Bush called it a "piece of paper".

            Low information seems to be right in your wheelhouse. The biggest gripes you seem to have with Obama are where he continued the policies of our last Republican president. The few that weren't (like actually killing bin Laden) certainly aren't a negative.
          • RE: Gave bin Laden an honorable muslim burial at sea

            So therefore we only have his word that we killed Bin Ladin because independent investigation can never happen now.