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If you'd told me that the real Barack Obama had been replaced by his robot double, and the robot double was the one in the debate, I'd have to believe you.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

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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