One of the privileges of being a spectator in a sporting event is criticizing athletes for making the wrong play, and it never fails that the most vocal critic likely never donned a uniform or actually played in a professional level game. What spectators often fail to acknowledge is that during the heat of a contest, an athlete may see something, or know something, that an observer cannot imagine because they are removed from the action and have little understanding of the game’s intricacies. The same thing happens in political debates and after examining volumes of criticism and interpretation of the first presidential debate in Denver, it is obvious that the critics misread President Obama and that they fail to understand debate strategy.
It is curious that any observer was surprised that pathological liar Willard Romney came to the debate armed with a mountain of lies. One has to wonder if any spectator expected Willard to stand on that stage and tell the American people he intended to slash education, give $5 trillion in tax cuts to the wealthy, reduce the number of police and fire fighters, or admit that he has contempt for 47% of the population, and yet the blogosphere was rife with articles recounting the number of lies and flip-flops Romney is best known for. It was also somewhat surprising to see critics assailing President Obama for not calling out each of Romney’s lies, and if they looked at the bigger picture, or understood the nuances of debate, they may have couched their criticism and gave the President the credit he deserves, and he does deserve credit for not succumbing to Romney’s tactics.
Of course Willard lied, it is what pathological liars do, and as a master liar, Romney distinguished himself as the best. He took his lying seriously too, even resurrecting a Sarah Palin lie that won distinction as “Lie of the Year” in 2009 regarding the dreaded “death panels.” Romney has not come up with any novel ideas throughout the campaign, but up until Wednesday night he primarily parroted Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush rhetoric in hopes of appealing to conservatives stuck in the 1980s and early 21st century. However, when he complained that the Affordable Care Act contained a provision to ration healthcare, he put himself on the same level as Palin.
It was not the first time the Romney-Ryan tandem entertained the notion that a group of appointees would decide if grandma was worthy of healthcare or lifesaving medical attention, because last week in Florida Paul Ryan took the opportunity to expound on Palin’s death panel sophistry. For the record, the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel of Senate-confirmed experts, are explicitly prohibited from rationing care, shifting costs to retirees, restricting benefits, or raising the Medicare eligibility age, so obviously they do not have power to dictate to doctors what treatments they can prescribe. However, Willard did not mention the truth about the panels and the President did not waste valuable time debunking 2009’s lie of the year again, and it leads to why President Obama did not squander his time discrediting each and every Romney lie.
There is a tactic in debating called “spreading” that involves throwing as many unproven assertions as possible at an opponent in hopes they waste time refuting lies instead of expounding their message. If the President had spent his limited time refuting every lie Romney told in Wednesday’s debate, he could not have shared his vision for America’s future or how he intended to fight for Americans who are not in Willard’s wealthy elite class. What Americans were treated to, was a President with a clear vision and message, replete with specifics, that the people have come to expect from Barack Obama. Romney’s tactic was popularized by a creationist maniac, Duane Tolbert Gish, who without facts or valid arguments to back up his creation myth ideology, drowned his opponents in lies, half-truths, and straw-man arguments in rapid bursts they could not answer in real time. Romney utilized the tactic well, but he failed to take one simple fact into account. His lies on Wednesday night do not square with his campaign rhetoric and he came off looking more transient on the issues than ever, and it is a misstep he has made throughout his run for the White House.
Romney and, indeed, all Republicans fail to understand that in the information age of instant reporting and video tape, every statement a candidate makes is easily verified or, in Romney’s case, debunked within minutes of uttering a contrary position or outright lie. On Wednesday night, Romney not only lied as pathological liars are wont to do, but he contradicted his own position and statements he made just a day earlier and that is the peril for pathological liars; they lie with such ease that they lose touch with reality and forget the lies they told just a minute earlier, and one has to wonder if President Obama knew Romney was digging himself into a pit of mendacity with no way out.
There have been few critics who noted the President’s steady resolve in dealing with Romney’s lies, or that he was able to wade through Willard-excrement and still get his message across to the American people. It is true that a spectator’s first inclination may have been to second-guess President Obama’s handling a pathological liar, but it is tantamount to questioning the logic of not preaching sobriety to a raging alcoholic during a drunken stupor, and it is another example of why President Obama is much more intelligent than the average pundit. If there is one thing Americans should have learned by now about the President, is that he looks at the big picture and does not do knee-jerk reactions that an undisciplined teenager is apt to do. President Obama is no undisciplined teenager.
On CNN throughout the debate, they put up a graph that showed how each participant was faring in real time according to their panel of white Southerners, and it showed President Obama lagging below the midline right up to the closing statements. However, after he gave his closing remarks, and unnoticed by most spectators, the line quickly moved back to the center line and it just shows that the President was successful getting his message across despite suffering ninety minutes of mendacity from America’s biggest liar. It should be but another reminder that this President’s foresight, discipline, and resolve are qualities Americans expect in a President, and after 9 months of Romney’s Palinesque lies, the people want an honest leader with a consistent vision for the future, and despite the pundits, armchair debaters, and reactionary critics, President Obama successfully reiterated what he first said almost 4 years ago; as President he will work for all Americans and according to his most recent approval ratings, people believe him.