Is it hackneyed to whine about presidential debates' failure to make candidates actually answer questions and to be held to the truth? Probably, but we'll do it anyway, if only for a moment. For most of Tuesday night's dick-measuring contest, we dreamed of a world where Hair Balls moderated debates, and enforced time limits and direct answers with a Taser.
Instead, we'll have to settle for what actually transpired, which was replete with heated exchanges and an incumbent who was actually awake. It seems that, for not repeating his Denver suck-fest, Obama got the pundits' gold medal. Both men were ready to rumble from the start, and at points it looked like things might devolve into yo-mama jokes, which would probably be as informative as allowing candidates to regurgitate canned responses that rarely had anything to do with the questions asked of them.
If anything, this debate will be remembered for Romney's awesome "binders full of women" reference, in which he said that as governor of Massachusetts, he actively sought out qualified female cabinet members. Yes, a Republican challenger boasting his affirmative action bona-fides.
Poor phrasing aside, we'd have to disagree with the pundits and give the edge to Romney. For all Obama's bluster, he didn't really score any points until the very end, when he bitch-slapped Romney with the infamous "47 percent" remark, which Romney will probably never be able to explain away. But Obama's other supposed victory -- when moderator Candy Crowley supported Obama's claim that he immediatelly called the assassination of Chris Stevens and three others in Benghazi a terrorist act -- turned out to be hollow: Crowley subsequently told Anderson Cooper that Romney was "right in the main" when he said the administration hemmed and hawed for nearly two weeks before blaming the attack on terrorists.
But debates don't really seem to be about who's right or wrong -- in the absence of our Mighty Taser of Truth, real-time fact-checking is difficult. So basically, candidates get 90 minutes of carte-blanche spinning. And people like 20-year-old Jeremy Epstein, who asked the first question of the night, don't get answers. Epstein, a first-time voter set to graduate college in 2014, asked the candidates what they could say to assure him that he'll have a job then. Neither thought Epstein's question was worth answering. Romney said he knew what it would take to get jobs back, something that's apparently a trade secret, because he didn't elaborate. Obama prattled on about wind power and bio-fuels, a wholly incongruent response that he got to repeat when he fielded a question about the government's role in lowering gas prices.
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Romney said the average cost of a gallon of gas in Nassau County, home to last night's debate, was $1.86 when Obama took office, and it's around $4 now. Obama inexplicably said gas was cheaper then because the economy was about to take its plunge. And then he mentioned something about creating wind-power-related jobs in Iowa.
That's when Romney gave one of our other favorite quotes of the evening, explaining that he, too, was an advocate for alternative energy sources: "I appreciate wind jobs in Iowa."
That's precisely what we feel like the public gets from any presidential debate. A straight-up wind job.