Mike Kueber's Blog

October 5, 2012

Twelve things I think I think about the first Obama-Romney debate

Filed under: Issues,Media,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 2:45 pm
Tags: , ,

There is a weekly column in Sports Illustrated by a football expert titled, “Things I think I think.”  After having a couple of days to reflect on the first Obama-Romney debate (and gaining the perspective of the chattering punditry), the following is a list of 12 things I think I think:

  1. Why did Obama fail to press Romney on his controversial comment about 47% of Americans being moochers?  Several pundits have declared this to be the most glaring deficiency in Obama’s performance, with one calling is political malpractice.  My first reaction was to think that Romney could have managed the comment by reaffirming that the comment was “inelegant,” much like Obama’s comment about rural people clinging to their guns and religion.  That would effectively mute Obama.  Then last night on Sean Hannity’s TV show, Mitt Romney provided an even better response to the question when he declared, “Well, clearly in a campaign, with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you’re going to say something that doesn’t come out right.  In this case, I said something that’s just completely wrong.  And I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about 100 percent and that’s been demonstrated throughout my life. And this whole campaign is about the 100 percent.”  In my opinion, this type of humility could turn the issue into a humanizing plus for Romney.  The significance of Romney’s 47% retraction on Hannity has already been reported on by the Washington Post and USA Today.  This issue is dead.
  2. Preparation for the debate – the proof is in the pudding.  Conservatives and liberals alike agree that Obama appeared ill-prepared for the debate while Romney seemed prepared to the hilt.  An excellent example of Romney’s preparation can be seen by scanning a transcript of the debated.  The scan will reveal a large number of Romney responses with a series of paragraphs that start, “First,” Second,” and “Third.”  His answers were so thought-out that he was able to articulate multiple explanations.  (Unlike Rick Perry, however, he didn’t start by indicating how many dot points he was going to make.  This way, we wouldn’t be able to detect if his mind went blank with one of the dot points.  Based on the command that Romney displayed with his responses, however, I would be shocked if there were any omitted dot points.
  3. The balanced budget and the national debt.  Although most Americans don’t obsess about the budget and the debt the way I do, they do place a high priority on getting control of our budget, and Romney said three things that showed how strongly he felt – (1) he declared it to be not just an economic issue, but also a moral issue; (2) he provided an excellent yardstick for deciding whether a program should be continued – “Is the program so critical it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I’ll get rid of it”; and (3) a 20% reduction in tax rates (including for the rich) will not be implemented unless the elimination of deductions for the rich causes the tax reform to be revenue neutral.  There will be no tax cut for the rich and no tax increase for the middle-class
  4. Donald Trump and small business.  Obama attacked Romney’s definition of a small business as a noncorporate business whose taxes are based on the individual rate, not the corporate rate (which apparently includes some Trump businesses).  Based on this definition, Romney can correctly assert that Obama’s proposal to increase the top individual rate from 35% to 40% will hurt small businesses.  Obama argues that only 3% of the small businesses qualify for the IRS’s 35% marginal individual income rate, and Romney effectively countered that those 3% provide 54% of the jobs in small business.  Raising their tax rate to 40% will cost 700,000 jobs.
  5. Simpson-Bowles plan.  I have supported Simpson-Bowles since day one, and Romney effectively criticized Obama for letting it die on the vine, even though Romney and his running mate refused to endorse it — MR. LEHRER: Governor, what about Simpson-Bowles. Will you support Simpson-Bowles?  MR. ROMNEY: Simpson-Bowles, the president should have grabbed that.  MR. LEHRER: No, I mean do you support Simpson-Bowles?  MR. ROMNEY: I have my own plan. It’s not the same as Simpson- Bowles. But in my view, the president should have grabbed it. If you wanted to make some adjustments to it, take it, go to Congress, fight for it.
  6. Corporate welfare to rich oil companies.  Romney totally gutted this red herring by pointing out that (a) the tax break is for $2.8 billion, not $4 billion, (b) it goes mostly to small companies, (c) it should be eliminated when the corporate tax rate is reduced from 35% to 25%, and (d) most tellingly, $2.8 billion a year pales in comparison to the $90 billion the Obama stimulus larded out to green energy companies.
  7. Special incentives for companies to move work overseas.  This is another Obama canard the Romney eviscerated – “The second topic, which is you said you get a deduction for getting a plant overseas.  Look, I’ve been in business for 25 years. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I maybe need to get a new accountant.  But the — the idea that you get a break for shipping jobs overseas is simply not the case.”  The mainstream media has attempted to support Obama’s canard by pointing out the corporations can deduct ordinary businesses expenses related to the move, but surely that is not special treatment.  In fact, Obama had earlier in the debate specifically characterized the so-called special treatment as “loopholes” – “When it comes to our tax code, Governor Romney and I both agree that our corporate tax rate is too high. So I want to lower it, particularly for manufacturing, taking it down to 25 percent. But I also want to close those loopholes that are giving incentives for companies that are shipping jobs overseas. I want to provide tax breaks for companies that are investing here in the United States.”  Being able to deduct ordinary business expenses is not a loophole.
  8. What to do with entitlements – Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid?  Obama supporters are disappointed that Obama failed to demagogue Romney on all three entitlement programs instead of focusing only on Medicare and Medicaid.  MR LEHRER: Mr. President, do you see a major difference between the two of you on Social Security?  PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, I suspect that on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position. Social Security is structurally sound. It’s going to have to be tweaked the way it was by Ronald Reagan and Speaker — Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill. But it is — the basic structure is sound. But — but I want to talk about the values behind Social Security and Medicare and then talk about Medicare, because that’s the big driver of our deficits right now.  Obama went on to attack the Romney’s vouchers for Medicare and block grants for Medicaid.  Personally, I think Obama missed an opportunity to score some legitimate points on Medicare by failing to point out that, if people under 55 under Romney’s voucher plan are going to have an option to stay under government Medicare, then people currently over 55 would not be harmed if Romney’s voucher plan was initiated immediately for them, too.  It appears to me that Romney is backing away from Paul Ryan’s reform of Medicare because the electoral costs in 2012 would be too great.  Smart politics.
  9. Fuzzy math.  I noticed two examples of fuzzy math – one by each candidate.  Obama challenged Romney’s budget by saying – “And this is where there’s a difference because Governor Romney’s central economic plan calls for a $5 trillion tax cut, on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts, so that’s another $2 trillion, and $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military hasn’t asked for. That’s $8 trillion.”  I think 5 plus 2 plus 2 equals 9.  Romney charged that the $2.8 billion tax deduction that goes to the energy industry is small compared to “in one year, you provided $90 billion in breaks to the green energy world. Now, I like green energy as well, but that’s about 50 years’ worth of what oil and gas receives.”  I don’t think $90 billion divided by $2.8 billion equals 50. 
  10. Zingers.  Although the pundits say that there were no zingers delivered by either candidate, I disagree.   Romney delivered the following – “But — but don’t forget, you put $90 billion — like 50 years worth of breaks — into solar and wind, to — to Solyndra and Fisker and Tesla and Ener1. I mean, I — I had a friend who said, you don’t just pick the winners and losers; you pick the losers.”  How is that not a zinger?
  11. Pre-existing conditions and boomerang kids.  Romney reiterated that his repeal of ObamaCare would retain two of its most popular provisions – coverage for pre-existing conditions and boomerang kids.  Liberal pundits have correctly pointed out that Romney’s conception of a pre-existing condition does not include someone who has intentionally let their medical coverage lapse, only to see the light subsequent to getting hurt or sick.  Regarding boomerang kids, Romney correctly points out that such coverage is already available on the market for those who want to pay for it.  Of course, Obama wants the expanded dependent coverage, just like preventive care, to be provided automatically and for free.  Ultimately, no insurance benefits are for free.

12  Jim Lehrer.  Because Obama performed so badly, liberal pundits are looking for someone or something to blame.  Al Gore has suggested that it was Denver’s mountain air – Romney trained in it; Obama did not.  Many pundits have blamed Jim Lehrer, who graduated from a San Antonio high school, for failing to keep the debate structured and on-time.  In fact, the left-leaing San Antonio Express-News ran a front-page article this morning titled, “Debate’s real loser might have been newsman Lehrer.”  The article quoted a public-relations expert as saying, “Had Jim Lehrer been able to demand that the time limits be kept, Mitt Romney would not have had that solid a performance.”  Is there something wrong with Mitt Romney having a solid performance?  As columnist Eugene Robinson of the WA Post glumly noted – “I don’t know why Lehrer decided to take such a laissez-faire approach, but he gave both candidates the same latitude. Only one took advantage.”  Furthermore, it’s difficult for partisan Democrats to criticize Lehrer after Obama concluded the debate as follows:  MR. LEHRER: Excuse me, one sec — excuse, me sir. (Laughter.) We’ve got — we’ve got — barely have three minutes left. I’m not going to grade the two of you and say you’ve — your answers have been too long or I’ve done a poor job — PRESIDENT OBAMA: You’ve done a great job, Jim.

These are the things I think I think.



  1. Well thought out Mike! Basically Romney kicked The Democratic Donkey AZZ!!! Obama looked like a boy with his hand in the cookie jar getting scolded.

    Comment by Danny Wyatt — October 5, 2012 @ 3:15 pm | Reply

  2. Mike,
    May I respond?

    1. The issue is not dead. Romney appeared last night on Sean Hannity’s TV show and gave an even better response to the question when he declared, “Well, clearly in a campaign, with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you’re going to say something that doesn’t come out right. In this case, I said something that’s just completely wrong. And I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about 100 percent and that’s been demonstrated throughout my life. And this whole campaign is about the 100 percent.” That, of course, is not true. Romney’s speech to the uber-wealthy dinner goers was exactly what he meant to say. He no more stumbled into something inelegantly stated than I am writing something I don’t mean right now. This explanation just shows how much of a fraud he is. It is like everything else about him: he is willing to say anything to anybody for their vote. The only people who will be fooled by his “humility” is Hannity and those who are searching for a reason why Americans shouldn’t believe him. Remember Lincoln’s line… “you can fool all of the people some of the time…”

    2. Romney was, in fact, well prepared for the debate. However, he scored points by calling Obama a liar on several issues that were absolutely true! So, he had never advocated a $5 trillion dollar tax cut? So, he had never advocated that the tax cut include the top 1%? So, his idea was for a re-writing of the tax code with a revenue neutral affect? Wow! That sure doesn’t sound like the Romney who advocated a $5 trillion dollar tax cut, or the one that advocated that the tax cut include the top 1%. Oh, that’s right… that’s the old Romney of like 3 months ago!

    3.Balanced budget and the national debt. See #2 above. Also, he wants to increase defense spending while cutting taxes. And he will close loopholes that won’t affect the middle class. (Please don’t ask how). Unfortunately, if you believe the Romney of 3 months ago, he will explode the deficit. If you believe the Romney of 35 days until election, he won’t but doesn’t say how he won’t.

    4.Romney uses data to describe a business as a “small business” even if it employs 500 people. Not so small, huh? Not exactly mom and pop stores. But, then again, he thinks that he has lived a regular guy’s life. He is the typical guy who is born on third base, wakes up, and thinks he’s hit a triple.

    5. Did you not see anything hypocritical in Romney’s response? Do you not see this as simply a political ploy? If you do, how can you be satisfied to hear it from him?

    6. Green Enery: The $90 billion the Obama administration has invested in clean energy since then has already delivered amazing returns: wind power has doubled in three years, solar power has quadrupled in four years, and more than 1 million homes have received energy-saving retrofits. More than 150,000 Americans have jobs making parts for and assembling clean cars–hybrids, electric cars, and other advanced vehicles that weren’t even available 10 years ago. And consumers can find nearly 60 fuel-efficient models in showrooms today–up from 27 in 2009. These cars are putting more money in Americans’ pockets and helping American automakers come back from the brink. Romney tried to ignore this success by saying half of Obama’s clean energy investments had failed. That’s simply false. While a handful of companies granted loan guarantees have folded, hundreds of other companies are succeeding. In fact, the failure rate for clean energy loan recipients was only 1.4 percent by the end of 2011. So while he scored debate points, he did so falsely.

    7. Romney should know about the tax breaks associated with moving companies and money overseas, so I was surprised (not really) by his feigned bewilderment at Obama’s statement about the tax breaks companies can take for moving jobs overseas. There’s no specific tax break for moving jobs or a plant abroad, but companies can deduct the expenses associated with doing so as part of the cost of doing business. So, who’s right? Obama.

    8. It appears to me that Romney is backing away from Paul Ryan’s reform of Medicare because the electoral costs in 2012 would be too great. Smart politics. Well, we agree on this. Romney supported it before… now 35 days before election… not so much. In fact, he makes a pledge: “I AM FOR THE LITTLE PEOPLE!” I was persuaded.

    9. Fuzzy math. It’s only fuzzy on Romney’s part if you compare the promises he made 3 months ago. Now, he simply won’t address the math. The deficit will be brought down by a better economy generating more income. Right.

    10. That was a good zinger.

    11. Of course Romney (by repealing Obamacare on day one) would keep the best provisions of the bill. Mike, really?

    12. There is nothing wrong with Romney having a solid performance. He did clearly win the debate. But unfortunately for his supporters, he won it by becoming “Obama Lite.” The Republicans are so happy with him showing that he can debate that they lose sight of the fact that he lied his way to the win and/or moved so far over (NO TAX CUT, GUYS!), that they should barely be able to recognize him.

    Comment by Robert Icenhauer-Ramirez — October 5, 2012 @ 3:23 pm | Reply

    • Robert, thanks for your comments.

      If Obama can disavow his guns and religion comment, why can’t Romney disavow 47%?

      My understanding is that Romney has never advocated for a $5 billion tax cut or a middle-class tax increase. Rather he proposed a 20% cut in the marginal rate to be offset with reduced deductions. Critics calculated the effect of the 20% cut in marginal rates, but failed to calculate the offset because Romney didn’t identify them. Then they took the position that Romney would make up the difference by raising taxes on the middle class. That has to be the most ridiculous statement made since those who claim that Social Security will shut-down and not pay anything to our kids.

      I believe Romney is more motivated than Obama to balance our budget.

      I don’t like trust-fund babies, either, and think there should be a vigorous estate tax. But it is useful for an economy to have a lot of acculated capital. An educated labor force without lots of capital is going nowhere.

      I think Romney is making an excellent point that big small businesses will have to pay income tax of 40% under Obama, even though Obama agrees that the corporate rate of 35% in uncompetitive in the world and should be reduced to 25%.

      No one is opposing the development of green energy. Romney was just putting into perspective the $2.8 billion deduction for the oil industry that liberals have been railing against for years. Development of oil resources is important, too. I was listening to Stewart last night and he noted that only a few of the hundred or so Green beneficiaries of Obama largesse have gone belly up.

      I disagree that Obama is right on the subsidy for going overseas, but it is mere semantics. We agree that the companies can deduct its expenses; I just don’t think it is accurate to call that a loophole. Any law that prevented them from deducting that expense would be a penalty.

      I don’t believe in raising revenues by cutting taxes, but I don’t think it can be denied that the deficit can be reduced by an invigorated economy. I believe that most of Bill Clinton’s success in balancing the budget came from a booming economy, not be increasing taxes (introduced by Bush-41).

      Yeah, you’re right about ObamaCare – i.e., there won’t be much left of it when Romney is done with it.

      And finally, even if Romney had to run to the right to win the primary, aren’t you happy that he is running to the right-center to win the election and govern?

      Regarding the Longhorns and the 3-game stretch that concerned you, one down and two to go.

      And regarding the market, if Goldman gains another 20%, I’ll be back to even. But Berkshire is looking good.


      Comment by Mike Kueber — October 5, 2012 @ 4:00 pm | Reply

  3. “Had Jim Lehrer been able to demand that the time limits be kept, Mitt Romney would not have had that solid a performance.”

    This is quite an interesting argument, as it was the President who continually stretched the time limits. Romney clearly rewrote some of the questions, but that is what a great debater does. Lehrer did a moderately fair job-more fair to the President-but shouldn’t do an event this important again. It is time for him to call it a night.

    As for the President: There is no excuse. When you sign up for the job of President of the US of A, you accept the idea that your mind, your ideas, your energy, your presence must be available and highly functional 24/7/365.

    That this President wasn’t truly there and thinking for a critical event in his life makes one wonder what he truly brings on a routine basis.

    Comment by Bob Bevard — October 5, 2012 @ 4:04 pm | Reply

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