Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney points to President Barack Obama during the first presidential debate at the University of Denver, Wednesday, October 3, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
The initial Obama/Romney debate—the one that reversed the direction of the presidential race and may very well determine its outcome—almost perfectly mirrored the state of American political discourse. Barack Obama barely showed up. He failed to articulate his beliefs or offer any specifics as to why he and his party deserve to lead the country into the future. He let the other side get away with murder, as if the righteousness of his political positions would somehow enable them to sell themselves.
Mitt Romney lied about his distant past, lied about his recent past, and then lied some more about his party’s present and likely future in the God-forbid situation that he becomes America’s next president. The “ref”—in this case, PBS’s Jim Lehrer—bumbled through the debate as if lobotomized, literally “acting” in the role of moderator without embracing any of its substance: he failed to flag obvious untruths and deliberate misstatements, keeping his questions safely on the right-wing turf that dominates discussion. Meanwhile, the mainstream media treated the event entirely as a piece of theater, cheering endlessly over Romney’s alleged “energy level” and ability to articulate a new set of policies, while simultaneously ignoring both the lies he needed to tell to achieve this and the ideology and interests of the party he pretended to repudiate.
To the degree that these debates are supposed to help voters make an informed decision about which candidate to support by giving them an accurate impression of how said candidate can be expected to perform in the office of the presidency, they are a cruel joke.
Among the lies and misleading statements Romney was able to get away with in just this one debate were the following:
§ His claim to have engaged in bipartisan cooperation with the Democrats as Massachusetts governor when, in fact, rancor prevailed.
§ His statement taking undeserved credit for educational achievements in the state as governor.
§ His failure once again to identify the alleged tax loopholes he plans to close (a politically impossible task, by the way, identified or not) to pay for his tax giveaway to the wealthiest Americans and his wasteful military spending increases.
§ His lie about requiring insurance companies to cover patients with pre-existing conditions—which his campaign later admitted was false—as well as his lie about having a healthcare plan at all. (His is 396 words.)
§ His lie about Obamacare’s alleged $716 billion reduction in Medicare spending.
§ His lie asserting that “half” of the green firms the Obama administration has invested in “have gone out of business.” (Barely any have.)
These were not the only opportunities for deception Romney had during the debate; he was no less fortunate in the questions he was never asked. Where was the GOP’s denial of man-made climate change in this debate? Where were its naked attempts to disenfranchise the poor, students and minorities? What of its ambitions to control women’s reproductive and contraceptive choices? Where was its reliance on funding from billionaires to run dishonest Super PAC advertisements? Where was the questioning for Romney regarding his dopey declaration that Russia is, “without question, our No. 1 geopolitical foe”? And what of his announcement that Arizona’s draconian (and unconstitutional) immigration laws represent a “model” for the nation?