Mitt Romney fires PBS’s Jim Lehrer on live television, during the first televised presidential debate

My thoughts on the debate can be found below…

For those of you who aren’t already obligated to worship at the alter of Honey Boo Boo tonight, and want to be in the company of other humans, it looks as though the presidential debate is going to be shown at a few places in the Ypsi/Arbor area. As of right now, my plan is to watch it with my friend Pete in Depot Town, at Frenchie’s. (As I understand it, the debate is also going to be shown in Ann Arbor, at the Bar at Braun Court, as well as at the local offices of the Obama campaign.) If you do come out and join us, be sure to print a presidential debate bingo card, and bring it with you. (My friend Al Hoff, who used to publish the zine Thrift Score, made them especially for tonight.) Or, if that’s a little too much like gambling for you, I guess you could just come prepared to drink every time one of the candidates ignores the rules as laid down by Jim Lehrer.

I’m going to try to leave comments here on the site as the evening progresses, but I don’t know how realistic that is. I’ll try, though.

Oh, speaking of live blogging, I hear the folks at Politifact will be doing some real-time fact-checking over the course of the evening, so be sure to sure to check that out.

And, if you can’t make it out, and, like me, you don’t have a television, you can also catch the debate streaming live at

As for what to expect, I hear from the New York Times that the Romney team has been working feverishly to craft some “zingers” for their candidate, so my sense is that we’ll be treated to a lot of ridiculous catch phrases that Romney hopes desperately will capture the attention of a nation. I have a hard time believing he’ll hit the mark with one of these “desperation zingers,” but I suspect it’ll keep things lively, as he attempts to salvage the entire campaign with a “read my lips” moment. Given his faltering poll numbers, a hail mary zinger is really the only thing he’s got left. With his wealthy supporters backing away from him, and moving their money into other races, he has to demonstrate to them tonight that he can generate some kind of buzz, and regain some of the momentum that we all witnessed dry up up at the Republican National Convention. I predict that he’ll fail spectacularly, but you never know.

Oh, while you’re waiting for the debate to start, here’s something interesting… and completely despicable. A right wing filmmaker by the name of Joel Gilbert is claiming to have mailed hundreds of thousands of copies of a pseudo-documentary that he’s created, by the name of “Dreams From My Real Father,” out to registered voters in swing states. The DVD promises a shocking revelation about our President’s origins, and delivers in a big way – with scandalous black and white photos of a nude woman engaged in pornographic acts. The woman, we’re told, is Barack Obama’s mother. And, as if that weren’t enough, we’re also told, by the very serious-suonding narrator, that she was five months pregnant with the fetus that would become our President at the time the images were taken.

My thoughts on the debate…..

The best quote of the night didn’t come from the presidential debate, but from the audience at Frenchie’s, when a disgusted Thom Elliott referred to Jim Lehrer as a “doddering old mummuy.” It hurt me to laugh, as I respect Lehrer, but he clearly didn’t have control of the candidates, or, for that matter, a grasp of what was going on around him…. Which brings me to my big observation.

When, the next morning, the most interesting thing I can think of to write about is Jim Lehrer’s performance, it means it was one hell of a boring debate. I think we all expected that it would be, but that doesn’t make it any less of a letdown. I don’t know that I was expecting to see Obama, after delivering a decisive knockout blow, jump out Gangnam style from behind the podium, but I wanted something to justify my having left the relative safety of my house to be among the masses. And, sadly, I didn’t get it.

As for Lehrer’s performance, I think a good deal of the blame belongs to Romney, who, during the debate, essentially told the veteran newsman that, come November, he could be out of a job. “I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS,” said Romney. He tried to make nice after that, saying to Lehrer, with his shark-like smile, “I like PBS. I like Big Bird. I kind of like you.” But I think it rattled Lehrer. Reading about the casual manner in which Romney terminates people after he acquires companies is one thing. Actually having it happen to you, live, in front of 40 million people, is something different altogether.

The bottom line is that Romney needed a knockout blow, which he failed to deliver. Despite the promise of “zingers,” there was only one that I caught. Romney, when talking about Solyndra, said something like, “The President doesn’t pick winners and losers – he just picks losers.” That was good, but it wasn’t good enough, in my opinion, to turn back the tide of high-dollar supporters fleeing the Romney campaign. Barring some scandal, I think what we witnessed last night was the last desperate, sputtering gasp of a dying Romney campaign.

Obama wasn’t at the top of his game, but he didn’t need to be. He just needed to stand there and remind people, again and again, that Romney is suggesting that we double down on the disastrous Bush tax cuts, by handing over another five trillion dollars in tax cuts, primarily to the wealthy… When this was brought up, Romney said, “I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don’t have a tax cut of a scale that you’re talking about.” A Tax Policy Center analysis of Romney’s proposal, however, says otherwise. The following is from Think Progress.

…(A) 20 percent across-the-board tax cut in all federal income tax rates, eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax, eliminating the estate tax and other tax reductions, would reduce federal revenue $480 billion in 2015. This amounts to $5 trillion over the decade…

And, as Obama pointed out, there’s no way that Romney will be able to pay for these cuts by eliminating tax loopholes currently enjoyed by the rich, which is what he’s been telling people along the campaign trail. Here’s more from Think Progress.

…As the Tax Policy Center concluded, Romney’s plan can’t both exempt middle class families from tax cuts and remain revenue neutral. “He’s promised all these things and he can’t do them all. In order for him to cover the cost of his tax cut without adding to the deficit, he’d have to find a way to raise taxes on middle income people or people making less than $200,000 a year,” the Center found…

So, that, as I see it, was Obama’s job last night. He just had to stand there, and keep reminding people that Romney can’t possibly deliver on his plan without increasing the burden on the middle class. Which is exactly what he did. Would I have liked to have seen him ask Romney about the “47%”? Hell, yes. I would also have liked to have seen him bring up Romney’s history of exporting American jobs while at Bain Capital. And I would have loved a mention of Romney’s off-shore accounts, and the fact that he refuses to make his tax records public. But that wasn’t what last night was about. The fact that not one of those things was mentioned was not an accident. The President clearly didn’t want to go down that path. I suspect he chose to do this in hopes of attracting more swing voters, who, according to polls, are turned off by what they perceive as personal attacks. We can debate whether the strategy was the right one, but I don’t think it’s the case that Obama just froze up like Cindy Brady and forgot all those things.

Oh, and one last thing… I particularly liked it when Romney said that Obama should have pursued the recommendations of the Simpson Bowles Commission, knowing full well that his running mate, Paul Ryan, had been instrumental in blocking the legislation.

And, I almost forgot… Did anyone else catch it when Romney called out his five sons as liars?

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  1. i spy occupy
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Somebody told me a funny joke today.
    Q: How is Romney different from Obama?
    A: One guy looks black.
    (ok, it is not that funny)

    For real though.
    Vote for somebody who supports the NDAA, endless war and profits over peopley


    Vote for a guy who supports all of the same things, but is a Morman.

    WAKE UP! The only way we will ever move forward is if we get rid of this corrupt two-party system.

  2. Posted October 3, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    vid’s been removed :/

  3. donna
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    Well, Mittens did way better than I expected, but I still have gay friends and a uterus.

  4. Joe
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    My favorite part was when Obama talked about how awesome single-payer healthcare is (when it comes to Medicare), and then went on to talk about how awesome private health insurance is (when it comes to Obamacare).

    Second favorite part was when Romney blurted out, “I like coal!”

  5. anonymous
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    I prefer the video of his grandmother, in the tub, launching fish from her colon.

  6. anonymous
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    Those are good, Joe, but I liked Romney saying, “I like Big Bird” better.

  7. Mark K
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    Romney reminded me of Clint Eastwood talking to a empty chair. I hope Obama comes better prepared next time, or it wont be worth watching. Obama sure got beat up last night, it was so bad, it was hard to watch.

  8. Demetrius
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Romney seemed energetic, dynamic and dare I say … passionate. Of course, there was little substance behind most of what he had to say, and in typical Romney fashion, many of his “positions” were/are dramatically at odds with those he has taken in the past.

    Obama, on the other hand, seemed distracted and somewhat disengaged. Most who truly understand the issues will surely have recognized that most of what the President was saying was actually “correct,” but his passionless and, at times didactic, delivery was mostly ineffective — particularly hard to understand, given Obama’s proven record as a truly inspiring speaker and clever debater.

    Since the vast majority of people have already made up their minds, the debate won’t likely make a dramatic difference. On the other hand, for the small number of truly undecided voters, style may frequently trump substance, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the polls begin to narrow.

    To “i spy” and others above who say there is not much of a substantial difference between the two candidates, and that this election doesn’t really matter, I somewhat agree.

    On the other hand, given the choice between a candidate I consider a “moderate Republican” (Obama), and a candidate who leads a party with increasingly neo-fascist tendencies — including a growing “Tea Party”-fueled ideological majority and a vice-presidential candidate who proudly admits to being an Ayn Rand acolyte — I still feel compelled to choose between the lesser of two evils.

    Consider me a sell-out, but until we end the corporate domination of our politics and/or break down the “two-party” system, I don’t see any other choice.

  9. Edward
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    Obama didn’t need to do anything but show up, and not be lured into a trap. He did exactly what he needed to do. The onus last night was on Romeny, and he didn’t deliver. His makeup was good, and he didn’t make any gaffs, but, at this point in the game, that’s not enough.

  10. Eel
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    I prefer this old home movie of Obama’s father.

  11. anon
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Prediction: after his stint in politics is over, Obama will become a high-ranking employee of a massive financial institution.

  12. PWR
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    I wonder why third party candidates are kept out of the debate process?

  13. Posted October 4, 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Ross Perot

  14. Aaron B.
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    I like how Obam called out Mitt in regards to the details of all his plans or lack there of.

    “At some point, you have to ask, is he keeping all these plans to replace [programs] secret because they’re too good?” Obama said. “Families are going benefit too much from them?”

  15. mark k
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Edward that sounds like a affirmative action statement, is that the attitude Obama had in college. If only he would release his college records we would know for sure. Obama looked confused and beaten last night.

  16. anonymous
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Romney also said that he wanted to kill Big Bird. And people aren’t happy.

  17. anonymous
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    One more quote from last night.

    “We’re a nation that believes we are all children of the same god.” – Mitt Romney

  18. Meta
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Talking Points Memo on the tax issue.

    At the first presidential debate in Colorado Wednesday night, former Gov. Mitt Romney disputed a central criticism of his tax reform plan — and appeared to disavow one of its central features.

    Responding to President Obama’s description of Romney’s proposal, Romney claimed: “I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don’t have a tax cut of the scale you’re talking about. I think we ought to provide tax relief to people in the middle class. But I won’t reduce the share of tax paid by high-income people. … I’m not looking to cut massive taxes and to reduce revenues going to the government. My number one principal is, there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. I want to underline that no tax cut that will add to the deficit.”

    So who’s right?

    Romney has run for months on a plan to lower everyone’s tax rates by 20 percent — an amount that independent analysts have concluded will reduce revenues by $5 trillion over 10 years.

    Romney has also insisted that his plan will be deficit neutral and that it won’t increase taxes on the middle class. But according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center and other analysts, Romney won’t be able to make good on both of those latter promises.

    According to TPC, even if Romney closes all loopholes and deductions for high-income earners, that alone will not account for all the revenue he loses because of the rate cut. Thus, to make the overall plan deficit neutral he’d have to raise the tax burden on middle income Americans.

    Faced with this basic description, Romney said, “If the tax plan he described were a tax plan I was asked to support, I would say absolutely not.”

    Read more:

  19. Mr. X
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Chris Matthews was right on the money when he said that Obama was disengaged, and that he wasn’t fighting back. It’s frustrating to see, as someone on the left. I want to see my President take the fight to his opponent, and challenge him on his views concerning “the 47%”. I want sparks. I want Obama to light a fire under the asses of Democrats, and create some energy around the election, which can help other candidates further down the ballot. That’s not Obama’s style, though. I remember saying the same thing four years ago. At the time, people told me that he had to do that, as to avoid the “angry black man” label, and maybe they were right. And maybe that’s still the case. I have to think, however, that he could get away with showing a little passion.

  20. Demetrius
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    @ anonymous

    “We’re a nation that believes we are all children of the same god — and that god is money.”


  21. Posted October 4, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I liked the debate.

    Obama looked like he had better things to do. I agree that he may be consciously trying to avoid being pegged as an angry black man.

    In the middle of the debate, he started to get some fire, then pulled back for some reason. When he starts getting pissed, he’s quite good.

  22. Oliva
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    “Romney seemed energetic, dynamic and dare I say … passionate”

    Hmmm, not from where we watched.

    We watched on a big-screen HD TV and were distracted by Romney’s bloodshot eyes and strangely dry mouth, his hyper style and rudeness. He acted as if he might be rehearsing in front of a mirror, loving himself so and with no need for the moderator, the president, or facts. The hyper-rehearsed-ness and flagrant switcheroos right out of the gate were galling.

    I am with those who see Obama’s long game at work.

    I also am distressed by the media’s reaction generally. I’ll be glad to see polls of women voters and what women think of Romney now. They weren’t falling for his con artistry already and will surely reject the so-called “winner” label following the first debate. Many good men too!

    I do think the instantaneous, echo chamber reaction that is handing Romney an overwhelming victory is overstated. Romney made a huge error selling his Medicare plan, promising, “if you’re around 60, you don’t need to listen any further.” It was a moment in which he went from smooth to oily — when you urge voters to stop paying attention, and especially on an issue where they start off distrusting you, it heightens the distrust. Obama replied, “if you’re 54 or 55, you might want to listen, because this will affect you.”

    –from, emphasis added

  23. Anonymous Mike
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    If they’d swapped hair, Obama would have won. Hands down.

  24. SparkleMotion
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    So… The bloodshotness of one’s eyes and mouth moisture level and now contributing factors to who wins a debate? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Honey Boo Booization of ourselves. Continue viewing celebrity photos, all is well.
    That being said, I was waiting for Romney to pull a live kitten out of his pocket and devour it in response to a question about the economy.

  25. KKT
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    When people say that Romeny “won” they mean that he came across as more commanding. They are not referring to the content of what he said, much of which has already been proven false. This is about perception, not about reality. People liked that he stared Obama down, and Obama kept his head down. This is nonsense. Politics is not a sport. The fact that people would elect a man because he was “tough” enough to beat up on Jim Lehrer is disgusting.

  26. anonymous
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    I can’t resist…….

  27. Oliva
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    I actually would rather focus on substance than performance and appearance, which would leave Romney in his slippery puddle of hyper-memorization and willingness to spout flagrant untruths, never mind the dry mouth and bloodshot eyes, though they were suggestive (!).

    I agree with KKT and like esp. this part: “Politics is not a sport. The fact that people would elect a man because he was ‘tough’ enough to beat up on Jim Lehrer is disgusting.” It was immensely dispiriting to watch Romney lie and obfuscate immediately out of the gate and thereby remain slippery, cocky, and unaccountable–and then hear “pundits” of many stripes credit him with getting away with it.

  28. SparkleMotion
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    I disagree. Politics in its current form is pure sport. The arguments, the strong opinions, the pure inability to even listen to someone that’s not on your ‘team’ without responding that you somehow hold higher moral ground are the elements of sports fans everywhere. Read the comments here and on CNN, then read the comments on ESPN. Replace “Republican” and “Democrat” with “Yankees” and “Red Sox” and you’ll find it’s pretty much the same name calling conversation. If Obama acted in the same manner Romney acted last night, you wouldn’t saying he beat up on poor grandpa Jim Lehrer. You would say he commanded the stage as a president should, and that Romney was too wimpy to do the same. The physical reactions to your team winning in politics is identical to your team winning in sports. Politics is sport.

  29. Meta
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    A fired-up Obama today at a post-debate rally: “Now, last night, we had our first debate. And when I got on stage, I met a very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney. But it couldn’t have been Mitt Romney — because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. But the fellow on stage last night said he didn’t know anything about that.”

  30. Meta
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Barack Obama lost to Mitt Romney because he’s not that good.” -Tom Junod in Esquire

    When you’re not that bright you can’t get better prepared.” -Romney campaign co-chair and former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu

    Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad. She died 3 days b4 he became president.” -KitchenAid

  31. KitchenAid
    Posted October 4, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    While you couch potatoes debate which moron will kill slightly fewer people, the world around you waits for your actual intercession. #SameDiff

  32. EOS
    Posted October 5, 2012 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    I love what Michelle said about the debate. “It was my 20th wedding anniversary, but my husband was the only one who got nailed!”

  33. ypsijav
    Posted October 5, 2012 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    I listened to the debate on NPR and I am really curious about whether there was some sort of nixon/jfk radio/tv thing going on because it certainly seemed to be like Obama did much better than Romney. This also may be due to me realizing that while most of the things Obama said were at least somewhat accurate, almost everything Romney said was a straight-up lie.

    I’m also really curious about Romney’s comment “Under the president’s policies, middle-income Americans have been buried,” Romney said. “They’re just being crushed. Middle-income Americans have seen their income come down by $4,300. This is a tax in and of itself.” I can’t figure out where he got this figure or what it is supposed to mean. cited census number showing inflation-adjusted household income going down by $2500 in Obama’s first three years. In any case, a drop in the median income is a far cry from a $4300 tax on every middle-income household as Mittens seemed to be describing it.

    I’m also trying to unpack his zinger about winners and losers. I thought the delivery was really weak, but the message itself is way more complicated than the “policy wonkiness” like jobs numbers and other facts for which Obama has been so harshly criticized. So the connotation of “picking winners and losers” is supposed to be intrusion into the free market, right? So if the government is not destroying freedom in this way, you would expect some “losers.” So he has one example of a loser – Solyndra with 500 million cost but says that half of the $90 billion is wasted. I think that the fact checkers should do a better job of sorting distortions by order of magnitude. By the way, Bush initiated the green energy guaranteed loans and the money ($43 billion in volume) includes incentives for that “CLEAN COAL” (if it existed) that Mittens likes so much along with Big Bird, PBS, Jim Lehrer, Michigan, trees, lakes and being able to fire people.

  34. Posted October 5, 2012 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    I was watching the debate on TV I didn’t feel that Obama lost at all. I was actually surprised that so many media outlets were calling Romney a winner.

    Romney was combative, furiously spitting out lies and distortions and clumsily trying to deliver his obviously prepared and rehearsed lines. Worse yet, he yelled at an old man and called his kids liars. He just came off as a bully.

    Maybe Americans like that. Hell, half of American voted for Bush not once, but twice.

    Obama took the high road by pretty much ignoring him. He could have responded more specifically to Romney’s charges, but that’s like giving a class bully the time of day. It’s best just to shake your head and walk away.

    The worst was holding Massachusetts up as a model for the other 49 states. I’ve lived in Mass. There’s no way that something that works in Mass. could ever work in a place like Mississippi. He’s deluded if he thinks so.

  35. kjc
    Posted October 5, 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    “The worst was holding Massachusetts up as a model for the other 49 states. I’ve lived in Mass. There’s no way that something that works in Mass. could ever work in a place like Mississippi. He’s deluded if he thinks so.”

    i was waiting for someone to scream that. besides me.

  36. Vernon
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 2:48 am | Permalink

    Look guys. CNN took a poll of registered voters and something like 65% said that Romney won the debate. Only like 30% said the President won. Now presumably the poll included Democrats too. Right? As John King said to Wolf Blitzer, Obama “got spanked”; not slapped, but just as bad.
    This site has lost its sense of humor. I think maybe it is too big to fail now. And with that status comes the head in the ass syndrome.
    Now that does not change my opinion of the rest of the campaign. Just like I said two years ago, Republicans don’t have anything on the horizon that can beat the Superstar that is Obama. And in the 2008 election when Obama was looking good in the polls, he said, “I am always the underdog. My name is Barack Obama.” He is very uncomfortable as the front runner. But certainly he will win the election.
    It really doesn’t matter. I am with some of the other commenters here. Obama seems mostly to be just a stealth Republican. He reminds me of Clinton that way. It seems from the things that Jimmy Carter has written about Obama that even he believes Obama is not much.
    So it is a waste of time.
    But Obama will ceratinly win. No doubt about it.

  37. Maria
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    As debates go, Romney won on style, and Obama didn’t lie. The dominant male between the two, physically, was Romney. He was louder, pushier, and I think, at least somewhat caffeinated. He made me wince, and I would never vote for him after that performance. Okay, I can figure out that getting rid of some deductions is going to cost our household more money, even if Romney swears he’s not raising taxes. He lied much too often and well for my comfort and apparently that’s a family problem. Yuck.
    Obama seemed tired. He was doing his job, he was smart, he was mild, and it did not come across as presidential. He said “I’m sorry” four times, or so my was my husband’s count, who kept muttering, “Never say you’re sorry” I couldn’t watch it anymore and left the room, though I heard the whole debate.
    I don’t think this debate means much more than Romney lies well, and Obama needs to bone up for the next one. I agree, I think Obama wins the election. More importantly, is whether the Dem get the House on this election. Now that would be interesting.

  38. Pod
    Posted October 7, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    Glenn Greenwald’s new piece on this topic, in the Guardian, is a must-read.

  39. Eel
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Romney should just debate himself next time.

  40. Anonymous Mike
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    EOS captured on VIDEO!!

  41. John Galt
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Fact check all you want, assholes.

    “The president has not signed one new free trade agreement, in the past four years.”
    -Mitt Romney

    Sure, he signed three, but Mitt is technically right when he says that Obama didn’t sign one.

    And this is how we’ll win the election – WITH FACTS!

  42. anonymous
    Posted December 16, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of Honey Boo Boo, have you seen this?

    Warning: Once seen, cannot be unseen.

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