Friday, October 5, 2012

The Uber Gaffe: Hubris (October 5, 2012)

Guest blogger Steve weighs in on the first debate.  Obama fans, read it and weep....
Barack Obama, who clearly spent too much time reading comforting, soothing polling data about swing states swinging his way, got his clock cleaned on Wednesday night.
In 90 excruciating minutes, Obama allowed his substantial lead to slip through his fingers, and his re-election is suddenly in serious jeopardy.
Like a football team that shifts to a “prevent defense” way too early in the fourth quarter, Obama appeared to believe that all he had to do last night was show up in Denver as part of an overall game plan to run out the clock until November 2. That standing behind the other podium would be a stiff, awkward, gaffe-prone elitist who would crumble before him.
That, in sum, this POTUS thought he was just too cool for school.
Forget all the gaffes Romney has committed since he first built the car elevator; Obama just committed the biggest gaffe of all: Hubris. Extreme pride to the point of arrogance. He was unprepared, from his content to his mind-set, from his estimation of the opponent to his inability to shift his game plan on the fly when the toilet started to flush.
When Romney came out swinging, Obama was clearly thrown on his heels, losing his intellectual footing; he was puzzled and confused by Romney’s assault. He proceeded to stand by helplessly as the momentum shifted away with mounting fury.
Romney was confident; sure of himself. Obama was hesitant, uncertain. It took, um, too long, ahhhhh, for Obama, ah, to, you know, get to his, uh, points.
Romney, on the other hand, used the very effective rhetorical device of ticking down crisp lists and seeming to have a statistic on command for every point. The statistic may have been a fantasy, but do you think the undecideds in Akron have a handle on currency fluctuation?
Television is a visual medium. The American populace has been trained to understand that the visual and visceral gestalt of the overall presentation is vastly more important than the content.
Last night, you would have known that Romney crushed Obama even if you had watched it with the sound turned off. Indeed, particularly if you had watched it with the sound turned off. 
The way the American people consume moving pictures has been reduced to a very simple, extremely binary computation. Last night, Barack Obama may not have lost the presidency, but he was definitely  voted off the island.
Worst of all, Obama opened the door for a whole new set of ugly “narratives…”
·         That he is weak
·         That he does not have a command of detail
·         That he relies on surrogates to fight his battles
·         That he does not have a vision for his second term. (Watch that closing statement again on YouTube and you tell me).
And, on just the night when he could have slammed the door shut, he gave Mitt Romney all the oxygen he needed to breathe new life into his campaign. Last night, Romney…
·         Re-opened the money spigot that had tightened
·         Re-energized his base
·         Framed the conservative economic argument simply and powerfully
·         Even boomeranged his Massachusetts healthcare program back in Obama’s face to argue that he was more effective at working on a bipartisan basis. That, as Bill Clinton would say, takes brass.
All is not lost for Barack Obama.
I mean, for one thing, Mitt Romney was even right about the part that 47% of the American populace will never vote for him.
Pundits will point out that sitting presidents often stink in their first debate with an opponent fresh from running the primary debate gauntlet.
The polls will tighten. Swing states will go back into play. But there are still four weeks until election day.
But at 10:48 last night, I received this gem of an email:
Steve --

I hope I made you proud out there explaining the vision we share for this country.

Now we need to go win this election -- the most important thing that will happen tonight is what you do (or don't do) to help in the little time we have left:

Thank you,

With all respect, Mr. President, I think there’s been a bit too much “proud” and not enough “explaining the vision we share for this country.”
If Barack Obama is not re-elected President of the United States, you will never hear that old saw that “the debates don’t matter” ever again.


  1. Spot on!

    On debate night, the real, arrogant Barack Obama AND the real, centrist Mitt Romney were revealed.

    This is a serious election. We are at a turning point. Obama had his chance, and has blown it. Can't build a consensus. Doesn't care about us. He doesn't deserve another 4 years.

    Oh, BTW, Scarborough on the other line wanting to book this Gardner brother, hang on Joe, be right there...

  2. Given that we live in a gaffe seeking, zinger craving world, I can't disagree with the overwhelming consensus that Obama didn't acquit himself well in the debate. But I do hope when the dust settles on this one, we'll put substance over style; Romney's ability to package himself was on display and he was good at it, but given that his proposals change with the prevailing election winds, and that his statements from day to day are riddled with inconsistencies, can anyone really feel confident that we have any idea what we'd be getting with a Romney presidency?

  3. Wendy is right on, but more charitable than I in characterizing Romney's various proposals. I agree that the President did not have a good night. I attribute at least part of it to being shocked at Romney's complete disregard for the facts. He lied about almost every position he has taken over the past several months, and I don't think Obama wanted to come across as angry and confrontational by using the word "liar." I assume the political ads in the upcoming days and weeks will do what can't be done in a debate - actually show what Romney said in the past weeks/months and compare it with what was said on stage. Obama must hammer Romney's mendacity at the next debate, and not let him get away w/more lies.

  4. Steve --

    I was just in an elevator with Will McAvoy and Chris Matthews. Both were angry that you posted this before they could speak up. Good work.


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