Now, that’s what I’m talking about. I wrote after the Vice Presidential debate that it was the most entertaining debate I had ever watched, and I still think that is true, but last night would be a close second for sure. It was definitely the best debate performance that I have ever seen from Barack Obama, which, as I wrote before, is a lower bar than most people think.
There were a lot of good moments in this debate for the president, and maybe one or two for Romney, but even if Romney had been winning the entire debate (he wasn’t) this exchange would have sunk him:
Warning to all my co-workers: anyone who comes into my office today and starts speaking will be met with a steely glare and the words, “Please proceed, UI designer.”
Everything about this exchange was a win for Obama and a loss for Romney. It was only moments after the president accepted responsibility for the deaths of the ambassador and 3 other Americans, only moments after the president refused to throw Hillary Clinton under the bus, pointing out that the buck does indeed stop with him, only moments after he had already pointed out that Romney’s actions immediately following the attack were to try to score political points off an American tragedy.
A better politician, a better leader, would have recognized this as a moment to move on to the next question, but Romney thought he saw an opening, and decided to double down on a chance to use a tragedy to damage the president. Look how eagerly he approaches Candy Crowley to get his attack in. Look at the raised eyebrows as he demands confirmation from the president. Just nasty.
And then: “Please proceed, governor.”
Romney’s next words: “Ah bah ah bah dah.” Clearly rattled. Realizing, just a little late, that the president seems pretty confident about his position, and maybe, just maybe, wondering why. But too late, he was committed, and he blundered on, prompting the president to say, “get the transcript.”
And then Candy Crowley did something that journalists never seem to do. Seeing two men arguing about a point of fact, and one where she knew what the facts actually were, she settled the argument. The president did indeed say what he had claimed to say. The right wing was outraged! How dare she point out facts in a debate! That’s not her job, they complained. Facts have a liberal bias! The president says he said something; it’s on videotape. But: some disagree!
What happened to Romney is what happens when epistemic closure takes over a party. It is accepted dogma on the right wing that the president never said anything about terror when talking about the Libya attacks. That Rose Garden address wasn’t played over and over on FOX News, it wasn’t quoted on right wing blogs. In that bubbled universe, the president apologized for an unrelated video and covered up the terrorist angle. Mitt Romney, we learned last night, has been living in that bubbled universe with his supporters, and he got embarrassed on national television because of it.
Twenty days to go, folks. Let’s win this thing.