Round One

On the debate stage in Denver, October 3, 2012


Obama says “textbooks that are ten years old,” like that’s some great tragedy. Hell, probably the textbooks were better in some subjects 50 years ago!

I wish Romney wouldn’t say “our poor” — “There’s a better way to take care of our poor”; “Each state knows best how to take care of its poor,” etc. Sounds like something a rich person would say. Something an aristocrat would say.

To my ears, it’s perfectly innocent, of course. I even like it. I hate the substitution of “low income” and all that for “poor.” I’m just thinkin’ politics.

Later, Romney says “poor,” and then corrects himself to “low income.” I think he even apologizes — says, “Excuse me.”


Obama talks about his grandmother, again! Now she’s “fiercely independent.” Remember how she was “a typical white person”? Is the typical white person fiercely independent?

Boy, is politics boring. It changes so little. In 2000, Candidate George W. Bush was explaining patiently to people about entitlement reform: “Those who are in retirement, or are nearing retirement, don’t have to worry: Nothing will change for you. We want to give younger people some options, so they’ll have something when it’s their turn to retire.”

Just what Romney is saying. Does anyone believe us, or do they think we’ll have ’em on dog food? Do they think we’ll let ’em die in the snow?

Sometimes you feel you are wasting your breath . . .

By the way, does Romney ever say in this debate, “We’re going bankrupt”? “We’re the brokest nation in history”? “We’re going down the tubes”? “We’ve got to stop this slide, or we’re cooked”?

Shouldn’t he? Shouldn’t he, somehow, communicate the urgency? Or is that unnecessary?

I’ve never liked Romney’s pained smile. I know he can’t help it. And I love Romney. It’s just an unfortunate facial position, I think. (We all have our share, I’m sure . . .)

I think his purpose in this debate is to say, “I’m not scary. I’m not a Social Darwinist. I’m okay with regulation. I’m not going to cut taxes for the rich. I’m going to be a little more Republican than President Obama.”

Will that cut it?

Obama’s citation of Lincoln makes me gag. I think Obama would make Lincoln gag.

Obama gives a really good answer on the role of government. Brilliant. But does his governance match his words?

The Obama of the debates — of the three in ’08 and this one in ’12 — would be a pretty good, palatable, moderate president.

Romney, too, is good on the role of government. Very good.

Hang on, I forgot to mention something. Let’s go back a little. Did Obama really say that insurance companies are “spending on profits”? So confusing, this president’s view of business. I believe he himself is confused.

I should note: Romney does indeed say that Obama promised to cut health-care costs per family $2500. He also says that, under Obama, the deficit has doubled. Whew. (What I mean is, “Whew” that he said it, not “Whew” that our deficit is crushing.)  

Mitt, please remember two pungent words, for a subsequent debate — particularly in the context of the stimulus, if it comes up (and if it doesn’t, should you not bring it up?): “shovel ready.”

Also, repeat after me: “one-term proposition”!

This is cute: Obama has gone on forever. He delivered a lengthy monologue. Lehrer’s not going to let Romney respond. And Obama gestures as though to say, “No, he must have a chance to respond.”

Well done (on O’s part).

Romney crabs at Obama for “picking winners and losers” (and the crabbing is fair). Just as Bush did at Gore in 2000. Boy, is politics . . . consistent. The battle lines get drawn, and they stay there, for a good long while. At least they have in recent history . . .

I didn’t like Romney’s closing statement, at all. Too negative. No autobiography (I believe). No “I’ve been a ‘turn-around artist’ all my life, and we need a turn-around now.” No poetry. No uplift.

Could have made more of his time — that opportunity.

By the way, I don’t like this idea of “keeping our commitment to our military.” Our commitment is to the nation: A presidential candidate should promise the nation that he would do his utmost to keep us safe and strong. Of course, that involves a “military second to none,” as Romney has often said.

Just a matter of wording. I knew what Romney meant. (And our commitment to our military should be to equip them as well as possible. And to use them as wisely as possible, of course.)

So, who won? You know, this is so much an expectations game. So are many things in life. (I talk about this in my music criticism a fair amount.) I think Romney is exceptionally smart. Exceptionally capable. And, of course, humane. I think he’s the right man for the presidency, at this time. I wanted him to be president in ’08. He’s even more needed, even more right, now.

And I know he’s an excellent debater. I watched him, and wrote about him — along with all the other candidates — for months, as the primaries and caucuses were going on. So I expect excellent things from him. I expect excellence from him every day.

Other people, I know — conservatives included — are not so high on Romney. They think he’s stiff, goofy, out of touch, gaffe-prone, weak, etc. So maybe they’ll say, “Geez, Romney did great!” Because they expected less.

I think he did fine. I know he can do better. I feel he left a lot on the table, as they say. But remember — let me repeat myself: I think Romney’s wonderful. And I expect him to kick butt. I expect him to KO Obama with practically his every breath. Which is unreasonable . . .

And Obama? I think he did well. How can he not? He’s one of the best talkers who have ever entered politics. It’s hard for me to judge him — because I find his views so off-putting, so wrong. I wish he were on our side. I wish a performer of his caliber were on my side.

Here’s my prayer — my wish — for every debate, in every election: that the candidates say what they believe; that they are honest; that they give true impressions of themselves. Then let the electoral chips fall where they may.

Okay, now I’ll surf the Web to see what the consensus — Th’Almighty Consensus — says. At intermission now and then, someone’ll ask a music-critic colleague of mine, “What do you think?” (He’s one of the wittiest, tartest men around.) He’ll say, “I don’t know, I haven’t read the reviews yet.”

To order Jay Nordlinger’s new book, Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World, go here. To order his collection Here, There & Everywhere, go here.