I still don’t understand why President Obama didn’t go the obvious route — noted here yesterday — of making Romney explain as many awkward things as possible as often as possible. When Obama started his answer on entitlements by saying he and Romney agreed on Social Security, I thought, “Wow, he’s given up.” Some more thoughts in my Politico column today:
It’s not often a president of the United States has someone stand several yards away, look directly at him, and contradict everything he says. It can’t be a pleasant experience. But all President Barack Obama could do last night was grimace and take it.
As was clear during the Republican debates, too, Romney is fully aware that he’s on camera even when he’s not talking. David Axelrod needs to let the president in on the secret. Romney has perfected a look of good-natured equanimity— sometimes fading into benign pity — when watching a debate opponent make a point. When Romney talked, Obama looked down at his notes, appearing irked and a little overwhelmed.
At times, he seemed to fear confrontation with Romney. Whether this was out of strategic calculation, or he didn’t want to bother, or he knew Romney would invariably have a comeback, it didn’t suit the guy who is supposed to be leader of the free world. “The president is at liberty,” Woodrow Wilson said, “both in law and conscience, to be as big a man as he can.” Obama looked small. Someone who knew absolutely nothing going in — a pretty good definition of an undecided