Two Presidents, Smoking and Scheming

Aaron Sorkin pulls back the curtain on a secret New England presidential summit.

Comments: 167

  1. So, the toads and snakes erupting from Mitt’s mouth were not satisfactorily balanced by Obamian diamonds and flowers. The pundits were cheated out of the rapid-fire repartee they thought they were entitled to. All they got were two technocrats schmoozing about entitlements and how to cut and tweak them. There was no talk of climate change, gun control, wealth disparity, unemployment, the Citizens United decision.

    Just look at who’s in charge of the “non-partisan” Commission on Presidential Debates. There's Frank Fahrenkopf, former RNC chairman, now a lobbyist for the casino industry. Former Clinton Press Sec. Mike McCurry heads a lobbying shop representing net neutrality opponent AT&T, as well as the regulation-averse, pro-free trade National Association of Manufacturers.

    Other puppet-masters in the audience were CPD member Richard Parsons, former head of Citibank and Time Warner, advisor to the Obama transition team and member of the White House Jobs Council. And who could miss Alan “Social Security is a Milk Cow with 300 Million Teats” Simpson of Obama’s own deficit reduction commission? Simpson had predicted that the debate would be “the biggest tap dance since Fred Astaire” and warned that if the candidates refused to talk about imposing austerity on us, “you’d better get yourself a cave in the Adirondacks.”

    These are among the people running the debates, the candidates and the country. Barack Obama didn’t lose. We did.

  2. And not a word about the compete destruction of middle class thrift by the bankster-controlled monetary policy of the Federal Reserve Bank.

  3. Obama was vintage Obama. Four years ago he promised a number of unrealized proposals that never saw the light of day. For four years he was a ready compromiser, ready to compromise before compromise was even sought. He abandoned his earliest and staunchest supporters from the outset.
    His effort in the Romney win was vintage Obama- always disappointing, always self-contained. Romney was doing his best to lose until Obama came to his aid.

  4. You would have legitimate points if you did not include the final sentence of your first paragraph. Lehrer (and the press beforehand) clearly stated the boundaries of discussion for that debate--financial and fiscal policy. NOT
    climate change, gun control, Citizens United, or the other numerous topics we would all like to hear discussed in a debate. Many people who complain about the debate make this same error--it was not supposed to be about those things, and whether we like the format or not, it is unfair and ignorant to complain that Lehrer at least tried to follow the groundrules. Of course, he failed in every other way, to our distress.

  5. I didn't understand Jim Lehrer's minimalist approach to formulating questions. A really well-written exam question (at the college level) can help a student understand the course. A well-crafted debate question could have allowed the audience to see the candidates in new ways. They didn't have to be questions that attempted to nail a candidate to the wall or to trick him into an inconsistency, they could have been just questions that allowed us to watch the candidate think on his feet (or revert back to a tangentially-related talking point).

  6. What is it with debate moderators? They NEVER seem to fulfill the function we so desperately need them to: keeping at least a minimum of honesty in the discourse. Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, we need you.

  7. I feel for Mr Lehrer. Perhaps politics is a bloodsport. Somehow, the movie title "No country for old men" keeps popping up. I say this without any disrespect for Mr Lehrer; quite on the contrary, considering I am no youngster myself and his NewsHour has been my constant companion for the last 25 years, I respect him

    One consolation is that he was tackled by a seasoned hostile takeover practitioner. Perhaps the latter took former Speaker's advice to heart by going after the moderator as much as after the president. Gov Romney's words "I like PBS, I love Big Bird. Actually I like you, too. But I'm not going to..." simply doesn't come across naturally

    But back to ageing, it is a powerful force, even without Rep Ryan's tinkering. You look at a couple of the other older guys. One former neuron bomber and the other former phone hacker. They look pretty ridiculous by trying to be relevant in the era of Twitter. They thought they were cute by using some Chicago whatever euphemism but promptly got plenty of 140 character shout downs in return (and they deserve it.) That goes to show, "no country for old men!" And if Gov Romney and Rep Ryan got to call the shot in the next four years, many would feel it even they don't bother to get on to Twitter

  8. let's bring back the league of women voters to moderate and craft the questions. and let us expect them to challenge lies and misinformation and to follow up answers that fail to address the questions. what we have now is nothing but entertainment. especially if the debaters are given the questions in advance. let's ask for real debate-at least on the level of high school debate clubs.

  9. I hope they make this mandatory reading in the White House. And people have to stand in the mess, and recite memorized sections before having lunch! Quick, act this out on youtube. Let it eclipse Big Bird on trending, he knows where his feathers are preened.

    And with a throw to a move from the Romney playbook (false fairness is a two-way street!), I am not being partisan. It's just a really good example of comparison and contrast, a few days late, but in time for the campaign staff to coordinate offense worthy of what Newt once called the "anti-colonial Kenyan" gladiator heritage! Does anybody have a shrunken head of Sununu?

  10. Clean and sly: This political season, for some, thrills are more important than truth. "Style Points For Lies." [} (Or how Romney "pledged to use the power of government to cut the best the government had to offer in early childhood education").

    Sensitive and thoughtful: A quiet review of an overlooked tact. "Romney: United We Hate" []

  11. You can't argue with someone who squirms out of what he just said by making up facts and saying something else.

    When I converse with an idiot like that, or someone who goes off on yet another tangent every time you pin him down on the tangent he just went on, I handle him like the president handled Romney.

    Let the guy talk. Let him hoist himself by his own petard.

    Romney says he is going to fire Big Bird for goodness sake.

    You can't have a rational discussion with a guy like that.

  12. Everyone is interested in how President Obama will handle the next debate.

    Whereas I am more interested in how Romney will handle his next shot at "debating" ........ expertise - or so it has been labeled by the usual shallow analysis that is prevalent in all matters of a current political nature.
    Republicans will wallow in their present realm of success as defined by their own questionable standards. Discoloration of the facts is to put it mildly.

    Coming off his so-called "great victory", will Romney double down on his effective but highly questionable behavior and once again run rough shod over the entire "debate" exercise. For that is all that it is - an exercise. It certainly is not a debate by any stretch of the imagination.

    Dim bulb that he is, he will most likely go for the gold. But then does he have any other choice of behavior. To perform in another manner leaves him open to the Etch-A-Sketch label.
    Now he is stuck with a less than laudatory mode of bullying behavior and the manifestation of that will be to his detriment the next time around.

    Romney is busily digging his own hole - or grave - and we will all stand at the edge looking down and watching him do so. I think that Obama may have pointed out the soft ground when he spotted the shovel in Romney's hand at the first debate go around.

    One thing is sure. We will all be watching. The chess player is far more proficient and expert than the checkers player ........ any day.

  13. It was probably obvious to the President that Mr. Romney was either in a state of euphoria because they were on the same stage at last, or that some alien had taken over the challenger's mind and body. I think the President was wise to let the man rant. Mr. Romney proved himself to be foolish with his hyperactivity.

    Can you envision Mr. Romney in discussions with Labor, foreign leaders, members of Congress, interrupting them, shouting over them repeatedly and waving his hands frenetically? Certainly Not what we want in an elected leader and in particular, not in the President of the United States. If that's the way Mr. Romney would behave as President, he needs sedation.

    Mr. Appledorf, you're right on.

  14. If there is anything that we've come to know about Romney is that his positions constantly change and the more he speaks increases the liklihood of a gaffe or a position that should be spoken in public.

    The President was correct to remain presidential while Romney lied.

    The American people know better and will not elect this real life Gordon Gekko.

  15. This claim that President Obama seriously messed up in Wednesday's debate is highly overblown. Instead, what happened is that our President offered a middling performance that the media is jumping on because doing so (a) could help create a closer election that the media wants in order to improve their ratings, and (b) enables the media to avoid focusing on the substance of what was and wasn't discussed at the debate.

    On the substance, the clear winner was President Obama. He offered fact-based defenses of ObamaCare, of protecting rather than voucherizing Medicare, of a balanced approach of dealing with deficits and taxes, and of steady progress that we are making in improving the jobs situation.

    On the other side, Mendacious Mitt offered 24 falsehoods in 38 minutes of speaking during the debate. His claim about pre-existing conditions coverage (which Romney would end) was debunked by his own campaign adviser after the debate. And Romney's complete denial of his own platform of tax giveaways to billionaires, voucherizing Medicare, and weakening of Wall Street regulations shows that Romney is willing to say absolutely anything to try to get elected President.

    In my world, winners don't lie, evade details, and attack Big Bird. But that's what Mitt did, and that's yet more reasons why he shouldn't be in the White House.

  16. All true, except the fact that a debate is, by its nature, a winner-loser scenario. Obama, for all his wonkiness and truth-talking, seemed to be back on his heals from the start. He never took the initiative and never called Mitt out for his myriad lies and distortions.

    Winners can indeed lie, evade and attack PBS.

    George W. Bush was President for eight years....

  17. You forgot to mention that when the media improve their ratings, it results in a big influx of paid political commercials.

    Which, from my cynical point of view, the money gleaned from those commercials is what's really motivating media reports that President Obama is facing a tough road to being re-elected.

  18. I listened on the radio and I am inclined to agree with this assessment. It was far from the walkover that was widely reported. My biggest frustration was why O'B didn't refute the numerous lies Mittens spouted. Presumably, the visuals were everything on this evening. Next time will be different. I hear that instead of John Kerry standing in for Mitt, they are going to have Wily Coyote. That would be an improvement for sure.

  19. The only god thing to come out of the debate is the fact that Mitt has played his hand. The next two hands Mitt plays will be aces and eights. Lawrence O'Donnell was spot on Thursday night when he said Mitt was the bull and the president was the matador. For all of a bull's bluster, we all know what happens to the bull at the end of a bullfight, right? All I can say about Mitt's performance in the first debate is Ole!!

  20. It's not always the matador wins.

  21. From your lips to God's ear!

  22. Yes, I think Aaron Sorkin would be a good debate coach for Obama for the remaining debates.

    Even if Obama was half as outspoken as Bartlet it would be an improvement....

  23. Your humor spills over, Maureen; thank you for a good laugh. A pleasure to read such inventiveness and wishful thinking all in the same package. The next act, debate number two, will no doubt attract close to the seventy million predicted though not attained during debate number one, which evidently did try your patience.

    That so many had underestimated Governor Romney as a worthy opponent for the President is really a shame, though understandable. Throughout the Primaries he never got any respect from the MSM who uniformly, almost in lock step, denigrated Governor Romney 24/7. Curious thing about business guys, they do know how to negotiate and to frame a contest. The President, never having been in business, was at sea early and never recovered. Negotiation is not his thing as he proved during his tenure in the White House since he was never able to conclude a deal to advance any of his preferences in Congress. Of course he blamed the GOP, though it absolutely takes two parties to conclude a deal and negotiation and compromise are a part of that classical art.

    The assertions made that fact checkers reached certain conclusions is since unproven since the dueling fact checkers are all over the map and reliable interpretations do not support the claims made by one side or the other.

    Most people do accept the spirit of the contest and the result is for the public to decide. Few will pull a tantrum as Chris Matthews of MSNBC did since he no longer felt the thrill up his leg.

  24. What in God's name are you talking about? Seriously, give it up. Romney is a joke. How many more Republican crooks do we have to elect before our country gets totally destroyed?

  25. I must disagree with your statements of the president's inability to deal with Congress. He showed a degree of willingness to compromise, to meet the GOP halfway and even more, so often that he frequently risked the anger of his own base.

    The GOP repeatedly walked away from deals that they themselves had orchestrated, deals that gave them what they wanted. They filibustered legislation that they themselves had originally proposed in past sessions. They acted in bad faith at the negotiating table time and time again.

    So please, place the blame of failure to compromise where it belongs: with a record-breaking filibustering Republican Senate and a Republican House majority that scuttled its own deals in order to prevent the president from making progress.

  26. Who was the last president with a background as a "successful business man prior being president? Herbert Hoover? And he wasn't much of a president. There may have been a few that don't come to mind. The skills needed to be a successful businessman do not really transfer to the skills needed to be a president. That is obvious by now. And how successful can the claim Romney can do it as he really been a venture, vulture capitalist? I see no connection whatsoever between these jobs. We need a president with character, empathy, and understanding of global issues. Romney has none of those qualities, far as I've seen. Maybe he can learn them on the job but that seems doubtful.

    Governments cannot be run like a business. The governments job is not bottom line quarterly profits. As much as some people want to believe.

  27. Thank you, Ms. Dowd, for putting the debate into perspective for those of us who freaked out Wednesday night. Hard to admit, but I was worse than your description of Aaron Sorkin.

    Never thought I'd be able to read a thing about what we refer to in my household as "that awful night" and end up with a smile on my face but I did.

  28. Thank heaven you've given up damning Obama with faint praise, Ms Dowd! This is the best editorial on the subject of the election I've seen to date. Bar none! You GO, girl!

  29. Appearing presidential is a virus that can make someone look dopey instead. It made Gov Dukakis ride in a tank. It reduced Sen Kerry, a genuine Vietnam veteran and dedicated public servant, to a hairdo. Now the disease is about to strike again. President Obama needs to take the cure, the genuineness vaccine, right away

    Maybe his mentor is right about Mr Obama doesn't have the taste for blood but his opponent is trained in hostile takeover with a natural appetite for firing people and cutting another kid;s hair. The implications of his opponent's attempt to make a hostile takeover of America is a serious one. Tomorrow is the 11th anniversary of the Afghan war. The neocons are on the rise. Draw your own conclusion! Forget about Rep Ryan's vouchernomics; tonight, NBC News reported that 25% of children in W Virginia would not have dinner if they did not partake a dinner program at school. And think about the Supreme Court!

    So, Mr President, if a cigarette is what it takes to make you feel more clearly about the implications of the debate, surely Mrs Obama would understand

    Forget about looking presidential, After all, you are the president; you don't have to play one on TV. And you don't have to wear your community organizer's suit for now. You'll have plenty of chances to use it after the election. Right now, you need to make your opponent tell the truth about his many versions of America. America's future depends on it

  30. I know the president reads a lot; I sincerely hope he reads this article and sees all the 'recommends"!

  31. I wish Bill Clinton had been Obama's speech coach, he knows how to counter the opponent in a way disarming and charming at the same time.

    It's like when Maria Sharapova had a less than likeable coach, who seemed to demoralize her more than help her. When she hired a professional tennis coach who really understands the game, her game rebounded nicely, for a time at number one.

    The only effective way I know to counter lies is to show them, and their speaker, up for who he really is. Hold his feet to the fire, the 47%, hell the 99%, are counting on you Mr. President.

  32. I wish Obama wanted to be President.

  33. Sometimes it takes Obama a while to figure out that he is being gamed such as those moderate Republicans who asked for cocessions on the health care bill. But he did. This time, however, he has less than two weeks.

  34. Exactly. He's still a little naive for a guy from Chicago and a dude that's bee in the white house for almost 4 years. But then again. He isn't really from Chicago. And he's been campaigning for almost two that he's been in executive office.

  35. Golly, stop screaming Obama will win this election in a WALK. Romney is in the worst position he could possibly be right under the klieg lights and he does not do close-ups very well. And to paraphrase what someone once said, he will not be a contender no more forever - starting next week.

  36. I finally have someone else putting some responsibility on Mr. Lehrer, for some of the lamest questions and acceptance of lies as answers to questions he didn't ask.
    Where were the quesstions on women's issues? Aren't they part of the economy?
    But the blame does belong mostly on the President. It was not against the rules to challenge lies.
    I must also say that I was also not prepared for the outright lies and missinformation coming from Mr. Romney. America deserves better from someone seeking to lead us. How can you discuss or debate from a platform that has no base of facts?

  37. Agree on all scores. We're in shock at Romney's lies and misinformation. Basically too, he essentially Lehrer's job!

    Talk about a bully.

    I've watched a lot of political debates, can't remember a Presidential debate with such a lack of respect for reality as well as simple good manners.

  38. Republicons are expert in the concept of the propaganda technique called The Big Lie. Look it up in Wikipedia. I'm surpised the Mormon Church doesn't excommunicate him for bringing shame on them.

  39. Who on his prep team said:

    If Mitt lies......just let it go.........

    Consistent lying and confident lying start looking like truth when no one stands up to the lies.

    Lehrer did his version of "Weekend at Bernie's", a shameful exit from the stage for him.

    Obama.......well, he just got rolled, AGAIN by the Republic Party.

  40. If, after all these years, Jim Lehrer represents the best that PBS has to offer, perhaps it IS time to fricassee Big Bird. I say that while fully supporting NPR, where people like Robert Siegel (and many others) represent some of the smartest, sharpest journalists out there.

    Lehrer lost control of the debate in the first two minutes. It was sad to watch.

    The hardest thing that any of us has to do is to see ourselves for what we are. Obama had better overcome that in the next debate, or we could see the great unraveling happen sooner rather than later...

  41. An analogy for Jim Lehrer's performance as a moderator might be Judge Ito in the O.J. Simpson trial. Ito also lost control and allowed O.J.'s brilliant lawyers to manipulat the facts and the jury--and the Juice was exonerated. But we all know he was guilty (the civil suit found him so). We all know that Romney won on performance but lost on substance, which consisted of nothing but lies and clever manipulations that fooled only the uninformed.

  42. The debates are a complete joke anymore. And Lehrer should have known better and not let it get out of control. Romney was a complete bully and liar and Jim never called him out on anything. We don't need another milquetoast moderator. Debates used to be half way civil. Who are the next two debate moderators?

    Any way to change the format so the candidates can ask each other real questions? Each gets so much time to answer, and a few rebuttals? Why not a real debate? Not these Dancing With the Stars crap.

  43. Agreed. Was sad to see Mr. Lehrer handled. But still, Mr. Obama is President of the United States of America. If he can be mugged by a .01 percent prevaricating vulture capatilist what hope is there for us 47 percent?

  44. If Obama does not shape up fast, he goes home a rich man and gets a nice life.

    If Obama does not shape up fast, we go home to President Romney and get four years of an ugly life, a real full Depression and war, to complete a new Gilded Age.

  45. To Mark Thomason: I agree with you - Barack Obama - as with every president since George Herbert Walker Bush (Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan declined to get rich off their presidencies after they left office) will aspire to a life of luxurious wealth and ease whether he leaves office now, or in January 2017.

    After all - most Americans feel ex-presidents deserve to become rich off the fact that they've served as the federal chief executive.
    They're our retired presidential potentates, after all, aren't they?

    My question is: How would any politically alert person who isn't independently wealthy and who must work to earn his or her income, expect Barack Obama to act any more effectively than Romney - who's already very rich, in contrast to being only potentially so, like Barack Obama - in representing his or her economic interests in Washington, D.C. when his second term begins?.

    He certainly hasn't advocated very earnestly for a crash program to get our unemployment crisis under control during his first four years.

    In fact, he's worked for the Wall Street department of our nation's class of the rich and the super-rich all throughout his first term much more effectively than for his avid, hard-working "middle class" supporters.

    A continuation of the Obama administration won't turn out to be as different from a Romney administration as many people think.

    The presidential system of governance has evolved just so that it won't.

  46. Mark,

    If Obama is reelected you may still get the war and depression.

  47. We have created the Obama we want, not the one we have. People are disappointed he failed to meet their expectations, and call Romney out as a liar. But Obama has never called the right out as liars during his first four years. He has never fought the lunnies in Congress who present such an easy target. Now, add Romney to the list. And his supporters provide complete cover by blaming Republicans for all his failings. When Obama stated change comes from the outside, not the inside, he was telling us loud and clear he is not an agent of change. Few listened.

    As bad as Lehrer was Wed., his exasperation in trying to find differences between the two sums up the problem. We have one ideology divided into two parties. It is the American people, not the candidates, who are trying to create a real difference.

  48. I was bummed on Thursday after the media jumped all over the President's performance, or more accurately, his non-performance. Even though I don't think it changed anyone's mind about who they were voting for, (this undecided voter stuff is a lot of bunk) I wanted the President to make chopped steak out of that lying, arrogant Romney. But he didn't. Then came Friday with the new unemployment numbers. The Romney debate victory (can you call lying through your teeth a victory?) was now a one day wonder. The President went out on the campaign trial and acted like he should have acted in the debates. He was great. Then the conspiracy theorists came out of the woodwork to insinuate that the unemployment numbers were cooked. That was great too. They were no longer the breaking news story and tried their hardest to recapture the spotlight. Too bad. As a side note, the President is a very smart guy, but he is also lucky. I sincerely hope that the Presidents' intelligence and his uncanny luck will carry him and us too a better future,

  49. I can't help but think that the same instincts that make Obama a Great President are the instincts that made him a poor debater on Wednesday night.
    The very understanding of Romney as a very small insignificant, lying, needy human being are precisely what stopped him from attacking and belittling him.
    I also lived on Chicago's South Side and knew instinctively that engaging in a stinking contest with a skunk was always a losing proposition.
    The chief attack of Obama's opposition is that he is not the legitimate President of the USA. What woulds it serve anyone least of all the President to engage the schoolyard bully in a fight?
    President Obama has experienced his share of funerals where confrontation was seen as the way to settle disputes. I am sure he has seen children die because they called out a liar. That is not the example I wish the President to set for the country.
    How many children died because Bush lied and Saddam was incapable of walking away and let the truth speak for itself.
    GOP political, social and economic philosophy has been a disaster for the majority of Americans over the last 32 years if that doesn't speak for itself there is nothing President Obama can say that will change their desire to inflict further pain on themselves.
    It takes a lot of chutzpah to claim that the Reagan legacy was good when you go from the land of opportunity to the least upwardly mobile western democracy in a mere 28 years. Anyone wanting to know the truth can find it.

  50. Worse than the smiley-faced lies that fell so trippingly from Mitt's lips is the fact that so many of his supporters in the media perpetuate them as facts. Doesn't the right value truth at all?
    I rejoice that my moderte-Republican father who believed in the party of Lafollette, Taft and Wiley isn't alive to see the shameful and intolerant behavior of this weird conglomerate that claims to be "Republican."
    There is an inherent arrogance among the Republilcan party spokespeiople that reveals a disconnect with the majority of this country's citizens. My fear is that these smug leaders have the money necessary to buy the election.

  51. Wait! There is an element of potentially revealing truth in this intended silliness. How long was Obama in Denver before the debate? I remember that he was practicing in Las Vegas (what happens in Vegas stayed there, apparently). Denver is known as the mile high city and it has nothing to do (I suppose) with what people smoke there. It is 5,280 ft. above sea level. Obama lives about 400 ft. above sea level in Washington, DC, when he is not jetting around the country. The thin air really could affect one's performance. He's not 26 any more. He is otherwise what is known as a mature man deep into middle age.

    Did his White House advisers consider this possibility? They say that golf balls and alcohol drinks go about 10% farther in Denver because of the thin air and, thus, less oxygen to the brain.

    The only way to know if this was a factor would be to compare Obama's debate performance with his prep sessions. This is something only his top advisers would be able to do and they can't come out an make excuses, they just have to live, learn and move on.

    There is no doubt that the President will be much more ready next time. Now, he knows what to expect and Romney should be afraid. Very.

  52. Wonderful! However, with regard to the undoubled deficit, there's a third possible explanation: Romney doesn't know the difference between a deficit (annual budget shortfall) and the debt (cumulative shortfalls). Obama hasn't doubled the debt, either, but it's closer to being true. (Obama's predecessor managed to double it *without* the worst recession since the Great Depression--via tax cuts combined with two unfunded wars.)

    Worse than not calling out Romney on his, ahem, misstatements was Obama's non-response to being charged with "fibbing" on the claim that Romney's tax cuts would cost $5 trillion. Instead of meekly citing "an independent study", Obama should have explained just where the figure comes from, in the manner you describe. Then he should point out that all the deduction loopholes Romney proposes to consider cutting cannot--even if he closes every one of them--add up to $5 trillion in additional revenues, so his pledge not to make any deficit-increasing tax cuts does not, as long as it's based on a 20% marginal-rate cut across the board, stand an arithmetic chance of succeeding.

    Obama also let Romney get away with justifying the lack of specifics in his plan by appealing to a Gipper-like "vision thing", saying he'd let the legislature work out the details. How can that possibly be construed as anything other than an evasion, or an abdication of responsibility?

  53. Perhaps the most offensive characteristic of Americans in our era is this eagerness to establish a compelling narrative of "what just happened." And the narrative sought must have simplistic characters and be easily characterized in cartoon-like fashion, otherwise it will have no "legs." The debate portrayed in this apparently now fully evolved narrative, the one being recounted by Ms. Dowd, bears no resemblance to the one I watched.
    I saw a sweaty and smarmy man and a distinguished and thoughtful one on a stage, with a polite and disregarded moderator asking them questions when the smarmy one allowed him an occasion to do so. I heard the smarmy man deny various facts about his former positions, and make up other entirely new "facts" apparently to satisfy his fan base. I watched the distinguished man patiently attempt to refute the misrepresentations of the smarmy one. And when it was over I thought to myself, "well that didn't settle anything much, did it."
    Perhaps i just live in the wrong country. The evidence from the next month will tell me the rest of what I need to know. I will say that I just signed up for "The Guardian" to get what may be a better look at the news.

  54. Hilarious article. Bad theatrics, obviously. A president who is a great debater? Tilt. Never was. Never will be.

    But some of us are weird. We like our presidents to be thoughtful. We like our presidents to be pragmatic; analytical, data-driven and honest.

    I have been a life-long Republican. I voted for Obama because he was the anti-Bush intellectual.

    He has not disappointed. Winding down needless wars, using sanctions to create hyperinflation in Iran, adhering to all the lessons that exacerbated the Great Depression, HCR, and support of TARP; required all this president's qualities. Not an ideologist. Just a rational mind during a crisis and the discipline to stick to a course and not flip-flop

    This is not a liberal talking. This is a right-to-center voter talking.

    Short-term punditry dictates that debates matter. Very few political scientists would agree. I believe debates signal the political version of the two-minute warning. Viewers and players sharpen their focus.

    But in the end, we know that Obama is a better retail politician. We know he didn't lose any inherent demographic support. We know electoral college math. We know Obama is either respected or loathed.

    Conservative media saw a life raft. Liberal media saw an iceberg.

    The committed Obama voter though saw his human vulnerabilities. Cognitive dissonance make us choose between his better angels and one debate. Rather than making us despondent; he instead has energized himself and his base.

    Light(en) up.

  55. An exhausting aspect of articles such as these is the representation that only one candidate employs fudgy statements - the "other" candidate of course. It implies that either the pundit believes the readers/voters are dumb as sheep or indicates that perhaps the journalist is. True, Obama said little to argue about because he said... little, almost nothing really. I'd like to see some thoughtful reporting though that answers ordinary questions, for example: perhaps the $716 number is deducted from providers vs. beneficiaries - but what is the effect on beneficiaries when that money is taken from providers? Fewer providers service Medicare patients? Providers start to charge more? Can we take some of these issues more than one step out from where the political talking heads leave them? Thanks.

  56. Maureen, thank you for the truth about what happened offered w/ humor.

    Mitt Romney had a very good debate this week. That is not to say he didn't provide the fact-checkers enough work for a lifetime, but he wasn't trying to win over the fact-checkers. He dominated the stage, including both the moderator & the sitting President of the United States.

    One prevalent school of thought is that tens of millions of people watch the debate while a fraction of that number follow up on the balance of fact and fiction. Conventional wisdom is that the damage from a performance weak on style can never be entirely made up by subsequent focus on substance - or a belated change in style on the stump.

    A different analysis holds that the debate is but a piece of the whole quilt; that given enough time the larger garment is revealed in full context and proper attention to detail. I suspect that political reality lies somewhere in the middle with both examinations having some merit.

    I think we miss the point when we complain about what Romney did or what Jim Lehrer did not do. It wasn't the guy "impersonating" Romney (to paraphrase the President in the days after the debate) who caused the President's problem. It was the guy impersonating Barack Obama!

    If a more genuine & energized Barack Obama shows up at future debates, his huge advantage on substance should overwhelm any attempt at style points from Mr. Romney. And we won't have to wait for the fact-checkers to lend some balance.

  57. Don't watch the next debate and don't vote for either of these liars.

    Obama was hired by a huge number of liberal and progressive voters, and he has done virtually nothing his supporters want done. Instead of Medicare or Veterans Care for all, we have a huge giveaway to the insurance industry; we still have troops in Afghanistan and prisoners in Guantanamo; we have no government infrastructure jobs to rebuild the country and cut unemployment. We still have insanely low taxes for the rich and high taxes for those who work.

    Romney is far worse.

    I will write in a vote for Elizabeth Warren and you should too. She seems to want to help the country, not just her financial backers on Wall Street. Outside four battleground states, a vote for Warren will not affect Obama's chances, but it might put him on notice that he must do what must be done.

  58. I support keeping Jim Lehrer in a hammerlock till he signs a contract to be out of the country at the time of all future debates.

    I nearly despaired when I heard that he would be a debate moderator again this year. I believe he may have negatively altered the history of this country with his abysmal performance as a debate moderator in the 2000 election. If he had asked George Bush any questions worthy of a presidential candidate, possibly Bush would have been exposed as the lightweight he was and not elected. Of course no one can know for certain what might have happened, but there is absolutely no doubt that Lehrer could have given the country a much better chance to see Bush try to deal with some complex and important questions. Lehrer simply let him slide by.

    And now this past Wednesday night he unbeliebably topped his past aysmal performance - this time he not only did not ask any difficult questons, he just tossed up a couple of topics and then abdicated entirely. To whatever extent the debates matter in an election, it matters to have them well and fairly run. That didn't happen in this first debate.

  59. I guess I was the only one who thought Obama won the thing hands down. As Romney was trying to paint himself as the more fiscally enlightened candidate -- the small government cadidate -- Obama was intermittantly pointing out the most important contradiction to that, which is that Romney wants to dramatically expand the already bloated military. So as an independent with libertarian leanings that was a continual knock-out punch from Obama from my point of view. That is the number one issue for a lot of independents and former Ron Paul supporters looking for a viable place to go --- and Obama seems to have had that in mind

  60. A very witty op-ed. And the counsel Barack Obama receives from an imaginary person, Jed Bartlet, is first rate, except that it has too much policy substance, rather than video style, which is the potent thing in these debates.

    The presidential debates have indeed become as stylized as kabuki theater. Here is the sequence for 2012:

    Debate #1: Obama allows himself to be mauled, in the opening skirmish, by a male Caucasian centi-millionaire oldster headed for a cozy retirement after the election - a man he could easily maul verbally. He permits the golden-ager to shout and stamp his feet - ultimately ineffectually, because no one will remember what Romney's said two weeks afterward. By then, he'll be saying the opposite.

    Debate # 2 : Having established that he's not an elder-abuser, the president - at the insistence of many disappointed political devotees - becomes slightly more aggressive. Pundits universally agree that, in this debate, Romney and Obama are about evenly matched. The combatants bicker, ad nauseam (but more stylishly) over policy fine points millions of American viewers are bored by - issues pundits seem to believe are inherently fascinating.

    Debate #3: Obama mauls Romney decisively. All the world agrees (except for millions of Republicans who'd vote for a cigar store Indian if it promised to cut their taxes) that Barack Obama presents himself publicly better than any president America has heard from since Abraham Lincoln.

    Ain't politics grand?

  61. The presence of Jim Lehrer on presidential debates has been an issue in my house for years. A debate has a structure & process that is the responsibility of the moderator & Mr. Lehrer has for years been the weakest, least prepared moderator that I've ever seen. The differences between the two candidates is not my issue. It's the questions & control of the debate that concerns me. My high school debate coaches & moderators did a better job than Mr. Lehrer. This is an important process in a democracy & requires a great deal more knowledge of "debate."

  62. 90 minutes does not suddenly change 30 years or more of the dumbing down of a party starting with Nixon and the Watergate saga and perpetuated by folks like Newt Gingrich, Tom Delay, Karl Rove, Mitch McConnell, Grover Norquist, and James Bopp, the Citizen's United guy. There is also the unholy alliance of the evangelicals and the Washington lobbyist corps. The Heritage Foundation knocked PBS and NPR today.

    I know that Obama was not electrifying but he has helped guide policy for four years. He attempted to explain like Bill Clinton.

    This incessant focus on the entrepreneurial small company start up as the fount of all innovation is an overblown myth. IBM's PCs made Bill Gates software usable, and the space program and Cold War drove government investment in R&D which led to the great inventions in semiconductor and microprocessor technology. Display technology and digital signal processing did not come out of a few garage shops. These came from huge industrial company R&D labs and fab plants.

    The human genome was decoded on the back of giant computers and sophisticated software developed over decades using both government and private industry funding. Facebook and Google stand on the shoulders of a huge infrastructure.

    How many Americans see the Affordable Healthcare Act as a new moon shot? It's actually so and the GOP leadership has denigrated it since it was made into law. Mitch and Mitt have been huge roadblocks. The GOP and they are truly foolish.

  63. I think it's looking good already for the next debate. Remember when the GOPsters invited him to the House so they could school him on health care? Remember what happened- one against 100? He took their dog for a walk.

    I think the next one will be different. He should say at the top that he is going to hold up his hand every time Mitt lies, and hold up fingers for the number of Pinocchios. I think that would be a fascinating distraction as Mittens is trying to foist his next lie on the American public, as Barack is there holding up his hand.

    Today I sent Obummer $1,000. Why? Because he is the best hope for our future. Romney is a pathological liar, a bully and a cheat; a man with no principles and no plan. A destroyer of jobs, a toxic vampire on the lives of countless citizens, an enemy of ordinary Americans, a snob, an elitist whose family is emblematic of disdain for the 99% who aren't "blessed" with unimaginable wealth. An oligarch whose entire vision for our country can be summed up in one statement: "I want to be president of the United States and I don't care how I get there."

    I'm not sure what he will do there if he ever gets to be president-- I don't have confidence he has the slightest idea himself. He is a dangerous demagogue who represents the worst America has to offer: racism, intolerance, willful ignorance, primitive religion, anti-intellectualism, misogyny, hubris, delusions of grandeur; I can go on.

    Send Barack money. Vote on election day.

  64. I apologize for nitpicking Bartlett's suggested rebuttals, but I would be careful about the deficit response. The tendency to split hairs and try to catch your opponent on a technicality may work in a high school debate, but can come back to bite you in the TV format where viewers may multitask to update their Facebook pages, but certainly aren't googling definitions.

    As anyone who just looked up the definitions of "deficit" and "debt" knows, deficit means the annual shortfall of revenues compared to spending, while debt refers to the accumulated amount owed. Ms. Dowd's fictionalized Obama is right that the annual deficit has decreased slightly, but accumulated debt has increased by 79% according to PolitiFact, not quite double, but a big enough increase for Romney to make it look like Obama is being deliberately deceptive if he tries the annual deficit argument. Besides, the public is much more aware of the Debt Clock than of annual shortfalls. And for Obama to turn professorial and try to educate the viewers on the deficit vs debt nuances would serve no purpose unless he wants to make the race even closer.

    I believe Obama has earned a second term. He helped prevent a complete economic collapse, even if he was overly optimistic about how quickly he could completely reverse the slowdown. But he must debate "smart" and not provide Romney with easy targets, despite the advice he gets from fictional TV ex-presidents. Now if he can only get Sorkin to write Romney's lines ....

  65. So the President of the United State of America is trying to frame the election of The Leader of the Free World, the most powerful position on planet Earth as a referendum on how much to pay Big Bird and Elmo?

    The next four years are going to be about tough decisions, hard economic choices, entitlements vs. economic opportunity, the choice of giving limited resources to those in need verses those in want, the future of Medicare, Medicaid, Health Insurance and Social Security.

    The Obama Campaign focus on "Mitt Lied, Big Bird Died" is simplistic and an insult to the collective intelligence of our country and the challenges we face..

    I want a Nerd In Chief, not a Celebrity in Chief.

    If you want adult, competent, Business Leader, Olympic Leader, Governor, Church Leader, vote for Mitt Romney the square, nerd, wonk in the room who gets "stuff" done.

    If you want President Cool, President Celebrity, President TelePrompter Reader, President Hawaii and Chicago Model (Give the Democrat supporting Unions what they want, so they will keep supporting and voting for Democrats, so the Democrat legislators will keep giving the Unions what they want model).

  66. Shift the blame for this fiasco of a debate to the right person - the aggressive and pushy bully.
    Romney's offensive behavior was repulsive. His mental gymnastics indicate he is incapable of inductive and deductive reasoning.
    His ability to think logically and to understand the concept of cause and effect are seriously impaired.

    The man is actually in many ways brain impaired and/or damaged and this is evident in his inability to realize and recognize that his numerous and contradictory positions are out-of-touch with reality.

    Any one who is currently exposed to another person slowly sliding into dementia will understand the gist of my analysis.
    The mentally confused person is almost impossible to converse with on a rational basis - on any simple or complex level. The most prevalent result of their confusion can lead to lying and the subsequent and necessary distortion of reality.
    Bullying is a coverup of a failure.

    Under these conditions, any debate on any matter is fruitless and certainly frustrating to any rational and intelligent person who is in touch with reality in all its manifestations and complexities, as are both Obama and Lehrer.

    The time has come for all candidates for the position of President and especially the position of Commander-in-Chief, to undergo psychological analysis.
    In my mind this is a basic necessity - especially given the reality of a slowly shrinking world with the many necessary and unavoidable interactions between all countries extant.

  67. There is little value in critiquing the veracity of the comments made during the debate itself as it should come as no surprise that Mitt chose to sidestep any defense of his historical positions by making up new ones. And he was a wise man to do so, we must presume that he knew President Obama lacked the strength to hold him accountable face to face. He only seems capable of talking tough the day after at a rally.

    The debate was fundamentally a failure for Obama because he continues to cement his reputation for being a doormat. A president's job is to develop cogent policy AND deliver it in a way that inspires confidence. Obama is either unwilling or truly unable to show command for that very important part of the job. It's a shame that this is the case as he has a lot to be proud of. Despite the strength of his character and his thoughtful policy he certainly doesn't deserve recognition from an historical perspective as more than a mediocre President. I voted for him in 2008 and will do so again in 2012 but I can't remember a single time when I've been impressed or inspired by him in a public show of strength. Very disappointing.

  68. I'm so glad you handled this with humor to balance the seriousness. Given past exasperation regarding Obama's reluctance to visibly flex muscle, I wondered what approach you'd take. My personal response- the phrase that defined Mr. Romney's performance- verbal Blitzkrieg. Though no tantrum advocating genocide- that would presumably be difficult in America- Mitt's smiling tank-roll over the facts, moderator and the President were unfair attack in the guise of debate. Unfortunately folks are awed by such forceful aggression masked by "charm". Whatever happened to inhibit the President, he remains the far more honest man and trustworthy leader. The power of brutality whether physical or philosophical can destroy in seconds the artful efforts of lifetimes. Put in Halloween terms, evil monsters lurk ready to catch us off-guard. We must all be brave heroes and rescue our country with votes supporting Obama. Hopefully he and we together will show spine to defend the land and its people.

  69. Very good. Although I'm of the opinion that President Obama's game plan was to allow Romney unfettered airtime to spew his newly formed, etch-a-sketch produced platform while at the same time lowering expectations for his own performance in the next debate. The bar is always set very low in the initial debate for a challenger, who's trailing in the polls, against a popular incumbent. President Obama knew that as long as Romney performed decently, he'd grade fine. So, he allowed Romney to go on without challenge knowing his lies would be revealed in the aftermath. Well played Mr. President.

  70. I agree in principle, but pulling off a rope-a-dope is not easy.

  71. If this first debate were actually a tennis game between Obama and Romney, it was the equivalent of Romney suddenly lowering the net before hitting the ball over, or completely repainting the court to fit his advantage. His total change of positions is essentially a form of cheating. Obama certainly should have called him on it, but perhaps he was as stunned as the rest of us were.

    Please – presidents are human. Setting aside the way Obama was swindled so shamefully by his opponent, he could have an off day for any number of physical or mental, normal, human reasons..

    No doubt the president needs to turn it around and deliver next time, but there’s no need to keep ripping him apart.

  72. Given the incredible media and partisan discussion of this first-of-four debates, what is truly astounding in my mind is why anyone thinks a 90-minute discussion should determine a voter/s choice.

    We know how Obama can behave and perform as President. And anyone who is unsatisfied with that should already have made up their mind to vote against him or abstain. If they have not, they do not deserve to be part of the electorate.

  73. Let's hope that President Obama dumps Sen. John Kerry as his debate sparring partner and brings in former President Bill Clinton. Elvis will make Barrack a better candidate and will make him able to clean Mitt Romney's clock during the next two debates.

    President Clinton defeated mean and nasty Bob Dole in 1996, who never recovered from his first bad debate. He was the only incumbent President to beat the challenger in the first debate. The big dog knows how to pummel Republican opponents. Just ask former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was gone in 1998.

    The next four years will not be easy, despite defeating Dole the Republicans investigated Clinton for the next four years. Partisan prosecutor Ken Starr extended his investigation into the Bush administration, even if it was handed over to another Republican. Impeachment came back to boomerang the Republicans and created sympathy for Clinton.

    Today, Clinton enjoys some of his highest favorable numbers and George W. Bush is afraid to show his face in public. You wonder if Bush is under the Republican Witness Protection Program since he left office.

    Obama needs to remind voters of the connections between lying Mitt Romney's campaign team and Bush administration players. Romney will lose in a landslide on November 6th.

  74. It is difficult when you put yourself in the public eye, as Mr. Obama has done. I am an unswerving supporter of his, but his weaknesses were there for all to see. He seems to do best when he is doing a solo perfomance as he did the day afterward, in Colorado and Wisconsin. Clearly, it is utterly unrealistic to expect any moderator to counter the many Romney lies. Besdes, the moderators are all of the he-said, she-said school of journalism. It is up to Obama, pure and simple, to face down the lies on the spot. Those of us in the choir already recognize them. The debates are really for the idiots who are still undecided. I was interested to see Romney double down on the lie that Obama is gutting Medicare to the tune of $700 billion and to watch Obama just smile and look downward in response. The undecideds need to see some passion and wonkish detail -- the same combination Clinton used so awesomely and devastatingly at the DNC.. Both of these attributes were missing in Obama's debate performance. And I can't understand his getting coached by John Kerry, who has always struck me as a pretty dim bulb. Better to have Bill Clinton acting out the role of his adversary. Mind you, I will be supporting Obama if he comes to the next debates naked and stands on his head. I see that the Republican alternative is evil, greedy, smug, and heartless. I just want to see Obama sway a few more people and avoid losing supporters.

  75. Not letting Obama off the hook for his performance, but have admit that early on in the debate I felt for him. Mitt was firing off so many lies and modifications of his previous positions, that I thought Obama would exhaust all his time correcting the many falsehoods spewing forth from Romney, while Lehrer was being ignored. (Thought Lehrer was a replacement moderator, left over from the NFL ref strike)

  76. Cancel the remaining two Presidential debates.

    The tiny, tiny portion of the electorate who has not made up their mind at this point is too disengaged and too uninformed to be swayed by facts or argument. Most of these undecided people will not vote.

    In the Vice Presidential debate, Joe Biden will clean up the lies being put forth by Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan and he will do it very sharply. All the rest is about getting out the voters on election day.

  77. If somebody is coolly answering questions and not riling up, people think that that person has lost, sign of our times. Peaceful demonstrations, eh, I don't care. Violent protests, oh my, something must be terribly wrong.

    Having said that, President Obama better does his homework this time and not complain about how it has been a drag. Too many things are riding on this election that we can't afford for him to flunk out again.

  78. The consequences of a Romney Presidencey are huge. The Supreme court will be deeply impacted by a man who is not a fan of women's access to health care. His advisors are neocon retreads - and he and his neocon retreads do not get the idea of military service. As the wife of a career Naval officer and the motther of a career Army officer I do not understand why George did not serve in WWII and Mitt did not serve in Viet Nam as he protested in favor.None of five sons have served. With Ann I am reminded of Ginger Roger' comment about Fred Astaire I did everthing he did but backwards and in high heels. My husband deployed and we moved every two years. We educated our 5 children at Ivey league schools and USMA . We had loans and we paid them. We were the 47%.

  79. It's important to remember the host of the debates is a private corporation owned by the Democrats and Republicans. Each debate they sign a new agreement/contract about the rules of that year's debate. What ever happened to the League of Women Voters? Discarded by this private corporation, that's what. Where are third party candidates? Out the window, unless one side insists it needs one to steal votes fromt he other side. I like kmgarcia2000 comment about the hotshots in the audience that runs everything. Kind of disgusting.

  80. Sheerly beautiful piece. First time I laughed since the debate.

    But let's not forget one thing in Obama's defense: if you could characterize the campaigns thus far as Obama espousing Dogs, and Mitt Cats, Obama can be forgiven a bit for being set back on his heels when Mitt showed up with a Schnauzer under each arm and a Chihuahua in his pocket. The cats were being caged in the Caymans, and we may not see them again until the election is over.

  81. Unthinking people hear lies said in a loud mouthed way as a sign of confidence. The used car salesman attitude is apt. You might be convinced by him of the perfection of the car until after buying it then take it out on the highway and it collapses into a heap. Buyer beware.

    President Obama has been road tested on the roughest roads in the world and has emerged a little greyer, but with experience and acccomplishments. Do you want someone dependable and steady or someone who bounces around and won't let you see under the hood to see his taxes. Sorry for the mixed metaphors.

    Some people say I won't vote for anyone as they are all crooks. They have been burned before or he or she has not lived up to expectations. But we need to judge people and politicians as they are and how they have handled difficult situations in the past. I trust President Obama. I do not trust Mr. romney who lies through a smirk everytime he sees the chance. .

  82. President Obama handed over the keys of the White House to Mitt Romney in their first debate. In politics, perceptions matter; even if he was spouting untruths and half-truths, Romney projected a clear image. The latest polls reflect how much voters were swayed by him. I don't think the second and third debates will matter much -- they are unlikely to draw nearly 70 million viewers as the first debate did. Game, set, match to Romney. I'm sad, and I hope I'm wrong.

  83. When you accuse someone of lying you better get your facts straight. The fact is that 716 billion is being taken by the President from Medicare and given to Obamacare. I heard Romney say a lot of that 716 billion will come from Medicare advantage plans utilized by 4 million Americans and that is precisely true. Slashing provider fees will accelerate the trend of doctors to no longer accept new Medicare patients. It is a fact that this is occurring now. The NY Times itself says that deficit under Obama has increased from 50-75% depending on how you calculate it. Google it, I just did. To state that it exceeds all prior Presidents combined might have been an embellishment by Romney. It is fair to ask (which the President did not) how Romney's tax plans will affect the tax code with specifics to make up for tax cuts. I did hear him say the improved economy and increased jobs with resulting added revenue would provide the answer. This is debatable but without knowing specifics it cannot be termed a lie. To blame the Moderator from PBS for allowing the candidates to debate without offering his own interpretation of arguable "facts" is unfair in my judgment but someone other than Obama has to be blamed, right?

  84. Thank you for a entertaining article. The partisans made up there minds on day one so this cycle is for Americans that are tired of the fights, lies and changing positions. They want them to work together and solve problems like jobs that pay well to address the income and wealth gap in our country.

    More debates, October job report and the obl movie should help our President win the non partisan voters. Please tell Mr. Sorkin to lose some of the soap opera love affairs in his show but it is pretty good.

  85. The debate proved to be nothing more than an example of all the insanity that has been and is currently prevalent in the U.S. today. The media (Jim Lehrer) didn't do its job. Mitt Romney continued to be a disrespectful lying jerk who will do or say anything to become president. President Obama, as always, was the rational person in the room. The public proved to be susceptible to manipulation.

  86. For America's sake change the format of the debates so they actually sound like debates. The other night was a joke. No more milquetoast moderators who lose control in the first few minutes. Heck all they need is a ref to time their speaking times, then cut them off. Let the candidates ask direct questions. Give them a time limit for response, and cut them off when they go over. Crap, they could argue for hours if possible. But that might be better than what we got. Maybe let them go on all night if needed. But then what for? The 5% undecided?

  87. To quote Lawrence O'Donnell' comments about the debate, the matador still had to respect the bull before killing it. That is what exactly President Obama tried to do but get caught up by the fact that the bull suddenly transfigured into a bulldozer. As shrewd a man President Obama is, he still can have a hard time debating with an amoeba thus missing the focus.

  88. Well I sure hope Mr. Sorkin feels better after writing that. I sure feel better after reading it. It's the first real laugh I've had in days. Would be even funnier if ever word were not true. Perhaps Mr. Sorkin can get himself invited to participate in the the next debate prep. Couldn't hurt.

  89. Whether Obama really "lost" or not, whether Mitt did it by lying and pivoting 180* on his positions or not, the fact that Obama debated in a manner that allowed the media and partisans of all stripes to say that Mitt did better, means that effectively Obama lost.

    We can only hope that he is smart enough to not let this happen again.

  90. As fans of anything Aaron Sorkin and especially his West Wing dialogs we really enjoyed this. Much more fun than Clint Eastwood's Empty Chair.

  91. On Oct 4, an article in the Daily Kos explained Romney's debate technique. It's called Gish Gallop, named after Duane Gish, a creationist debater. The essence of the technique is, to quote from RationalWiki, "... drowning the opponent in such a torrent of half-truths, lies, and straw-man arguments that the opponent cannot possibly answer every falsehood in real time." In addition, the "galloper" abruptly changes topics when falsehoods are being exposed and runs on for as long as possible. The idea is for the "galloper" to leave the appearance of a dominant, wide-ranging knowledge.

    Wikipedia has a similar explanation of the Gish Gallop in its article on Duane Gish.

    The RationalWiki piece also explains variations of the Gish Gallop and, importantly, explains how to defeat it.

    Romney revealed a lot by choosing to use a dishonest, deceptive technique made notorious by this nation's religious extremists. Obviously Romney is still in thrall to religious extremists. Just as obviously, Romney's lack of integrity as a personal principle apparently makes it acceptable to him to use a torrent of public dishonesty to deceive and win votes.

    Romney put himself in a box. Maureen speaks for a lot of us. Hopefully Romney's intentionally dishonest Gish Gallop ploy will be so well known by the 2nd debate that if the moderator needs to, she can stop Romney, tell him to stick to facts, answer the question, and stop gish galloping - and the audience will grasp Romney's inherent dishonesty.

  92. The republicans and the media put style over substance everyday so even though Romney backed over his own positions during the whole farce they voted him the winner.

    Sure, I was disappointed that President Obama didn't eviscerate him on the stage but I don't have to excuse Obama as lying, cheating, freak (can't think of any other description of Romney) who'd say anything to get elected.

    I know the republicans don't care what Romney says but I can't hold anybody in esteem who sells his principles out as thoroughly as Romney has. It's a divide that has made this country what it is today; one side that will start wars for any reason, take food and shelter from the mouths of the hungry then hand it to the rich, and claim they're privileged and deserve to use enough resources that would normally sustain a thousand others instead each and every day.

    Romney ran over his 47% comments recently. He affirmed them publicly just last week. What do doctors call a serial liar and how could he possibly govern honestly and with dignity?

  93. I had only noted 13 lies by Governor Romney when I stopped writing and allowed my jaw to drop. I have two concerns about this: how many voters know that he was lying and how many care? Is it really possible that more than 40% of Americans fall into one or both of these categories?

    And another thing: why must a man of great integrity, courage, kindness, and almost limitless intelligence be required to stand anywhere near the other kind.

  94. Thanks Maureen, pretty good medicine for what afflicts my mind and body, like ever since Obama took office.

    I suspect Axelrod and Plouffe had a hand in how things played out. All the earmarks of their modi operandi, a passive aggressive game.

    By the way whatever happened to that old lady last election who was "all fired up" and ready, or something like that? The president should pay her another visit.

  95. Guess his debate handlers forgot to tell Mitt 77 million Americans had watched the Sesame Street series as children. Just like he forget the 47%, blacks, Hispanics, elderly, sick and those who paid their Social Security taxes never imagining a hustler running for President would try to take it away from them.

  96. Mitt Romney declares his love for Big Bird and even Jim Lehrer, yet in the same breath vows to finally end their dependance on government despite the cradle to grave enrichment public media lends to the lives millions, many who may never see a ballet or a loon or an ancient cathedral otherwise Despite the relative pittance it adds to the deficit. Not with regret. Not with consideration or reluctance, but with a gleam in his eye that deepens the enigma of this man who would be President.

  97. I think Obama should appear at the next debate wearing a large "Big Bird" pin on his lapel rather than the standard flag pin. Or maybe it could be a pin of Big Bird wrapped in the flag. He wouldn't have to say anything abput it. It would show a sense of humor and whimsy, and it would point to the inanity of the Republican position that we can cut enough domestic programs to made a dent in the deficit.

  98. I'm going to go far out on a limb, here.

    I predict that before November 6th, the first debate will be said to be Romney's undoing, because he will be unable to reinforce the foundation of lies he constructed then.

    The house will crumble.

  99. 1. Romney is a CEO. He speaks, every one listens because he signs the pay checks, so to speak. He can hammer down anyone, bully anyone to prove he is right by interrupting, talking louder, and acting like he is in charge, because in his company, he is in charge.

    2. Obama is an intellectual. He doesn't have to bully people to get them to listen; he doesn't have to prove he is right, he expects the listener to do some thinking too.

    I could only think that Obama must have wished he didn't have to do these debates because:

    1. He has work on his desk which is more important
    2. He is tired after 4 years of it, he looks tired, he has lost his smile and easy charm
    3. He is tired of the GOP machine which churns out lies, labeling them truth.

    I am sorry it was such a mess, but really, who changes their minds based on these 'debates' which aren't in any manner of speaking debates at all.

    When someone interrupts, goes over time, doesn't answer the question, the moderator should turn off that mike ... and move to the other speaker. A few times of that, and the speakers might stick to the rules.

  100. Nancy, a great comment. However, being President means that you have to understand the forum in which you will be participating, every time. Especially when you are running for office. You have to perform there, too.

    Mitt got the CEO posture down; Obama didn't, and doesn't. That explains a lot about his lack of adaptation to the job. You can be an intellectual and have a very powerful presence at the same time. These are not incompatible personas.

    Unfortunately, we will have to re-elect Obama because Mitt is just too damn scary. I hope Obama masters the forum in the next debate. And then takes that lesson into his next four years.

  101. I wonder if there's a believable, non-awkward way to bring Romney's inaccurate statements into debate 2 and refute them, make him pay for all those lies the second time around.

  102. The debate continued the trend of Gov Romney's inconsistencies (lies) in policy and position statements whenever he speaks or it suits his agenda.
    It boggles the mind that Gov Romney can do this with such a straight face, time and time again and we are to just ignore his previous statements and pronouncements.

    I hope it also revealed that the president has got to remain above the fray YET at the same time push back against these blatant "inconsistencies" and call a spade a spade at least for the short time it remains a spade in Gov Romney's world.

    In my opinion, I did not think Mr Lehrer did such a bad job. He allowed both men a certain latitude to present their case.

  103. What the best writers in politics seem to be missing is the big picture. I think it's cute that Aaron Sorkin wrote that script, and I think it's amusing that every white writer feels inclined to tell Obama what he SHOULD have done - but what I find so ironic is that there was only one take-away from the whole debate and it will be the one clip used when they look back at that debate and it contains two words: Big Bird.

    And besides - I learned in high school that the easiest way to win a debate is to fudge the facts to suit your audience. My teacher gave me a stern talking to afterwards and said that no matter what you say to win it will come back to haunt you later if it isn't truthful. Winning a debate shouldn't mean putting on a good show and bullying the moderator and your opponent. Winning a debate should have been Mitt's ideas winning the day. Instead, he used familiar and successful tactics that showcased himself as the man in charge.

    But the media are the ones to whom the most damage has been done. Those pundits on MSNBC crying and moaning that their guy failed to act on what they've been getting so mad about for months now. Why didn't he sing their song, they wonder. Why can't he be a bully like Mitt? Why can't he point fingers and huff and puff like an angry rooster?

    The one thing we will remember from the contention? Eastwood and from the debate? Big Bird. Obama just has to give him enough rope and he'll hang himself every time.

  104. I love it that Aaron Sorkin was mentioned in this column - he is so brilliant. About a month ago I wrote an email to President Obama asking that he commission Aaron to write a television commercial for him. I didn't get a response, of course, but I bet one commercial created by Aaron Sorkin would win the election for President Obama!

  105. Perhaps Jeb Bartlet could coach Obama on the biblical references he so adroitly used to skewer various antagonists, since the religious right puts so much weight on the bible. Faux religion, faux news, faux compassion, faux economics, faux everything and anything, whatever it takes to take the country to the cleaners. I suggested early and often that Obama call Romney a liar to his face, what's he waiting for? I expect Joe Biden to step up to the plate and set an example that Mr.Obama would do well to emulate. Then he should dump Kerry and sign on Mr. Sorkin, with a bonus. Instead of fighting fires that Romney sets, fight the fire with a bigger fire.

  106. Wow. Who saw this coming? The presidents' advisers are Idiots. John McCain was a feeble, old geezer. No challenge there. In fact, this is the first time the president ever took a punch in the mouth in his political career and he didn't handle it very well. In fact, it's gonna get worse. I fear, Mitt Romney is a much more formidable debater than any of us ever imagined. He ran Bain Capital.... not PBS. Think about it. Mitt is used to thinking on his feet in these type of forums. His own colleagues used to sharpen his abilities by critiquing his ideas and disagreeing with his proposals. Our guy is out there all alone, with his pen, his note pad and his abilities. No amount of campaign scheming can obscure the fact that our president was untested and appeared to be mediocre at best in debating the challenger. Trust me- I used to coach debate in college- the president can't fix this in the short time he is afforded. Bad posture, poor eye contact and inferior argumentative method all combine to create the conditions for the perfect storm. He gets my vote, but he is gonna get his butt handed to him in the next two debates. Write it down and refer back to this moment after November sixth. And, don't even get me started on Joe Biden getting crushed by Paul Ryan in their confrontation. God help us all !!

  107. What really bothers me about this whole sordid affair is how unconcerned the media is on how the presidential debate is degenerating to a bizarre show of blustery and bravado. Rather than call out sleight of hand, misleading statements and blatant lies, commentary on the debate has proved a fiasco, apportioning winners and losers based on style rather than substance. Maureen, with her characteristic wit and flair, has done an excellent job in calling out Romney for his lies and Obama for failing to point them out (This, Mr President should be part of your job description in protecting the american people). To me, Mr Romney's performance shows himself a man of mendacious character, unworthy of the high office of president.

  108. Mr. President, please don't forget to mention that Willard had a 34% approval rating as governor of Massachusetts.

  109. Political scientist Samuel Popkin, in his current "The Candidate What it Takes to Win - and Hold - the White House" writes of his Autum 1979 visit to Camp David to assist in preparing President Carter for his debate with challenger Ronald Reagan.

    Popkin began the mock debate by answering the mock moderator's first question by reading from his notes charges and challenges Reagan had been making on the stump for months. It was obvious from the looks on Carter's face and even more on the stricken faces of his staff members, that the challenges he put directly to Carter's face were ones he was hearing and confronting for the first time. He had been shielded until then.

    After just seven minutes on the first topic, Carter (or his staff) suggested it was time for a break.

    But, remind us, Maureen, why "Friends" is in constant syndication, and "The West Wing" is not. Just as much as you (and Obama) must remind us of why we should look forward to the Obama show for another four years. Is it sufficient that you cannot follow Romney from the script his pilot was based on, or that the show itself may not follow an arc or premise in either script or pilot?

    Japanese Prime Ministers don't last a season.

  110. Of course the "news" folk would snatch up the theme of "Who won? Who won?" It's all show biz and that sort of thing will make the most talk around the office water cooler in the morning. President Obama has given us clear insight into the real world, when he left us with the impression that we had better wake up and get to work or we are going to have at least four years of disaster, when all of Governor Romney's lies come home to roost.

  111. Perhaps President Obama was handicapped in his first debate by his decision to be presidential rather than get down in the swamp with Mitt Romney and call him out every time he lied (24 to 28 times, depending on whose count you use.) I don't think he will make that mistake in the remaining debates, and when the vice-presidential nominees have their own debate on Thursday, I doubt that Joe Biden will hesitate to go after Lyin' Paul Ryan's distortions. (Biden, as a good Roman Catholic, will also be in a good position to point out that in spite of Paul Ryan's frequent reference to his own Wisconsin Catholic upbringing, Ryan's Ayn Rand-inspired economic views are in direct conflict with every Christian doctrine of social justice.)

    Another explanation for Mr. Obama's lack of combativeness in response to Romney's repeated lies is shown by the endless vilification of Mr. Obama by the Tea Party/birther/tinfoil hat brigade and especially by the Fox "News" trolls---on the very afternoon of the debate, they began flogging as new and sensational a 5-year-old videotape that has been on the internet since 2007, to show that the president is an angry black racist.

    By most accounts, Romney won the first debate, though the evening's "47% moment" may turn out to be his attack on Big Bird. As for the 47% speech, it didn't come up---perhaps because it has done its job. Romney's admission that it was "completely wrong" probably comes too late to win him support among the 47% or the 99%.

  112. Yes! Yes! Yesssssssss! And to think I started reading, ready to upbraid Ms. Dowd for piling on. I love president Bartlett; always have. But saying that Romney won the debate is like saying that Ben Johnson won the 100 metres at the 88 Olympics. If the election had been held immediately after the performance, ala American Idol, maybe, but, ultimately, what Romney has given the Obama campaign is film of him, using his big opportunity to "connect with the American people", to say the opposite of what they have film of him saying for the last two years. I don't think Romney has a workable strategy for victory at this point. The Repubs bet the farm on what has turned out to be an overly contemptuous assessment of the intelligence of the American People. Sorkin for America -2016

  113. The fact is that the debate did not do anything major to change the minds of the majority of voters.

  114. After the debate, I felt physically ill.

    I don't want to hear attacks on Jim Lehrer or what a liar Romney was. No different than 'the dog ate my homework'. The fact is, Obama went into this debate flat-footed and over/under prepared. Whoever prepped him apparently hasn't been watching Fox or listening to Rush ('to defeat the enemy, you must know the enemy' according to my old Russian teacher). And he needs to read more than 10 letters a day sent to the White House to understand what is at stake in this country and for the lives of millions of Americans on a daily basis.

    For god's sakes, Mr. Obama, please show up at the next debate. The country needs you. The world is counting on you.

  115. Obama recently gave a very real and excellent funeral address for Christopher Stevens, the Ambassador to Libya and I believe Obama was still affected by that death and Obama listens to the CIA reports hourely and has a real job- the most serious job in the country- and Romney has no job at all.

    This is not about Obama showing up-- this is about us the voters showing up!

    I am campaigning daily for Obama and his Democratic choices for Congress-- I went to my landfill and spoke to all those separating their garbage into various piles-- those are the people who care about the environment ....

    What are you personally doing? Are YOU flatfooted who are the reader here?

    We all need to step up to the plate and not get the lack of enthusiasm get to us or we will be really sorry.

  116. This reminds me of an earlier impression I had of Obama: he likes to take the winning shot, but does not want to do the work to get the ball to the right position for the shot.

    You gotta do both, or you will not win.

  117. Positively one of your best, Maureen. Fingers crossed that the Presidential prep squad can channel this mojo instead of whatever sorry logic they thought would help the first time.

  118. Willard's propensity to tell a new lie for every occasion is reminscent of the blob, from the 50's movie, The Blob.

    Stop it's advance in one place it expands in another.

    Pinning down the cowardly bully, prep school cheerleader, VietNam draft dodger Romney is like trying to nail jello to the wall.


  119. Substance aside, the column is a great reminiscence of the quality of now-gone The West Wing.

  120. Andrea Mitchell just appeared on the NBC Evening News telling us how Mr. Romney had won the debate and now it was the Democrats' responsibility to refute each and every one of his false statements. Sadly, she said nothing about the press doing its job on that account inferring that its only responsibility was to report on the theatrics of the debate not the substance.

  121. I absolutely agree. To much of the public, the perception is that both parties lie or that one party lies just as much as the other and they need a neutral third party to sort it all out. The press is as effective as the great engine of truth of late as Lehrer was as moderator. Not.

  122. I thought Mitt Romney boxed himself on a bunch of contradictions. To call his performance a win is just perplexing. Romney should be scaring his conservative base, while casting huge doubts in the minds of independents.

  123. Obama's strategy for the performance was "Intellectual Presidential" while Romney's was "Surprise with Lies." Obama was in fact surprised and couldn't figure a way to pivot out of his character.

    I suggest that he gets some improv training before the next debate. In improv, one is taught to "Yes, and." You accept what you are given and then try to forward the thought. This also happens to be a spectacular way of exposing a liar's superficiality.

    "So you want to maintain Social Security, Gov. Romney. Why yes, of course that means you repudiate the Ryan Budget..." I'm sure there are scores of willing improvisers who would train help the President.

  124. Reducing or discontinuing subsidies to public television will not hurt Big Bird. He can do well on cable just like most programs do without a federal subsidy, which is 40% paid for by borrowing from the future taxpayers who are his current fans. I wish Romney had not mentioned Big Bird, because it just gives liberals the chance to ridicule a serious thought about the size and power of Big Brother.

  125. President Obama should ask the Governor whether he believes in evolution and whether he believes in global warming.

  126. Now, Obama must make defeating Romney Job One of his own Presidency.
    The will be his hardest fight of all, and there have been many, but it is the most important.
    With Romney such a pathologicall liar and sociopath, there is absolutely no way we could know what Romney would ever do if elected-- there is no way we could trust him-- except that he wouldn't care one iota about the 47 %.

  127. Perhaps Obama planned for this uproar and let those outraged set the stage for his next appearance when he will pounce and not appear condecending.

  128. Jim Lehrer was a poor moderator in this first debate. Time and again he allowed Governor Romney more time than he was entitled to and Romney changed his song and dance aggressively lying through his teeth. President Obama had many opportunities to call Romney's lies but he chose to be polite. Romney's assertion that he will create 12 million jobs has no basis. He also had no rational basis to support his positions on the budget. This was an important debate and Obama seemed to be ill prepared for it. He be better prepared in the next two debates if he wants to help the middle class and the 47 % that Romney will ignore if he is elected president.

  129. I think that Maureen Dowd should prep the President before the next debate, and the President should not take any Ambien beforehand, either! Hopefully, the moderator will be able to keep the candidates in line better than Jim Lehrer did in the first one.

  130. I've never read an Opinion piece that I've enjoyed more. It gave me visceral pleasure, it made me angry, and it made me feel that there is a reason to hope. Mr. Obama needs to adopt this tone. He needs to be impatient with Romney's lies, make him accountable for his statements, and have a comeback that puts him on the defensive. He needs to insist that Big Bird will, like the Thanksgiving turkey, get a presidential pardon. Jim Lehrer, on the other hand, is on his own.

    I've always thought that if I were being tried for a serious crime, I wouldn't want the best lawyer in town; I'd want the best screenwriter. How things are said are sometimes more important that what is being said. It's not enough to be on the side of fair play and decency if the forces of evil have better rhetoric and a shiny, plastic smile. It's time to wipe that smile of Mr. Romney's face, with extreme prejudice. GoBama!

  131. Maureen, go to the head of the class. Evoking our beloved West Wing, this piece was brilliant.

    On November 6 Mitt will have met his Waterloo, and I won't be sitting shiva for him.

  132. The kind of crap that Romney spouts is endemic and has gained substantial traction since Ronald Reagan. It's like global warming: It's too late to do anything about it.

  133. Very creative, thanks. Scary how true it is.

  134. President Obama could do worse then to have Aaron Sorkin contribute to debate prep and that's gotta top an Oscar, right? Lauren walking in and saying "Line 3. It's The White House. Try not to be you."

  135. We like President Obama, but it sure seems that when the big fight is on and he has the opportunity to stand up he backs down.

    If Romney wins this November, it will be because he showed up ready to compete, even if it meant lying and flip flopping like a beached fish. That's disgraceful behavior, but as in baseball, they only count the wins and losses in a playoff race, not the errors.

    I think President Obama needs to access what personal sacrifices HE is willing to make in order to fight this mean-spirited and ethically-bereft version of the Party formerly known as "Grand Old."

    I myself am tired of being asked continuously for money so other people can speak up for the person who needs to speak for us.

    Take the gloves off, Mr. President and fight like you are trying to preserve our democracy, as former generations have, with their very lives at stake. It should be simple, if not easy. You have the truth behind you. Just find the guts to tell the truth to the people and call a lie a lie, as Ms. Dowd suggests, with passion.

    Don't leave it to aging moderators, comedy pundits or your staff. Get your hands dirty with the soil of growth and new life. That means having the relevant facts that can be backed up independently well drilled and the fire in your belly to speak them even to the devil himself, if need be.

    We are still rooting for you to defeat this weasel, Mitt Romney and his cynical backers. We need you to show up, in the debates and in the White House.

  136. In my years as an executive there have been times that I have had to do things that I didn't want to do. I did them.

    People who have worked for me have told me that something that they had to do was not their style. I have told them that if it needed doing they had to do it.

    The comments about this not being Obama's style and his not wanting to appear this way or that way are actually infuriating.

    Mr Obama, you had a job to do and you didn't do it. Don't let that happen again.

  137. Please forward column to the White House. I miss Bill-I know he was drama personified but gosh he was so good at the political side of the job. President Obama not so much. (My really whiny voice.) It was teed up for him. All he had to do was swing; no brainer-none.

  138. It is not Jim Lehrer's responsibility as a moderator to tell Mitt Romney when he is lying. That is the President's responsibility. He still has two more debates to do so.

  139. Wow, Maureen. This is a home run. Any way to assure that President Obama reads it? He deserves at least one chance to shout, "You lie!" at a conservative - or whatever it is that Romney is.

  140. Don't worry, somebody at the White House reads all the op-eds from the major papers, and will probably recommend this one to the man himself -- if only for the humor.

  141. 1. I blame Michelle Obama for not cutting the president’s tie.

    2. That was a “West Wing” reference. In keeping with the theme, I’ll cite two comments made to Bartlet before a presidential debate, which seem relevant. Leo McGarry: “There’s no such thing as too smart.” Abbey Bartlet: “Game on, boyfriend.”

    3. The Romney camp will try to make the second debate a “Who Lied More” contest, since they invested heavily in lying in order to get their one-and-a-half day bounce. Don’t go for it. Make the field of battle “Who the Heck is the Real Mitt Romney, Anyway?” Bring up Mr. Romney’s comments during the primary debates. It’ll be the same as pointing out his lies, but throwing in the creepy element.

    4. Remember: Best two out of three. Debate One was just the stage-setter.

    5. Remember: This guy wants to make you a loser.

    6. Note to Yankees: Oct. 16 is Game 3 of the AL Championship Series. If you’re in it, and there’s time overlap, could you take a big lead in the early innings? Thanks.

    7. It’s no contest, Mr. President. As we say in the islands, geev ‘em.

  142. Dazzling, Maureen, Stunning. Creatively hits the nail. Just let me count the ways I’m blown away by this column—but I’ve lost count ‘cause I’m stunned. Likeable enough huh? Love it.

    This makes up for every column of yours I’ve been a bit turned off by as too superficial, silly and wisecracky. This column brilliantly does justice to our feelings after the historic debate debacle. That’s all I can say. Hope Obama and everyone in the White House reads it over and over. I look forward to Biden. Watch out, Ryan.

  143. Why is Mitch McConnell happy, smiling and smug?' "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, REALLY, FINALLY! Except it wasn't Mitch, HE did it to himself by making "not fighting back" a point of pride for four years, ending with a flourish at the debate fiasco. It's us who are left holding the bag, and it is empty. No joy in saying you saw it coming, worse knowing the choice. I will pull the lever, but I don't like him much, especially because it did not have to be like this.

  144. He was bad...but not that bad. You're right though, he did could see he was frustrated. Altho cut him some slack... who could have known that Romeny would take a 90 degree pivot into moderation...I mean it was breathtaking!

    So at this point, I am shoring myself up for whatever happens. I am voting straight Democratic, but that doesn't necessarily mean much. My friend Margaret says everywhere outisde of Madison one sees signs for Republicans...

    But of course because the Republicans cheat....anything can happen (remember Diebold?)

    And what's with this voter suppression nonsense?

    I mean, take it easy. Unless the Democrats gain significant majorities in Congress, it's just gonna be 4 more years of political torture...

    Now THAT would be terrible.

    Which is why I'm shoring up for whatever happens...

    If Romney wins it will be interesting to see how he creates all these 15 million jobs that he's always talking about....oh that's right....military spending...oil drilling...war?


  145. Sometimes I think Maureen is too tough on Obama. This is not one of those times.
    I hope the President reads this column, and takes notes.

  146. Like Jimmy Stewart's fictional Mr. Smith, President Bartlet could make one feel that some things went right in Washington (and I mean right, not Right). How I miss "The West Wing"--and agree that Obama should memorize this column!

  147. Big Bird vs Oscar the Grouch. Now that's a debate that would get my attention.

  148. Tom Friedman believes Mr. Obama should have called him for advice about green job initiatives during the debates, and Mo' Dowd thinks Mr. Obama needs to consult with a fictional TV President for pointers about the next debate..

    What Mr. Obama needs to do is to stop displaying contempt for Mr. Romney, and realize he is facing a worthy opponent, one who could deny him the chance to finish what he started, which is to make America a place for all Americans, not just one for wealthy capitalists and CEOs. Mr. Obama needs to display less of his wonky, annoyed, law-professor personality, and more of his elbows-out, pickup-basketball game skills. What Mr. Obama needs to do is to show up for the game, instead of wishing he were at home watching sports on ESPN. He will have plenty of time for that if he doesn't wear his game face from now until Nov 6th. Mr. President, fight for your second term, don't retreat into childish sulking. America, vote O in November, not RO.

  149. Dear Ms Dowd,

    Since you apparently know Mr. Sorkin, surely between the two of you, an appointment with President Obama could be arranged to discuss this column.

    Haven't enjoyed anything on editorial page as much in a long time but that's partly attributable to my having fallen in love with Jed Barlett years ago - thanks to Mr. Sorkin's writing and Martin Sheen's acting.


  150. Mo, the fictional candidate on stage was the plastic man in the empty suit, not the actual President. If I wanted a fictional president, I'd vote for Jed Bartlet. Sadly, only Mitt Romney believes that fiction rules in running for President. Romney, that is, and all of the assorted pundits who worry about Obama's demeanor while glossing over Romney's Jon Lovitz-worthy stream of lies. Yeah, that's the ticket...

  151. As a woman watching the debate, I hardly notice President Obama(not good) but what I did notice and began to feel very uncomfortable with was Romney the bully. All that came flashing through my thoughts as Romney was sneering at Mr. Lehrer , beating up on Big Bird, PBS and everyone else with in ear shot was the young man who had his hair chopped off by the younger Romney the bully. It was clear to me as this image kept flashing through my mind, this man has not changed but just grown older and become a bigger bully on a bigger stage.

  152. I believe this was the whole point. The lasting memory for everyone was the bad taste in the mouth left by the romney harrangue. Anything more that President Obama could have added would have simply diluted that nasty taste. Best to leave the poison screaming its memory in place.

  153. Thank you Jena. I completely agree. He seemed so erratic. Bobbing up and down, talking so fast, I'm surprised he didn't start losing parts of his mechanical brain.

    It was scary.

  154. My feelings, exactly....When I used to teach elementary school kids about character traits in novels, I would tell them to look at what the character has done in the past to predict what she might do in the rest of the book. It's pretty easy with Mr. Romney - he made poor Seamus ride on the top of the car, he made fun of kids in his class, even cutting one's hair as he lay on the ground. Then he let us know that he likes to fire people, and appears to take GENUINE (an unusual adjective to describe this character) pleasure in letting us know that he won't fund NPR.. I don't think my 5th graders would have any difficulty predicting the future actions of this character....not BIG BIRD, but BIG BULLY.....

  155. Of the last seven elections the incumbent lost the first debate six times. (Rachel Maddow)

    In his final closing statement Obama should not waste time pumping up his credentials and instead ask a litany of questions such as: If you plan to vote for Mitt Romney, will you vote for the Mitt Romney who doesn't care about 47% or the Mitt Romney who now claims to care for 100%. There are tons of these questions. Will you vote for the Mitt Romney who cares about womens' rights or the Mitt Romney who plans to undo Roe vs. Wade? etc. carefully crafted, these questions could clinch the election for Obama.

  156. Maureen I don't suppose they'd let you help at the next debate? Or, substitute? You could be Assistant President for a night?

    Just sayin'. It would be more fun too. Of course anything, going to get root canal, would be more fun than what we saw the other night.


  157. To be a champion, whether it's presidential politics or professional basketball, it's not enough to show you can pull up and "drain a three", or even display a certain grace and eloquence by "going glass". He has to be willing to drive the lane, bang the boards and fight for the rebound. Call my metaphor what you will, but as a basketball fan, Obama would do well to take a page out of Michael Jordan's book next time and show everyone what he's made of.

  158. We know what he's made of, and we like it . . . we waited eight long years for this guy.

  159. Congratulations, Maureen, for having presented both aspects of that debate: Romney's falsehood, Obama's dispassion. And your playwright's format captures both indignation and humor. Write more like this.

  160. The President is an accomplished poker player. The fine statement was by Kevin Rothstein: "Mitt has played his hand". The game is not over.

  161. I love Ms. Dowd's column today! Much needed laughs in darn near every sentence!

    Another thought--perhaps, in effect if not by intent, Obama was actually engaging in, or can make it turn out as thought he were engaging in, something akin to the "rope-a-dope" technique that Mohammed Ali employed so successfully against George Foreman long ago. In the early rounds, Ali mostly leaned against the ropes, letting Foreman bang away, but blocking or slipping most of the hard punches. Foreman used up a lot of energy and exposed weaknesses that Ali later took advantage of to win the fight.

    Common, Mr. President, let's see a little Ali shuffle now, and then float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. If you do, at the end, I'll imitate Howard Cossell (from one of Foreman's later, successful fights) and scream out, "Down goes Romney! Down goes Romney!"

    "Isn't it pretty to think so?" as Hemingway wrote.

  162. Another reason why Obama had such a bad night - it is a little hard to prep for the debate when your opponent changes his plan every five minutes - Obama didn't know which Romney plan would be on display for debate night

    and how about this challenge to Mr. Romney: "so you don't want the government in the boardroom,, but it is perfectly fine for the government to be in a woman's body and in everyone's bedroom, do I have that right?"

  163. I think I am in love with Maureen Dowd

  164. Damn, I didn't realize I'd been channeling Pres. Bartlet in real time all night watching the debate!

    Brilliant piece. Now if the real President would only follow your script for the next two real-life sitcom episodes, we'll be home free.

  165. Obama needs to court an angel. The same angel that guided Mittens to the buried gold plates (these were in Massachusetts) from which he read all the wisdom he spouted at the first debate wesrwards in Denver.

    Too bad much of what Mitt read was lost in translation.

    AG, Calgary

  166. Really fine comments preceding mine. I know someone like Mitt. He is not a rational man. He debates only to win and will use any attack short of physical force. Seeking truth through argument is utterly foreign to him. How do you counter such a man, where one lie is quickly replaced by another before you can debunk the last? I agree with Ms. Dowd. If you say it calmly, with a smile on your face, in complete control of your emotions, it can be very effective. "Governor, you are a damn liar!"

  167. Yup. But Romney HAS used physical attacks. And assault with a deadly weapon - sissors. He has no limits, physically, intellectually, emotionally, or ethically. Even if Obama hadn't shown up I'd still vote for him over this bizarre conglomerate of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Limbaugh, and Sarah Palin. That goes for his Wonder Boy, too.