The Will To Lose

I began to be bored by tonight’s Presidential debate very early on. I was sitting in a bar and half listening, but mostly talking to a girl. All I know is that I listened out of the corner of my ear and I was soon bored and depressed. I don’t know if Romney won or not, but he looked and sounded okay, and Obama definitely underperformed. He clearly hadn’t prepared. I know what it’s like to half-prepare for something and then go out there and just blow it. That’s what Barack did tonight. Way to go, guy.

In a 9.19 post called “Mild To A Fault,” I wrote the following: “My concern is that Barack Obama, convinced as everyone else is by now that Mitt Romney is going to lose, is going to do his usual courtly, combat-averse, close-to-genuflecting routine when he debates Romney on 10.3, 10.16 and 10.22. He’s figuring Romney has already dug his own grave to why box a dead horse? Obama doesn’t like to scrap, much less take off the gloves. I’ve always seen that as a failing.”

Sasha Stone and Glenn Kenny called me dead wrong and clueless, but I was right, wasn’t I?

It was almost as if Obama sat down with his team this afternoon and said, “I don’t want to commit hari-kiri opposite Romney…I want to hold my own as best I can and maintain my dignity…but I think I kinda might want to lose, strange as that sounds.”

Adviser #1: “You want to lose?”

Obama: “Yeah, I do a little. Because, for me, anything is better than manning up and scoring points against Romney because, as you guys know, I’m deathly afraid of looking or sounding too aggressive. Now, can I lose by just being mild and unruffled or…?”

Adviser #1: “Well, I think you might want to try to pretend that you’re not the President and that you’re just some history professor at Andover. Try to seem as wonky as possible. Lots of stats and policy jargon. That’ll bore the piss out of everyone and people will stop listening. That’ll get the ball rolling.”

Obama: “Okay. Then what?”

Adviser #2: “No matter where the debate goes, don’t bring up Romney’s 47% gaffe. Pretend like it didn’t happen. Don’t bring up Bain, don’t mention offshore tax shelters, don’t mention his history as a company killer and a job outsourcer, don’t mention his disastrous European trip. Everything that makes him look bad or clumsy or mercenary, don’t mention. And if he lies about your record, let him get away with it.”

Obama: “Got it. Anything else?”

Adviser #1: “That’s enough for now, I think. You’ll be seen as a loser by the liberal pundits if you do what we’ve just suggested, and then we can talk later on how to lose the second debate.”

Obama: “Fine. Thanks, guys.”

Oh, and Jim Lehrer is finished. He’s too old, not sharp enough, his voice is too high-pitched, he’s over. He’ll never moderate a Presidential debate again.

44 thoughts on “The Will To Lose

  1. moviesquad on said:

    But the pizza guy bear hugged Obama, so no worries… he has it in the bag.

    Wells to moviesquad: Gee, that was really thoughtful and referenced and intelligent, that response. You really know your stuff. I’m impressed.

  2. Obama underwhelmed. On the other hand, I think those of us already following the race closely underestimate how snake-oily Romney comes off:

    Romney: “If you’re over 60, you can stop listening now…”

    Granny: “Eff you.”

  3. “Wells to moviesquad: Gee, that was really thoughtful and referenced and intelligent, that response. You really know your stuff. I’m impressed.”

    What are you busting HIS chops for, Jeffrey? YOU’RE the one who posted that the election was over and done with when the pizza hug happened? How thoughtful and referenced and intelligent was THAT?

    BTW… how did things go with the bird you were chatting up? You rascal!

  4. Speaking of being right, what’d I say about Kerry being a bad choice for a debating partner? And it’ll be two for two on Mitt’s side, because Biden’s up next.

  5. As the only guy on this board who has – from what I can tell – actually worked in politics, can honestly say that everyone is completely wrong.

    Not really. Obama lost quite a bit on points but it’s not as much a loss for him as it was a missed opportunity to put the election away. And I still think Obama did (mostly) what he wanted to do, which was to look calm, make it look like Romney’s numbers don’t add up, and not erode his own favorable ratings.

    Other folks were more impressed by Romney than me. He was very good on set pieces at the beginning and end. In the middle, he wasn’t just evasive on the facts; he came across as evasive in his proposals. That reinforces the perception that voters can’t believe him. But Obama just kind of sat there and stared so Romney’s action contrasted with his inaction equaled a win.

    I feared all week Obama’s strategy would be all caution and that’s what happened. Romney gave Obama all kinds of openings to come after him but Obama never took the bait. Tonight was not a “game-changer” but it probably does move an election that was getting far away from Mitt Romney into a tight race.

  6. “Tonight was not a “game-changer” but it probably does move an election that was getting far away from Mitt Romney into a tight race.”

    Yeah, just what I’m sure the Dems really wanted to see happen.

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  8. Wells, this was _almost_ the debate you were dreaming about a few posts ago. Romney and Obama pushed Leher completely to the side and just had a go at each other. This is what you were looking for and yet you barely paid attention?

    And, also, I sourced my comment about the pizza guy from the very finest, thanks.

  9. Honest question, and without mentioning the FOX News Network: is MSNBC a legitimate news organization or is it just a propaganda arm of the Democratic Party?

  10. Not that any of this matters…(skip to end for the bottom line)

    Obama works best when he has something to prove, for everyone here who apparently have forgotten ’08 when Hilary surged in February only to have Obama show that the “3am” ad didn’t mean shit in the long haul.

    Romney’s worst gaffes have happened in uncontrolled environments (“Corporations are people, my friend”) so the Town Hall setting might provide weeks of late night jokes should he trip himself up. The last will be on foreign policy, where Romney is on the record as being against everything Obama succeeded at.

    …not that any of it counts. Romney has already lost.

    CNN was very amusing tonight, with John King pretending that he doesn’t know that EVERY poll including Rasmussen show Romney losing Pennsylvania by such a large margin just so it seems Romney still has a chance.

    At this point, if Obama loses both Florida and Ohio, it looks like he will still get the 270 votes he needs. And he won’t lose both, which begs the question where will Romney make up those votes. The only place was Penn and the margin there has gotten so large that even if the judge hadn’t ruled the ID law a no-go for this year they couldn’t suppress enough votes to make a difference.

    But here’s the best silver lining of tonight: the Super PACs and RNC might waste money they would otherwise use in house & senate races if they buy into this “Romney won tonight, he still might win!” fantasy.

    Tight race? Only at the national level. When you break it down into the only thing that matters, nothing has changed. Romney isn’t going to get a surge in Ohio and Florida.

    I called it at this point in ’08 and it’s even easier this time. The GOP could have won this thing with several candidates, Romney was never one.

  11. @dogcatcher – somewhere in between. MSNBC doesn’t pretend to be a either unbiased or a full-fledged news outfit. And it was clear from tonight’s post-debate reaction, they are not in the tank for the DNC.

  12. It was pretty disastrous. Obama looked tired and pissed-off the entire time, like he was kind of hungover and couldn’t be bothered with it.

  13. It was not good for Obama, but now I expect him to be more direct and aggressive the next one. He’s pissed and he has to strike back.

  14. Yup, it’s true: You were right, and Stone and I were wrong. You win the Internet.

    So how did you end up making out with Sylvia Miles, sport?

  15. As a democrat I am officially worried. We could actually lose to Romney now which during the spring to me at least seemed laughable. Think about what that means for the country. A truly terrible performance by the President.

  16. This is obviously a bad sign for Romney. If Obama had won, it would have been a big blow to Romney’s chances. Obama is wiping the floor with him, as predicted. I mean, he must be up to something.

    MSNBC is to timeshares what Fox is to used cars.

  17. Everybody panic!

    You could tell what was going to happen before the debate even began, I think.

    Romney needed some good news. And if he didn’t hit certain things in the debate — like look presidential, pick at least a few points, and attack attack attack — he was going to look like a failure. Again. And his campaign knew this and prepped him well. And he was a different candidate. Again.

    Obama needed to just get through it, and score a few points. And he did. Not sure they imagined that the narrative today would be that Obama got “trounced.” But there’s no way in hell they’re worried about it, either.

    At this point, they have to know that Obama is going to win this thing. He simply doesn’t have to do the same kind of work in a debate that Romney has to.

    Obama has learned Romney’s weaknesses, and has held onto plenty of cards (Bain, “the 47%,” the Libya press-conference) — hope is still alive. The only historic moment of this debate was Romney saying he’d fire Big Bird, and him bullying a 78-year-old man using corporate-sleaze tactics.

    Romney cheats to win, interrupts, and was smug and arrogant — he had a good night last night. We can spin it however we want but credit where due. The guy was prepared.

    The polls are going to tighten up, but the election wasn’t decided last night by a long shot.

  18. I’ve never seen Obama so bad, which was bizarre on so big a stage. And this is the most important debate when it comes to the undecided voters; they don’t really care about foreign policy, they just want to know what’s happening in the US.

    Romney’s best line was when Obama was talking about how we can look to Clinton’s model for the way to restore the economy, and he came back with something like “Well we’ve got another model we can look at, and that’s the last four years and it didn’t work.” Couldn’t believe what I seeing.

    Next time they need to get Obama to bed early the night before and give him some 5-hour energy beforehand. He looked like he just wanted a nap.

  19. Political debates are useless for determining who to vote for. The candidates are never 100% truthful, and the moderators rarely call them on their lies and mistakes. Do a little bit of research to find out where Obama and Romney stand on the issues, what their records are, and what kind of legislation they’ve supported/are proposing. Unless one of the participants turns into a raving lunatic mid-debate, their performances don’t amount to much. Frankly, I don’t understand how anyone can get behind either of these guys.

  20. I liken last night’s debate to 1992. Romney was Clinton, acting like he wanted the job. And Obama was Bush, checking his watch.

    It was strange to see Obama refuse to look at Romney. Doesn’t he remember how bad McCain’s reviews were when he did that in one of their 2008 debates?

    Romney fired up his supporters last night. Just based on Twitter last night, Republicans everywhere are stoked, and Matthews was something else. “If Obama would just watch MSNBC all day, he’d win!”

  21. Jeff has it right (unlike his historically innacurate meme on Lincoln’s voice).

    This debate encapsulated everything that is disappointing about his Presidency. Obama expects everyone to fight for him, but he’s unwilling to show any fight himself or fight for others when it matters. He’ll cave into the middle ground at the first sign of confrontation.

    I’ve cross-examined a lot of CEOs in my time, and it usually goes pretty well for me because these CEOs are surrounded by sycophants who create a bubble of yes around them, and rarely challenge them. Obama’s chief of staff should wake the fuck up and tell the President to do the same. His performance reminded everyone of how weak he can be.

  22. If you can try to spin a positive from this, it does seem like the message has well and truly hit home, with the media on all sides generally agreeing that Romney won. So we might see a reinvigorated Obama “wake the fuck up” as Sam Jackson would say. It’s early enough that he can recover from this.

    But fucking hell, it was poor. Not only opened the door for a Romney recovery, he laid out a red carpet and baked him a pie.

  23. “BTW… how did things go with the bird you were chatting up?”

    “Lack of nookie is a leading cause of grumpiness in the white middle-aged male.” S. Freud, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, p. 111.

  24. I don’t know what the hell happened to Barry last night. I’ve expressed my dislike for him and preference for Hillary (and Bill), but doesn’t mean I don’t support his re-election. He sleepwalked through that debate last night. Stuttering, stammering, pausing. Where is the movie star who wowed everyone in ’08? If he even brought 1/10th of the aggression and fire that Bill Clinton showed at the Convention he would have wiped the floor with Romney. Where was 47% gaffe, where was insane insensitive Libya gaffe, where was Bain Capital?? What gives Barack?!

  25. Barak has been cruising on his charisma since he was a kid. He has never faced a real challenge. I would say “one day it’s gonna catch up to him” but he’s the President of the United States.

  26. How could Obama miss the golden opportunity to stand up for “Big Bird” when Romney talked about axing the federal subsidy for PBS? Obama had a great chance to champion all those who love Frontline, Antiques Roadshow, This Old House etc. Romney loves more defence spending but wants to pick on poor little PBS.

  27. Obama doesn’t “cave.” He REALLY IS a fucking right-wing authoritarian prez with a few harmless touchy-feely social issues pashminas draped on him. Maybe his “boredom” was that buried community organizer acknowledging what a co-opted shit he’s become.

    Great discussion of apocalyptic climate change too.

    Idiot Matthews needs to crawl into a Kennedy grave already.

  28. “It was beautiful. The only guy who had a worse night than O by the sounds of it is our man Wells.”

    But I’ll bet even he gets more nookie than Barry.

  29. “I liken last night’s debate to 1992. Romney was Clinton, acting like he wanted the job. And Obama was Bush, checking his watch.”

    Or, better: 2004, when John Kerry cleaned incumbent W’s clock in the first debate?

    “But I’ll bet even he gets more nookie than Barry.”

    Not last night — it was Obama’s wedding anniversary. Though maybe that’s why he looked exhausted — should have waited until AFTER the debate, man!

  30. Movie Watcher: “He’s pissed and he has to strike back.”

    He gets pissed? =p

    Alboone: “We could actually lose to Romney now which during the spring to me at least seemed laughable. Think about what that means for the country.”

    A closet Bill Clinton on their team? Sounds good to me. That’s what I was hoping Obama would be, instead of another Bill Clinton for *our* team. And I’ve been saying he acts like a loser for a while now. Maybe he’s sick of this ego, and wants to get out. And if so, he should’ve resigned a long time ago. But, like Edwards, Obama’s ego keeps him going. He wants to be the Ultimate Mediator, rather than the best President we’ve had in a long time.

    Bandsaw: “At this point, they have to know that Obama is going to win this thing. He simply doesn’t have to do the same kind of work in a debate that Romney has to.”

    What the fuck did I just get done saying about that Aesop’s Fable which you did not notice? Did I also not mention that many, even most, voters are waiting specifically for this month, and that they will cast their ballots afterwards, and not before?

    Eloi: “So we might see a reinvigorated Obama “wake the fuck up” as Sam Jackson would say. It’s early enough that he can recover from this. ”

    It’s just a shame that Biden will make it even harder for him to rebound.

    Krillian: ” I liken last night’s debate to 1992. Romney was Clinton, acting like he wanted the job. And Obama was Bush, checking his watch.”

    I also noted that like, Obama, Bush I was riding high on foreign policy-for him, Iraq-before he encountered Clinton. Though I also commented that the L.A. riots were what destroyed *his* momentum, so let’s see how well Barry shrugs off the Libyan riots.

    Otto: “I’ve cross-examined a lot of CEOs in my time, and it usually goes pretty well for me because these CEOs are surrounded by sycophants who create a bubble of yes around them, and rarely challenge them.”

    Well, there are bold and qualified CEOs who don’t have suck-ups on their teams. So the problem isn’t entirely Obama’s advisers.

    Tyler: “He sleepwalked through that debate last night. Stuttering, stammering, pausing. Where is the movie star who wowed everyone in ’08? If he even brought 1/10th of the aggression and fire that Bill Clinton showed at the Convention he would have wiped the floor with Romney.”

    I took this comment off of Twitter, but I’ll say it now. We got baited-and-switched for the last four years.

    Jack: “Barak has been cruising on his charisma since he was a kid. He has never faced a real challenge.”

    I agree. In addition, most of his political opponents were raving lunatics. These fuckers are calculating politicians. Romney knew exactly what the fuck he was doing when he said the 47% speech. Just like Reagan with his welfare queen comments. An analogy which I also noted just a little while ago.

    davie: “The only guy who had a worse night than O by the sounds of it is our man Wells.”

    Apparently, Jim Lehrer was more flustered.

    Mr. F: “Or, better: 2004, when John Kerry cleaned incumbent W’s clock in the first debate?”

    Which brings me back to my prior comment. Why was Kerry his debating partner? He sunk the Dems 8 years ago, and if it weren’t for Katrina, they’d have been made irrelevant.

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