The first debate was a clear win for Romney. Tuesday’s town-hall debate at Hofstra University in New York was closer to a draw, with the partisans of the two men probably thinking — with good reason — that their respective candidate came out ahead.
Romney hit hard on Obama’s inability to ignite the economy, noting that the unemployment rate is where it was when Obama took office, but that when those who have stopped looking for work are factored in that the true rate is nearly 11 percent.
Rebutted Obama, “Romney says he’s got a five-point plan. Gov. Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan. He has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules. That’s been his philosophy in the private sector. That’s been his philosophy as governor. That’s been his philosophy as a presidential candidate. You can make a lot of money and pay lower tax rates than somebody who makes a lot less.”
Romney retorted that there are 23 million people “struggling to find a job. … The president’s policies have been exercised over the last four years and they haven’t put America back to work. We have fewer people working today than when he took office.”
Without much of a record of his own to run on, Obama continued predicting the worst should Romney be elected.
But said Romney, in answer to a question from an audience member who said he’d voted for Obama four years ago but wasn’t sure why he should support him this time: “I can tell you that if you were to elect President Obama, you know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get a repeat of the last four years. We just can’t afford four more years like the last four years.”
UNFORTUNATELY, Romney seemed to run somewhat out of steam in the final 30 minutes of the debate and was at his weakest on what should have been one of his strongest points, when an audience member asked about the president’s role in the murders of our ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi due to the failure to provide adequate security for them.
Obama answered by claiming that he had described the attacks as “terrorism” the day after the attack during his remarks in the White House Rose Garden. But in fact, he used that occasion to attribute the attacks to an obscure YouTube video critical of the Muslim faith. He mentioned terrorism only in passing at the end of his remarks, which concluded with a boilerplate promise to combat “acts of terrorism.”
Obama’s brazen effort to distort his record on the controversy in his own favor left Romney momentarily flustered. Compounding things, debate moderator Candy Crowley chose that moment to play referee and ruled in the president’s favor. Only after the debate did she admit that she had erred, but by then it was too late.
As most Americans clearly remember, Team Obama (including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice) spent the weeks after the Benghazi attack adamantly insisting that they had been prompted by an obscure YouTube video, not by al-Qaida or by radical Islamists angered by Obama’s meddling in Libya.
And then, in a well-rehearsed bit of impromptu anger at the debate, Obama lashed out at Romney for having the impertinence to criticize a defense/foreign policy disaster. It was a jaw-dropping assertion from the leader of a party which spent most of the 2000s scathingly critical of George Bush’s handling of the 9/11 attacks and all that followed.
Again, Romney failed to note that glaring hypocrisy. Nor did he point out that the State Department had requested more security for the Benghazi consulate, but been turned down by Obama and/or Clinton.
THE TWO CANDIDATES are to meet again next week in their third and final debate, on foreign policy. We hope Romney does a savvier job of pressing Obama on those points at that time. But that’s easier said than done when one’s opponent has proven capable and willing to stretch the truth to its outer limits.