October 4, 2012

The Debate: Mitt v Milquetoast

Republican hopeful, Mitt Romney, and current president, Barack Obama, finally met in their first face-to-face battle for the hearts and minds of American voters.  The ensuing ninety minute spectacle was a brutal ideological beat down of unimaginable proportions.  Had the bloodletting lasted longer, Secret Service may have felt compelled to rush POTUS off to a secure location for his own safety.

Despite prior media hype over his debate prowess, Obama was clearly over matched in this contest.  Romney was sure in his answers, while Obama stumbled over basic campaign talking points.  Democrat operatives and Obama supporters quickly offered excuses for this disastrously poor performance, citing reasons ranging from the moderator, to the debate prep team, to Denver’s altitude.  The DNC went so far as to lay blame on Romney for being mean to Obama during the debate.

Body language does not lie.  The man who once famously said, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” arrived unarmed to face an opponent wielding a chainsaw – and it showed.  Obama was clearly intimidated by Romney’s command of the forum.  He avoided eye contact with Romney, preferring to stare down at the podium.  Even when defending his own positions, Obama looked and acted weak.  Make no mistake, Obama, “leader of the free world”, cowed before his election opponent.

That should be the takeaway from this meeting.  The man with a “spine of steel” wilted like last week’s daisy under the heat of a simple debate.  Perhaps the DNC was correct, and Romney was too hard on their guy.  However, if Obama channels Caspar Milquetoast when facing a domestic challenger, why should we expect him to stand up for American interests when confronted by leaders from countries wishing to harm our Nation?

Just for the moment, let us concede the Obama supporters' explanations for his performance are valid – all of them.  He didn't want to seem angry.  His debate coaches failed him.  He was distracted by personal events.  He was hypoxic.  The moderator didn't control the forum.  His opponent lied.  Given those circumstances, that he folded like a three-legged card table is even more disturbing.

Team Obama likes to describe the President's style as “leading from behind.”  That characterization has long given me pause.  Why would anyone lead from behind, unless afraid of being in front?  Perhaps it wasn't so much the real Romney took stage Wednesday night, as the real Obama showed his true colors – complete with broad stripe in a primary color between green and orange on the spectrum.

We deserve a President who can prevail as a leader in the face of adversity, a person who does not require scripted speeches, adoring crowds, and compliant media to facilitate intestinal fortitude.  The befuddled, submissive person who debated Romney is not the one to entrust with our Nation's future in this increasingly hostile world.

Dennis P. O’Neil