Round One: President Barack Obama versus Challenger Mitt Romney

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

October 4, 2012

During the hours leading up to Debate I between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, I made the conscious decision not to watch. I’ve been paying close attention to presidential politics since 1960 when John F. Kennedy narrowly defeated Richard Nixon in the first ever televised debate. In the ensuing half century, I’ve seen all the debates and have concluded that in terms of candidates delivering on whatever promises they make, they’re meaningless.

Anyway, on Wednesday night I had better things to do. In a rare primetime baseball doubleheader, ESPN televised two key games with pennant implications: the Baltimore Orioles versus Tampa and the New York Yankees versus the Boston Red Sox. But the games quickly turned into lopsided, boring routs. By 9:00 PM EDT, I reluctantly switched to the debate. And, even though immigration wasn’t directly mentioned, thank heaven I did.

Moderator Jim Lehrer introduced subjects that would have provided an excellent segue into immigration like employment, education and healthcare. Nothing is easier than to flatly state that immigration has led to school overcrowding, displaced American workers and soaring medical costs. Wimpy Obama and Romney have adopted an immigration avoidance strategy---secure borders, refugees, deferred action for childhood arrivals, alien drivers licenses, E-Verify---what are they?  Earlier this week, three U.S. Border Patrol agents came under heavy gun fire from Mexican drug runners near Naco, Arizona; one was killed. When foreign nationals kill a federal law enforcement agent on United States soil, America should know about it. [Border Patrol Agent Shot, Killed Patrolling Arizona, by Jacques Billeaud, Associated Press, October 2, 2012]

Obama’s bad body language struck me immediately: staring at the floor, smirking, appearing at the same time disinterested and superior---some of the qualities the president’s critics charge are reflected in his policies.  I anticipated that in today’s national dailies, journalists would devise some farfetched excuse for Obama’s sloppy mannerisms. But I was wrong. The media’s consensus is that Obama bombed.

In his blog, The Fix, the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza best summed up Obama’s performance:

“There’s a fine line between sober/serious and grim/uninterested when it comes to the optics of these debates, and the incumbent was on the wrong side of it Wednesday night. Whether it was his habit of looking down for the majority of Romney’s answers or the pique he displayed when debate moderator Jim Lehrer interrupted him, Obama looked like he’d prefer to be somewhere else. In many ways what Obama seemed to be doing was taking on the persona he used to much success in 2008 when he was careful to show he was ready for the job.

But, now that he has been in the job for four years, Obama’s demeanor came across far less well. Remember that voters see their vote for president as electing a leader not just a set of policy positions. And, Obama the glum is not the leader people want to vote for.” [First Thoughts from the First Presidential Debates, by Chris Cillizza, Washington Post, October 4, 2012]

The evening's high point was NumbersUSA.org outstanding ad about the outrageous level of African-American unemployment. The ad’s objective is to raise voter awareness about the link between federal immigration policy that adds a million new workers into the economy annually who will compete with the 3 million Black Americans that the Labor Department lists in its “U6” unemployment category---that is, they can’t find a full time job.

See the video here.

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