Did President Barack Obama do his best in his first debate against Republican challenger Mitt Romney? No. But does this mean that his hopes for a second term are toast? No on that too.
By Denise Clay
Right now, the only person more concerned about the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama than just about everyone who sat through Wednesday night’s Presidential Debate is, possibly Big Bird.
(Actually, all of Sesame Street has kind of gone for the mattresses because Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney has promised to cut PBS because funding it requires a loan from China. Confused? Yep, right there with ya…)
I live-tweeted the debate from Industry XIX, a club at 19th and Chestnut as part of a debate party thrown by the Philadelphia NAACP, the Generational Alliance, the Youth Commission of Philadelphia and 5 PAC. It was designed to get young people in front of the television and learning about all issues…even the ones that they don’t think impact them, organizers said.
“All issues are youth issues,” said Getachew Kassa, policy and organizing manager for the Generational Alliance. “Keeping college affordable, unemployment, the environment and the national debt are all things that they’re talking about that might not affect us now, but will in the future.”
“We wanted to create some excitement and help young people get some knowledge about the issues because at the end of the day, if we don’t get out and vote, a lot of people are going to be impacted,” said 5 PAC’s Raheem Islam. “We decided to use a venue where young people come to and have fun to try and help them get in front of the issues.”
However, my guess is that most of the young folks were on their way to watching whatever reality show was on Wednesday night because you’d have to be a true masochist to have sat through all of it.
But if you did, you saw the following:
- Romney unleash his Junkyard Dog and deliver the zingers written for him with the kind of gusto that is only reserved for someone who has nothing to lose.
- Obama deliver the equivalent of a lecture in one of his Constitutional Law classes at times.
- Big Bird become a punching bag…
- right along with moderator Jim Lehrer.
It was kind of a rough watch if you’re a fan of the President because it seemed to many that he’d rather be on an anniversary date night with his wife Michelle than be on stage in Denver.
That’s probably why he let Romney get away with hurling the kinds of whoppers that make the heads of fact checkers explode.
For example, President Obama never mentioned his opponent’s lack of regard for 47 percent of the population, a disdain detailed by the tape that was leaked (by the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, at that) of Romney saying as much at a fundraiser in Florida. He could have won with that, but instead he chose to go into long, languid detail about his economic policies.
When it came to the Affordable Care Act, the President let Romney continue to tell the “you cut $700 million from Medicare” lie despite the fact that fact checker’s heads blow up whenever he says it.
And after scrutinizing everything from the President’s body language to his reliance on notes, Democrats and Republicans found something they could agree on: he lost.
In fact, Republicans were gloating.
They might want to hold back on that a little.
That’s because the word that seemed to get tossed around a bit when describing Romney was the word “bully.”
He bullied Obama. He bullied Lehrer. Heck, Romney even bullied Big Bird.
People don’t like bullies. I’m just saying.
And I really don’t see President Obama holding back on Romney next time. He’s not going to go all Junkyard Dog, but he’s also not going to go 90 minutes without saying “dude, you’re lying!”
But while folks are calling the President and Lehrer losers when it came to this debate, I submit that there was an even bigger loser.
The American People.
I say that for two reasons:
1-One thing that separated President Obama from Mitt Romney was the fact that we knew exactly what the President wants to do in a second term. All that we got from Romney was a lot of “You’ve had four years. I can do better…” without a detail of substance in sight.
And 2-We found out what happens when diversity isn’t considered when newsrooms begin laying folks off.
When I asked Jamira Burley, executive director of the Youth Commission, what question she hoped would be asked, she wasn’t sure that the the subject she wanted tackled wouldn’t be.
“I want to know what they’re going to do about the school-to-prison pipeline and the prison-to-deportation pipeline, but I know those questions won’t get asked,” she said.
Unfortunately, she was right.
Because while there were a myriad of ways in which Jim Lehrer messed up in this debate, there was one that stood out for me.
You see, Mr. Lehrer selected the questions that he was going to ask in this debate. I know for a fact that questions were sent to him that asked about topics like immigration reform, school-to-prison pipeline, and the economy for communities of color.
I know this because I was among those who helped compile these questions on behalf of a group of minority journalism groups that were asked to do so.
But he didn’t ask them.
And that goes back to why diversity in the newsroom is important. If a newsroom is filled with people of all races, creeds, colors, sexual orientations and the like, you get a diversity of opinions about what should and shouldn’t be covered.
If it isn’t, well you get a debate filled with questions that ignores the majority of Americans.
So I can say with no fear of contradiction that we’re probably not going to get a lot of new information about what President Obama or Mitt Romney will do about these issues as president.
And that makes us all losers no matter who wins.