The Second Debate
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Truth Squad: The second presidential debate

Truth Squad: The second presidential debate | The Second Debate |
NBC News takes a deep dive into the statements made by President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in their second debate of the 2012 election cycle.  We take a look at two topics, the auto bailout and energy production,...
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Debates Have Not Clarified Matters for Voters — News Analysis

Debates Have Not Clarified Matters for Voters — News Analysis | The Second Debate |
The candidates for president and vice president have spent more time on the campaign’s biggest stage fighting over the last four years than describing their visions for the future.
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"Please proceed, Gov. Romney" — My thoughts on the 2nd presidential debate without seeing any of the spin

"Please proceed, Gov. Romney" — My thoughts on the 2nd presidential debate without seeing any of the spin | The Second Debate |



The headline for me after the first debate was that Gov. Romney looked "presidential" before an audience of 70 million and erased the damage of his mistake-prone campaign. Political professionals later confirmed my impression. I liked how Tom Brokaw said that Romney had elevated himself to a "plausible alternative" for mainstream America, and that this was reflected in the polls. Brokaw also said that he thought it was "good for America" that Romney won the first debate, because it made it very likely that even more people would watch the second one and the third. I had had the same thought.


I also talked about how Gov. Romney seemed to have a lot more passion than Obama. This, for me, overshadowed the substance of the debate.  


In tonight's debate Obama and Romney appeared equally passionate about winning the election, and this allowed the substance to take center stage.  I thought of Brokaw. This is good for America.  


For me the most important exchange came during the discussion of the tragic loss of our Libya Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other heroes on Sept. 11.  Mitt Romney started to blurt out a falsehood that, in my judgement, wouldn't help him very much even if it were true. But it's the symbolic impact of what happened next that will stay with me, and I believe, most who see this debate.    


As I recall it, President Obama started to protest — drilled as he was by his advisers not to let Romney get away with speaking mistruths. But, in the flash of an instant, Obama must have thought to himself: "Whoa, he doesn't know that he is about to lie."  Obama held his tongue.  "Please proceed, Governor," he said.


Romney did proceed, and with smarmy relish told a cynical and politically-motivated lie — one of those Republican echo chamber lies that are easily disprovable in the real world but repeated on Fox "News" so often that politicians feel comfortable repeating them as well. The lie goes something like this: President Obama refused to "admit" that Ambassador Stevens had lost his life in a terrorist attack, whereas Romney had jumped to that conclusion immediately (I suppose that this qualifies me to be president, because it was my first guess too).


Of course, Obama did call it a terrorist attack the day after it happened. I knew that. And, I thought to myself, "Here we go again, the fact-checkers will chew Romney up after the debate."  But then something unexpected happened.  CNN's Candy Crowley made a courageous choice as moderator.  She injected the historical record into the debate, and confirmed what Obama was implying with his body language: Romney had just lied.  


As it happened, the most significant moment in Crowley's career as a journalist was one of many tonight during which she was being talked over, in this case by Romney. This gave the President a chance to say, "Can you repeat that, Candy?"  


She did repeat it.  And for me, the debate was over.    


It's not that this one question of how or whether the Libya tragedy will be exploited politically will decide who won the 2nd presidential debate. It's that this moment will be remembered each time there is a disagreement between the two campaigns about what the historical record will show. And, this will happen a lot over the next few weeks, again and again and again.   


"Please proceed, Gov. Romney."  It's almost as if We the People discovered an antidote to one of the most frustrating things about 21st century politics — the practice of basing a campaign, not on what is true, but on what you can make people believe.  Now, that practice is going to pay a little bit less of a dividend. Perhaps we'll see less of it, if not in this cycle, in the next one. If so, this will certainly be good for America.

Margaret Reeve Panahi's comment, October 17, 2012 2:21 PM
Thanks for this.
Michael Charney's comment, October 17, 2012 2:32 PM
You're welcome, Margaret.
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Ryan says Obama lacked new solutions during debate

Ryan says Obama lacked new solutions during debate | The Second Debate |
President Barack Obama failed to bring any new ideas that could revive the economy during the second presidential debate, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said Wednesday.
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Fact Check: Top Ten Worst Lies of the Second Presidential Debate

Fact Check: Top Ten Worst Lies of the Second Presidential Debate | The Second Debate |

The Second Presidential Debate featured repeated claims by each candidate that the other was not telling the truth--as well as at least one claim of fact by the moderator that turned out to be false. There were even questionable claims by the audience itself. Here are the top ten worst lies told during the Second Debate:

10. "I told you I would cut taxes for middle-class families, and I did. I told you I’d cut taxes for small businesses, and I have." President Barack Obama has made this claim repeatedly during the campaign, but it is not true, as even the liberal Huffington Post acknowledges. The few tax cuts that Obama did enact--such as the temporary payroll tax holiday--were short-term, or conditional. Furthermore, as the Romney campaign has often pointed out, Obama has raised many taxes on the middle class, including the infamous Obamacare "penalty," and his taxes on "millionaires and billionaires" would hit small businesess.

9. "...[H]e was asked, is it fair for somebody like you, making $20 million a year, to pay a lower tax rate than a nurse or a bus driver....And he said, yes, I think that’s fair." Obama was referring to Romney's recent 60 Minutes interview. But the transcript reveals Obama was not telling the truth. Romney was not saying it was fair that higher income should be taxed at a lower rate. He was referring specifically to the principle that capital gains should be taxed lower than other income because it has been taxed once already--a principle, incidentally, that Obama agrees with in his own tax policy.

8. "He called the Arizona law a model for the nation." Obama tried to knock Romney's immigration policy while at the same time accusing him of flip-flopping on the issue. But as Romney pointed out, he was referring specifically to the e-Verify part of the law--the requirement of instant verification of workers' legal status. That provision is even favored by unions. Obama made it seem Romney praised the law as a whole--which he had not. He went on to say that he himself objected to the provision that allowed police to check suspected illegal immigrants' documentation--but that provision survived a challenge at the Supreme Court.

7. "I want to make sure our timekeepers are working here." For the third debate in a row, the Democratic candidate complained that he was not receiving as much time to speak as the Republican. And for the third debate in a row, the Obama/Biden ticket actually spoke for longer--much longer--than the Romney/Ryan ticket, a testament to the ability of the incumbents to pressure the moderators, and the susceptibility of the left-leaning moderators to such pressure. Obama received a full three minutes more time in last night's debate--and the percentage difference was even higher at one point in the proceedings.

6. "They rely on it for mammograms." Obama attacked Romney's proposal to cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood by claiming that the organization provides mammograms to women to help prevent breast cancer. It's been a repeated claim made by the left for months. The problem is that it's just untrue--and even left-leaning mainstream media fact-checkers have acknowledged that. What is perhaps worse than Obama's misleading claim about mammograms is the unsupported implication that Romney wants to deny life-saving health care to women--a cheap shot to which Romney was given no chance to respond.

5. "You can ship jobs overseas and get tax breaks for it." We have heard the same lie for eight years from Obama. In 2004, he ran for U.S. Senate from Illinois on a promise to end such tax breaks. He did it again when he ran for President of the United States in 2008. And yet he has never done anything about it--because there are no such tax breaks. There is merely a deduction that companies can take for moving, even within the U.S.--and which helps offset the double taxation of U.S. businesses abroad, which would make American companies less competitive. Repealing it would ship jobs overseas, actually.

4. "And the production is up....What you’re saying is just not true." Obama contested a claim by Romney that production of oil and gas is down on federal lands. He even accused Romney of not telling the truth. But Romney was right--exactly right, down to the percentage decline. Furthermore, Obama's claim that he has been increasing oil and gas production on federal lands flies in the face of recent policy decisions, such as closing off a large part of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska to further development. Obama has tried to take credit for expansion on private lands, while opposing expansion wherever possible.

3. "In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?" The false premise from a member of the audience was especially egregious because her question had been selected in advance by the moderator. The supposed wage gap between men and women for the same work is largely a myth. As Diana Furchtgott-Roth pointed out: "Women make about 95 percent of what their male counterparts earn, if the male counterparts are in the same job with the same experience."

2. "He wanted to take them into bankruptcy without providing them any way to stay open." After Obama accused Romney of wanting American auto manufacturers to go bankrupt, Romney pointed out that Obama had, in fact, taken the auto companies through bankruptcy. Obama's retort was to accuse Romney of wanting to take the companies bankrupt in order to put them out of business--a blatant lie. Romney actually suggested in his famous 2008 op-ed: "In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check."

1. "He did call it an act of terror." The worst untruth told by a moderator in presidential history. Candy Crowley's intervention in favor of Obama caused the president's cheering section to burst into applause, in violation of the rules, and there was little that Romney could say in response. But she was wrong--Obama's reference to "acts of terror" in his Sep. 12 statement was in a general, abstract sense, and came long after he had described the 9/11 attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions as demonstrations against an anti-Islamic video. Even Crowley seemed to realize what she had done: it wasn't long before she walked back her own comment.

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