I caught the audio of most of the presidential debate Wednesday night (transcript), and read lots of tweets and articles about it. It’s sad that Gary Johnson didn’t get to be part of it, but overall it was better than I expected.
Since the media regularly gives Obama an easy pass, it was amusing to see the vast majority of Americans conclude that Romney did way better than Obama. Romney generally sounded “smarter,” having good responses to things like Obama’s fake jabs at corporate welfare (Tim Carney expounds on this). It was also amusing to see the press torture themselves into admitting that Romney “won” in the softest way possible, and to see every news article remind us of the arguments Obama did not use, just in case we were thinking of voting for Romney now.
But that doesn’t mean I loved Romney’s performance, either. He talked a really good talk, simultaneously raving about states’ rights and limited government and free enterprise while sounding like a reasonable moderate on regulation and having experience working together with members of both parties. He sounded really smart, and I wanted to believe that a Romney presidency might not be as terrible as I’ve generally been assuming.
I just don’t know how much I can trust the “good” parts of his remarks. (Would Romney be so gung-ho about states’ rights if Washington or Colorado legalize marijuana next month?) And of course, there were still plenty of “bad” parts, like his continued insistence that we need to spend more money on Medicare and that he does not “believe in cutting our military,” as if every other department of the government has waste, corruption, and pork barrel projects, but the Defense department has zero, even though it gets more money than all the other Departments combined.
As I’ve written before, I think liberals attack Romney too much for only having a vague budget plan, since exact presidential campaign budget policies never get enacted by the subsequent Congress. Besides, even Obama’s actual budgets have been unanimously rejected by both parties the last couple of years – so who has room to talk about unreasonable budgets?
Still, given the few specific boundaries Romney has outlined, which involves (as I understand it) continuing to increase Medicare and Defense without increasing taxes, I don’t see how you can think Romney is truly any more serious about reducing the deficit than Obama is. What if new taxes from “economic growth” aren’t enough to offset those continuing increases, much less the rest of the enormous deficit? What if it actually makes the deficit worse? I guess real spending cuts are still too unpopular to actually talk about as a candidate…
I expect similar things from next week’s vice-presidential debate, which is supposed to include some foreign policy. I’m hoping Paul Ryan will make up for the media’s poor reporting on the Obama administration’s failings regarding the Libyan embassy attacks, and I will try to enjoy every minute of it, but I don’t expect Ryan or Biden to talk much about the despicable drone strikes or any of the other shady strategies and erosions of civil liberties that were started by Bush and expanded by Obama.
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