Romney is competitive–he likes to win. Obama is egotistical–he likes to be admired. That’s why when these two go at it, Romney has a lightness about him–to him it’s a game. Obama on the other hand is pissed–to him it’s personal.
This was obvious from the first minutes of the first debate. Obama seemed to seethe at Romney. Not only that, but Obama actually seemed kind of depressed and has ever since. I think part of why he hates Romney and seems so put out by debating him is that Romney and this whole tough campaign have triggered an identity crisis in Obama.
This is the sink or swim moment Obama never had. I’ve had my own, so I recognize the signs. It happened to me when I had to learn the difference between school and work. I was always lucky enough to get standardized test scores that would make a tiger mom weep, but when I finally got to the big leagues–my rude awakening being a summer internship at a bulge bracket investment bank’s mergers and acquisitions group–it became clear to me that coasting through multiple choice questions while the clock panicked my peers was not enough to succeed in the real world. Hard work, knowledge, skills, experience and instincts were giving my co-workers advantages over me and I was getting a run for my money. I caught on pretty quickly that I had to change my game, but the experience was intense and painful.
I see reflections of this same kind of pain washing over Obama’s face every time he’s in a room with Romney. I’m not suggesting that Obama coasted through life on his ability to take standardized tests–he has never given me reason to believe he was as brainy as the media made him out to be. No, I believe Obama’s advantage was more akin to George W. Bush’s: connections that gave him both position and protection. Obama’s stepfather was a liaison between the Indonesian government and big oil, Obama’s mother worked for Tim Geithner’s father at the Ford Foundation in Indonesia, and Obama himself went to an elite private high school in Hawaii, just to name a few. I’m not saying Obama isn’t charming and intelligent–those are prerequisites for ordination even among the elites–I’m just saying that his meteoric rise appears largely to have been the result of being chosen, subjectively, by people in power who knew he would be their man, not by the hard knock life where he won some and lost some.
What I think is so revealing about Obama’s performance in the debates and his reaction to Romney, though, is that it seems Obama himself didn’t realize that he wasn’t all he was cracked up to be. It seems the reports may be true – he might actually have believed he was the smartest guy in the room all that time! I’m not disparaging him for not being the smartest guy in the room, just for not realizing he wasn’t. I mean even the smartest guy in the room isn’t always the smartest guy in the room!
So while the entire country is seeing all at once that the emperor is wearing no clothes, the emperor himself still feels the weight of a golden mantle on his shoulders and is getting quite peeved at the annoying guy behind the other podium who’s trying to tug it off.
But wait a second – wasn’t Obama awesome the first time around? Not really. If you go back and look at his debates in 2008, you will find that he merely spouted off a bunch of pie in the sky platitudes, like when he won the nomination and actually said, “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal. This was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.” That stuff simply doesn’t fly four years later when what was obviously bull at the time has proven to be bull. Our “last, best hope” was just an empty campaign promise. Four years later, Obama has only proven that politics is politics is politics–no miracles, no transparency, no beyond-partisanship–just special interests and the military industrial complex. Ho hum.
Being a very pragmatic bunch, the voting public is now back to reality: If there are no miracles, we need someone who can keep this ship of (welfare) state afloat for as long as [I] need it. Who might that be? Just like Europeans do in times of crisis, Americans have begun casting about for the “conservative” who can steer that ship off the shoals for a time.
But why did it take a head-to-head with Romney to see the emptiness inside Obama’s suit? The voters are beginning to realize the answer to that too: the media, who is supposed to be asking the tough questions and calling out our leaders on empty promises, have been propping Obama up. Nothing new in that fact itself, but America had been so high on the hope that Obama really was different, that they gave him the benefit of the doubt, briefly suspending their healthy cynicism about politicians and the media that report on them.
In fact, however, more cynicism was called for, not less, because the media has been giving this president more than the normal amount of cover. Jim Lehrer actually got heat from his peers for not taking care of Obama in the first debate, despite the fact that Obama got over three minutes more airtime than Romney, and that Lehrer actually gave Obama one of the answers! Candy Crowley, however, got the memo and may well have committed journalistic suicide during the second debate contradicting a well-established truth stated by Romney that Obama did not call the attack on the Libyan embassy a terrorist act for two long weeks after the event. (And, she gave Obama over four minutes more speaking time than Romney!)
As the public starts to suspect that the media has been covering for Obama all this time, trotting out the evidence before their eyes may not be the ace-in-the-hole his campaign hopes it will be. Tonight’s mediator is the grotesquely biased and interventionist “journalist” who hosts CBS’s Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer. If Schieffer pulls on Romney what he pulled on Ron Paul in the video below, I believe his attempts to champion Obama Candy Crowley-style will backfire. If Obama appears to need Schieffer to defend him out there, and in matters of foreign policy no less, the public will not feel like Obama is the leader he needs to be; and if Romney spends his time battling Schieffer instead of the President, Obama will seem irrelevant.
Ever since it became clear that the average American saw in the first debate the same thing that I did–a president in over his head–I have been convinced that Romney will win the election. I don’t expect tonight to change my mind on that. At this point, the only thing that would change my mind is if Netanyahu or Obama himself delivers an October surprise of a military nature–then all bets are off.
As for me personally, I will vote Libertarian as always. Although I think a Romney win would be better for the economy such as it is (a fatally wounded leviathan), that only means we will slowly bleed to death (as opposed to more Obama, with whom we are quickly bleeding to death). But an Obama win might have the upside of setting fire to the Libertarian and Tea Party movements who will have absolutely had it with the Republican establishment giving them the lesser of two evils and almost-as-big government. After two losses in a row, the Republicans might not get away with trying that again in 2016, which would leave the door open for a traditional conservative or libertarian (like Rand Paul) to actually stop the bleeding (or at least genuinely try to).