A Good Depiction of How The President’s Performance in the Second Round Lays an Even Ground for the Third and Final Rounds. But this Thursday a competition for laughter between the two Candidates at a Charity Event of the New York Archdiocese with potential of a Punch-Line for Punch-Line fight! What about true Equal Rights for Everyone – Gentlemen?
For the President, Punch, Punch, Another Punch.
Published: October 17, 2012
He waited all of 45 seconds to make clear he came not just ready for a fight but ready to pick one.
Mitt Romney and President Obama clashed frequently during the town hall-style debate at Hofstra University. Mr. Obama repeatedly accused his opponent of being untruthful.
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President Obama, who concluded that he was “too polite” in his first debate with Mitt Romney, made sure no one would say that after their second. He interrupted, he scolded, he filibustered, he shook his head.
He tried to talk right over Mr. Romney, who tried to talk over him back. The president who waited patiently for his turn last time around forced his way into Mr. Romney’s time this time. At one point, he squared off with Mr. Romney face to face, almost chest to chest, in the middle of the stage, as if they were roosters in a ring.
“What Governor Romney said just isn’t true.”
“Not true, Governor Romney, not true.”
“What you’re saying is just not true.”
For a president teetering on the edge of a single term, making a more forceful case at Hofstra University on Long Island on Tuesday night could hardly have been more imperative. Thirteen days after he took presidential decorum to a Xanax extreme, he tucked away a dinner of steak and potatoes and then went out on stage with plenty of red meat for anxious supporters.
Whether it will decisively reroute the course of the campaign remains to be seen, but the president emerged from the encounter having settled nerves within his panicky party and claiming a new chance to frame the race with just three weeks left.
Heading into the evening, the Obama camp said that he needed at least a draw to mute the commotion over the first debate and drain some of the potential drama from the final meeting next Monday. But the risk, of course, was that an acerbic confrontation could turn off the very swing voters he covets.
The strategy for Tuesday night was clear: undercut Mr. Romney’s character and credibility by portraying him as lying about his true positions on issues like taxes and abortion. Time and again, Mr. Obama questioned whether the man on stage with him was the same “severely conservative” candidate who tacked right in the Republican primaries.
He painted Mr. Romney as a tool of big oil who is soft on China, hard on immigrants, politically crass on Libya and two-faced on guns and energy. He deployed many of the attack lines that went unused in Denver, going after Mr. Romney’s business record, his personal income taxes and, in the debate’s final minutes, his comments about the 47 percent of Americans he once deemed too dependent on government.
“Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan,” Mr. Obama charged. “He has a one-point plan,” which is to help the rich, he said.
He mocked Mr. Romney by noting that he once closed a coal plant as the governor of Massachusetts. “Now suddenly you’re a big champion of coal,” he said.
As for trade, he said, “Governor, you’re the last person who’s going to get tough on China.”
And he pressed Mr. Romney for not disclosing how he would pay for his tax and deficit reduction goals. “We haven’t heard from the governor any specifics beyond Big Bird and eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood,” he said.
Mr. Romney held his own and gave as good as he got, presenting Mr. Obama as a failed president who has piled on trillions of dollars of debt, left millions of Americans without work, bungled security for American personnel in Libya, done nothing to reform entitlement programs and deserted a middle class “crushed under the policies of a president who has not understood what it takes to get the economy working again.”
But it was Mr. Obama who was the central story line of the night, his performance coming across as a striking contrast to that of his first face-off with Mr. Romney. For days leading up to Tuesday night’s encounter, Mr. Obama huddled in a Virginia resort with advisers to practice a more aggressive approach without appearing somehow inauthentic or crossing over a line of presidential dignity. It was a line he would stride up to repeatedly over the course of more than 90 minutes, and some will argue that he slipped over it at times.
Along the way, he ducked some questions. He never directly answered a voter who asked whether it was the government’s responsibility to try to lower gasoline prices, instead giving his stump speech on energy. Nor did he respond directly to another voter who asked who denied extra security to diplomats in Libya and why, although he did say, “I am ultimately responsible for what’s taking place there.”
Nor did he offer an extensive articulation of what his forward-looking agenda would be for a second term beyond, essentially, arguing that electing his opponent would be moving back to failed policies of the past.
His aggressive approach came as no surprise to Mr. Romney’s camp. It was clear from the start when Mr. Obama made sure to use the first question — from a college student worried about finding a job — to jab Mr. Romney for opposing the way the president went about the auto industry bailout of 2009.
With each question that followed came another attack. When it was not his turn, Mr. Obama sat on a stool and looked at Mr. Romney as he talked, rather than staring down and taking notes as he did in Denver. There was little smirking, though he did project at times an air of tolerant dismissal.
Evidently intent on redeeming himself by getting in all the points he failed to get in last time, Mr. Obama pushed right past time limits and at one point even refused to yield when the moderator, Candy Crowley of CNN, tried to rein him in.
“I want to make sure our timekeepers are working,” he complained when she tried to stop him on another occasion — never mind that at that point CNN’s time clock showed that he had spoken 19 minutes and 50 seconds, compared with 17 minutes and 17 seconds for Mr. Romney.
By the end, he had dominated the clock, consuming 44 minutes and four seconds to 40 minutes and 50 seconds for Mr. Romney.
If that sort of score keeping gave it the feel of an athletic competition, Mr. Obama might not object. Aides and friends have long said he is a clutch player on the basketball court, the kind who turns in listless performances during practice but raises his level when the game is on the line.
The game was on the line Tuesday night, and he scored some points. But the final buzzer is still 20 days away.
A Night of Laughs Amid a Bitter Run for President.
By SHARON OTTERMAN of the New York Times
Published: October 17, 2012
Angry e-mails from conservative Christian organizations flooded Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan’s in-box in August, after he announced that he had invited President Obama, along with Mitt Romney, to speak at the New York Archdiocese’s biggest charity gala of the year, despite the church’s differences with the president over contraception, abortion and same-sex marriage.
Archbishop Edward M. Egan separated George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000 at the Al Smith Dinner.
Alfred E. Smith IV is master of ceremonies for the charity dinner, which honors his great-grandfather, a four-term governor.
But something else also kept flooding in: donations. The archdiocese’s Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation, which will host the glittering dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue on Thursday, is on track to raise more than $5 million in a single night for charities that assist poor and needy children in the archdiocese, a record for the event, said Alfred E. Smith IV, who is the master of ceremonies in honor of his great-grandfather, the first Roman Catholic to be nominated by a major party for the presidency.
“You know, you are never going to please the people on the far left; you are never going to please all the people on the far right,” Mr. Smith said in an interview, adding that he knew of no donors who had decided not to come because of Mr. Obama’s attendance. “Everyone should be happy that we are able to pull this off to help so many people.”
Through its 67-year history, the annual Al Smith Dinner, as it is known, has attracted attention every four years as a lighthearted pit stop for presidential candidates in the heated final weeks of the campaign. For one evening, the candidates are supposed to put aside their differences and showcase their ability to vie for laughs, as well as votes, as they poke fun of themselves and each other to benefit charity.
The dinner, which this year comes just after the two candidates aggressively debated Tuesday night, will give Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney a chance to show voters that they can also be gracious and human.
“Last night, it was punch, punch, punch,” Thomas J. Moran, the chairman of Mutual of America Life Insurance Company and a foundation board member, said Wednesday. “And now we will get to see how good they are with punch line, punch line, punch line.”
Differences between the church and Democratic candidates have affected the dinner in the recent past, particularly when the archdiocese withheld invitations to John Kerry and Bill Clinton because of concern over their support for abortion rights. But this year, even though the archdiocese is suing the Obama administration over a contraception coverage mandate that applies to some employees of Catholic institutions, there was no discussion of withholding an invitation to the president, Mr. Smith said.
In response to critics, Cardinal Dolan, who is the archbishop of New York, wrote in a blog post that he wanted to be civil and inclusive. “If I only sat down with people who agreed with me, and I with them, or with those who were saints, I’d be taking all my meals alone,” he wrote.
Cardinal Dolan, a talented quipster who frequently speaks of the importance of humor, will close the event. He has already played cameo roles in the campaign this year: he delivered benedictions at the Democratic and Republican conventions. “I think the fact that it is a Catholic archbishop who is the facilitator for bringing together the two opponents speaks volumes,” his spokesman, Joseph Zwilling, said.
The event this year will have 1,600 attendees, who are paying at least $2,500 per head. (Some well-situated tables can cost up to $100,000.) Lamb will be served under the glow of crystal chandeliers, and the white-tie-clad guests on the tiered 70-person dais, including the candidates, are expected to linger at the dinner for its five-hour duration.
Though billed as nonpolitical, Mr. Smith said, the event has become an opportunity for political, labor and business leaders to chat and make deals. Among those listed on the dais this year are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Senator Charles E. Schumer, as well as the journalists Katie Couric and Chris Matthews.
The event’s $600,000 cost is covered by the board members of the Al Smith Foundation, meaning that the guests’ donations will go entirely to the 13 charity organizations serving children and families in the archdiocese, like Good Shepherd Services in communities throughout New York City, Incarnation Children’s Center in the Bronx, and the Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center in Yonkers, Mr. Smith said.
In all, the money raised this year easily topped the $4 million record the dinner set in 2008, when Mr. Obama and John McCain took a break from the bitterness of their election battle to show off their humor.
“Even in this room full of proud Manhattan Democrats, I can’t shake that feeling that some people here are pulling for me,” Senator McCain said in his speech, quickly adding, “I’m delighted to see you here tonight, Hillary” — in a nod to Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom Mr. Obama had defeated in the Democratic primary.
The dinner was first held in 1946 by Cardinal Francis J. Spellman to honor the memory of Alfred E. Smith, a four-term Democratic governor of New York who ran for president in 1928. (Governor Smith died in 1944.) Its original fund-raising goal was to raise money for a new 16-story building for St. Vincent’s Hospital Manhattan. But the dinner’s tradition of bringing together politicians for charity quickly grew.
In 1960, John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon became the first pair of candidates to attend in an election year, trading self-deprecating quips as television cameras rolled. Since then, five other sets of presidential candidates have taken the stage, including George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000 and George Bush and Michael S. Dukakis in 1988.
One of the biggest surprises of the night is often how adept at comic timing even the most serious of candidates can be.
“Quite honestly, I didn’t think Al Gore could ever be funny, and he certainly managed,” said Mr. Moran, the foundation board member.
AND THAT WAS IT WHAT STARTED THE SERIES:
9:35 AM: The President departs the White House en route Joint Base Andrews
9:50 AM: The President departs Joint Base Andrews
11:10 AM: The President arrives Manchester, New Hampshire
11:55 AM: The President delivers remarks at a campaign event
1:05 PM: The President departs Manchester, New Hampshire
3:30 PM: The President tapes an appearance on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”
7:55 PM: The President delivers remarks at the 67th Annual Alfred. E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner.
10:35 PM: The President departs New York City
11:30 PM: The President arrives Joint Base Andrews
11:45 PM: The President arrives the White House
But really much has changed in the last few years except Mr. Romney and some of his backers. The Church’s position on abortion is not the only issue that separates the candidates – look at the general topic of Equal Rights as in today’s New York Times editorial. Can the church keep pace with advances of equality?
The New York Times Editorial
Mr. Romney’s Version of Equal Rights
Published: October 17, 2012
It has dawned on Mitt Romney that he has a problem with female voters. He just has no idea what to do about it, since it is the result of his positions on abortion, contraception, health services and many other issues. On Tuesday night, he bumbled his way through a cringe-inducing attempt to graft what he thinks should be 2012 talking points onto his 1952 sensibility.
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In the midst of their rancorous encounter at Hofstra University, President Obama attacked Mr. Romney for vowing he would end federal support of Planned Parenthood and for criticizing the provision in the health care law that requires employers — except churches and religiously affiliated institutions — to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives.
Clearly agitated, Mr. Romney said in response, “I’d just note that I don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not, and I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.”
Perhaps Mr. Romney forgot that he vetoed a bill as Massachusetts governor in 2005 that would have given women who were raped access to emergency contraception, or that he supported an amendment this year that would have allowed any business to opt out of the contraceptive mandate, or that he has said he would support a state constitutional amendment that would declare that life begins at conception — potentially making some kinds of contraceptives illegal.
Perhaps Mr. Romney was trying to say that the issue is who pays for contraceptives, not whether women can use them. But all those possibilities are just reminders of how hard it must be for him to remember where he stands at any given moment.
In any case, you cannot untangle access and money. Mr. Romney’s stated zeal to “defund” Planned Parenthood is either a rote ideological posture or a belief that it is right to end the federal support that gives many poor women access to mammograms, cervical cancer screening, family planning and other services. As Mr. Obama said: “That’s a pocketbook issue for women and families all across the country. And it makes a difference in terms of how well and effectively women are able to work.”
Having fumbled that one, Mr. Romney made things worse when he tried to talk about equal opportunity for women, which was made much harder by his opposition to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. He told a strange tale of his early days as governor of Massachusetts when he “had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.” He said he went to his staff about it and was told that “these are the people that have the qualifications.”
So far, not so terribly bad.
But then he started a slow, painful slide into one of the most bizarre comments on this issue we’ve ever heard, which became an instant Internet sensation. “We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet,” Mr. Romney said, sounding as if that were a herculean task. An appeal to women’s groups, he said, “brought us whole binders full of women.”
This was important, he said, because “I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the work force that sometimes they need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school.”
At this point we could practically hear his political consultants yelling “Stop!”
But Mr. Romney did not. “She said, I can’t be here until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o’clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school.”
Flexibility is a good policy. But what if a woman had wanted to go home to study Spanish? Or rebuild an old car? Or spend time with her lesbian partner? Would Mr. Romney have been flexible about that? Or if a man wanted similar treatment?
True equality is not satisfied by allowing the little lady to go home early and tend to her children.
AND YET BEFORE THE CHARITY EVENT – NOT SO CHARITABLE NOTES:
Blunders and Binders.By CHARLES M. BLOW for The New York Times
Now that’s what I’m talking about.
Tuesday’s debate went the way folks thought the first one would: with President Obama outmaneuvering Mitt Romney, defending his own record forcefully and not letting Romney slip away from his. Obama called Romney out on things that were “not true” — a phrase he used in some form at least six times. Romney, for his part, committed unforced errors, as is his wont.
The contest was a clear victory for Obama. Not a devastating loss for Romney, but a clear win for the president. Now the world makes sense again. Crestfallen Democrats took a breath. Giddy Republicans stopped walking on air.
Can someone get this man a binder full of facts?
The president came into the debate with lowered expectations, but he exceeded them. According to the Pew Research Center, people expected Obama to outperform Romney in the first debate by a margin of 51 percent to 29 percent. But after Obama performed like he was catatonic and Romney performed like he was over-caffeinated, things changed. The performance expectation gap going into the second debate was negligible, with just 41 percent thinking Obama would do better and 37 percent thinking Romney would win the day.
The president performed brilliantly, with force, verve and agility. As we used to say down south: he showed up and showed out. The base loved it.
Even the snap polls, which I take with a grain of salt because they can tilt Republican in their samples, gave the edge to Obama.
This time, it was Romney who did himself damage.
He completely flubbed his line of attack on Benghazi.
Then there was Romney’s odd “binders full of women” comment about seeking suggestions from women’s groups to “find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet” when he was governor of Massachusetts.
He was laboring to avoid answering the actual question about pay equity for women.
But, according to David Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix, not even that dodge is true:
What actually happened was that in 2002 — prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration — a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor. They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected.
Can someone get this man a binder full of facts?
Romney has spent the last few weeks shedding his “severely conservative” plumage like the feathers from a molting chicken. But on Tuesday night the president reminded voters of who his challenger was a few months — and a few years — ago. The picture that emerged was Whiplash Willard, a man you can never truly love and about whom you can always find something to loathe.
The master stroke came at the end. Answering the final question, Romney offered a defense against an assault that had not yet been levied, a defense he had rehearsed for the attack he anticipated over his negative comments about the 47 percent. But Obama didn’t level this attack until his very last comment, when Romney could not respond. Crafty.
Even stylistically, Romney hit the wrong notes.
There is a fine line between feistiness and testiness. Romney has never negotiated that line well in debates and last night he fell over it again. At one point he scolded the president — the president of the United States! — “you’ll get your chance in a moment. I’m still speaking.”
Regardless of how it may have felt in the hall and how his base may have received his abrasive behavior, to most others watching it was déclassé and indecorous. When you’re challenging a sitting president for his job, you have to respect the office, even if you don’t respect the man.
Romney also kept standing when the president was speaking. They both did this at times, but Romney did it so consistently that at one point moderator Candy Crowley had to instruct him to take a seat. So much for all that debate training teaching him how to sit on a stool.
The overall impression left by the debate was of a president once again in control and a challenger out of control.
It is too soon to say whether or not this will arrest Romney’s rise in the polls. But it definitely re-energized the president’s supporters.