Reporting from the Presidential Debate at Hofstra Campus on October 16th. From Hempstead NY – the Romney-Obama 2012 Second Debate: The beginning of the Obama comeback, and the sinking of Romney in Libya’s muck on the floor of the Mack sports arena.
The Short News: During the Hofstra Debate, a forceful Obama defended his record and challenged Romney on shifting positions for 47 minutes of the 90-minute debate, arguing his Republican rival’s policies would favor the wealthy if elected.
Romney repeatedly attacked Obama’s record, saying millions of unemployed people and sluggish economic recovery showed the president’s policies had failed.
Obama was more animated and engaged than his understated and widely panned performance in their first debate nearly two weeks ago.
Romney lost the debate because of his insistence to criticize the Obama Administration and the President for what he called a late recognition that the killing of the US Ambassador to Libya was an act of terrorism.
A third and final presidential debate focusing specifically on foreign policy will take place October 22nd in Florida – at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. The moderator is Bob Schieffer, chief Washington correspondent for CBS News and moderator of “Face the Nation.”
The Washington Post evaluation of the Romney Libya debacle:
“Toward the end of the second presidential debate on Tuesday night, the controversy over Libya was threatening to cast a pall over what had otherwise been a much-improved debate performance by President Obama.
By the end of the exchange over the issue, though, it was clear that Libya was not going to be Obama’s next undoing – and in fact, the moment probably cost Mitt Romney the most.
Asked a tough question about who is to blame for a lack of security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were killed, Obama did what he had to: say the security of Americans’ overseas rests on his shoulders.
You could almost see Romney licking his chops. He proceeded to criticize Obama for holding a fundraiser the day after the attack and for not calling it an act of terror for two weeks.
But what followed was about the best Obama could have hoped for out of the exchange.
After Obama devoted some time to a stern and direct rebuke of Republicans and Romney for politicizing the issue – Obama looked directly at Romney while doing this, and it played well – Romney took his turn.
Romney took issue with Obama’s statement that he had called the attack an act of terror the day after it occurred. Romney even asked for Obama to repeat the claim, believing he had caught him in a lie.
Instead of trying to explain the exchange, let’s just go to the transcript:
ROMNEY: I think it’s interesting the president just said something which — which is that on the day after the attack, he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.
OBAMA: That’s what I said.
ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror? It was not a spontaneous demonstration? Is that what you’re saying?
OBAMA: Please proceed, governor.
ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record, because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.
OBAMA: Get the transcript.
At that point, debate moderator Candy Crowley inserted herself into the debate in a big way, pointing out that Obama had, in fact, referred to terrorism at the Rose Garden press conference.
(Here’s Obama’s quote: “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.”)
Crowley interjected: “He did, in fact, sir (call it an act of terror).”
Obama, clearly pleased with how the exchange had panned out, then offered: “Can you say that a little louder, Candy?” And she did.
For a second, the air went out of the room, and a key GOP attack was rendered less effective.
Now, Republicans will argue today (and argued late Tuesday after the debate) that Obama didn’t directly label the attack in Benghazi as terrorism in the Rose Garden, speaking only broadly about terror. They will also note that, for two weeks thereafter, he didn’t use the word “terror” while discussing the tragedy.
(Crowley even acknowledged this after the debate.)
But the fact is, instead of having a policy argument about what Obama did or didn’t do for Americans in Benghazi and how he handled the situation in the days after it occurred – a very tough issue and one that will undoubtedly be a major theme of the foreign policy debate next week – we’re going to have a process argument over whether Romney flubbed his attack on the issue and when exactly Obama called the attack “terrorism.”
And in a debate that was otherwise pretty tight (a CNN poll after the debate showed 46 percent thought Obama won and 39 percent said Romney won), the exchange over Libya turned out about as well for Obama as he could have hoped.
The question now is whether it remains a potent line of attack for the debate next week. It very well might be, but this is at least a momentary problem for the Romney campaign on an issue that otherwise will be tough for Obama to handle.
Republicans can still argue that Obama refused to use the word “terror” for two weeks and that he placed the blame on a spontaneous event rather than a coordinated attack. And that’s potent.
But for Romney, whose foray into foreign policy in the 2012 presidential race often hasn’t gone well, the moment served as an unhelpful side story.”
Full transcripts of the debate can be found on the CPD (The Commission on Presidential Debates) website - www.debates.org
The President’s annual salary is $400,000 plus a $50,000 expense account, a $100,000 nontaxable travel account and $19,000 for entertainment.
Why would Mr. Romney want this kind of job when he makes easily 20 million dollars for which he pays just 14% in taxes?
Our own impressions of what went on at Hofstra this day:
On campus, the AARP, C-Span, Sirius XM radio, and MSNBC have taken over the Student Center and the East Parking Lot, and dominated the activities at the Students Center at what was defined as Issue Alley. Students were walking around with placards said FORWARD for BarackObama.com and America’s Comeback Team for MittRomney.vom – I also spotted a Gary Johnson, of the Libertarians hand written placard while others marched around in a historic Jazz band format.
For fun I explained to a group of students that while the Obama people have a Forward looking perspective of four years with their candidate, it is them, the campus Republicans, that seem to pronounce a wish to return to the G.W. Bush years that are not very popular. So why not go back to the Madison Avenue advertisement consultants who have sold them on this rotten herring that will not help make popular their cause and ask for money-back.
At the Maurice A. Deane School of Law there was a full day teach in on – “How Should the Next President Balance Civil Liberties,Human Rights and National Security?”
“What Should the Next President Do to Defuse the Student Debt Bomb?’
and “Where Should the Next President Take Our Health Care System?”
At 3:15 PM the 250- 300 students that won the Lottery, among more then 6500 applicants, started lining up outside the Hofstra USA building to get the buss ticket to the 5 minutes buss ride to the sports arena where the debate will start at 9:01 PM.
My own activity started at the Students Center with the participation at a 4-5:30 PM panel discussion on “PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS, US FOREIGN POLICY and NATIONAL SECURITY” that was set up by Professor Meena Bose, the Director of the Hofstra U. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency. The panel included Senior Presidential Fellows of the Kalikow Center – Dr. Howard B. Dean III, a medical doctor and the 12 year governor of Vermont till the 2004 Presidential elections when he ran in the Democratic primary (he then was named Chairman Emeritus of the Democratic National Committee, but currently holds neither elected office nor an official position in the Democratic party), and Stewart M. Patrick, who is also director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington DC. Also on the panel the Ambassador of Canada to the United States since 2009, Gary Doer, who was prior to his appointment to Washington by Prime Minister Harper was Premier (governor) of Manitoba.
Dr. Dean said that with the rise of China, India, and Brazil the future of the US is in cooperation and not in confrontation. Dr. Dean, four years ago was at Hofstra in charge of organizing the first Presidential Debate that was held on the University.
International Security was the main team of the panel, but then, to my delight, the subject turned to green topics and Renewable Energy.
First we heard about the cooperation of 24 NATO countries and 4 Arab countries in the effort to remove Gaddafy, the Arab Spring and now the problems with Iran and Syria. We heard about Energy Security, the Canada -US cooperation and Energy Independence – Energy Efficiency, car mileage per gallon, and all sources of energy if produced safely. We heard about the future of hydropower electricity and all forms of renewable input in electricity production and electric cars. We heard about climate Change and the failure to put a price on carbon – the fact that we will feel like a frog who does nothing while the water is heating in the pot until he is boiled.
Director Bose said that in 2008 Obama energized the youth with the subject of climate change and this has to do with the long term economic health while Mr. Patrick insisted that energy is the sensitivity now rather then climate and that Obama opened 75% of the offshore drilling- though this is not as much as Romney wanted and is not covering on land drilling, this is the move Romney is talking about. The Ambassador picked up the participation in the Montreal Protocol on the ozone layer that will push down emissions.
The subject turned then to Latin America, Chavez, Correa, Bolivia and Brazil, the reintegration of Columbia into Latin America. The Brazilians watch over Bolivia’s Morales.
The student Center Theater was filled with students and media that came over from the media-filing center prepared for the evening’s Debate. Lots of questions were asked with many areas opened up – such as the European economy, the future of Pakistan, or the so called Financial Cliff. I congratulated the panel for having addressed the most orphaned topic of the Presidential debates – the question of Sustainable Energy – and mentioned the change of emphasis since Rio 2012 to Sustainable Energy for All and the fact that under UK, and now German leadership, the climate change issue is regarded as a Security issue and asked for the panel’s opinion. My question/comment was picked up by Stewart Patrick who at first did not tackle the security aspect, but when I said that what I am thinking about are climate refugees and wars – and that this is not an issue of foreign aid but of direct US security, he picked it up in this new direction without difficulty. In short – I wish that the discussion could be transferred to the Presidential Debate as well.
When this panel discussion ended I continued to occupy my seat for the follow up event that was the debate watch turned into an educational experience headed by University of Kansas Professor Diana Carlin and the Hofstra senior Presidential Fellows – Edward J. Rollins and Dr. Howard B. Dean III . The Presider was Janet Brown of CPD while Professor Carlin is consider as father of Debate Watch, Rollins coached President Reagan how to relate to campaigns. He told that the Reagan and Mondale teams rejected 90 proposed moderators.
Dr. Dean suggests – forget what is said and watch without sound – look just at the visuals and you get the results accurately this way. Talking about the two contesters this time around – Rollins says that both, in their adds, have not told you what they want to do, but spend a lot of money in advertisement.
The debates are very important and Carter lost mainly because he did not participate in the debate that had to have John Andersen as well.
Rollins evaluates President Obama as a great orator but poor debater. Obviously – Rollins is a Republican who thinks Obama is too slow and too long winded.
The media is very important and sells advertisement in close campaigns – so the media will reluctantly let someone run away with a clear sense that the election is over.
After these introductions and the suggestion by Professor Carlin of a questionaire she has prepared , time has arrived to watch on the huge screen the debate itself – then post-debate my going over to SPIN ALLEY – that is the empty half of the Media Filing Center where people will be standing with banners naming a Spin-doctor who is ready to speak to the cameras and explain what his or her candidate wants you to leave with.
Giving credit to the wide media coverage of the event – 3375 credentials issued by the Secret Service including 763 foreign Media counting in 367 Foreign TV – plus a further estimate of 125 online bloggers beyond 114 that had the Secret Service clearance, it is reasonable to assume that our readers know the simple facts of what has happened in the debate from the 3500 media people present, so I will just cherry pick and enhance the point where I might have an exclusive.
The main point of the debate that will influence the voters is the issue of Libya – the accusation that Romney made against the Obama Administration of having been negligent in its describing an act of terror as an act of terror, and the ease with which Obama was able to push this aside as factualy untrue. The arguments are unseemly and President Obama was right in saying that this was offensive – and use appropriate body language.
At Spin Alley I had the chance to ask about this the Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus – “my real question is why do the Republicans not include Development of Renewable Energy as a National Security issue and a second question which really is a matter of advice – why does the Governor insist on pointing a finger at the killing of the Ambassador in Libya, when this clearly becomes a turn-off because the voters will rather want to see a united stand and not this biting in the back?”
What I got in reply was that the Governor speaks a lot about energy security by speeding up the oil and gas development, and on the Libyan incident a flat – “Obama is lying ” – Priebus looked at the tape and Obama was talking there of 9/11 not Libya – it took him 13 days to cal this a terrorist act. I remarked that when I mentioned energy security I meant a decreased dependence on oil because of the sorce of international oil supplies being in countries that cause trouble, and on Libya, I thought this wil be self defeating to continue this line. He asked for where I am from – I said Sustainable Development and he walked away. I followed up on Renewable Energy with a friendly Republican Spin Doctor who I know has a lot of experience in the Middle East and he told me he has tried to influence the Committee on the importance of non-oil energy but they did not accept his ideas.
Bottom Line: Governor Romney is not alone – it is his party at highest levels that thinks that the electorate is not capable of wise decisions.
For Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thinking about the Third Presidential Debate that will be held in Glorida, I had a different set of two questions:
First “How do you think that the debate tonight will play in Florida and then looking at next week’s debate on foreign policy, how will the Libyan issue the way it was brought up tonight influence that debate?”
Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz pointed out the issues of healthcare that are important to people in Florida, as well issues of immigration, education, family … of importance to the Latino population, but she was not ready to touch the Foreign Policy issue which we know is also of the highest importance to the pensioners living in Florida. How will the Middle East play in Florida nxt week?