Barack Obama can’t say I and others didn’t warn him.
Four hours before last night’s presidential debate in Denver, I posted a PIECE by James Fallows of The Atlantic warning that Mitt Romney is a good debater and acknowledging that Obama is considerably less so.
One would think that the president and his advisers had taken that and other differences into account in their preparations for the showdown in Denver. But one would be wrong about that, as we saw last night.
Obama’s performance was a disaster. He lamely allowed Romney to control the agenda, and he failed to exploit any of his rival’s most notorious weaknesses.
Did the president mention Romney’s 47-percent rhetoric? No. Did he mention Romney’s innumerable flip-flops? No. Did he go after the Republican Party’s vulnerabilities with regard to women’s rights? No. Immigration? No.
What’s worse, Obama’s body language and verbal style were all wrong. At times, he almost looked as if he were cowering in the face of Romney’s aggression. For a liberal partisan like me, it was painful to watch.
Reactions this morning among my fellow libs are at least as harsh as mine. Steve Benen, for example, says THIS:
President Obama…was listless and timid. He stumbled on his words. At times he seemed distracted and unfocused. There were key opportunities for the president to go on the offensive, but for whatever reason, he chose not to engage. For pundits checking boxes — who gave the appearance of being “in control”? — Romney excelled.
Eugene Robinson says THIS:
President Obama…seemed almost disengaged. His body language was that of a man who wanted to check his watch but knew he couldn’t. Romney had to be the aggressor and spent the evening on the balls of his feet. The split-screen shot often showed Obama looking down, apparently taking notes, while Romney was looking at Obama, trying to decide where to aim the next punch. The punches themselves were weak jabs, for the most part; annoyances that made Obama frown as if under assault by mosquitos. He was never staggered. But nothing was going to stand in Romney’s way, certainly not formalities like time limits. Or facts. Or the moderator.
Joe Klein says THIS:
Mitt Romney won this debate. Barack Obama lost it. I mean, he got his butt kicked. It was, in fact, one of the most inept performances I’ve ever seen by a sitting President. Romney–credit where it’s due–was calm, clear, convincing (even when he was totally full of it) and nearly human. The real mystery was Obama. Where on earth was he? Why was his debate strategy unilateral disarmament?
I’ll have more post-mortems on the debate as the day goes on.