On Tuesday night, the President of the United States faced off against Mitt Romney in the first of three nationally televised debates. To set the scene, Barack Obama is without a doubt one of the best speakers of our generation. Whether it was at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, his acceptance speech as President-elect Chicago in 2008, or his announcement of the death of Osama Bin Laden in the middle of an episode of Celebrity Apprentice, the man has a way with words. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, seems to like the taste of his own foot, as he recently went on an international Piss Off The World Tour that saw him constantly making verbal blunders and getting slammed in the press both here and abroad. To say I was expecting an easy win for Obama is an understatement. It seemed as easily predictable as the end of a movie starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and any doe-eyed brunette who likes indie music and vintage clothing.
But unlike Regular Joe, Barack Obama didn’t have a happy ending.
Mitt Romney came out swinging from the get go. He was very aggressive and flighty, constantly attacking Obama on any and every front while hyperactively avoiding any association with the GOP platform or even the former governor’s own public voting record. Romney has ran on a platform of cutting taxes. I’m 90% sure he has a flatbrim cap somewhere on his campaign tour bus with stitched white lettering reading “Imma Cut Dem Taxes.” When confronted about this by Barack Obama, Mitt Romney simply denied it. It seemed like something out of the opening verse of a Shaggy song.
“Barack Obama caught me.”
“Caught me cuttin’ taxes.”
“The banking industry next door. What should I do man?”
“Just say it wasn’t you.”
Obscure R&B references aside, I can hardly even get mad at ol’ Mittens for this one. It was a dumb tactic, probably one he never thought would work. Keep in mind, in this same debate he also threatened to fire the moderator of the debate and compared Barack Obama to one of his teenage sons. These almost seem like the blunders of a campaign who is purposely trying to toss the election. The conspiracy theorist in me suspects that they’d like to get Paul Ryan off this sinking ship so they can save him for the 2016 election. If Obama had held Romney’s feet to the fire on any of his campaign statements, his party’s goals, or even the stuff Romney was saying in that very debate, the President would’ve won handily.
But he didn’t.
One thing that attracts voters to Barack Obama is his unyielding coolness. He always stays calm and collected in the center of the political circus. In 2007 and 2008 when both Democrats and Republicans were attacking him with lies about his birth certificate and his religion, Obama never slung mud back, instead insisting that we should all calm down, be adults, and stop letting petty politics distract us. It was so refreshing for a young voter like myself. In the craze of the final years of Czar Bush, Barack Obama was a soothing voice in the Washington chorus.
Times have changed though.
The Republicans have spent four years re-writing their disastrous eight years in power as the fault of the current President. We’ve heard all the metaphors before, but it’s still true: Barack Obama inherited an absolute mess from his predecessor, and by all quantifiable accounts, he is doing a fine job of cleaning it up. However, facts don’t mean nearly as much as feeling, and the GOP have been hard at work making people feel like their problems are the fault of the President. Struggling families are angry at the only person who has an interest in helping them. The time for playing it cool is over. Obama needs to defend himself, his administration, and his actions.
On Tuesday night, if Obama had attacked Romney once for his statements, if Obama had passionately defended himself just a little bit in the face of Romney’s outright lies, I’m convinced he would’ve won. Imagine the devastation to Romney’s campaign if after comparing the President to one of his sons, Obama had said something along the lines of: “I am not your child, Governor Romney.” Something as simple as that could’ve sunk Romney’s campaign in just a few words. He could have won this debate.
Instead, the President kept it cool.
Instead, the President lost.
I don’t want the election to go down the same way. I don’t want to have to say, “Well, Obama could’ve won it if he had just been more aggressive.” If Barack Obama has to go down, I want to see him go down fighting. Just like in the debt ceiling negotiations, Obama’s cool is allowing the GOP to define the terms, pace, and conditions of the discussion regarding who is better suited to lead this country for the next four years. I don’t want a President who will keep it cool while I’m being kicked in the face with student loan debt, rising housing costs, and poor health insurance. I elected Barack Obama to fight for me, and I’m looking forward to the day when he does.
For the sake of all of us, I’m hoping Barack Obama loses his cool and loses it soon.