Brother Barack smirks while Mr. Mitt steams.
Now that’s more like it.
Fresh off his appearance two weeks ago impersonating Clint Eastwood’s empty chair, the real Barack Obama showed up for the second presidential debate and he came ready. He had two weapons with him, one seen and the other unseen. The first was a microphone. The second was a gym bag full of shoes to break off in Mitt Romney’s ass.
The debate was made up the usual jabs by the candidates at each other, griping to the moderator how they hadn’t had the chance to respond to the question asked five minutes ago and a lot more give-and-take directly between Obama and Romney. God bless Candy Crowley and her shoulder pads. She was just the woman for the job of keeping the two men (somewhat) on point and certainly she was better at it than Jim Lehrer was in his hapless performance at the first debate.
It was a very skilful moment. It’s the kind of moment when everything lines up in perfect political harmony. Obama should have been put on the defensive by the Libya question. He had successfully slipped the question, something Romney could have pointed out, but he had to rush to his pre-programmed talking points and pin the president’s ears back. Or so he thought.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job. But she works for me. I’m the president. And I’m always responsible. And that’s why nobody is more interested in finding out exactly what happened than I did (sic).
The day after the attack, Governor, I stood in the Rose Garden, and I told the American people and the world that we are going to find out exactly what happened, that this was an act of terror. And I also said that we’re going to hunt down those who committed this crime. And then a few days later, I was there greeting the caskets coming into Andrews Air Force Base and grieving with the families.
And the suggestion that anybody in my team, whether the secretary of state, our U.N. ambassador, anybody on my team would play politics or mislead when we’ve lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive. That’s not what we do. That’s not what I do as president. That’s not what I do as commander in chief.
MS. CROWLEY: Governor, if you want to reply just quickly to this, please.
MR. ROMNEY: Yeah, I — I certainly do. I certainly do. I — I think it’s interesting the president just said something which is that on the day after the attack, he went in the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror. You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack it was an act of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Please proceed.
MR. ROMNEY: Is that what you’re saying?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Please proceed, Governor.
MR. ROMNEY: I — I — 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.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Get the transcript.
This was the point where a little voice in the back of Romney’s perfectly coiffed hair should have screamed, ALERT! ALERT! Why is he so confident? What does he know that I don’t?
Crowley, playing Miss Instant Fact Check brought Romney back to reality.
MS. CROWLEY: It — he did in fact, sir.
So let me — let me call it an act of terrorism — (inaudible) —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy? (Laughter, applause.)
A knock down, not a knock out, but all the same…
Boom! Head shot. Romney could not have looked any more pissed if his last dividend check from Bain Capital had bounced. Mitt will have to call up his proctologist today to see if he can get Obama’s foot extracted.
Romney’s first stumble was less severe than his first, but it was his second Big Bird moment: another “huh?” remark that resonates long everything else that was said during 90 minutes is long forgotten.
CROWLEY: Governor Romney, pay equality for women?
ROMNEY: Thank you. And [sic] important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.
And I — and I went to my staff, and I said, “How come all the people for these jobs are — are all men.” They said, “Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.” And I said, “Well, gosh, can’t we — can’t we find some — some women that are also qualified?”
ROMNEY: And — and so we — we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.
I went to a number of women’s groups and said, “Can you help us find folks,” and they brought us whole binders full of women.
Binders full of women? Unleash the Twitter and Tumblr hounds!
It wasn’t so bad for Mitt when he pissed off Sesame Street viewers. Kids can’t vote. Women can and they aren’t likely to forget how Mitt ducked the question whether or not he favors pay equity for them but isn’t so shy when he declares he wants to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood or make an abortion darn near impossible to get.
Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce summed up just how nasty Mr. Mitt was last night at Hofstra University. If you aren’t reading Pierce you should be. With Molly Ivins and Hunter S. Thompson no longer with us, Pierce is the sharpest (and sharpest tongued) commentator on politics we have.
But not even I expected Romney to let his entitled, Lord-of-the-Manor freak flag fly as proudly as he did on Tuesday night. He got in the president’s face. He got in Crowley’s face. That moment when he was hectoring the president about the president’s pension made him look like someone to whom the valet has brought the wrong Mercedes.
“You’ll get your chance in a moment. I’m still speaking.”
Wow. To me, this was a revelatory, epochal moment. It was a look at the real Willard Romney, the Bain cutthroat who could get rich ruining lives and not lose a moment’s sleep. But those people are merely the anonymous Help. The guy he was speaking to on Tuesday night is a man of considerable international influence. Outside of street protestors, and that Iraqi guy who threw a shoe at George W. Bush, I have never seen a more lucid example of manifest public disrespect for a sitting president than the hair-curling contempt with which Romney invested those words. (I’ve certainly never seen one from another candidate.) He’s lucky Barack Obama prizes cool over everything else. LBJ would have taken out his heart with a pair of salad tongs and Harry Truman would have bitten off his nose.
And Romney bitched endlessly — endlessly — about the rules, and why this uppity fellow on the other stool was allowed to speak before he was spoken to, and why he didn’t get to speak at length on whatever he wanted to speak on because, after all, he is the CEO of the stage. Jesus Christ, I’d hate to play golf with the man. He’s the guy who counts to make sure you don’t have too many wedges in your bag. He knows every cheap subsection of every cheap ground rule, and he’ll call you on every one of them. You couldn’t get a free drop out of him with thumbscrews, and forget about conceding any putt outside two inches. And then, on the 18th hole, with all the money on the line, he kicks his ball out of the rough and denies up and down to the rules committee that he did it. Then he goes into the clubhouse bar and nobody sits with him.
When Obama and Crowley fact-checked Mitt in real-time about whether the president used the word “terror” in his September 12 remarks, that was a “Drop the Mic and Fold Ya Arms” moment and the Right knew it. The blogosphere exploded with apoplectic, whiny Republicans spitting on their laptops about “the libbrul media” and Crowley for not repeating Lehrer’s imitation of a doormat. The talking heads of Fox News said the debate was a tie. Which means Obama won.
Well played, Mr. President. Makes me wonder who that guy who was standing up there in your spot two weeks ago.
For Obama supporters, when you get that e-mail from Barack Obama today asking “How ya like me now?” in response to his performance in the second debate, don’t just compliment him. Send him a little green. Piss off a Koch Brother.