Counterpunch: President Obama's Greatest Political Strength

Last night, President Obama put Mitt Romney in his place, while Romney looked like a petulant rich boy who doesn't think the rules apply to him. Let me correct that. Romney is a petulant rich boy who doesn't think that the rules apply to him. The President was prepared, he was on the offense, and he let Mitt Romney get away with nothing. In the first debate, Romney made it clear that he isn't interested in debating the facts, only in getting away with lies. And the media gave him a pass. So this time, the President showed up as the man who we know to be the greatest counterpuncher in American politics - certainly in my lifetime and probably ever - and he decimated Romney's lies.

You can read about the antics elsewhere. I will just say that Romney did himself no favors by trying (and failing) to roll over the moderator, and by telling THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES "you'll get your chance." But if Romney's attitude was one of a smug, entitled bully, President Obama responded by spanking that bully on national television. Let's get to a few of those instances:

Warm-up Act: The president exposed the entitled smug early, along with the right wing philosophy of government.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan; he has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules. That’s been his philosophy in the private sector; that’s been his philosophy as governor; that’s been his philosophy as a presidential candidate. You can make a lot of money and pay lower tax rates than somebody who makes a lot less. You can ship jobs overseas and get tax breaks for it. You can invest in a company, bankrupt it, lay off the workers, strip away their pensions, and you still make money.
Right to the bottom-line of Republican economic (and social) philosophy: there's one set of rules for us, the schmucks, and another set for the Romneys of the world. They do not see this as unfair; they believe that wealth alone gives the rich moral superiority over the rest of us. Mitt Romney does not see anything wrong with his income from investments being treated favorably over the income from work for the rest of us. He sees nothing wrong with bankrupting a company and stealing their pensions for the gain of himself and his investors.

This isn't merely a talking point. This is the very core of Republican economic policy and belief. That is why Mitt Romney's party can unashamedly hold tax cuts for 98% of Americans to giveaways for the richest people. That's why they can openly advocate for suppressing a woman's religious liberty to decide for herself what sort of health care to avail herself to and claim to be on the side of religious liberty - because in their book, religious liberty does not belong to individuals but employers, churches, and the government.

Strategic genius: Save some for the rebuttal.

The President was effective in laying out his case to the American people. But he saved his most memorable moments for left hooks Romney never saw coming. On gas prices, Obama reminded voters just how Mitt Romney proposes to get the prices down: by devastating the economy like George W. Bush did.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, think about what the governor — think about what the governor just said. He said when I took office, the price of gasoline was 1.80 (dollars), 1.86 (dollars). Why is that? Because the economy was on the verge of collapse; because we were about to go through the worst recession since the Great Depression as a consequence of some of the same policies that Governor Romney is now promoting. So it’s conceivable that Governor Romney could bring down gas prices, because with his policies we might be back in that same mess. (Audience murmurs.)
I will bet you one Romney car elevator that Mitt Romney wished at that moment he never brought up gas prices. His campaign was telling us that he wanted to talk about the economy all the time and tie everything to the economy, and Barack Obama just took that role over like taking candy from a child.

On coal, the President delivered the most devastating blow against Romney's rhetoric about his newfound love for it:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: And when I hear Governor Romney say he’s a big coal guy — and keep in mind when — Governor, when you were governor of Massachusetts, you stood in front of a coal plant and pointed at it and said, this plant kills, and took great pride in shutting it down. And now suddenly you’re a big champion of coal.
Ouch. Granted, President Obama's job was made easier by an opponent who has tried to take every position on every conceivable issue, but still, Romney never responded to this, and never recovered in the energy portion of the debate. This, despite the fact that the question on energy, - does the president think that it isn't the government's job to reduce gas prices - was actually tilted against the president. The president took an adversarial question, turned it into a spirited defense of his energy policy, and then crushed Romney's house of cards.

Move in for the kill, just when your opponent thinks he's got you.

Everyone knows what I'm talking about here: the Libya exchange. Romney wasn't only very comfortable making attacks on Libya, but his entire campaign thought this was President Obama's weak spot, and they could get him. Here's what ended up happening:

First, the president took responsibility, including that to find and bring to justice those who harmed Americans in Libya.
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).
Americans got to see a commander in chief uninterested in the blame game. They got see a commander in chief who takes responsibility and is responsible. And they got to see him standing next to a man so irresponsible that his response to attacks on our embassy in Libya was to take political advantage of it.

Then, President Obama stared down the irresponsible petulant entitled Mr. Romney the way only a President can: don't you dare question the patriotism and professionalism of my team.
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.
The President could have ended it here and he would have come out the victor. But no, Romney had stick his chin out for one, final death blow by challenging the president's assertion that he had referred to the Libya attack as an act of terror on the day after. He even made sure, with his usual smug look and raising of the eyebrow. Because you see, here, Romney thought he was moving in for the kill. (I'm going to interject some thought bubbles here.)
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. [Romney thought bubble: ooh sucka, I got you on the ropes here.]

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Please proceed. [Obama thought bubble: here's some more rope, Mitt.]

MR. ROMNEY: Is that what you’re saying? [Romney thought bubble: I can't believe this guy is letting me take him to the slaughter like this.]

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Please proceed, Governor. [Obama thought bubble: yeah, that's it. Stick that chin out just a little bit more.]

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. [Romney thought bubble: I just cracked the whip - how do you like them apples, Obama?]
I bet Romney was enjoying his moment here, because little did he know what was about to hit him.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Get the transcript. [Obama thought bubble: You just got owned,, asshole.]

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.) [Obama thought bubble: Ahahahahahahahahhaha.]

MS. CROWLEY: He did call it an act of terror.

[Romney thought bubble: I just capped my pants.]
I could tell you how Mitt Romney felt about that, but this picture is worth thousands of words.


Save the best for last.

But Romney had more grief coming to him. It wasn't yet over. Romney stuck his chin out one more time by yapping in his closing about how he cares about 100% of Americans. And this one is for my friends on the Professional Left who kept howling and growling about why Obama wasn't bringing up Romney's 47% remark on his own. Why? Well, because you save the best for the last.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I believe Governor Romney is a good man. He loves his family, cares about his faith.

But I also believe that when he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considers themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility — think about who he was talking about: folks on Social Security who’ve worked all their lives, veterans who’ve sacrificed for this country, students who are out there trying to, hopefully, advance their own dreams, but also this country’s dreams, soldiers who are overseas fighting for us right now, people who are working hard every day, paying payroll tax, gas taxes, but don’t make enough income.

And I want to fight for them. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last four years, because if they succeed, I believe the country succeeds.

And when my grandfather fought in World War II and he came back and he got a GI Bill and that allowed him to go to college, that wasn’t a handout. That was something that advanced the entire country, and I want to make sure that the next generation has those same opportunities. That’s why I’m asking for your vote and that’s why I’m asking for another four years.
And there's another thing that the president did last night that Romney failed to. The President of the United States asked for our vote. Romney, Mr. Entitled, never did.