Our big media pundits were quick to declare Mitt Romney the winner of the first presidential debate of 2012, based solely on style. They were so obsessed with how Mitt delivered his lines it took them almost an hour to talk about what he actually said. The snap polls backed up their assumptions in the instant moment, but it certainly wasn’t universal.
If you watch the video, what the punditry saw as forceful, I saw as rude and arrogantly dismissive. Many women on my side of the fence were reminded of former abusive boyfriends, right down to the raging insistence that he did not say those things, no matter how many recordings you have of him saying it.
Indeed, Mitt Romney said 27 things that weren’t true in the 38 minutes he spoke during the debate. Many were flat out lies.
For instance, Romney claimed President Obama hasn’t made any trade agreements. In fact, Obama signed three trade agreements almost a year ago with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.
During the debate, Mitt Romney claimed that “half” of the green firms Obama invested in “have gone out of business.” The truth is, only about 1% of the firms have failed. (But what’s so bad about being 49% wrong in your accounting when you’re applying a job to run our country?) Romney’s own people admitted it was a lie, or they put it, Mitt didn’t mean to say that. Just like Romney didn’t mean to tell his wealthy friends, when he thought none of “us people” could hear him, that he thinks 47% of Americans are lazy moochers.
Contrary to his loud insistence at the debate, Romney’s health care plan does not cover pre-existing conditions unless a person has maintained continuous coverage throughout their life. That’s been federal law already since 1996 and it didn’t protect people from insurance discrimination once they got sick. Which is why we needed Obamacare’s consumer protections in the first place. And again, after the debate, Romney’s people confirmed his plan would not protect all Americans. This one would technically qualify as somewhat true, but if you look at the video, Romney clearly implied that everyone would be protected and that is simply not true at all.
If we judge on the content of the answers, then President Obama, despite his polite manners and low key, cool-headed style, won the debate. If the criteria is who was the biggest bully, willing to say or do anything to win, then sure, Romney won. But ordinary Americans lost. The cost of Mitt’s victory is too high if it comes at the expense of telling the truth to the voters.