President Barack Hussein Obama is widely regarded to have narrowly won the town hall debate at Hofstra University on points, because even when moderator Candy Crowley allowed him time to rebut an attack Mitt Romney missed several opportunities to punch back hard. Some of these attacks had been previewed during the Democratic National Convention, so there’s no excuse for Romney to have been caught flat-footed this late in the game.
Here’s The Stiletto’s suggestions on how to neutralize these six Obama attacks and end with a strong counter-punch:
1. Obama: “Romney wanted to take [General Motors and Chrysler] into bankruptcy without providing them any way to stay open, and we would have lost a million jobs.”
Romney’s Rebuttal: Instead of a standard Chapter 11 bankruptcy that would have allowed the companies to renegotiate union contracts, Obama cobbled together an unholy combination of a bankruptcy and a bailout in which bondholders, unsecured creditors and car dealers were left holding the bag, while taxpayers funded the pensions and benefits of union workers, but not the non-union workers.
The KO Punch: Not only GM outsources 2/3 of its jobs to China, Russia, India and other countries, but the company is headed for a second bankruptcy and losses to taxpayers will be at least $25 billion.
2. Obama: “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.”
Romney’s Rebuttal: Romney should have zinged Obama for not knowing the difference between a plant that processes coal and one that burns coal for fuel. Romney then should have explained that the issue at hand in 2003 was that Pacific Gas and Electric, was pushing for a two-year extension of the 2004 deadline to bring the coal-burning Salem Harbor Power Station into compliance with the state’s rules on emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and mercury. He should have told voters that he insisted on the original timetable because of a Harvard study that linked pollution from the plant to 400 ER visits and 2,000 asthma attacks a year, and then discussed how today’s power plants use clean coal technology to cut down on harmful emissions.
The KO Punch: Salem Harbor Power Station was not shut down and continued to operate until last year, when it was purchased by a company that plans to build a natural gas plant on the site. If the president is going to go on the attack, he should at least take the trouble to get his facts straight.
3. Obama: “[A] whole bunch of oil companies … had leases on public lands that they weren’t using. So what we said was, you can’t just sit on this for 10, 20, 30 years, decide when you want to drill, when you want to produce, when it’s most profitable for you. These are public lands. So if you want to drill on public lands, you use it or you lose it.”
Romney’s Rebuttal: After four years in office, Obama still does not understand the oil and gas business. The typical offshore lease runs for five to 10 years and like most leases on private lands included “use it or lose it” clauses that prevent owners from renewing them unless they drill or meet other use conditions – the president didn’t invent this. Forbes explains:
Tightening the length of leases might seem like a clever way to prod companies into drilling faster, but the main effect is to drive down how much they’re willing to pay for a look at the land. The entire process of shooting seismic, drilling exploratory wells, getting permits and designing and building production platforms and gathering pipelines can take 10-15 years, so companies aren’t going to spend a lot of money on a 5-year lease that might not have anything worth drilling underneath it.
The KO Punch: The Number One reason oil and gas companies are “sitting on” a lease on public land is because they are waiting for the government to issue the permit that allows them to start drilling. If we could get rid of bureaucratic delays, in eight years Western states could produce as much oil and natural gas every single day as we now import from Russia, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Algeria, Nigeria, and Colombia combined. And we will create new jobs, keep down energy prices for businesses and consumers and not worry about our energy supply being dependent on the whims of totalitarian leaders like Hugo Chavez.
4. Obama: “He was on ‘60 Minutes’ just two weeks ago, and he was asked, is it fair for somebody like you, making $20 million a year, to pay a lower tax rate than a nurse or a bus driver, somebody making $50,000 a year? And he said, yes, I think that’s fair. Not only that, he said, I think that’s what grows the economy.”
Obama actually said this twice, and both times Romney let it slide. Yahoo! News Political Correspondent Jeff Greenfield explains why Romney can’t let this attack go unchallenged:
[T]here was one argument that the president was seeking to make over and over: Don’t let Mitt Romney fool you; he’s a rich guy out to protect the interests of the well-off, not the middle-class.
That’s why he referenced not just Romney’s tax plan, but Romney’s taxes, the fact that the Republican presidential nominee paid a lower rate on his millions than ordinary working-class folks do on theirs, the fact that Romney has invested heavily in China. And when Romney went at Obama with almost the exact same argument he used so devastatingly against Newt Gingrich –“have you checked your pension?” –Obama came back with, “I haven’t looked at my pension; it’s not as big as yours.
Romney’s Rebuttal: If his salary was taxed as ordinary income, why doesn’t Romney just say so? If his compensation was structured to minimize his tax liability, he should instead explain that in 2011 he paid $1.9 million to the IRS, which an effective tax rate of 14.1 percent, plus $1.3 million in state and local taxes, plus $215,000 in real estate taxes, plus donated $2.3 million to charity.
The KO Punch: The money he paid in taxes and given to charity makes up 58 percent of his income, leaving him with 42 percent for himself and his family.
5. Obama: “[T]he first bill I signed was something called the Lilly Ledbetter bill. And it was named after this amazing woman who had been doing the same job as a man for years, found out that she was getting paid less … So we fixed that. And that’s an example of the kind of advocacy that we need because women are increasingly the breadwinners in the family. This is not just a women’s issue. This is a family issue. This is a middle-class issue.”
Romney’s Rebuttal: His reference to women in binders fell flat, and Romney inexplicably failed to point out that according to the 2011 Annual Report to Congress on White House Staff he is paying female employees 18 percent less than male employees ($60,000 vs. $71,000 a year) – and that when he was in the Senate, he also paid his male staffers more than his female staffers (an average 54,397 a year vs. $45,152).
Romney was right to mention his record of hiring and promoting women for senior positions on his staff as governor of MA, because it blunts an Obama counter-attack. But he took too long to get to the point, and has a great quote from the Boston Globe he should cite ("Women fill 10 of 20 top positions in Governor Mitt Romney's administration, making the Commonwealth one of five states that come close to matching the percentage of top women appointees to the proportion of women in the overall population.”). Romney should then have pointed out that as Senator, only seven of Obama’s senior staffers were women.
For some unfathomable reason, Romney also forgot to tell voters that when he was at Bain he invested in Bright Horizons Day Care, a company that revolutionized corporate daycare because he believed that the availability of on-site care for their children would encourage women to enter the workforce. Romney could add that the company was even praised by Michelle Obama as an innovator in work/life solutions that support working families.
The KO Punch: The Ledbetter Act turned out to be symbolic, because in the last four years, women have lost 580,000 jobs; according to the National Employment Law Project, 60 percent of the jobs created since 2008 were low-wage jobs while most of the jobs lost were middle-wage jobs; their household incomes have declined by more than $4300 and 31/2 million more women are living in poverty than four years ago.
6. Obama: “[T]he 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.”
Romney’s Rebuttal: This is patently and demonstrably false and a show of righteous indignation isn’t going to make questions about the administration’s troubling actions and statements go away. It is incumbent upon Romney to have the tick-tock down cold (related article, third post on the page) to prevent Obama from fudginge the timeline on who said and did what:
The morning after the attack, Obama mentioned terror in the general context of September 11th and discussed the You Tube video at length but did not call the attack on the Benghazi consulate an act of terror.
Over the next two weeks, Obama and Secretary of State Clinton said it was a “senseless attack” or “outrageous attack” or “senseless act of violence” but you never called it “terrorism” (related article, first post on the page).
During the September 14th ceremony in which an Honor Guard transferred four flag-draped coffins from a cargo plan to hearse, Americans – including the friends and families of our murdered personnel who were there to take possession of their bodies – were told that a You Tube video was responsible for their deaths (related article, first post on the page).
On September 25th Obama addressed the United Nation's General Assembly and talked at length about the You Tube video triggering the embassy attack in Libya – which by then had spread to 30 countries because you, your White House Spokesperson and Secretary of State Clinton repeatedly referred to this video.
The KO Punch: Obama consistently sought to minimize the seriousness of what had happened so he could continue to claim on the campaign trail that he killed bin Laden and have al Quaeda on the run. What the American people find offensive is that the administration gave the terrorists an alibi by characterizing their murderous attack as a spontaneous protest that spun out of control, and repeatedly apologized for our First Amendment – even using $70,000 in taxpayer to run an ad in Pakistan to denounce a video. In addition senior members of your administration harassed private citizens and corporations to disavow and censor a video that was perfectly legal in this country to make and distribute under our Constitution. This is offensive.
Great responses, Victoria! How can we get these talking points to Romney's handlers? I must admit I too was frustrated at times with Romney leaving so many great counter points on the table. In Romney's defense, Candy blocked most attempts to get a final word in.
Let's stop this nit-picking and support Romney.
The problem? Hardly any Obama supporter will read this column - unless they are paid people on the "Obama" political team.
You are absolutely correct, Victoria!
All great responses, and points that must be made.
However, one must remember that Crowley interrupted Romney 28 times. And, unlike Obama, Mitt attempted to answer the questions posed!
Perhaps it would have been better had he as well have simply have regurgitated a series of rote responses. But overall, I believe Romney did rather well within his limited response time.
Victoria, your blog is fantastic, point by point. However, I don't follow the premise that Obama won on anything Tuesday evening. I don't buy into that mantra. The only point Obama won was a pencil point.
Perhaps Romney could have been more aggressive, but we know that he cannot be somone else. I noticed that the real conservatives, like Rush, Hannity and a few others won't buy into the media's perception. The left is expected to agree with the administration as the LSM. But the moderates as well?..... Shameful!
However, it disturbed me to no end, the erudite elitist moderate republicans like Krauthammer who was the first to say that Obama won on points. But what point? The conservatives didn't hear those points either. It reminded me of the 2000 election of GW, when the pundits kept saying that the only reason Cheney was going to be the VP to that "dumb cowboy" is because he has "gravitas".
With great humor, Rush played a montage of all those that quoted the same word, that lasted for almost 30 min. Every copy-cat pundit used the same expression without merit. Now everyone, including the left, is using Krauthammer's, "Obama winning on points. It's mindless and laughable. Let's just agree with the real conservatives who believe all this movement is from pure desperation.
The only reason Obama won on points was because he was able to attack Romney but Romney was prevented from a counter-attack by Crowley. The fact is, Obama landed some punches. But in the last 20 minutes of the debate, Romney hit his stride and he was as focused and cogent as in his first debate. And he was devastating.
Obama and the Dems were pleased as punch that they worked in that reference to "the 47 percent" in the last sentence of his closing remarks so Romney could not respond to it, but I doubt many people noticed because their heads were reeling from the litany of failures that Romeny had laid out and his repeated use of "we don't have to settle" created a powerful rhythm and cadence that could not be ignored. In comparison "the 47 percent" jibe was puny and irrelevant.
To be honest, Romney's answers weren't as tight and focused as in the first debate where no answer had one sentence too many and no sentence had one word too many. This time around, he took a few extra sentences before getting to the meat of his argument. So part of the problem was that several times Crowley didn't let him finish (or start) an argument but he also wasn't as efficient as he could have been.
I read through each of these rebuttals and none of them would take more than two minutes to say -- a couple of them need just a minute.
1) Why did Candy just happen to have a copy of the 9/12 speech by Obama with her at the debate?
2) Why did Obama know this, and ask her to read it?
Did the two of them discuss this ahead of time? and dupe Romney into a trap?
I agree with you, Victoria! Except to refute all of obama's lies and subterfuge, Romney would have had to have much more speaking time!! It's good that he got in what he was able to with Candy Crowley as moderator. Let's get this messages out for him!! You might want to send your article to the Romney campaign managers!!
Thanks! If anyone knows someone who knows Romney's people (especially his debeate prep people) please feel free to share this post with them. Vix
I wondered the same thing Richard Curtis.......why is it that none of the conservative pundits or the Romney team have not mentioned this? Why does it appear that "we the people" paying attention seem to have a better understanding of these issues than the "experts" running the campaigns?
Crowley had reviewed all the submitted questions the day before and chose 13 of them, then assembled material on each topic so she could bone up on it. She said that she had a transcript of Obama's Rose Garden remarks in her research packet. What I want to know is, how did Obama know she had that transcript?