Thursday, October 4, 2012

The First Presidential Debate of 2012

I'm not sure this goes in a mommy and daddy blog, but it is something of a passion of mine.  Also, being parents, it's important to us to take an interest in the future of our country.

I have been on record as saying that I'm not voting for either party this election, because I don't believe either party actually has a good solution.  I'm still strongly advocating for and promoting Governor Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party as the Candidate I'm voting for.  He is on the ballot in 47 states and is fighting lawsuits to get him on the ballot in the remaining 3 states.  He can technically win the election and I feel should be allowed on to the debate stage.  There is a whole history of the Commission of Presidential Debates and how they are jointly sponsored by the Republican and Democratic parties and it is in their interest to keep third parties out.  That's not what I'm here to talk about, but I would encourage you to do some digging on your own and see how the system is rigged.  Go see that we have more than two choices and look to see what you can do about it.  As long as Americans view that they can only identify with one of two teams then those teams will move further and further apart and we that are in the middle will feel increasingly isolated from both parties.  I'm trying to leave all of that behind and look at this debate objectively as if these were my only two choices and to ask the questions of what really happened and what did they say?

I suppose first I must paint a picture of my debate experience.  I got up yesterday at 6:30 AM like usual, took a shower, got dressed and got in my car, but instead of heading to the office I drove to Tulsa.  I had some work to do in our Tulsa office and Oklahoma City office.  I got to Tulsa a little after Noon and was there working on the systems until about two.  I then drove down to "The City" (I don't know if they really call it that in Oklahoma but it makes me laugh to myself), arrived there around 4:00 or so and did some work in the office for about an hour.  I then met my sister and her person for dinner and we had a good chat.  I ended up heading home around 7:00.  I'm saying all this to say that it had been a very long day with a lot of monotonous driving and I was in the car for the entire debate.  So, I listened to the whole thing from start to finish.  I had to jump around AM stations until I got past Ardmore, then I could pick up NPR in FM and listened to that the rest of the way in.  I was wide awake and engaged for the whole thing.  Everything they said held my attention and kept me interested (as much as you can pay attention to something while simultaneously driving carefully).

I didn't get the experience of seeing the debaters.  From what I hear, though, Obama seemed to just "be there" and Romney looked like he wanted to be there and was excited to get the chance.   The picture I've had painted for me is that Obama seemed annoyed at the nuisance of having to debate.  I can't speak to personal experience of that, but  I just wanted to throw that out there.  On some level it makes sense.  I mean, by all account Romney has spent every spare moment for the past 3 weeks preparing and  practicing for this moment.  I would hope that he was good.  I think on the Ticket (yes, sports radio) they pointed out that Romney's full time job is to try to win this election, whereas Obama's full time job is to be The President.   For Obama it very much was something that he had to take time out of his schedule to do.  I know he gets a lot of flack because he golfs a lot and does various other things that make it seem like he's "not there," but I'm pretty sure during all of his activities he's plugged into what's going on and decisions that need to be made.  Sometimes the best thing you can do for a tough decision is to take some time out and go reflect on it while doing something that doesn't require a ton of mental energy.  So, I see why he might feel burdened by having to debate, however I feel that letting that show was a mistake.  The debates are dog and pony show and you have to bring your A-game even if you feel that you have the election in the bag (as the polls are starting to show that he might).

Both candidates threw out a lot of numbers, figures and "facts."  Romney spent a lot of time saying that he didn't approve of a $5 Trillion tax break.  Obama was trying to say something along the lines of we have a $1 trillion deficit and this (f'n) guy (read that in a Bronx accent) wants to cut revenue by $5 trillion making a $6 trillion deficit.  That's a mathematical ghost game.  The actual number is more like $500 million/yr which is still a lot but is obviously easier to balance than $5 trillion/yr.  The thing is the budget is a 10 year budget which is where the number comes from ($500 million * 10 = $5 trillion).

Amazingly enough, both candidates actually agreed 100% on WHAT needed to be done, just now HOW to do it.  Romney gets knocked a lot for not bringing specifics to the table, and you know what? I've been one of those people.  However he said something last night that many people seemed to have glossed over but which made me completely rethink how I look at him.  I think it was when he was being asked about how he would work in a bipartisan manner to get his agendas accomplished.  Actually I may be stringing together two different things he said but that tie into the same idea.  If that's the case, maybe more people would have caught on to it if he had said them at the same time.  He said (paraphrasing) that when he was Governor he would, every Monday, sit down with the leaders of both parties and have an open discussion about the issues the state faced and brainstorm on ways to fix them.  He also said at some point that the way he Governed was to come up with the principles of what he wanted done and would convey those to the legislature and let them hash out the specifics on how to get it done.  I think that right there is the key to understanding Romney and his "lack of a plan."

I would use the analogy that Romney is a hands off CEO whereas Barack Obama is more of a micromanager. We've seen that President Obama's way of getting things done is to listen to what both sides have to say and construct a plan with his advisers and his party leaders and say "Ok, we crafted this using bipartisan ideas go pass it."  Having reflected on this every since hearing the way that Romney would do it, I think this may actually be why the Republicans are pissed off.  It's like a CEO of a company talking to half of his executives coming up with a step by step plan for the next year or 6 months or whatever and then handing it out to all of his workers and saying "This is what I want you to do, this is how you're going to do it and this is when I want it done by.  I'm going to keep checking up on you making sure you're doing it my way and I don't want any arguments from you.  Any protests you may have you can save them, just shut up and get to work."  Would you want to work under those conditions?  The legislature has been elected (hired) to make the laws for this country but President Obama has come in and essentially told them, I know how to do your job better than you.  I think this may be a product of him not having been an executive before. He has always been a legislator.  He is a smart man and has a good background in creating and crafting legislation, but he hasn't learned how to delegate that work to the people that are there to do exactly that.  I would bet dollars to donuts if he sat down with leaders from both parties and said "Here's my vision  (affordable health care for everyone), here are the constraints (control insurance premiums, no denial for pre-existing conditions, everyone CAN get coverage), go get it done (this session)."  He would meet with a lot less resistance.  This was a huge light bulb moment for me, personally and no one seems to be talking about it.

So if you take Romney's method, then he doesn't NEED details.  He's leaving the how to the people elected to do that job.  All he needs to do is come up with guiding principles and ideas that he won't compromise on and then turn the legislature loose to legislate.  He doesn't have to know the intricate details of exactly which loopholes to close or exactly what the tax rate will be.  All he has to say is "Look Congress, go balance the budget of the next X number of years, do it by leaving revenue (taxes) where they are but reduce exemptions and deductions, if you can, lower taxes for the middle class and small business owners, don't lower taxes for the super rich (we're doing alright), don't cut military spending unless you absolutely have to and do what you can to help people help themselves."  Then let them go do it. It's a case of 400 minds are better than 1 (or 5 or whatever).

I think that America is too obsessed with who "won" the debate.  I don't really think that's the point of these things.  The point is to get your ideas out there in a clear, articulate way and let the voters decide for themselves if they like what you have to say.  Framing these debates as a contest that someone can win, devalues the ideas being presented.  I think the candidates did a good job of expressing how they are different.  I'm not going to comment on what I think of each approach, I'm simply outlining them.  Obama's plan to cut the deficit is a balanced approach between increased revenue (more taxes for the "super rich") and cutting wasteful spending.  Romney's approach is one of only cutting spending and potentially cutting taxes.  His argument is that if you cut taxes for middle income families (he specifically said he wouldn't support MORE tax cuts for the wealthy but he wouldn't increase their share either), more jobs will be created and thus more people will be earning money and the net effect on your revenue is that it will go up.  That's actually the general philosophical difference on the economy between the Dems and 'Pubs.

I may have more to write later, but I think that sums up some of the major things I took away from the debate that I really don't hear people talking about...  Please feel free to comment, I just ask that you keep it respectful as this is a sight for Mommies and Daddies!!