You are probably getting ready for the debate between the current Vice-President Joe Biden and Mitt Romney’s running mate Congressman Paul Ryan, aren’t you? Well, if you are not, you should. In a few short hours, it will kick off in earnest, and millions of Americans will be tuned in to see how this debate goes.
Let us rewind. It was just a week ago and Obama was getting ready for his first nationally televised debate against Mitt Romney. At that time, Obama was clearly leading most (if not all) of the head-to-head polls against Romney especially in the critical swing states. It seemed all hope was lost for the Romney campaign; even some of his campaign staffers and big money donors began to take to the hills. Something dramatic desperately needed to happen to infuse his campaign with energy and optimism—maybe an unfortunate gaffe from the president; or perhaps devastating foreign policy news—whatever that was going to be no one could have easily guessed that it was going to be the debates.
And who would have guessed anyway? It was not like Obama had, prior to last week’s debate, shown himself to be helpless at debates. Besides, the punditocracy reminded us that these debates seldom change hearts and minds therefore they may not have a huge visible effect on a hardened fiercely and firmly partisan viewing public.
Somehow the prognostications have turned out wrong. Not only did Romney win, but he won big and with it came a tremendous boon for his campaign. Owing to Obama’s dismal performance, the polls are now currently showing that Mitt Romney has closed the yawning gap, and is surprisingly leading Obama in some of the polls! What a difference one debate makes, eh? Yes, Obama’s disastrous outing cannot be exaggerated for even by the most conservative estimates, the Romney campaign experienced a 5-8 point swing. The figure may even be higher amongst women. It is essentially game on now.
I have read various post-mortems of the debate and one thing seems to be a common thread in all of them—Obama was far too detached and perhaps too meek to take Romney to task on what seemed at the time to be transparent volte-face with regards to Romney’s previous policy positions. It was indeed as though Obama forgot that it was a debate and not chit-chat. Perhaps, he was far too uncomfortable with the whole debate undertaking and lacked the fire in the belly to make the crucial point that Romney was nakedly pivoting on the issues. Perhaps, he was told to be simply presidential and to protect his lead by not coming across as disagreeable. Whatever the strategy was, it clearly did not work.—so I am going to guess that we shall see something remarkably different when Joe Biden and Paul Ryan step out to the stage tonight.
And there can be no overestimating the work that the vice-president has before him tonight. Essentially, he has to staunch the bleeding of the Obama campaign as well as re-ignite the belief and passion of the democratic base that their vision for the country is better than anything Romney and Paul can offer. Biden has to be on the defensive to answer and clarify essential differences between Obama and Romney—something that Obama seemingly avoided or hesitated to do in his first debate when it mattered—but he also has to play offense and be seen and understood to do so. In short, he has to win this debate or at least be perceived to tie it. Anything less will spell disaster for the Obama campaign as it will strongly cast doubts in the minds of people on the question of whether this current administration still has the right vision and persuasion to steer the ship of state.
Paul Ryan is still largely an unknown quantity to most people outside the beltway. He is the chairman of the House Budget Committee and a senior member of the House Ways and Means committee; he has been in Washington D.C for over 10 years. He is seen as a ‘numbers’ kind of guy and extremely wonkish on fiscal policy. Can he be able to translate the technical aspects of the discussion or answer pointed debate questions in a language that is easy to understand—one that can fit in the allotted debate time constraints and moreover appeal to the millions that will be watching on TV? That might be his greatest challenge. Unquestionably, he has considerable chops and experience in fiscal, budget or economic matters but how versatile is he on foreign policy? This remains to be seen also. If he can capitalize on his experience and can match Biden toe-to-toe on foreign policy matters despite the possible perception that foreign policy is beyond his ken, he will prove a tougher opponent than Sarah Palin was for Biden 4 years ago.
Both men have a huge task for them in this debate. For Ryan, he has to show that he is not only knowledgeable on the issues but that he is also prepared on day 1 to be the president if it ever came to that. This was generally perceived to be Sarah Palin’s downfall in the 2008 election. He also has the unenviable task of guarding all the precious gains that Romney made last week—a lead that can rapidly evaporate if Biden is able to establish unpreparedness and inconsistency of message with respect to Paul Ryan in the minds of the public.
Biden on his part has to get the wind behind Obama’s campaign sails once more by demonstrating in an abundantly clear fashion that he has a thorough grasp of the facts and the figures. He also has to paint the opposition as not only wavering and unreliable in their overall message, but ultimately as ill-equipped to perform them. He basically has to paint a choice for the masses—a choice that leaves one in no doubt as to how the Romney-Ryan administration will hurt the economy locally and worsen the US foreign policy and actions internationally.
Question: Gov. Romney, you’ve said that you have a better vision and a better grasp of the economic issues facing our country. Please can you explain to our audience how you propose to bring down the national debt that is now in excess of $16 trillion by means of more tax cuts for the wealthy?
Romney: I can, but I don’t want to bore you with the math…..
Question: I understand that the issue may be difficult but can you break it down for us? Can you explain your tax code? If you are going to close some tax loopholes and cut down spending, what programs are you going to slash in your bid to stimulate the economy?
Romney: You know what? I know I have the better plan. You can read the details on my website www.mittromney.com. As for the rest of that question, uhmm see me after the election…
(For starters, the above discussion is a parody of a possible scenario; it is completely fictional.)
Ever since the Republican National Convention, from which Mitt Romney’s Campaign got a short bump in the polls, he has been continuously trailing Obama in the polls since his infamous 47% remark with about 35 days left before the Election. Now, there are 3 presidential debates left. Romney has to use these debates to reverse his misfortunes. He has to use these debates to show to the over 50-60 million Americans that will be watching, and millions from around the world, that he will be the better person to fix the economic issues facing the country.
Now, Mitt Romney is a seasoned and accomplished debater. All you have to do is just look at his past debate reels to see how prepared he usually is for debates—with a lot of zingers for his opponents. We also know that he is getting ready with a rich arsenal of zingers for Obama as well. He needs to utterly dominate this debate, and show how his vision for the country would be a refreshing departure from Obama’s policies. More importantly, he’ll need to be able to explain his tax code or revenue generation formula in some better detail when pressed or he may find it difficult to beat a certain narrative that is now currently making the rounds in the media according to which he is all promise but ‘no specifics’.
Obama has the most to lose from these debates. He is currently leading in most of the national polls especially in the critical battleground states. He simply has to avoid speaking a costly political gaffe, and hope that there is no October Surprise that may arise so late in the game. He has to come to these debates fully ready to defend his record, and to project himself as the more reliable figure in these harsh economic times. If he allows Romney to clobber him in these debates, or if he appears too cautious as to not project a vision of competence, or worse if he fumbles with his facts and figures, we can see Romney easily reverse the gains that Obama has made since the end of Bill Clinton’s famous speech.
Tomorrow, the politically minded part of the American populace (with all of America’s trenchant punditocracy) will be tuned in to the various media stations and paying serious attention to see who they’ll go with for the next 4 years. Have you made up your mind yet?
In which an atheist expresses his frustration with engaging theists:
I found more often than not it is better to keep atheists beliefs to oneself. The debates become pointless. Many believers actually have not fully thought about what they believe, and so when confronted by logic or the thoughts of an atheist, it takes them out of their comfort zone. This is usually not a good feeling for them and leads to actions that are intended to protect their current state of “ignorance is bliss.”
There was a time when one could reasonably discuss with an atheist on belief and non-belief and expect a polite but firm discussion. Ultimately, the theist may not succeed in getting the atheist to see his point of view, but the exchange would be as cordial as it was passionate. This is because, the atheist would be interested in showing why he is not fully persuaded to believe. Perhaps, if you run into a decent friend or acquaintance who is ideologically opposed to you on the God question, such a frank but civil discussion can truly occur.
Alas these days, with the birth of this New Atheism, unsophisticated and full of sound and fury, it has become quite fashionable in atheist circles to deride, cajole, mock, insult and pollute theists and theism. This is what usually passes for intelligent debates with many of today’s atheists–some haughty posturing borne out of a sincere atheistic belief that virtually all theists are silly and DELUSIONAL. It is no wonder that these discussions quickly devolve into a mud-slinging match because people cease engaging honestly and respectfully; much heat expended but no light thrown on the issue before consideration. After one has tried a few times to discuss issues of great personal import with a person who seems more or less disposed to aggression, one inevitably tires of the whole affair. Perhaps, like some have suggested, there is really no point to these discussions. Atheists can gather together, as often as they are wont, listen to speeches (read sermons) delivered by their atheistic high priests, build up and exhort one another in their common God-disbelief, share an intimate fellowship of universal mockery or umbrage at some offensive actions from the faith arena, and disperse to their respective homes–ALL WITHOUT BOTHERING ABOUT THESE ‘IGNORANT’ THEISTS!
But I think that would be too easy—for how else are atheists going to satiate the inner hunger to rid theists of their meddlesome and ‘ignorant’ God-belief if they can’t utilize sundry web fora, Youtube videos, billboards and citybuses to fulminate on the ills of religion? I mean, how dare anyone hate on atheists anyway? Aren’t they the hallowed few who managed to see through the puerile sunday-school caricature of Christian orthodoxy they were unfortunately given when they were much younger? Aren’t they the uber-logical geniuses against whom every contrary opinion must be the product of some delusion and faulty reasoning? Why should the largely ‘ignorant’ mass of humanity squirm for being upbraided by the ‘ever-so-gracious’ but nonetheless ‘completely rational’ and ‘supremely intelligent’ atheist? Shouldn’t they consider the atheist’s sophomoric diatribe against theism, or his endless bellyaching over the ills committed by religious people, an act of charity? Oh well, I don’t know about you—but in the interest of peace, and to massage the egos of newly-minted atheists, who are eager to jump into a debate to vomit the latest things picked up in college, perhaps it is better to just sit still and allow the atheist to lecture for all he is worth.
Sadly, I have noticed that too many atheists are rather diffident about this namely: honestly sharing what they truly believe; you know, about constructing a positive worldview and philosophy that is completely devoid of God and its implications. Worse, an alarming number of the atheists who feign some serious dedication to science are actually terrible at it; do not seem to understand its finite scope, and regrettably cannot lecture on it. But of course, that shouldn’t matter—nothing is as satisfying as a smug dismissal of your theistic opposition as a bunch of deluded dingbats. Its a nice zinger, and I am sure if you deploy that characterization often, in no time, you would rise within atheist ranks. This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone for intolerance is a vice only when theists employ that against atheists. When atheists show intolerance for theists, it can only be because they were genuinely concerned about the theist’s ‘refusal to see the light’.
Let the discussions rage on.