Jewish World Review Oct 11, 2012/ 25 Tishrei, 5773
Obama's game changes
By Victor Davis Hanson
Usually after a presidential debate, both sides spin the results. But after the first face-off between President Obama and challenger
Within minutes of the parting handshake, the liberal base went ballistic.
For a while, there were excuses galore. Was the meltdown due to
A few days later, there were accusations from the Obama camp that Romney had been "untruthful" in the back-and-forth -- a post-facto charge not leveled by the president in the middle of the debate, but only afterwards in his prepared campaign speeches.
Yet Obama was not that out of character in the debate -- at least not in comparison to his past performances. Obama's professorial detachment, his condescension, his long meandering answers, his avoidance of direct questions, his occasional petulance and his frequent verbal tics, stalls and stutters were all pretty normal for him.
Why, then, the hysteria over a typical Obama performance? Again, roll the tape of any prior debate, press conference or question-and-answer session, and what you see is about the same as we saw the other night.
What was radically different was not Obama's normal workmanlike performance, but two novel twists.
This was the first debate in which Obama has had a record to defend. In 2000, he ran for
In 2008, a blank-slate Obama ran for president and won by lumping in challenger
The debate with Romney, however, marked the first time in his national political life that Obama has had the harder task of defending a record of governance. That he could not make the case onstage for a successful four years suggests either that his record is nearly indefensible -- 42 months of unemployment above 8 percent, more than
This was also the first time that Obama has faced a skilled debater. In Obama's 2000 debate with the plodding Rush, the latter coasted -- rightly assuming that his long incumbency would be enough to defeat the so-so challenger Obama.
In the 2004 senatorial race, Obama's main rivals in the primary and general elections imploded due to mysteriously leaked divorce records. The last-minute fill-in candidate in the general election,
Obama ended up mostly achieving draws when jousting with
In previous debates, Obama sounded not much different than he did last week against Romney. Obama customarily looked down, gave disjointed off-topic sermons, and stuttered uncertainly. That did not matter all that much, given that his youth and professorial air contrasted well with the inept
Obama's handlers know all this. No wonder what worries them is not that Obama was off his game against Romney, but that the game itself -- not Obama -- has suddenly changed.
Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and military historian, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal. Comment by clicking here.
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