President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney went back and forth for 90 minutes exposing sharp differences over policy. And style.
Democrats will say the president was at his best and on point. Republicans will say that Romney held his own. After all, Romney made sure he answered every charge. Even when it was not his turn or when the question had long been forgotten.
But then there was Obama’s last minute kablooey. The president used his last words – ones that could not be answered by Romney – to hit Romney hard with a video quote that will be played over and over on television and on YouTube.
“I believe Gov. Romney is a good man,” the president said. He “loves his family, cares about his faith. But I also believe that when he said behind closed doors, that 47 percent of the country considered themselves victims, who refuse personal responsibility — think about who he was talking about. Folks on Social Security who have worked all their lives; veterans who sacrifice for this country; students who are out there trying to hopefully advance their own dreams, but also this country’s dreams; Soldiers who are overseas, fighting for us right now; people who are working hard every day, paying payroll tax, gas taxes, but don’t make enough income.”
Obama basically said these are his people and “I want to fight for them … that’s why I’m asking for your vote and asking for another four years.”
But that wasn’t the only clip, Another one that will likely go viral is when Candy Crowley informed Romney that he was wrong about the president calling the Libyan attack terrorism. Romney said: “You said it was an act of terror, it was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you’re saying?” But then instead of Obama, Crowley cut in. “He did, in fact, sir. He did call it an act of terror. It did, as well, take two weeks or so for the whole idea of their being a riot out there about this tape to come out.”
One clear policy difference between the two candidates is over energy production and the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline across the Midwest. Tribes have said they want to be consulted about the project before a decision is reached.
Romney said his goal is “North America energy independence within eight years.”
That will happen by “more drilling, more permits and licenses. We’re going to bring that pipeline in from Canada. How in the world the president said no to that pipeline? I will never know.”
But that idea of “I will never know” even discounts the conversation from opponents.
Romney said, “the president cut in half the number of licenses and permits for drilling on federal lands, and in federal waters.”
Just about every back and forth was spirited. On immigration, for example, Romney said he only cited Arizona’s harsh law as a model because of its treatment of employers. But the president came right back and said, whoa, he said it was a Romney adviser who wrote the Arizona law.
Romney said he would not favor amnesty for undocumented residents but said that he would not round up 12 million people for deportation. However without saying the exact words Romney went on to describe what sorts of pressure – from jobs to services – would encourage people to leave, what he had earlier called, “self-deportation.”
The president said he would have done more to fix the broken immigration system, but was blocked by Congress, so he used his administrative powers for a mini-version of the DREAM act so that young people who grew up in America can be sure to say.
Then the conversation turned to contraception. And Romney said he didn’t want bureaucrats in Washington telling insurance companies that they should cover women’s health care. Ironic. Since he wants those same bureaucrats to tell women that abortion should be illegal.
Another area of disagreement was social issues, including equal pay for equal work.
“When Governor Romney’s campaign was asked about the Lilly Ledbetter bill, whether he supported it, he said I’ll get back to you. That’s not the kind of advocacy that women need in any economy,” Obama said.
Then the conversation turned to equal pay, contraception and women’s issues.
Romney said he didn’t want bureaucrats in Washington telling insurance companies that they should cover women’s health care. Ironic. Since he wants those same bureaucrats to tell women that abortion should be illegal.
Then that exchange produced the line of the night. Romney said as governor he went out of his way to find women for the top government posts. “I said, ‘Well, gosh, can’t we, can’t we find some, some women that are also qualified? I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.”
Almost instantly on Twitter, binders full of women rocketed as top trend, and memes were born on Tumbler and as a web address.
On Twitter, Indian Country Today Media Network interaction expanded by some 25 percent from the vice presidential debate, reaching more than 155,000 accounts, as readers were generally pleased with the discussion (although nearly all wished that an issue directly impacting Indian country could have at least earned a mention. @HankCampbell said “this was a debate and not a rout.” While @anneminard: “Wow, that was the best debate so far by a long shot.” @jodyacummings wrote: “BO with an EXCELLENT close. Performance was 100% better.”
“And it ends. Obama takes this one,” wrote @PMagouirk.
Until next time.
Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. He has been writing about Indian Country for more than three decades. His e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org.