Showing Up for the Show in Denver.

It is a fact of modern public life that show biz matters. Or, put another way, that when up in front of a crowd, especially a large one, you have to deliver a compelling performance. So, to pile on, Mitt Romney schooled Barack Obama in that regard last night.

Content is, of course, a whole other beast.

But, I have to tell you I hadn’t seen either of the two guys on the stage in Denver Wednesday night. Here, at long last, was Mittens Romney the super salesman, the super CEO with all his homework done and ducks in a row for the big pitch to the next company he’s going to “harvest”. The obfuscations, mathematical sleight of hand and deflective narrative all … superbly rehearsed. The only other time we got a glimpse of that guy was in the notorious “47% video”.

By contrast, here was Mr. Cool, Mr. “I Got this One”, Mr. “I’m a Great Fourth Quarter Player” Barack Obama playing man to man defense full court, refusing to slap back and down at Romney’s most egregious assertions — “that $5 trillion in additional middle class taxes or deficit may not be in your plan, Governor, but there is no way it works without one or the other or both, unless of course you’d like to offer some details”. WTF?

I seriously doubt there’ll be any significant change in the end result of this campaign based on Romney’s performance — a “win” for him — in the first (and likely most-watched) debate. But the Obama performance is disconcerting.

As much as I admire what he’s been able to accomplish in the face of a wholly obstructionist Republican caucus (and partisan media), and the way he’s restored some honor to the country’s international standing post-the Cheney/Bush debacle (the drone thing is problematic), he is still too confident in and reliant upon a Lincolnesque attitude toward adversaries. Most liberals have been driven to distraction by his willingness to concede unearned territory to the Tea Party-inspired GOP. Likewise, in Denver, his biggest mistake — the essential fault of his performance — was the unwillingness (certainly not inability) to draw some of Romney’s blood.

Had he simply brought to the show the mantra, “The devil, Governor, is in the details. So I ask again, what exactly are you planning to do?”, he wouldn’t be taking a ripping today from the full run of the ideological spectrum.

And don’t get me started on Jim Lehrer. I may be in a very small  minority when it comes to a substantial re-think of how the established media covers politics, but even Lehrer’s set-up questions were broad to the point of pointless. Did anyone watching really not think Romney and Obama have “differences” on … every issue?

Old school, heavily self-modulated moderators like Lehrer are almost genetically incapable of asserting themselves and demanding a full answer to their question (assuming they asked something that had an actual answer, instead of eliciting a stump speech). They don’t want to be part of the show.

But … they are part of the show, and a critical part at that. By refusing to flash a bit of impertinence and impatience, their old school good manners merely allows the drama to spin off into a torrent of dubious claims, lofty-sounding pitches and salesmanship.

37 thoughts on “Showing Up for the Show in Denver.

  1. Mike Thomas says:

    Partisan media? I assume you are refering to the pro Democrat major netoworks and fringe cable network MSNBC?

  2. Gary Pettis says:

    When in doubt, throw the moderator under the bus when No Drama Obama gives us a dramatic performance akin to Hamlet’s “To Be or Not To Be.”

    RE: Lips pursed, scowling, head down, and eyes closed ( a lot of the time) when Romney was speaking directly to him, in front of the eye that never blinks. Clearly, that must have been the doing of scapegoat Lehrer.

    Obama’s rambling, disjointed two-minute closing remarks were nobody’s fault but his own.

    When in doubt, when someone you disagree with in a debate is persuasive, articulate and skillfully assertive, you can say it smells like sales, must be sales-school sliminess, and confirms your belief that feeble-minded folks are vulnerable to an effective sales pitch. Brian, even you have put a few dollars in your pocket selling your ideas to sway opinions. Come on . . .

    Hang on kiddies in The Crowd, we’re about to witness the greatest American media flip-flop of all time. A lot of talking heads are emoting today like they have been jilted by their lover.

    Cheated. Betrayed. Emotionally bonded to a person who just may be a complete stranger to them.

    1. Erik says:

      There were two great fact checks within the debate itself.

      …When Romney fact checked the President on this bullshit oil and gas tax break talking point he’s been leaning on for about 5 years.

      …when Romney fact checked the President on this bullshit shipping jobs over sea tax break talking point he’s been leaning on for about years.

  3. Speaking of bullshit, the tax increase of $5 trillion on the middle class that the Tax Policy Institute imagines under Romney’s plan finally got the ass kicking it deserved last night.

    Let’s see, if I assume I made certain investments at certain times and that the market returned what I forecast, why I would be worth tens of millions of dollars….in my dreams.

    Romney’s line about repeating something over and over and hoping it gets believed landed squarely on Obama’s kisser. He needs to go on offense like that everywhere, on TV ads, campaign speeches, talk shows and the rest of the debates.

    There is plenty of record over the past four years to attack. Sorry Lambo, but liberals had the White House and Congress for two full years and the Republicans were in the minority. Blaming them for all of Obama’s failures is like blaming Bush, and many people aren’t buying it any more.

    Spin it any way you like, Romney was right. He has had four years and left many decisions about working with Congress to his inept and incompetent friends in Congress, who sure haven’t helped him.

    I watched the debate no so much for “substance,” which any voter can get in hundreds of places, but more for form, as 98 percent of viewers did.

    What I saw in Obama reminded me what I saw this past weekend in Tiger Woods at the Ryder Cup, a former champ who is tired, worn out, disengaged and looking like he would rather be anywhere else.

    1. Gary Pettis says:

      Employment Outlook Breaks Even After Debate

      Chances are Jim Lehrer will have struggles getting another job after PBS’s funding is cut, because he is today a big victim of transference of responsibility and will be forever tainted in the eyes of his liberal media peers and potential employers.

      On the flip side, Big Bird will do well because there are always public appearances, merchandise sales and endorsements. He can leverage Obama’s Hollywood connections, too.

  4. Ellen Mrja says:

    “Zombie bees, we are told, are listless shells of their animated selves that bump around in the night without direction after being taken over by a parasite. It’s tempting to say an alien — passive, downward glancing, nonaggressive — took over President Obama during Wednesday’s presidential debate.”

    Timothy Egan in Debating the Points of the First Debate in NYTimes today.

  5. Ellen Mrja says:

    Mike! Nice to see your name. I also thought the President seemed tired, worn out and distracted more than anything. Could my Zombie bees quote above be just plain mean? Should we possibly give the POTUS, the Leader of the Free World, the benefit of the doubt about what he might have been dealing with throughout the day that we know nothing about, i.e. Iran, North Korea, Al Quaeda, nuclear threats? Maybe so.

    He looked tired. His color was sallow. He had bags under his eyes. His appearance was the Obama ’12 version of Nixon circa 1960.

    By contrast, Romney looked well rested (he had been tucked away in the Northeast doing nothing but debate prep for 3 days), well fed and ready to go. Early on he snatched the “debate” rules out of poor Jim Lehrer’s hands; Lehrer didn’t know what to do. But, and this is important, Romney did not look like a bully when he did it. He looked and sounded like a guy with a story to tell.

    Romney looked at the President the entire time Romney answered a question; the President looked down and took notes, shaking his head and scowling. WTF, as my dear Brian puts it, was he taking notes about? Look the challenger in the eye and growl, shouldn’t you?

    Please notice these are all comments being made about appearances because I think that’s what many Americans “watch.” They don’t listen to words.

    Also please note that these comments have been made by a liberal who will not vote for Mitt Romney no matter what.

    And guys, give it up that the Big Bad Wolf Liberal Media exists to take down Mitt Romney. It doesn’t exist. Romney was taking himself down all by himself during the month of September. You’ve got to give that to the guy, as well.

  6. bertram jr. says:

    Game, set, and match!

    Tally ho and see ya, Barry!

    You’re a fraud, an imposter, a failure, a doper, and a muslim socialist.

    We don’t care about your “dialect” or your jump shot.

    We care that there’s no there, there. And about the economy. And about national security.

    Not about The View. Not about your lousy VP. Not Lambert’s thinly veiled hatred of business, sales, and bootstraps.

    We care about the border. Voter ID. Marriage. States rights. The 2nd Amendment as it protectrs the First.

    See ya. Ta ta. Toodle loo. Oprah will create a show for you, and we’ll get our country back.

    Thanks, criminally biased media, for all you have done to help destroy our economy, and weaken our national security while propping up this fool.

  7. Newt says:

    Obama clearly entered the debate thinking it would be another love-fest with Steve Croft, ‘The View’ or ‘Entertainment Tonight.’

    But it soon became apparent he has never had to defend himself against criticism or questioning (least of all from the media).

    So it was a shock for him to be challenged and outsmarted in front of millions. The messianic shine rubbed off in a big way, leaving a disoriented man at the podium.

  8. I have never thought the media is out to get Romney. I do, however, concur that Mr. Obama has been treated more lightly by the media than most any president in modern history. I do believe there is truth in the observation that the whole proceeding put him in shock, the fact that someone came out swinging, which has not happened, really ever. McCain tried the gentle, soft spoken approach and it came off as doddering and, well, passive.

    In all fairness, most presidents are insulated from having to take tough questions….I don’t think what passes as “press conferences” are nearly as tough as standing next to your opponent while he hammers on you relentlessly. I agree with Ellen. It did not come off as brutish or nasty.

    From my perspective, the spinning by the Obama campaign has been much more fun to watch than the president’s performance. The calm, cool identity that the handlers are trying to pass off is amusing. He didn’t have any Clint Eastwood cool (the kind in the movies not at the RNC). You can be cool and tough at the same time. Mr. Obama was neither.

  9. Oh my. Al Gore seriously suggesting that it was the altitude in Denver that caused Obama to be off? Seriously? That is the biggest chuckle of the whole last 24 hours.

  10. Mike Thomas says:


    Is the media partisan? That is what Brian Lambert claims above. Does one or two market radio stations and one cable channel that has conservative commentators in the evening the definition of “partisan media”. Is MSNBC not partisan?

    1. Hi, Mike. Sorry I didn’t see that your comment was addressed to me. I say that MSNBC is certainly partisan. And so is Fox. But I don’t think CNN is. But what I think has nothing to do with what Brian says or thinks. We all see through our own prisms, don’t we?

    1. bertram jr.: do your cowardly sniper attacks give you a sense of manhood? or do you just have such a limp, flacid and diminutive life that you can not participate in intellectual excerise?

  11. Erik says:

    Here in the comment threads, say last January, I predicted Mitt Romney would defeat Pres. Obama. It took until this week for that to become obvious. Nonetheless, we have reached a moment of truth for those that are not incapable of perceiving it.

    I suggest we start working through our stages of grief. Well not me specifically. Or Newt or Mike K or Mike T. But the rest of you. For our part, we’ll listen.

    Let’s start with denial. Who here thinks the President will pull this out? Jon? PM?

      1. PM says:

        (and i have a long standing bet with Mike K. to that effect–i am planning on collecting and enjoying my beer!)

      2. PM says:

        giving away steak dinners? what, you think we live in a country run by a socialist kenyan or something?

  12. I have to say that I am actually hopeful now that Obama will be defeated. It was looking pretty grim, but I think one candidate may have hit his stride while the other seems to be twisting in the wind. I think what we saw in Denver was the real Obama. The rest of this campaign should be fun.

    1. PM says:

      At the moment, I have to say that I am savoring the Cardinal’s win in D.C……after all, one must have priorities.

    2. Erik says:

      You’re right Mike, and that’s not said often enough. This is who Obama is. A Quote from a conservative blog:

      “Let me suggest something that many conservatives realized after the debate: Obama did not do that badly. For Obama. He was the same listless, droning, exhausted-of-ideas scold we have seen for at least two years now (and maybe three).

      He was Obama. This is what he is. He is not quick-witted. He is not, as I think I saw Mickey Kaus note, a wonk. He has never been a wonk, a detailed-policy guy.

      He is a guy who speaks vacuously of hopes and dreams and change and fairness.

      He always has been.

      The problem, for the liberals, is not Obama. This is what you bought. This is your guy. It wasn’t his A game, but it was something close to his B+ game.”

      For purposes our therapy here at SRC, embracing this reality is probably part of the acceptance phase.

      1. Gary Pettis says:

        To answer PM’s questions:

        1. Well, that was the real Mitt Romney, and I don’t think there is another one. The canned line of when “will the real Mittens show up” was penned as an excuse to explain why Obama got trounced during the debate. It’s sort of like saying, “it was the boogie man who scared me.” Obama now pledges to be not so nice during the next debate, gosh darn it. But isn’t having balls a 24X7 presidential job requirement?

        2. Romney is pro-life, but the facts on the ground are that the economy is about to get real bad if Obama is elected. So the abortion is a way back-burner issue for Romney like regulating guns is for Obama. It’s a nice to think about and have views on them but there are more critical issues facing the country.

        3. It would take a real fool to raise taxes on anyone right now, because raising taxes in this economic climate is a JOB KILLER. I don’t know why liberals don’t get that. The last thing you want to do is piss off the real job creators who will stop hiring employees. When government gets into the business of trying to create jobs, it just adds to the debt and once more we’re going to the Chinese with hat in hand.

        The Federal Government does not exist to operate in a such a manner as to generate a profit. That’s why Obama in the debates was repeatedly talking about the nature of profits and, gosh darn it, he stated that maybe some people had profits that were too good or too high.

        Encouraging business owners to enjoy healthy profits is a way to encourage them to grow their businesses and create opportunity for job seekers. Instead, Obama mocks the idea of profitability.

      2. PM says:


        if you don’t mind, I’d prefer an intelligent answer to my question.

        That question far predates the recent debate. For proof, read this:

        The Economist is certainly not a liberal rag, and they asked that same question back at the time of the GOP convention. And, of course, during the GOP primaries, all of Mittens opponents raised questions about the real Mittens–after all, his signature achievement (one that he used to be tremendously proud of) was his health care legislation in MA–essentially the same as Obamacare, which Mittens now opposes (except for when he wants to keep all of the good parts of it–a very different position from what he said when he was courting conservative GOP voters in the primaries).

        Seriously, if that is the best you got, save your time.

      3. Erik says:

        Gary’s #2 point is perfectly good. I’d also compare it to the Democratic base allowing the President to posture over gay marriage these last 4 years, or the Democratic base allowing the President to posture his Christianity these last 4 years.

      4. GARY PETTIS says:

        Lame Excuses Why My Last Post Sucked

        1) I was having a bad night.

        2) I was being too nice.

        3) I was prepared for the PM with the short and sweet writing style but was blindsided by the PM who adopted the liberal style of making personal attacks (me being not smart) when out of ideas and losing on the issues. (Henceforth, known as the duality of PM.)

        4) I wrote my post on the North Front Street part of Mankato, Minnesota, about 30 minutes after arriving into town. North Front Street runs almost parallel with a river. I was not properly acclimated to the physical demands of life in a river valley, as an undue amount of air pressure from the low altitude was affecting my grey matter.

        5) My advisors keep telling me to put more thought into my posts to display intellectual superiority and to add Web page links from other like-minded smart people to hammer home the congruence factor. But, gee, that’s like being back in school.

        6) Because I am self-employed and have a lot of balls in the air, my friends and family members worry that I am vulnerable to distractions. And if you peel back the onion, you might discover that they were right during the course of me writing this most recent post.

        7) Typically, I write from my extensive hand written notes that are only key stroked on my laptop after an exhaustive incubation period. But when I write off of the cuff, like I did, I tend to fall on my face.

        8) I wrestle with Aggression/Assertiveness issues, fully aware that if I am overly aggressive, I put myself in a lose-lose position. If I respond to PM in an aggressive yet intellectually sound manner, I will appear to be boorish, an ass and a jerk.

        With this confession behind us, it would be ideal if PM would respond with thoughts on why Mitt Romney is not as smart and shrewd like he now appears.

        There’s only one Mitt Romney and we–and the media–are discovering that he has been clever like a fox this whole campaign. And topics like Libya, Big Bird and Obama’s lack of fresh ideas are working toward his advantage.

      5. PM says:


        Regarding my “duality”, allow me to point out another mistake on your part: I asked for an intelligent answer; I did not say that you lacked intelligence, much less that you are stupid and you can not make that assumption. There was no personal attack anywhere in my comment. Indeed, you admit that your answer was not intelligent, which was my point, and why I suggested that you not bother to respond if you are not up to your usual game–all points that you have essentially ceded in your post. So, you are agreeing with what I said, yet also accusing me of making a personal attack, which is not true. Defensiveness does not become you.

        As for whether Mittens is smart of shrewd, I think that he is clearly both. But I also think that he is neither honest nor straightforward about what he believes much less what he plans on doing should he achieve his life’s ambition of becoming President. He strikes me as someone who will say and do anything in order to achieve that goal. Indeed, his general lack of consistency with regards to policy positions (health care is a clear one) as well as abortion ( remember when he was Governor of MA? He promised to preserve womens right to choice then: ).

        It is his chameleon like nature that I distrust. Frankly, if I had some assurance that he would behave as President as he did as Governor, I’d probably vote for him. But he has spent the last 8 years running away from and repudiating that older Mittens. How can you trust him? Who is he? What is the real Mittens–or is there even anything real about him at all?

        I certainly do not trust him. His record is that of a grasping, ambitious, smarmy Eddie Haskell ( )

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