Down at the Town Hall

Political debates are scored subjectively, of course, and those predisposed to thinking that Barack Obama won Tuesday’s contest will likely go right ahead and think so. He didn’t convince us that his presidency hasn’t been disastrous, however, and we doubt that he won over many other skeptics.

Despite the significant advantages of a “town hall” format and a moderator clearly eager to help his cause, Obama probably also failed to convince many voters that Republican rival Mitt Romney is a lying, woman-hating, tax-cheating, Big Bird-killing plutocrat eager to wage war on the poor and downtrodden. Although Romney missed a few opportunities along the way, he came across as knowledgeable, competent, and very much a human being.

Romney also seemed classy yet down-to-earth as he endured the quadrennial inanities of the “town hall” “debate.” The questioners at these events almost invariably want to know about something of personal importance rather than national significance, which gives an edge to Democrats ever willing to oblige an individual at the taxpayers’ expense, and these purportedly undecided voters often turn out to be partisans hoping to embarrass the Republican. This time around a woman asked about women, which seemed intended to help Obama regain an apparently lost advantage with female voters, but it only gave Romney an opportunity to point out that a lousy economy is harmful to both sexes while Obama was reduced to touting a little-known Lilly Ledbetter bill that will affect a relative handful of women while discouraging many employers from hiring anyone of either sex. Another woman seemed to be demanding proof that Romney is not George W. Bush, and although we were disappointed he passed up the chance to produce his birth certificate he otherwise handled the question well without blasting his fellow Republican, while Obama was unable to offer a compelling theory that Romney is in fact Bush.

The best efforts of the moderator also failed to do Obama much good, although one of her frequent interjections was widely blamed by many conservative pundits blamed for one of the most disappointing moments of the night. During the inevitable discussion of the murders of four Americans at the embassy in Libya on Sept. 11, an issue that has been severely damaging to the president’s campaign, Obama insisted that he had described the event as terrorism from the outset, and when Romney disagreed the moderator flatly insisted that the president was right. A glance at the transcript of the president’s Rose Garden address in the immediate aftermath does include one oblique reference to terror toward the end of his brief remarks, but the coming days of news coverage should force even the most biased reporters to concede that the president did nonetheless spend weeks telling a now-discredited story that the murders were the result of a spontaneous demonstration provoked by a little-known film. Indeed, within minutes of the debate even the moderator was admitting she had been essentially incorrect.

There’s no telling how the rest of the world viewed the debate, but we were heartened to note that a couple of focus groups gathered by news outlets shared our impression. One of the focus had been chosen by the left-wing loonies at MSNBC, so that’s a good indicator that Romney did well enough.

— Bud Norman

Julia’s Journey

Sigmund Freud famously asked, “What does a woman want?” We haven’t the slightest idea, despite many years of pondering this vexing question, but the folks at the Obama re-election campaign seem to have figured it out.

Judging by the campaign’s latest internet pitch, a colorfully illustrated tale titled “The Life of Julia,” what a woman wants is a whole lot of government in her life. The biography of this fictional American everywoman — a composite of various women, we assume, as was Obama’s ex-girlfriend — details how her life was made happy and fulfilling by the many government programs advocated by the president. For added emphasis, the tale also points out how poor Julia would have suffered throughout her days under the rule of a mean old woman-hater such as Mitt Romney.

The story begins with Julia at age 3, when she is enrolled in a Head Start program to get her ready for school. “Because of steps President Obama has taken to improve programs like this one,” we’re told, “Julia joins thousands of students across the country who will start kindergarten ready to learn and succeed.” There are many questions about how well Head Start does in preparing all the little Julias for school, and we’re quite certain it will never be as effective as two good parents, but we’ll leave that aside for the moment as we note what happens to our heroine in the alternate Romney universe: “The Romney/Ryan budget could cut programs like Head Start by 20 percent, meaning the program would offer 200,000 fewer slots per year.” What this really means is that the proposed Ryan budget would spend 20 percent less on Head Start than would the proposed Obama budget, which is so unrealistically generous that it recently lost a House vote by the convincing margin of 0-414, but at this point Julia is only 3 years old and probably won’t notice.

Having been given such a literal and figurative Head Start by Obama, Julia cruises through school until the age of 17, when “Julia takes the SAT and is on track to start her college applications.” Because of Obama’s Race to the Top program Julia is ready to get a degree in Multi-Media Marxism or some such discipline, but meanwhile in Romney world the “budget would cut funding for public education to pay for tax cuts for millionaires.” Because her degrees probably won’t result in her being a millionaire, and because at no point in her race to the top did Julia ever learn about the Laffer Curve, she’ll probably be darned resentful about those tax cuts.

At age 18, Julia is happily enrolled in a university thanks to Obama’s American Opportunity Tax Credit, which doesn’t exist in the Romney universe, and Pell Grants, which would be “slashed for 10 million students” if Romney were to have his way. The stress of this looming possibility was apparently too much for Julia to bear, because at age 22 she’s having major surgery that was paid for “due to a provision in health care reform that lets her stay on her parents’ coverage until she turns 26.” A lucky break, indeed, given that there’s only a one-in-two chance that Julia will find a job offering health coverage upon graduation.

We next meet up with Julia at age 23, when she’s bucked the odds and found work as a web designer, knowing that because of Obama’s support for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act “she’ll always be able to stand up for her right to equal pay.” Julia’s employers are probably less pleased, since the act increases their chances of being sued over decades-old allegations and denies them the right to keep salaries confidential, but will be too busy to notice. At age 25 she’s paying off her student loans because Obama kept the interest rates low, happily unaware that a law passed by the Democrats and signed by Obama monopolized the student loan business and included the interest rate hike they now attribute to Romney, and at age 27 she’s getting plenty of birth control through her insurance plan, “letting Julia focus on her work rather than worry about her health.” The harsh world of Romney, on the other hand, “would place Julia’s health care decisions in the hands of her employer” rather than in the benevolent hands of government.

All of that hot, steamy focusing on work and not worrying about her health apparently comes to an end for Julia at the age of 31, when she decides to have a child and receives a wide range of government benefits. The story doesn’t mention a father, which is apparently something that today’s woman doesn’t want, but as she reaches age 37 her son, named Zachary, of all things, is doing well in school because Obama is still keeping the education system in tip-top shape.

At the age of 42 Julia starts her own business with a loan from the Small Business Administration and some help from Obama’s small business tax cuts, so instead of griping about such intrusive meddling as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act like most business people she remains grateful to the government . Under the Romney plan, of course, she would have had to resort to the indignity of finding funding in the private sector, where they only loan to businesses likely to succeed, and everyone knows that Republicans are forever hostile to small business.

We next meet up with Julia at age 65, when Julia enrolls in Medicare thanks to Obama’s Herculean efforts. Under Mitt Romney, you see, “Medicare could end as we know it…” Medicare will end as we know it in 2024, according to the program’s overly-optimistic trustees, and Obama has offered no plan to prevent that, but if Julia gets from age 3 to age 65 fast enough she might get in on the last of it.

The best part of Julia’s story comes at the very end, when she retires at the age of 67 and “receives monthly (Social Security) benefits that help her retire comfortably, without worrying that she’ll run out of savings. This allows her to volunteer at a community garden.” That part about volunteering at a community garden sounds pleasant enough, if a bit dull, but retiring comfortably and without worry on Social Security?

Apparently what a woman wants is to believe in fairy tales.

— Bud Norman