Ken Collins: Substance versus style
October 11, 2012
Debate night in Denver saw a mugging. But the victim was not President Barack Obama; it was honesty. As one pundit put it, Mitt Romney is a major job creator — for fact-checkers. But more on that later. Let's get some perspective.
When FDR took office in 1933, the Great Depression was more than 2 years old, and the stock market already had hit bottom. America's GNP depended much less on world markets than in today's true world economy. It would be six years before the jackboots of Germany would begin the march across Europe. At least the poverty of the 1930s was peaceful.
In 2009, Obama was inaugurated with a stock market in free-fall, jobs bleeding at 700,000 per month, failing banks, millions of people losing their homes, two unbudgeted 6-year-old wars and a terribly divided country. What took FDR and America 11 years and a world war to repair, the GOP expects Obama to do in three. I say three because an incoming president has to work the first year with the budget and economic policy of the outgoing president. So the 4.3 million jobs lost in 2009 totally were out of Obama's control. But the 27 out of 32 months of positive job growth were his, along with the resurgent market.
While Romney was running for president, Obama was busy. He got the Lily Ledbetter Act passed so women will get equal pay for equal work. Romney's position on it remains cloudy. Obama got reform passed for Wall Street so the fiasco shouldn't happen again. Romney was against the reform. Obama started education reform to fix what No Child Left Behind had left behind, and he pushed for more teachers and firemen. Romney said we don't need any more of either. Obama got Don't Ask Don't Tell repealed so thousands of American military members could serve their country with pride. Romney said he'd go back to it. Obama is for Planned Parenthood; Romney would end it. Obama ended the Iraq War and is ending the one in Afghanistan. Romney talks of possible war with Iran. And finally, the Affordable Care Act, giving nearly universal health care to all Americans, was instituted. It was styled after Romney's Massachusetts health care plan. After saying in 2009 that Obama should look at his plan, Romney now wants to repeal it.
Obama has been dealing with the Arab Spring and guys like Gadhafi, Mubarak, Assad, Putin, Musharraf and Ahmadinejad. He gave the nod on taking out Osama bin Laden and the next half-dozen Nos. 2 in al-Qaida, with no U.S. casualties in those operations. Meanwhile, Romney was taking on Cain and the unAbles: Perry, Gingrich, Santorum and Bachman. All he had to do was be able to put four lucid sentences together to beat them.
So the race is on, and Romney has taken both sides of virtually every issue there is except for two — his Mormonism and additional taxes on the top 1 percent. With him, you need to check not only what day it is, but if it's a.m. or p.m.
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Then there was the breakthrough moment. Finally, America and the world heard from the real Romney. In front of a group of cocktail-drinking millionaire and billionaire cronies, Romney admitted he doesn't care about 47 percent of the country, many of whom are the elderly, the military, the poor, women and young people. He tried to recant, but what he said was captured at a relaxed, unguarded event. He meant every word of it.
Then the debate. Romney came out like he had just consumed a 36-ounce Big Gulp. He threw everything at Obama but little of the truth. Obama seemed detached. But maybe he just decided that to push back at this schoolyard bully tactic was not presidential. Obama had many good points, but they were lost on the Romney rants. Fact-checkers went nuts, and the red states went crazy. After six years of, at best, lukewarm support, they decided to back the greatest flip-flopper the world ever has known.
There still are two more debates with subjects not really in Romney's wheelhouse. America has a decision to make. Style versus substance seems the choice. Style won last week. We should want substance to win on Election Day.