By Tom Kozlowski
There was a point in last Tuesday’s presidential debate when Mitt Romney’s face expressed imminent defeat — it was when his opponent Barack Obama answered the first question. From there on, the gravitational pull of the factual universe slid disproportionately in Obama’s direction.
For conservative readers already sweating down the paper, this isn’t liberal bias. These are some left-swinging facts that defend Obama’s performance and vilify Mitt Romney’s. They also happen to be printed in a newspaper. But, to borrow one of Obama’s overblown speech ticks, “let me be clear:” This is fact-checking. You are certainly free to do your own, but here I’m providing much of the manual labor for you; and, for better or worse, the outpouring outcomes are in favor of the President, more forthcoming and more substantive than what Romney could muster.
Face it, Obama was awake this time. Viewers immediately noticed the distinction between his previous debate slumber and the performance that came biting on the rebound. Here at Hofstra University, where the candidates were able to move freely, Obama would saunter to the spotlight, deliver his stunt and swagger back without gaffe. He would counter “Governor, that’s simply not true” and delve into the argument. The mere opportunity for him to praise the free enterprise system was a reminder to Tea Partiers that he is still not a diehard socialist. On these reasons alone, Obama could have won — but to be fair, let’s introduce the facts.
This portion of the debate entaled not which candidate makes better claims, but whose claims lack more necessary evidence. In Romney’s position, he cuts down fact usage like construction crews hack through a rainforest; and at the rate both subjects of the analogy are heading, soon there won’t be much left to slash.
Let’s begin with Mittflips, or the process by which Gov. Romney switches positions out of spontaneous convenience. During the debate, there were two such sightings: the first on tax policy, the second on Pell Grants. The Republican Primaries sported Romney saying that he would cut taxes for everyone by 20 percent, “even the (top) 1 percent.” On debate night, however, he denied that reality, stating that the wealthy would pay the same taxes under his plan as they do at present. Conservative fringe voters aren’t happy with that proposition, but now that Romney is their only GOP candidate, he can afford to endorse such moderate schemes on national television.
The other claim is more striking: Both Romney and running mate Paul Ryan promoted limit eligibility for Pell Grant funding throughout their budget plans. Pell Grants, for students who are unaware, are sources of federal aid for you, the college students. Now, Romney agreed to raise investments in Pell Grants for everyone despite his previous proposals. He’s also speaking at a university. The about-face could not be better placed.
Now for the numbers: If Romney truly wanted to create a relatable persona to that of the average American, he would not only pay his federal taxes in full, but also check his math. Consider the candidate’s allegation that Obama’s fiscal policies would soar middle class tax rates by an extra $4,000 per year. A study by the American Enterprise Institute cooked up hypothetical scenarios where the national debt would be depleted solely by raising taxes; then, a blogger for the institute espoused that 4K figure. Neither Obama nor Romney is proposing to raise revenue off the middle class — in reality, Obama’s policies have largely cut middle class taxes too. So Romney’s logic, ever absent, is confusing.
Understandably, it’s difficult to find the right numbers when your “binders are full of women,” eclipsing any sight of research or validity or, god forbid, a vocal filter. Maybe that’s why Romney stated that 560,000 women lost their jobs under the Obama administration when that figure is a bit closer to 93,000, according to factcheck.org. That’s one-sixth of the initial claim. But again, understandable — it’s easy to misconstrue facts about women. Just ask the Romney/Ryan ticket about contraception.
I have no doubts that Gov. Romney has good intentions, that deep within his mechanical soul there lies an innate desire to help more than half of the American people if he ascends to high office. But now, the desperation is mounting. He snares himself in his own verbal traps and never learns from the experience, how his personal assault on the Benghazi consulate issue backfired with hilarious karma. Romney started a fight he couldn’t win. His belligerence denied that the phrase “terror attack” ever sprouted from the lips of the President, and the President crooned “get the transcript.” The Romney prize fight against word choice was a fluke, only feasibly expressed in the divine facial expressions that formed next: I believe Obama’s face spelt out “you got served.”
So with only one presidential debate remaining, I wonder how Gov. Romney can top himself. Each occasion he emerges on stage, a thousand Tumblr memes spawn from his statements while people like me flock to the Twittersphere to keep tabs on facts. Yet you need neither of these resources to distinguish who won the previous debate. As Obama himself jived at one point to the debate moderator, hands practically raising the roof in triumph: “Can ya say it a little louder, Candy?”