October 19, 2012
Presidential Debate Round 2: Advantage Obama
by P. Gunasegaram (10-18-12)@http://www.thestar.com.my
Obama may have won the latest debate against Romney but that does not mean he has won the elections – not yet.
I JUST got off the TV after watching a gripping debate between US President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney on CNN. It was a pleasure to see how both of them articulated their positions well.
I could not help wondering when we can have debates like that on local TV. Ah, well.
I have not looked at all the verdicts on the debate (this is the second and there is one more to come) but to my mind, Obama came out the clear winner. His views and policies not only came across much more convincingly, he presented them strongly and eloquently.
If he lost the first debate (I did not see that one), then he won this one hands down, often having Romney on the ropes on many issues where Romney’s positions just did not seem to hold water or much sense.
However, debates by themselves don’t decide an election. If it’s issues and their handling which will decide it, it is clearly Obama who has the edge. Here are 10 reasons why I think Obama should win, the operative word being “should”.
1. Obama’s arguments are more substantive. A key part of the debate was the issue of job creation and high unemployment with Romney saying that 23 million Americans did not have jobs. But Obama inherited an economy teetering on the brink of collapse after George Bush’s stewardship.
Obama has salvaged the economy from the brink of disaster and jobs are being created again while they were being destroyed when Obama first became president. Not only in jobs but in other issues as well his plans have more substance then Romney’s.
2. He is doing something. As Obama has mentioned the record shows that more jobs are being created, tax rates have been cut for the middle class, tax rules are being changed to ensure that companies don’t get too many tax breaks, and a revised healthcare programme has been implemented amongst others.
3. He is checking the excesses of big business and Wall Street. While people have short memories, it is not going to be so short that they don’t remember that greed and the excessive pursuit of profit at the expense of everything else led to the meltdown of the financial markets. Obama is putting in place measures to check the excesses of Wall Street but he is facing obstacles at every turn from Republicans who are backed strongly by big business. His attempts to check big business are likely to get widespread backing.
4. He is more equitable. Obama has rightly targeted the middle and lower classes, reducing taxes for the lower income group and small businesses and providing for more social help through health and educational programmes. He also comes across more strongly for women’s rights, including providing contraceptives for women.
5. He got Osama. It may be fortuitous, but during Obama’s tenure, Osama ben Laden, the Saudi Arabian terrorist who masterminded the attack on the twin towers and other targets in the US, was tracked and gunned down in Pakistan and his body buried at sea. That is a major victory for the US in the war against the al-Qaeda.
6. He is disengaging militarily. At the same time, Obama is making sure that the US starts to reduce its military role globally. Much of Iraq’s security roles have been handed over to local authorities and he is planning to withdraw in stages from Afghanistan too. That he has been able to do this without any loss of face for the US is another feather in his cap.
7. His response to the Libyan episode is measured. At the debate he accepted personal responsibility for anything that may have contributed to the death of the US ambassador to Libya and others, such as not responding to requests for additional security. Even when the news came out, his response was to investigate first and not to react on impulse. Obama castigated Romney for making political capital of the issue.
8. He has a better handle on international economics. Romney has embarked on a path of attacking China for US job woes, saying that the depressed Chinese currency gave it a trade advantage.
But he does not seem to recognise that the cost of manufacturing many goods in China is much lower than in the US and that the US has to shift its manufacturing focus to goods which have more value added. Obama recognises that, saying that not all manufacturing jobs will come back to the US but still has policies to make manufacturing more competitive in the US.
9. Romney is for big business. Romney comes across as someone that big business has put on the slate to check what is perceived as Obama’s unfriendliness to them. While he talks about free enterprise and the need for that to create jobs, he does not explain why big business should be favoured and how he plans to get more taxes from the rich.
Because of low capital gains taxes and other allowances, the rich often pay less in percentage terms for taxes compared to the middle class. Romney’s tax rate itself was a mere 14% and Obama was quick to point out that Romney was quoted as having said that this was fair.
10. Romney does not show how he wants to cut the budget deficit. Although Romney berates Obama for not bringing down the deficit (Obama could not have because the economy was slumping and needed an injection of money), he does not show how he proposes to cut the deficit.
In fact, his programmes, if carried out in full, will tend to increase the deficit.At the end of the day, issues and their handling often but not always determine election results. There are lots of interplay in elections and it is difficult to predict who will win.
I am giving reasons why Obama should win the elections. That I think gives him a definite edge but until the votes are cast, anything can happen.
**P. Gunasegaram says that at least in one respect there is much to be said for the US system of elections – we know when the election will take place.