Obama-Romney debate, what it omitted

Obama and Romney

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

Obama and Romney: A “debate” without real differences

4 October 2012

The first debate of the US presidential election campaign laid bare the unbridgeable gulf between the corporate-controlled political system and the concerns of the overwhelming majority of the American people.

The United States is in the grip of the worst social crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, with record levels of long-term unemployment, record levels of hunger and homelessness, mass layoffs of workers in the public schools and other essential services, deteriorating public infrastructure and deepening poverty and social misery.

Aside from two sentences from Romney—in the course of proposing measures that would make the crisis even worse for working people—there was no reference to this social reality in 90 minutes of debate. The words “poverty” and “unemployment” never crossed Obama’s lips. Neither candidate offered any proposals to alleviate mass suffering, put the unemployed to work or rebuild public services devastated by budget cuts.

On the contrary, more than four years into an economic crisis brought on by the greatest financial collapse of the profit system since the 1930s, both candidates pledged their loyalty to Wall Street and hailed capitalism as the greatest boon to mankind.

Obama declared in his two-minute summation, clearly prepared in advance, “The genius of America is the free enterprise system.” Romney, himself the possessor of a huge personal fortune based on stripping the assets of companies and speculating in the financial markets, repeatedly argued that the “private sector” had to be given free rein in every sphere of life, from job-creation to education to health care.

Obama made only one timid reference to the role of Wall Street in wrecking the US and world economy. Even there, he equated the swindlers and the swindled, saying that the workers hoodwinked into taking out sub-prime mortgages and the bankers who pocketed huge bonuses by fleecing them were both guilty of “reckless behavior.”

Obama also refrained from identifying Romney personally with Wall Street. In the course of the nationally televised event, he made no mention of Romney’s role as a corporate raider at Bain Capital, Romney’s refusal to release his tax returns, or his use of offshore investment accounts.

Most significantly, he made no reference to Romney’s disparaging comments about the “47 percent” of Americans dependent on government programs and too poor to pay federal income taxes, and his assertion that no one in America should consider himself “entitled” to food, health care or a roof over his head.

Based on conventional electoral considerations, this silence would appear inexplicable. Obama campaign television commercials have hammered Romney on his “47 percent” remarks for two weeks, and Romney’s poll numbers declined as a consequence.

It is clear, however, that in preparing for the first debate, with an estimated television audience of 60 million, the largest of the campaign, Obama and his political handlers viewed any hint of economic populism as too dangerous. It might offend the Wall Street power brokers and encourage a militant response from below.

See also here. And here. And here.

27 thoughts on “Obama-Romney debate, what it omitted

    • The point of the article is that important issues should have been in the debate, but were not. Then, one can hardly base onself on the limited content of the debate, not mentioning the wider context.


      • – David Azerrad

        What We Didn’t Hear Last Night

        What wasn’t said at tonight’s debate spoke volumes. In an hour and a half focused largely on the economy, not a single mention was made about the importance that marriage plays in combating poverty. Not a single mention of how federal welfare programs can function as poverty traps, especially as the Obama Administration has gutted the work requirements that made welfare reform a success. As the debate turned to focus explicitly on health care reform and the role of government more generally, not a single mention of how the federal government under Obamacare, rather than protecting religious liberty, is actively coercing citizens to violate their consciences. The nuts and bolts of taxation, regulation, Medicare, Social Security, and other domestic policies are important, but so too are the ways that these and other government actions shape culture and interact with civil society. At the end of the day, culture and the institutions of civil society are what make America great. Our government shouldn’t be weakening them.


        • Would you say that the David Azerrad comment is not “slanted to the writers preconcieved notions”? I would say it was based on fundamentalist Christian notions. At least, it agrees with the Patrick Martin article, and the Real News video, that a lot was not discussed in the debate.

          To a certain extent, it expresses the tension between Romney and the Christian Right. Romney is a flip-flopper, not an ideologist like Falwell, Robertson, or the Westboro Baptist Church. As a Mormon bishop, he is supposed to consider non-Mormon Christians heathens. While many people on the Christian Right consider Mormons heathens.


            • There are very real divisions between Christians and Mormons. Like there are between Christians and Muslims (both of them might be called “family oriented” as well).

              David Azerrad implicitly criticized Romney for not bringing up family issues from a Christian Right perspective.


              • There are no – – – I REPEAT – – – no divisions between everyday Christians and Mormons. I have never experienced or heard about anything of the sort. I, a Christian, have worked with Mormons for over 40 years and have never experienced or seen anyone try to create a division between the two faiths. There may be a radical here or there within the two religions but they are far from the mainstream.


                • Your good personal experiences are one thing (I bet that many Christians get along well at work or as neighbours or as friends with Muslims, Jews, Hindus, atheists, Neo-pagans, probably even with Satanists, as well).

                  The politics of this election is another thing. Though he had far more money than his Republican opponents, Romney in the southern Bible Belt lost one primary after another to Santorum, Gingrich, etc. He typically got no more than 30% of the primary vote in such states.


                • Indeed. The southern states then were one party (Democratic) states. So, even if the Democratic candidate then would not have been a Catholic, but a yellow dog 🙂 That, in the thinking of quite some Southern Democratic voters then, would still be better than Abraham Lincoln’s party 🙂


                • So what you have just said is that the southern Protestant Christians vote for one candidate that they did not like (Kennedy) due to his religion but they vote against one candidate the did not like due to his religion (Romney). That proves my point. Mainstream religions play less and less of a part in the US voters mind as time goes on. However, I must be quick to add that due to 9/11 I do not believe that US voters consider Islam a mainstream religion (even though our Muslim population is growing).


                • What a pity that this crime by about 20 people is blamed on 1,5 billion people, 20% of all people in the world. Traditionally in the US, presidents etc. do see Islam as a mainstream religion (even George W Bush said so, in spite of his “crusade” rhetoric).


                • Thanks for the video but I saw more signs with bigger letters on “Drone Attacks” than I did terrorism. I don’t think they were as worried about terrorism as opposed to the US reaction to it.


                • The letters on drone attacks and on religious fundamentalism are exactly the same size, both on the big banner on the stage and on the hand-held signs in the video. The drone attacks kill Pakistani civilians, while not a single Pakistani civilian had anything to do with 9/11.


                • Hi, WordPress did not charge us by the word, but it did put this comment by you in the spambox, from where I had to rescue it 🙂 This also sometimes happens to others commenting at my blog (and maybe to some comments by me on other’s blogs).


  1. Interesting read. I was watching with some fascination from this side of the pond (2am start, ugh!) and thought that Mitt Romney came across ‘presidentially’ and that Barack Obama had none of his 2008 fight about him: with the possible exception of the President’s barbed comment about Romney’s difficulties in sitting down on Day 1 with Democrats at the same time as trying to dismantle Obamacare.

    I’m going to be following from a British perspective on my blog: have a look at my thoughts ahead of last night’s debate: @tommygilchrist: Change we (still) believe in? http://t.co/keNP1iqF


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