Prevent Defense

The only thing a prevent defense does is prevent you from winning.”

—John Madden

nyone who has ever watched an NFL game, a game in which your team is ahead substantially toward the end of the contest, can testify about how frustrating it is when your winning team plays “prevent defense,” which essentially means allowing the opponent to gain yardage, even score points, in exchange for burning precious time off the clock.

That,  my friends, is what we saw last night, except at times it was even worse than that. At times, Mr. Romney had the entire field to himself, as the President stepped aside and let him not only bully and control the weak-kneed referee, Jim Lehrer, but who let Romney bullshit the electorate, as Mr. Obama offered only mild and sometimes uninspiring resistance.

As all NFL fans know, playing prevent defense means too often that the winning team becomes the losing team because it alters the game plan that put the winning team ahead in the first place. Thus, as a result of the President’s strategy and in the sense of doing what Romney needed to do, Mittens won the debate last night, decisively, even if he didn’t win it on the merits.

But the winner wasn’t the Mitt Romney we have all come to know.

The Mitt Romney who won last night was a new Mitt Romney, one who attempted to cover up his right-wing stench with a new, reasonable, moderate, bipartisan cologne. And Barack Obama, excruciatingly passive—sometimes even submissive—aided and abetted that new Mitt Romney by failing to both defend himself aggressively and, more important, aggressively attack that new incarnation, a new incarnation who essentially and skillfully slinked away from much of what he has stood for and proposed since he became a candidate this election cycle.

It is beyond belief that we had 90 minutes of debate and Barack Obama did not remind voters even one time of the stench, the utter fetid and falsehood-laden funk, that has been the Romney-Ryan campaign, from its very first TV ad that attributed a McCain quote to Obama to the racially-tainted ad that falsely accused Obama of “gutting welfare reform.”

It’s beyond understanding how Mr. Obama, the latest, if not the last, best hope of protecting the interests of the non-wealthy, could stand there and not breathe a word about Romney’s “47%” comments, which were not only offensive on so many levels, but revelatory in terms of who Mitt Romney really is and what he really thinks. Whoever counseled the President to ignore that critical disclosure, should now be swathed in sackcloth and ashes.

It’s beyond bewildering how Romney could compare the president to his untruthful “five boys” without even a response from Mr. Obama. I suppose the specter of the Angry Negro still fills Obama and the Obama campaign with trepidation, since it remains a difficult task for an African-American to navigate through the racial currents in our politics.

Apparently the Obama team thinks the public admires a long-suffering black man who will quietly endure challenges to his American pedigree and patriotism, as well as Romney’s latest assault on his dignity as a man and not a boy. But that Romney attack was clearly premeditated and deserves post-debate censure.

It taxes the intellect to come up with a reason why, during a debate largely centered on the economy, Mr. Obama did not loudly tout the economic recovery—five million jobs have come back since the worst of the mess he was left—and mention how often he has been thwarted by congressional Republicans, extremists who have put politics ahead of patriotism, time after time, and with the approval of Romney and the votes of his running mate.

Nor did the President flaunt his decisive role in the auto industry revival and the jobs he saved. He did not mention that Romney essentially gave the finger to auto workers and suppliers. He did not tell debate watchers that Romney demanded GM go bankrupt.

It frustrates to the point of pain why Mr. Obama did not marry Romney to the draconian Ryan budget plan—a plan Romney had previously and enthusiastically endorsed—which in its purest form would have killed, utterly murdered, Medicare as it exists today. Or why Obama did not tell folks repeatedly that the plan would hurt the poor, the disabled, and the elderly through its Medicaid cuts.

It makes one sick with frustration why Mr. Obama allowed Romney to repeatedly—I lost count how many times he said it—and falsely use that “716 billion” Medicare “cut” as a bludgeon, with only a mild-mannered response from Obama.

The President should have not only pointed out Paul Ryan’s acceptance and use of that so-called Medicare cut, he should have got bleeping indignant about it, saying, “Are you kidding me, Governor? You want to pretend that you and your party—the party that has tried to kill Medicare—will protect it? Give us a break and be honest with the American people.

And on ObamaCare, Romney never had to pay a price for his hypocrisy, for his disgusting abandonment of the principles he once heralded in Massachusetts, which apparently are too good or not good enough for the entire country.

Inexplicably, Obama never made clear to low-information voters just how Romney’s tax plan doesn’t add up. Sure, he tried to make that point in a lengthy but non-urgent way, yet all he had to say was, “Tell us what loopholes you will close,” and then force him to answer. And I mean, force him to answer in front of the country, even while Jim Lehrer sat there in a retirement-induced coma.

And why Obama never mentioned Romney’s refusal to release his tax returns or his tax-evading schemes that involve offshore parking of his money is, well, head-scratching.

The whole night essentially consisted of Mitt Romney lecturing his inferior—a man only worthy of his respect because he had to grant it in front of 50 or 60 million folks. And as the President patiently endured Romney’s lie-studded lecture, he often was seen looking down or at the moderator, politely, ever so goddamned politely, waiting his turn to respond.

And when he did respond, when it was his chance to attack—to really attack—Mr. Obama did not do so aggressively. He ceded too much ground to the underdog and trailing aggressor; he allowed him to gain yardage; he allowed him to score, again and again, often with only token resistance.

The President could have used this opportunity, when this new Mitt Romney was making his national debut—when this man with his indefensible right-wing extremism was trying to appear as an earnest and devoted middle-class advocate—to tell the country that the man they were watching on that stage was not the man who had won the nutty GOP primary, a man who appealed in the most debased way to the most reactionary elements of his party.

He should have told the country that the real Romney was that man who said to fat cats in Florida that half the citizenry, including the poor, the sick, the elderly, and the disabled, are freeloaders and parasites and it is not his job to worry about them.

He should have told the country that the real Romney will appoint Supreme Court justices who will help the other reactionaries on the court usher us into the 19th century.

He should have said so many things.

But no. What we saw was an Obama who was trying like hell to be above it all, above the fray, above slinging mud at his opponent. He was trying to be “presidential,” as if being president means being passionless and indifferent while under personal and political attack. The most salient example of this colossally dumb and impotent strategy was when Obama answered the following question from Jim Lehrer:

LEHRER: …Mr. President. Do you see a major difference between the two of you on Social Security?

OBAMA: You know, I suspect that, on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position…

Debate over right there.

Chris Matthews, justifiably pissed off about Obama’s performance, said that the President should have spent more time watching MSNBC and the robust debates that happen on cable TV, which would have better prepared him for this kind of warfare.

Well, that might have helped. But what might have helped him more than that was if Mr. Obama would have heeded General George S. Patton, who would never had played prevent defense:

Nobody ever defended anything successfully; there is only attack and attack and attack some more.

Politics, at least at the point where your job is on the line, is a cut-throat business. If you don’t slit the other guy’s political gullet he will slit yours, and he will secretly laugh as your blood puddles on the stage.

On Wednesday night, Mitt Romney’s political throat was on the block. He was ripe for a coup de grâce. But Mr. Obama, obviously no fan of Patton’s practical advice, allowed Romney to not only keep his head, but to grab the rhetorical blade and begin hacking at Obama’s neck. Time will tell, as the polls are conducted and the results come in, whether the public will greatly reward Romney’s performance Wednesday night with increased support, but some real damage was done.

And time will tell whether Obama will come back and fight to not only keep his head—I believe he most certainly will—but fight to keep the heads of a lot of folks who depend on him to be their champion, those who depend on the Democratic Party to protect their interests against the vultures that Mitt Romney, the old and authentic Mitt Romney, represents.



  1. Sharon Burkhalter

     /  October 4, 2012

    After a sleepless night I came to many of your conclusions. The thought that I had was that we witnessed the Corporate takeover of the US. This was the junkyard dog that is Romney fire the CEO of the company he has just taken over. So I did the only proactive thing I could do. Make a donation and pray our President has a path forward.


    • Sharon,

      Obama will do a lot better next time, especially as he looks over the poll results that are coming in. I don’t know what his advisers told him, or what he was thinking, but I am sure he’s got his sh*t together now. All in all, given the poor performance, Romney still has a long way to go in the battleground states. He still hasn’t sold himself to the folks in Ohio, for instance.



  2. ansonburlingame

     /  October 4, 2012

    First Sharon, almost all Americans have been “praying (or hoping) that Obama has the right path forward”. However the results indicate otherwise based on many “metrics”.

    At least the EC herein did not try to “spin” an Obama “win” in this debate. His critique of the President’s performance (my Dem wife said he looked “very tired”) is similar to one that I would make.

    To me it boiled down to the President’s attempt to use TV campaign sound bites then quickly move on to another “sound bite” to make his points.

    But in this case the TV TALKED BACK, and many Americans heard such rebutals for the first time. Thank God for that, in my view. For sure we all saw and heard a far different Romney last night than Dem attack ads have tried to show us in the past several months.

    Of course ANY rebutal to the President’s ideas fall on deaf ears in this blog as all of you have already made up you minds how to vote. What you saw and heard last night however was very similar to my comments on this blog over the last same several months, comments in rebutal to sound bites coming form Dems. I make you angry when I do so and so did Romney and the “moderator” that failed to moderate, last night.

    I would add quickly however that the rebutals and asserations coming from Romney last night were far more polished and concise than my “blather” herein.

    Overall, in my view, as a result of last night’s performances by both men, I think we are back, again, to a VERY close race. The next debate will be a town hall format and I fully expect Obama to be far more energized and on the attack than he was last night as well. But I refuse to let a debate format decide how I will vote, for sure and we will have to wait and see the next round in two weeks.

    On the other hand, i also expect that “you guys” simply not watch the next week’s VP debate. Binden is going to be “buried” in that one, no doubt in my mind.



  3. ansonburlingame

     /  October 4, 2012

    I must add as well, that yes indeed Romney distanced himself from the radical Tea Party wing of his party last night. The “slick” thing he did however, at least in my view, is that he did not demean those supporters as well. He just said “this is what I will do” and ignored the Akin element of his party.

    Had as well Obama tried to use the “47%” attack or many other “sound bite” attacks seen, you can bet that Romney would have FIRED BACK some sound bites of his own. Portman, his coach, I am sure blasted him with every sound bite heard and made sure Romney was ready to handle each one like a polished EXECUTIVE LEADER, which he is in experience, past achievement and temperment as well.



  4. There you go again, Anson. As a leader in business and the government, Romney has been a net reducer of jobs and general quality of life. His projected economic plan relies on the same tired, trickle-down logic which only works if the rich have some sort of community citizen conscience (which the vast majority do not). Trickle-down has never, ever, ever, ever worked. Not ever. And you know it. And to “win” the debate he relied on his now famous strength: lying so often and so aggressively the viewers couldn’t keep up. Those organizations declaring his victory without exacting penalties for his blatant untruths are shills for the integrity-less right wing plutocrats who want to turn our democracy into a fascist sweat shop. Right now, the fact checkers are in melt-down mode, but the media will little report the mendacity of the GOP in this event. Will live in a post-truth world. God help us.


  5. My confidence in President Obama has only been strengthened over the past four years as I’ve watched him work hard at his job, winding down the mistaken war in Iraq, getting up before dawn to watch the arrival of caskets from Afghanistan at Dover Air Force Base, meeting foreign leaders, planning for the demise of Osama Bin Laden, attempting to compromise with ideologically-locked teavangelicals, and taking personal action to do the morally right thing about young hispanics and prevent their deportation from the only country they’ve ever known. I believe this was the same president who appeared on stage in Denver and that he was still in presidential mode, looking at the long historical view, not, as partisans expected, at merely the election.

    Duane is right, politics is a dirty business, and all the chips are on the table because of the election. This is the four-year-cycle system we have and I submit we are now looking at its principal defect, that by its nature it treats political issues as gladiatorial prizes to be won or lost. We were all expecting gamesmanship and were frustrated that Obama didn’t want to play it that way. Our thoughts were on November 6th but I think his were years beyond that. So, what I’m wondering right now is, how many voters realize that this election is more important than an NFL game? Probably not many.


  6. Big Bird: “Boys and girls, we just learned today that president Ronmey has cut off funding for PBS and this program. So, today we’re going to talk about the letters FU.”


  7. I did not watch or listen, but I saw online somewhere that Mrs. Romney turned her back to the Obamas when they approached, and that others of the Romney family also behaved rudely and inappropriately. Anybody see this?


    • I don’t think that is true, Helen. I saw the end and I didn’t notice anything like that. In fact, I think they greeted each other rather politely before the event.


  8. John H

     /  October 4, 2012

    It was disappointing that the President didn’t ask Mitt about how a revenue neutral tax plan would leave more money in the hands of small business owners. If it’s neutral and they get to keep more, someone else gets to keep less. Though I give the President credit for pointing out the last time it was tried it failed to deliver. In fact, those tax cuts have been in effect throughout the recession and recovery so where are the jobs they were supposed to produce? The last ten years have demonstrated that it only increases the size of the deficit.

    The medicare argument was similarly confusing. If the private sector could provide higher quality health care at a lower cost as Mitt claims, then why hasn’t it done so already? The 716 billion is evidence that the private sector couldn’t deliver quality health care at a lower cost. Medicare Advantage was the conservative plan for private companies to deliver quality health care for less money and they failed. It actually costs more and its participants are less satisfied than those on regular medicare. Why would anyone want to reward that under performance by restoring the funds? And why should we continue to offer and subsidize higher cost private health plans to seniors when they fail to deliver higher quality care? And most importantly why didn’t the President make the point?

    Yes, Romney did an effective job at articulating the moderately conservative ideology that has failed to deliver on its promises in the past. He successfully presented a tax plan that most agree simply doesn’t add up while making it sound as if it would. If a viewer hadn’t heard anything about Romney previously they might think he sounded like a reasonable choice. But die hard conservatives ought to be wondering what he’ll do if he actually wins election. I have no idea which Mitt will show up in the White House. I have no idea what he actually believes since it appears he believes everything.

    It was interesting that although most of the undecided focus group CNN questioned thought Mitt has won the debate, they split in terms of who they would now vote for. Doesn’t winning mean you win over more undecided voters?


    • You make good comments, John H – where have you been all this time?


    • John,

      Your point about Mittens’ tax plan (“how a revenue neutral tax plan would leave more money in the hands of small business owners”) is one I have been trying to make for a while. It seems so obvious to me but no one ever questions him about it.

      Your point about Medicare Advantage is also perfectly made. I blame the press for not educating the public about that private-sector failure to hold down costs for older folks’ health care. It is almost never explained to the general public, and I can’t understand why President Obama didn’t make that point very, very clear.

      Finally, as far as Mittens’ belief system, which seems to be as Ted Kennedy pointed out, “multiple choice,” I think I have a very good idea of what he really believes. Look at his unguarded moments, like the “corporations are people” remark or, more important, the way he phrased his “47%” explanation to those fat cats. It all came out so fluidly because it is what he believes in his heart. He is, when it comes down to it, a “severely conservative” guy and the Mitt presented to voters in Massachusetts was the phony Mitt.

      That doesn’t mean he won’t continue to say anything he thinks will help him get that 50% + 1 he keeps telling us he is after to win. Conservatives have always played a long-term game.



  9. ansonburlingame

     /  October 5, 2012

    As previously noted, my comments herein fall on deaf ears as you are all, already, Obama supporters. However John H. made a excellent point, to me at least, in asking “which Romney will show up” (if he wins the WH)?

    Based only on his long record of achievement in Executive leadership positions for most of his life, I have always “felt” that Romney the “governor” or “to be president” would be such an Executive leader. Such men face tough opposition every day and must be very accomplsihed at sorting out the “wheat from the chaff” in large corporations or enterprises (like the Olympics).

    Exactly how many men or women in America have a resume of real success in three major and very different “enterprises”. For several decades he was a business leader of extraordinary achievment by “business standards”. THEN he bailed out the Olympics, a real mess when he took over. And THEN he was a successful Republican governor in a heavily Dem State. Does that last one NOT suggested that he knows full well how to work “across the aisle”, which is going to be vital for the next president. Has Obama failed, miserably as a government leader to achieve such excellence, even modest success, in doing so for 4 years? Is not that failure clear for anyone? NO GOP votes, none whatsoever, for many of Obama’s important programs. And YOU blame all that only on the GOP, right?

    Now don’t leap in with your sound bites about how despicable BAin Capital was or is, or how Obama “tried” so hard, to work across the aisle for his programs. We have heard all that before and will still hear it until Nov 6th.

    My only point is that what I believe is the “real Romney” showed his hand remarkably well in the last debate. Does anyone argue that the persona presented was an Executive Leader, well based in facts and numbers (OK you will say he lied!!!) and with the l demeanor in his presentation that impressed a lot of people, grudgingly perhaps but still impressive?

    That “resume” and performance in the last debate is exactly what I am looking for in the next president and for sure I am NOT looking for a man that acted like Obama in the same debate. Your only real counter to that observation, I think, is that we saw a “false Romney”and “not the real Obama” last Wed night. I on the other hand think we saw the “real” Romney and Obama.

    But I was looking for just that difference and thus am biased, perhaps in my observations. Just like you progressives are biased as well. That is nothing more than politics and NOT objectivity, at least in my view from any of us.



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