I’ve spent the past 24 hours since the debate thinking about what it is that was so devastating to me, personally, about the President’s non-responsive behavior in the face of Romney’s barrage of lies. I watched today’s afternoon and evening reactions on MSNBC which mirrored my own but they still weren’t able to accurately label or describe the feeling. And then it hit me …
Think for a minute about the show of Democratic strength through the 2006 and 2008 elections. After years of timidness, Dems in Washington finally seemed to understand what the liberal and progressive blogosphere was telling them – you can’t defeat assholes by constantly slipping back into a timid, nice-guy role. The “at least we took the high-road” bullshit wasn’t working and it seemed that Dems had finally learned that lesson. Never-again would they let the right-wing rollover them.
But then when the faux-grassroots Tea Party became more than a joke and people (initially) thought the town hall meeting outrage was real (later proved to be staged and funded by right-wing groups), the President and Dems in Washington were like a deer in headlights; completely stunned, with no response. While right-wing talking heads spread false stories about a secret Muslim in the White House, about a Kenyan-born socialist, his plans to declare martial law, lock-up Americans and take away their guns, the President told reporters no one believed it or there was no point in responding. When Joe Wilson, at the September 2009 State of the Union Address, yelled “You Lie!” to the President, Obama had no response. When the passage of “Obamacare” in March of 2010 was followed by teabaggers spitting and shouting racial and homophobic slurs at departing Democratic House members while being egged-on by conservative House members, the President had no response. When Sarah Palin’s website placed rifle cross-hairs on Democratic candidate’s locations, the President had no response. When that was followed by vandalism and finally a bullet to the head of Gabby Giffords, the President’s reaction was somber, at best.
To witness these events without hearing an appropriate level of response from the President, without showing the outrage it deserved, without communicating to Americans that this type of behavior was outrageous and not acceptable in a civilized society, was heartbreaking and a bit shocking. Many said at the time that it was not in Obama’s cool and calm nature. But it seemed to me that our President should be willing to fight as hard as is necessary against the radical right’s intimidation and violence, and for the ideals and principles Democrats and all Americans believe in.
Since the debt limit brinkmanship the President’s approval numbers bounced back and he really seemed to regain his confident, intelligent strength. And I’m sure all Dems were much happier with Obama’s performance and our chances in the election. But last night, there it was again – the President shrank before our eyes. Romney used the Tea Party-like debate style he had honed over the GOP debates, lied about nearly every, single topic, was aggressive and combative. Obama was stunned, shell-shocked … Dan Rather said the President “got his clock cleaned”. It was like I was dreaming and reliving the nightmare of 2009-11 when the President did not have the nerve or backbone or whatever to prevent the radical right from rolling-over him.
So that’s the feeling and that leads to this question: Will the President be able to match the intensity and fight of Romney in the last two debates? Will he challenge him on the lies? Will he have the indisputable facts at his disposal? Or has Obama returned to being the timid guy who let the radical right rollover him in 2009-11? President Clinton once said, “When people feel uncertain, they’d rather have somebody that’s strong and wrong than somebody who’s weak and right.” 16 million people saw the debate and some will have made-up their minds based on this premise. And that really worries me.