Who knew the Real Housewives would be outdone for TV drama on a political stage? The showdowns between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney have made them increasingly like the Real Housewives of Presidential Politics. The drama has built from the polite discussion in Colorado to last week's semantics smack down between supporting players before it boiled over on Long Island. The war of words featured finger-pointing, scolding and, at one point, the appearance that this was close to an actual war of table-flipping, chest bumping and verbal jabs. With more than 90 action-packed, tension-filled minutes of televised tussles that would make any Bravo producer proud, here comes this Real Housewife's 3rd in a series of debate recaps.
Fashion was foreshadowing for a night full of drama -- If things hadn't heated up with pundits on both sides slamming President Obama's opening performance in Colorado, you knew it was on when First Lady Michelle Obama and Ann Romney both entered wearing pink (Bitch stole my look!). Each political side will say their lady wore it better, so I won't jump into that fray, but if countless RH fans watching at home were saying, "Oh no she didn't!" then the two men who followed that entrance spent the following hour and a half all but yelling that phrase about the others' approach in the Town Hall discussion.
Can anyone get this kid a job? The opening question had the two candidates switching seats from the first debate. Romney never answered the concern of that first-time voter Jeremy Epstein about how the former Governor would ensure that he would get a job upon graduation (even if he'd want the 20-year-old to follow his early primary advice to just borrow money from his parents). Romney talked about Pell Grants and an old program he had in Massachusetts but nothing specific for his presidency after this kid gets out of school (saying you know what it takes isn't an actual plan, Governor!). Obama came out with specifics and listing off ideas just like Romney did in the first debate. I only wish the president started with, "Jeremy, did you notice that he didn't answer your question?"
Who knew energy policy could get so feisty? As charges flew back and forth on energy policy, it seems like these two were on the verge of drilling each other into the ground. Romney invaded Obama's personal space as he physically closed in on him with repeated questions in a manner disrespectful of a sitting president, but the officeholder didn't back down. When President Obama fought back, you could almost hear the music rising behind them in a Rocky movie as you saw that we finally had a real fight on our hands.
Did Women's Lib ever take place? It looked like Obama and Romney were debating in different decades. After President Obama talked of signing the Lilly Ledbetter bill to give women equal pay for equal work, Romney discussed his search for cabinet members as Governor of Massachusetts. He claimed he requested an extensive search for qualified females because his staff only gave him male options. The result was "binders full of women." Are you kidding me? "Binders full of women" sounds way more like a phrase from Fifty Shades of Grey than employment options.
All this doesn't even mention the quote of the night. Romney said he "recognized that if you're going to have women in the workforce, that sometimes they need to be more flexible." Let me repeat that: "if you're going to have women in the workplace!" What country is he talking about? This is crazy! It's no wonder that we still have a glass ceiling in America when its potential president still talks like this! Women in both parties should be furious at that attitude! Of course, that's just my take. What do you think?
Plus, we've now learned that he was less than honest in saying that he requested additional resumes because a women's group, MassGAP, say they had actually sent him and his 2002 opponent, Shannon O'Brien, viable cabinet candidates who were female as part of a different plan to get more women into higher positions in government. So, apparently it was not as a result of some big female search that Romney conducted (even though that would have made a great reality show!). Regardless, is he saying that after decades in business, he didn't personally know any highly qualified women? Then, he claimed that a Romney White House would have employers "so anxious to get good workers they're going to be anxious to hire women." WHAT??? If he thinks that's the best way to woo women, I'd love to hear about his idea of foreplay. It's like saying, "I can't be sexist. Some of my best staffers with flexible hours were women!"
Also, while I applaud the fact that he could make his female chief-of-staff's hours flexible to balance her personal and professional lives, his description of her request was condescending. Acting as a Governor's chief-of-staff isn't like starring on Leave It To Beaver! It's a demanding job and if she really did say she had to get home by 5:00 to be with her kids and cook dinner, that means she talked her way into great hours with a sucker of a boss whose views of women haven't changed since Russia really was our greatest enemy on the world stage. Also, what male executive would have to explain his responsibilities at home or request flexible hours? Mister Romney, you're way too smart for us to believe this is really how it happened and you lose points for pandering.
Sincerity can be your best friend or worst enemy. Our show features a lot of real women's reactions to heightened situations. It works because they are our genuine responses. If viewers don't believe it, they channel surf. Same goes for politics. If a leader can come off as sincere while discussing voters' real problems, they've got it made. Mitt Romney does not have it made. His talk of tax breaks on dividends, interest and capital gains rings hollow for most middle-middle and lower-middle class voters because they don't live off dividends, interest and capital gains. They live paycheck to paycheck! Each time he focused on protecting the 47 percent that he dismissed behind closed doors at a 50k per person fundraiser, it came off as either dishonest or naive about Washington, because even if he did mean it, Republicans (including the ones he "pals around" with behind closed doors) will never allow it to get through Congress.
Marriage can't stop AK-47 assault rifles. One of the weakest questions for both candidates was the talk of assault weapons bans. Both are so afraid of the gun lobby that they ran from the issue faster than Usain Bolt reaching for a finish line. Somehow they turned it into talk of marriage and parenthood, without strong proposals to fix the problem. Romney discussed the importance of marriage, yet he doesn't want to give that right to the gay community. That stance is as ludicrous as both of them failing to lead on sensible gun laws.
100 percent of Obama's 47 percent comment was a great close. The President held his 47 percent comment until summation, knowing he was going last and so Romney couldn't respond. But Romney did, well, 47 percent of the work for him. When he was asked about the biggest misconception about him, Romney said he cares about "100 percent of the American people." He teed it up for Obama, who drove it home.
Libya, Libya, Libya. These guys really don't like each other. I've talked before here about the power of the cutaway and these two had enough glares and bruising body language to fill a season's worth of Real Housewife "coming up" teases at commercial breaks. The president's anger over Romney's hasty criticism on Benghazi and the loss of life when facts were still coming in showed him to be presidential and Romney to be small ("petty" will never be the new "relevant!"). Republicans across the country had to be cringing as he flubbed what was a genuine weakness for the president and let our commander-in-chief flip the issue on him. Obama didn't hold back and was able to say that Romney's charges that the White House was playing politics with four dead Americans was one of the most stinging moments of the night. Regardless of whether you think the White House has botched the issue for weeks, you can't deny that Romney had a major miss. You can also bet he'll try a different approach at next week's foreign policy debate. It isn't just a coincidence that George Will (of all people) said on ABC that it was the best presidential debate he'd seen, with President Obama as the winner. Speaking of ABC, I should mention that a Book of Mormon commercial came on during the coverage, a funny little coincidence.
More Drama's on the Way. As both sides left some blood (or as we'd say in Housewife lingo, some hair extensions) on the floor, we're all in for another round as these two square off in the final debate on Monday in Boca Raton. You can bet they'll come out swinging as we head for the homestretch in a race that is sure to get even uglier before a winner emerges in November (let's hope without any hanging chads, this time!). Stay tuned and don't forget to check out my follow-up on the fight in Florida!
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