Kate is a member of the Junior State of America (JSA), a student-run political awareness organization for high school students.
President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney took the stage this week in the first presidential debate of the 2012 elections. Highlights of the night included Mitt Romney's inability to cooperate with Jim Lehrer, Romney's lack of detail with regards to topics including the deficit, tax loopholes, jobs, and most importantly, his direct attack on America's favorite yellow-feather friend, Big Bird. We also saw a different side to Barack Obama -- a calmer, and some may even go as far to say, more distant, version of the president we are used to. Barack Obama rarely interrupted Jim Lehrer or Romney, with the exception of one comment that he made in regards to his time being cut off. Obama remarked, "I had five more seconds before you interrupted me." Cue the nervous laughter.
The only way that debate could have proved to be more entertaining would be if Mitt Romney had arrived at the University of Denver with his dog on the roof of an airplane (with the windows rolled down, of course) or, as some had suggested, if Obama surprised the audience by taking out the very skull of Osama Bin Laden and set it on the podium himself.
Whether or not you tuned in to watch the debate, a few facts need to be set straight. Mitt Romney did a great job with his speaking style, but really lacked substance and solid factual information.
Here's what Romney missed, aside the fact that he was supposed to debate Obama, and not Jim Lehrer:
1) Romney's first fundamentally incorrect statement was denying the $5 trillion tax cut brought up by the president multiple times. He remarked, "I don't have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don't have a tax cut of a scale that you're talking about." Courtesy of ThinkProgress.org, a Tax Policy Center analyst confirmed that his statement was entirely false, explaining that "Romney's proposal for a 20 percent across-the-board tax cut in all federal income tax rates, including his plane to eliminate estate taxes and the Alternative Minimum Tax would indeed amount to $5 trillion in tax breaks over the span of the next decade."
2) Romney also changed his fundamental beliefs in regards to hiring teachers, saying that America "needs more great teachers," although he recently said to a crowd in Wisconsin that "[Obama] says we need [...] more teachers. Did he not get the message? The American people did. It's time for us to cut back on government and help the American people." This provided yet another example of Mitt Romney completely changing his core values simply to fit the audience at the time.
3) Romney's next mistake also showcased a swift change in his "fundamental" beliefs, saying "My number-one principal is, there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. I want to underline that: no tax cut that adds to the deficit." The Tax Policy Center reported that Romney can't have the best of both worlds on this one. The Tax Policy Center emphasized that it would be fiscally impossible to both exempt middle class families from tax cuts AND remain neutral in regards to revenue. It is unrealistic. The Center was quoted saying, "He's promised all these things and he can't do them all. In order for him to cover the cost of his tax cut without adding to the deficit, he'd have to find a way to raise taxes on middle income people or people making less than $200,000 a year."
4) Who can forget Mitt Romney's comment on Big Bird? When speaking about funding education programs, Romney took a direct shot at our feathered friend, saying, "I like PBS. I love Big Bird, but I am not going to keep spending money on things [we have] to borrow money from China to pay for." This comment outraged both Sesame Street fans and PBS fans alike, including eight-year-old Cecilia Crawford, who stood up for her big yellow pal. She said: "[Mitt Romney], Find something else to cut off!" You tell him, Cecilia.
For viewers looking for style, Mitt Romney clearly won this one. However, for those who were more concerned with what the candidates said than how they said it, the fact that Mitt Romney lied and bullied his opponent showed that he is both an immature and a careless debater. Mitt may have worn the biggest American flag pin in the room, but that did not distract from the fact that his tie was tilted to the left. Mitt Romney changed his policies, his words and his concrete "facts" to fit the moment, and that was apparent. It all boils down to this: Romney argued, and Obama debated. There is a concrete difference. Romney addressed Obama, often without valid factual evidence, and Obama addressed the American people. The polls from last night only succeed in showing that Mitt Romney was able to hold a conversation without any outrageous gaffes, and that this was an impressive feat in the eyes of the American people.
Barack Obama knows that he has to stop being passive and use these debates to maximize his voter support by addressing not only where he has succeeded, but also where Mitt Romney has failed. Look for a strong debate from Barack Obama on October 11. If he wants a solid comeback, he will have to address what he knows best -- social issues and helping the middle class onto their feet again.