10/04/2012 10:00 am ET Updated Dec 04, 2012

'Romney the Bully' and the President -- It Ain't Over Till It's Over

Mr. President, your presentation during the first debate with Governor Romney was awful. You were up against a bully -- look how much disrespect he gave the moderator, Jim Lehrer (Mr. Lehrer, it is time to retire from being a moderator since you let the bully run all over you) not to mention his in-your-face approach with you. If you thought being presidential (whatever that means) would save the day, you (your prep team?) were sorely mistaken. Being "presidential" in answering questions and refraining from really taking on Romney is not what the country looks for in its president when debating an aggressive opponent. This is not a University of Chicago law school class that you used to teach (I did as well at I think about the same time you were there so I kinda know about how such students are approached); it is the real world where 50-cent words and a soothing voice do not disarm the likes of a Mitt Romney who only knows how to trample his opponents to get his way as he did with employees of companies he bought and then that he, likewise, did with you.

Even more incredulous is that you allowed Romney to march all over you (and the country) with lies and misstatements. Take, for example, the colloquy between you and he where he acted as if he cared deeply about the poor and impoverished, yet he gave you an opening you did not take. You should have said something like, "But Governor, months earlier you told your donors in private that you did not care for half the country, asserting them to be victims who took no responsibility for their well-being and their lives. How do you explain what you are saying this evening?" Or, when the bully said you were going to cut $716 billion from Medicare. Come on Mr. President, you knew the bully's vice-presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, makes the same amount of cuts and takes benefits away from Medicare recipients that you never said you were going to do. You did not with any vigor call Romney's remarks into question when he said he had no $5 billion tax reduction plan when he has been saying that he wants a 20 percent across-the-board reduction in everyone's taxes (= roughly $5.0 billion). You also never once challenged the bully to tell the American public what specific present deductions he would rid the tax code of in order to gain more revenue. And there was his comment about how he is going to do away with Obamacare, yet he is going to back all states to do what he did in enacting Romneycare in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He gave you another roadway on which to drive a Mack truck but you did not take it -- Obamacare is exactly like Romneycare, so what kind of double-speak was the bully trying to say. If Romneycare is adopted in every state and it = Obamacare, why want to repeal Obamacare? Does the bully think Americans are that stupid not to understand?

Oh sure, I know that Monday-morning quarterbacking as I am doing in this post is much easier to do than being on stage as you were under the hot glare of lights and millions of folks watching you on cable or TV stations. But this is a moment that the electorate expects you to take charge by challenging your opposition, showing real leadership on substantive issues, and displaying energy in your presentation. I am sure Joe Biden knows this script only too well when he debates Ryan next week.

It's not over by a long shot Mr. President, but you just created an incline in your road to being re-elected that need not have been made.

Remember the famous New York Yankee Hall-of-Fame catcher, Yogi Berra, who famously once articulated, "It ain't over 'til it's over"? Well, Mr. President, you had best keep this phrase in mind when your handlers next prepare you for the second debate. You still have time to recover and take off the gloves with the bully. Perhaps you do not have the experience from your youth with this notion, but I do. There was a bully on the block who liked to push his contemporaries around with verbal assaults and insults -- much like Romney did with you Wednesday night. I finally learned to speak up and challenged my bully whenever I could, and guess what happened -- he whimpered away with his tail between his legs. You need to take this approach with Romney in your second and third debates! Just as Romney was written off before the first debate but came roaring back, now is the time for you to do so; otherwise consider yourself a one-term president.

It ain't over till it's over.