Come on, isn't it obvious?
This president has proven to be rock solid under pressure. Yet, with a healthy lead in the polls and rebounding popularity, he appeared exhausted, drained and distracted.
His demeanor speaks to the demands of conducting affairs of state while running for president in 21st century America -- in this case complicated by the nation's economic woes, risks to U.S. citizens arising from Muslim unrest worldwide, and rumors of a full court press by Republicans on security policies in Libya,
On the day before the debate, two Republicans on the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Government Reform dispatched a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, reportedly inquiring about requests for additional security at the U.S. consulate in Libya. The requests were allegedly made prior to the September 11 attack that killed four Americans and wounded others.
Since the aforementioned committee is investigating on its own instead of awaiting results of the FBI's more thorough inquiry, conducted by a different House committee, there is concern among some Democrats that the probe is a partisan witch hunt, fast-tracked to skew the election.
That alone would be enough to throw a president off his game. But Obama has been unflappable in the face of attacks on nearly every front -- including the book by a Navy Seal challenging the Administration's account of the Bin Laden raid and characterizing Obama as a glory-seeker.
Perhaps more significant is unrest in the Middle East, Indonesia and Africa, which puts U.S. citizens at extreme risk. Following dissemination of an infamous anti-Muslim video and the attack in Libya, a series of bomb threats forced evacuation of two major U.S. universities. In this climate, terror against U.S. citizens and property is an ever-present danger, and the bucks stops at the President.
He didn't have the luxury of months of rehearsals -- on the contrary. As his campaign press secretary allowed:
Obama has already canceled some debate preparation because of events in the Middle East. He has had to balance the management of world events, governing, time out campaigning. He'll have less time than we anticipated to sharpen and cut down his tendency to give long, substantive answers.
After the debate, conservative pundit Ann Coulter drew a parallel between Obama's lack of preparation in Denver and her perception that he dropped the ball in Libya:
The fact that Obama didn't prepare, this is like him not being prepared for the attack on our consulate ... He never prepares. He just expects to walk out, be cool and get a standing ovation.
With due respect to Ms. Coulter, it would be far more accurate to say that Obama, who is rarely unprepared and typically hits the ball out of the park anyway, risked appearing uncool and unrehearsed in Denver, despite potential damage to his campaign.
Ms. Coulter thinks that means "he doesn't want this job." But a more astute understanding of Barack Obama might reveal that he devoted his time to what was more important than winning a debate, or even an election. Given the risks America faces today, you can bet it wasn't "anniversary sex."