Gods of Politics be praised, Dolly Madison can rest in peace! A rare zinger free evening between presidential debaters is a special treat for engaged voters, but for those junkies left wanting their cake, those polysorbate-60-laden snacks at the local market will have to make do.
In the loose reins of seasoned moderator Jim Lehrer, both the President and his primary rival served up something voters have been craving this political cycle, clear differences on key issues. They even found a way to agree on a few things.
Zinger free debates and politicians who keep their word! What is this world coming to?
Well, we haven't come to a transformed political landscape quite yet. The debaters still rambled on, went over their time limits, left issues by the wayside, and delivered well-practiced and polished narratives.
Both Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama looked strong, confident, relaxed, were cordial with each other, even jovial at times. Neither participant knocked each other off their game.
But as much of a treat as this debate was to watch it left an old familiar aftertaste reminiscent of false campaign promises. Both men overstated past glory, broad stroked the future, promised better times are yet to come, blamed partisan opposition, and skimped on details of workable solutions to make it all better.
They agree on some key issues: financial transparency, healthcare savings, benefiting the middle class, reducing the debt. As such, it's a wonder why Congress hasn't moved on stricter regulations of Wall Street, banking and the financial services industry, or championed the Mayo-clinic model for being both cost cutting and more effective, or enhanced the middle class' prosperity, or reduced the national debt.
On the failing economy and job creation, both candidates glossed over their solution specifics, leaving an uneasy feeling there isn't one to be had. Even though in Governor Romney's closing statement he promised 12 million new jobs, he had all debate to explain how but didn't. The 100,000 new science and technology teaching jobs promised by the President seems a drop in the bucket even if it is on the right track.
The choices of how to move America and our economy forward are however clear:
Taxation: Increase tax on wealth vs. Tax reductions while cutting special deductions.
Loopholes: Cut corporate vs. Cut individual.
Welfare: Cut corporate vs. Cut individual.
Energy: Drill and develop vs. Green and renewable.
Military Spending: Increase vs. Reduce.
Entitlements: Secure and strengthen vs. Cut and privatize.
Public Funding: Keep vs. Cut.
If he didn't have it before, Mitt Romney definitely has the Cookie Monster's full attention now. PBS's current $444m budget is on the conservative's chopping block. (Budget amount per Hollywood Reporter). Sesame Street might not be the best place to draw the budgetary balancing line if it engages and enrages the Muppets.
Regardless of these distinctions, will Congress act either way whomever the victor?
To this viewer, there were no clear winners in the first presidential debate of the 2012 cycle. Both participants delivered their A game. But the core issues of government's purpose and how to move forward together were the real losers. The 800-pound gorilla that is sitting on Capital Hill right now is named Partisan Gridlock, and it's constipated. Maybe it's eaten too much red meat and zingers?
The longer it takes to get things moving again, the more of a mess it will create. America needs this election to decide which direction to head, such that it inspires Congress to take effective action in helping us go there.