Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

October 7, 2012

HOPKINS: Where was the president Wednesday?

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Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — It was only one debate, but on Wednesday night Mitt Romney showed he’s in this presidential election to win it. President Obama? He looked like the high schooler who partied all weekend and forgot there was a major test on Monday.

The president didn’t look presidential at all. I don’t know what was worse: his constant staring down at the podium as Romney went up one side of him and down the other, or his stream of umms and ahhs as he struggled vainly to make coherent sentences.

To paraphrase the president, he didn’t prepare and as a consequence he didn’t look or sound good and as a consequence he got his tail handed to him and as a consequence he’s licking his wounds.

Meanwhile, Romney was crisp and articulate. He came out swinging and hit all the right notes. He looked and sounded confident. At least one of these guys realizes that there’s something at stake in November.

I had to laugh when I heard the president’s apologists after the debate. Chris Matthews on MSNBC said Obama needs to watch his network more, especially Al Sharpton. Yeah, that’s what the president needs to do: listen to a frothing-at-the-mouth blowhard.

Then there was the “Internet inventor” Al Gore, who blamed Obama’s performance on, of all things, the mile-high altitude of Denver. To quote the president, “ummmm” no. I’m surprised they didn’t accuse Romney of gaining an unfair advantage by spending time in a hypobaric chamber.

I don’t know what happened to President Obama on Wednesday — outside of his inability to use a TelePrompTer for the debate — but he certainly mailed this one in. However, I have a couple of guesses as to why he looked so miserable.

He didn’t prepare. That was plainly evident. The man didn’t defend his record. Although there’s not much to show for his four years of vapidity, President Obama didn’t even attempt to refute some of Romney’s exaggerations, of which there were plenty. (Obama had his own litany of “mis-truths,” too.)

He spent too much time on the fairways and hob-nobbing with his Hollywood pals than brushing up on policy, history, economics and the future of our country. This was evident well before the debate in Denver. When half of Colorado was burning just a few weeks ago he was nowhere to be found, unless you turned on your favorite morning talk show.

Apparently he thought he could get by on a Cliff’s Notes version of the debate.

In case you didn’t figure it out by the end of the second paragraph, I’m not a fan of our president. However, I tuned in Wednesday expecting to see a good debate, with sharp answers to questions and some good verbal sparring from both sides.

Mitt Romney delivered. Sadly, Barack Obama did not. It’s disappointing because the president is a very talented orator and it’s easy to see why Democrats and liberals get so excited when he talks.

Barack Obama’s “ahhs” and “ums” are well known. However, they’re usually uttered when he’s looking for the precise word to punctuate his thought or statement. It almost always works for him. On Wednesday it backfired, horrendously, and Romney benefited with a huge swing in the undecided vote.

Who knows? Maybe this first debate was Obama’s “rope-a-dope” and he’ll come out swinging for the fences when he and Romney reconvene on Long Island for round two. He has to survive Thursday’s Joe Biden-Paul Ryan debate first.

That will be interesting, too. I asked some good friends who are Democrats who they thought was dumber (yes, I actually used “dumb” in the question): Biden or Dan Quayle. Without hesitation they said Biden. They cringe whenever the man opens his mouth.

It’s only the first debate and there are five more weeks until election day. That’s plenty of time for the pendulum to sing the undecided voters the other way.

The president needs to buckle down and rediscover his mojo. As for Mitt Romney, he has to avoid being too aggressive in attack mode, or risk a Rick Lazio type moment (remember that finger pointed at Hillary Clinton in 2000?).

The second debate will be very telling. I have a feeling that we’ll have a clearer picture on who will win in November before it’s over.

John J. Hopkins is managing editor of the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal. His column appears on Sundays. Contact Mr. Hopkins at john.hopkins@lockportjournal.com.