The CFR Attends the Hofstra Presidential Debate

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The author with CFR founder Leonard Jacobs at Hofstra University

Last night a wonderful thing happened, no not the Great Debate, but when Leonard Jacobs and I took a taxi from the LIRR and arrived at the lot for the media shuttle to the venue, we were asked, “What organization are you with?” I answered, “The Clyde Fitch Report,” and the attendant said, “Oh yes, you go right in!” Validation! The CRF has arrived!

Welcome back Mr. President. Obama practically danced on stage last night. After the first debate debacle, he finally seemed to grasp the importance of appearing to give a shit about debating his political opponent, Mitt Romney.

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But first, who, except an escort service, has binders of women lying around?

Mitt Romney was on the defensive from the beginning. Almost like he knew last time was a fluke. He was aggressive, manic and seemed to be flustered that he did not control the stage like he did in Denver. The Town Hall format is made for relaxed interactions with the moderator and the audience. There were 82 undecided voters from Nassau County and about 300 students who were lucky enough to get picked in the lottery.

Candy Crowley came out, and immediately took control. She took questions from the audience and reeled in the candidates when they tried to push their time limits.

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The first question was from a college student, Jeremy Epstein, asking about jobs when he graduates. Romney assured him that Pell grants and loan programs would be continued, but lacked specifics on exactly how he would assure young Mr. Epstein that a job would be waiting for him. But last night, Romney did not mention something he had talked about at an previous town meeting in Youngstown, Ohio, where said, “my best advice is: find a great institution of higher learning, find one that has the right place, shop around. In America, this idea of competition, it works. And don’t just go to the one that has the highest price. Go to one that has a little lower price where you can get a good education, and hopefully you’ll find that, and . . . uh . . . don’t take on too much debt.” You know, poor people, if you can’t afford Harvard, then don’t even dream of going there!

Obama then jumped off his stool and countered with three points to help Mr. Epstein find work after graduation by creating more manufacturing jobs, community colleges for job retraining and creating new energy jobs.

Chris Matthews
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews spotted by our correspondent at the debate
Photo by Leonard Jacobs

Obama’s first jab came with the “Die Detroit Die” plan Romney suggested back when the auto companies were failing and needed help. This made Mitt mad. He tried to cut in, but Obama kept on speaking until Candy eventually had to shut Mitt down. Mitt, you did say to let Detroit go bankrupt; you can’t change facts again, it’s on YouTube, buddy. Your words live on.

Obama had a good laugh about Romney and the oil drilling. Are we still on that tired “Drill, Baby, Drill” nonsense? Back and forth they went: clean energy, green energy, coal companies are sad, Solyndra failed! But while Obama had a many-point energy plan, including using our fossil fuels and investing in wind, solar and other green technologies, Mitt had no other options except drilling. That’s some earth loving, climate change denying forward thinking Mitt!

Now we moved on to the lady bits. When asked about birth control being offered by employers at no extra charge to women, Romney actually said “I don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not. And I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.” Mitt! Seriously, your words are recorded! You cannot support the Blunt amendment, which would give bosses the power to deny women coverage for birth control one day, then lie about that support the next day. In fact, your running mate Paul Ryan has clearly stated he would absolutely get rid of the birth control coverage requirement. He said “It will be gone. I can guarantee you that.”

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And, of course, there was no news on the budget cutting. Except for tax cuts. Tax Cuts! I noticed he didn’t state, like he did in the first debate, that he planned no new revenues. I remember that because I had to rewind 3 times to make sure. Obama did get in a great zing when he said, “Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan, he has a one-point plan, and that is to see that the people at the top play by a different set of rules.”

Dick Durbin
Also spotted: Sen. Dick Durbin
Photo by Leonard Jacobs

Immigration was great! Finally Obama brought up self-deportation, you know, Romney’s brilliant plan to make life so miserable that Mexicans (like his dad) would simply leave. Then to really gin up the Latino vote in his favor, he said, “But first of all, this is a nation of immigrants. We welcome people coming to this country as immigrants. My dad was born in Mexico of American parents; Ann’s dad was born in Wales and is a first-generation American. We welcome legal immigrants into this country.” Now Romney’s dad is a Mexican immigrant! That’s fantastic!

But my favorite part was the question about pay equity. Obama brought up The Lilly Ledbetter Act, the first act he signed into law. Equal pay isn’t just about women, the President stated, it’s about families, and equal pay makes families and the middle class stronger.

Then, Romney told the now-infamous binder story! The question was about pay equity for women. Obama talked about The Lilly Ledbetter Act, which the Governor opposed. Then Romney took a deep breath and said this:

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Thank you. An important topic, and one which I learned a great deal about, particularly as I was serving as governor of my state, because I had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men. And I… and I went to my staff, and I said, “How come all the people for these jobs are… are all men.” They said, “Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.” And I said, “Well, gosh, can’t we… can’t we find some… some women that are also qualified?” And… and so we… we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women’s groups and said, “Can you help us find folks?” and they brought us whole binders full of women.

WHAT? In his 25 years of business, working at Bain, the Olympics and now as Governor, he did not know one single qualified woman to join his cabinet? Not a single one? So he OUT-SOURCED finding qualified women! They actually brought him binders of women! Binders! Apparently, Romney did not even think to walk the halls of the Capitol and meet some of the educated, powerful, supremely qualified women in his own building. Couldn’t just walk down the hall of the Capitol? This takes boys club to a whole new level! No ladies at Bain, except in the secretary pool. In bikinis!

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Media Filing Center
Leonard Jacobs at the Media Filing Center
Photo by the author

Finally, over a question about Benghazi, Romney thought he had finally cornered Obama on this issue. Romney made sure everyone heard the President state he called the murders of Ambassador Chris Stevens and the three other embassy staff an act of terrorism. Whoosh! Romney’s eyes gleam, his face a frozen mask of I CAUGHT YOU! He was clearly desperate to call Obama a liar, but Obama called out for the transcript. Then, Candy gave the smack down heard around the country. She fact checked Romney and said, Yes, in fact the President did call the attack an act of terror. It was hard to watch Romney deflate so easily. His great point was just another lie perpetrated by his staff and drilled into him by his debate coach.

The last nail was during their closing statements when Romney, almost free and clear of any mention of the 47%, actually brought it up himself! He just had to tell us he will be President of 100% of the country! What an idiot. He almost made it. So Obama jumped in and made sure to remind us all about the closed-door comment about the 47%. I’ll leave you with the President’s closing words on the insult heard around the country:

I believe Governor Romney is a good man. Loves his family, cares about his faith. But I also believe that when he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considered themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility, think about who he was talking about.

Folks on Social Security who’ve worked all their lives. Veterans who’ve sacrificed for this country. Students who are out there trying to hopefully advance their own dreams, but also this country’s dreams. Soldiers who are overseas fighting for us right now. People who are working hard every day, paying payroll tax, gas taxes, but don’t make enough income.

And I want to fight for them. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last four years. Because if they succeed, I believe the country succeeds.

When my grandfather fought in World War II and he came back and he got a G.I. Bill and that allowed him to go to college, that wasn’t a handout. That was something that advanced the entire country. And I want to make sure that the next generation has those same opportunities. That’s why I’m asking for your vote and that’s why I’m asking for another four years.

See you in Boca October 22!

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