The Debate Watching Party

When I’m student teaching, I barely have a chance to breathe, let alone check for messages. As a result, when the bell rang yesterday, I was somewhat surprised to find three fairly frantic messages from Michael Herley, a pal and fellow Fairfielder. He had been at an event the previous evening and wound up speaking with a writer for the Associated Press, who was looking for a debate viewing party to cover. Well, words were exchanged, numbers passed back and forth and before we knew it, a bipartisan viewing party was arranged to be held at the home of David Becker, the majority leader of the Representative Town Meeting. Deb and I were invited along as token Democrats, although we were soon joined by Selectman Cristin McCarthy Vahey.

We met up with everyone around 8 last night, and as usual, there was plenty of food and drink. Our AP reported marveled at how friendly and collegial we all were, considering how tense some of the exchanges could be in the public forums.

The reporter met with each of us one-on-one to pre-interview us, getting some sense of what we expected from the debate and the candidates. I told her I was hoping for Obama to be the smooth speaker who was easily understood four years ago.

Then the debate began and we all clustered around the large screen set. As you might imagine, there was plenty of cat calling from all sides, although some were far more partisan than others. And truth be told, by the time it ended, no one had changed sides. There was one genuine undecided voter present and the reporter started with him. He still couldn’t determine who he was voting for and I can’t blame him.

Like most of America, I was deeply disappointed in President Obama’s performance. He was not smooth, he was far from clear, and his repeated hand gestures grew tiresome. Not that Romney was much better with the same feigned expression of interest and repeated hand gestures. At least he was clearer, and funnier (despite stealing his best line of the night). Of course, the moment he questioned future funding for PBS, the Twitterverse exploded in defense of Big Bird, et. al.

Personally, I felt neither man expressed his case well, distorting and twisting the other guy’s facts beyond recognition and then sticking to their story rather than moving on. We groaned every time the $5 trillion tax cut was mentioned or the $750 million in Medicare funding came up since both were inaccurate. Neither had a vision for America, neither dared to address the partisanship that left this the least productive Congress in a century. Neither was very convincing they had a way to squeeze Wall Street to free the hoarded cash that is keeping people from being employed.

While it was a fun, social night and our reporter got more than she bargained for, as a debate it was a disappointment. Jim Lehrer was at his least effective and Romney showed particular disdain for the process, which hurt his overall fine performance.

Thankfully, despite this embarrassing evening for the President, there remain several more debates including the Veep candidates, where I hope the sharper distinctions between those two will make it clear the kind of administration we’re getting in 2013.

P.S. Just got a note from the writer, Helen O’Neill, who apologized that so much of her piece was cut, melded into one master story with contributions from writers around the country. Our host made it in as did at least one other attendee.

Leave a Reply