Who Won the Presidential Debate?

A true debate is over ideology and principle. This wasn’t that. It was a debate over attitude; but in this respect, there was a winner.

Obama’s attitude — as we know from watching him govern for four years — is for unrelenting, unlimited and unaccountable one -party government. No President in American history (outside of Franklin D. Roosevelt — not a compliment) has been as statist, socialist and expansive in government power over domestic affairs as Obama. Everyone knows this, and anything he said (at times) to the contrary in this debate is meaningless and laughable. For example, at one point Obama actually claimed that the “genius of America is free enterprise.” In what universe does anyone, including Obama himself, believe that Obama believes this!?

Most people don’t judge political debates or candidates for President by ideology. I do, because to me — as a psychotherapist, as well — ideas are what determine everything important. As has been said, ideas move man — and man moves the world. If I’m talking with a depressed or troubled client, I want to know what ideas are moving (or paralyzing) him or her. If I’m listening to a presidential candidate who will make decisions affecting my life forever, I want to know what his ideas are. Most don’t agree with me, and ideology has become a more or less dirty word in politics. Nevertheless, its relevance in reality will never be wished away.

Having said that, if you judge this debate by the superficial performance of each candidate, Romney won hands down. He was enthused, articulate, awake, alert and at times — pragmatist that he is — even a bit philosophical and ideological, at times reminiscent of a Ronald Reagan. Obama, on the other hand, looked tired, resentful, angry. He was for the most part petulant, pedantic and — as always — came across as if indignant that he has to be running for anything.

The psychologist in me knows such a man is more insecure than we know, and with good reason given how wrong he is about so many things. The lover of liberty in me detests that no candidate for office, least of all this sitting President, has the faintest idea or concern for what liberty and individual rights — properly defined — actually are.

The two men fought for the middle class. Small is beautiful. Not small government or small taxes, but small businesses and small incomes seem to be the order of the day. Each claimed they care about small business, and not big business. Why is one inherently any better? Why is small better than big? In a free market, at least, businesses become big because they are successful. Hello!? Isn’t success a good thing? Neither candidate said so, if he thinks so. One gets the feeling that if pressed, Romney would agree. Obama would merely sneer.

And then there’s health care. Romney’s attitude about wanting to choose his own health insurance in a private market, over letting a government board determine it, won the evening, in substance (as it should) and in style (given Romney’s superior performance in describing it). Like Obama, Romney believes that government is fundamentally responsible, at the end of the day, for making sure that everyone is insured. Neither seems to grasp that by saying “government” is responsible for this, each is saying that one person is responsible for another’s health insurance, in effect enslaving part of the population for the sake of another part. Romney would prefer to see this mandate applied at the state level, and less severely than Obama’s command-and-control approach from Washington D.C. Obama openly denied that he favors command-and-control socialism, but every single day of his presidency stands in opposition to his invention of facts.

The frustrating thing about listening to Obama and Romney “debate” health care is they talk about a “system” of health care and who can best provide it. There is, or should be, no “system.” A “system” is not part of a free society. Soviet Russia had a system of economic control. Castro’s Cuba and Communist North Korea have systems. Islamic Iran has a system of totalitarian dominance over every last breath taken by each individual citizen. America does not need a “system” of this kind. America needs only one system: A strong central government, combined with local governments, to keep people physically safe from violence and civilly safe from fraud. That’s it. And that’s more than enough to keep a government both busy and just, is it not?

Who won the debate? Neither, of course, because there was no debate of principle. But by the more conventional standards, Romney clearly won. Romney’s was the superior attitude, the last vestige of the American sense of life of “Leave me the hell alone and stay out of my business.” Obama was the haughty apostle of what he sees as the self-evident creed that we are all our brothers’ keepers and government must make sure of that. He seemed a little out of steam, though. What will the voters ultimately say to all this? We’ll soon know.


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