It's been a week since the Denver debate. I remain dedicated to the reelection of Obama and the larger Democratic cause, and although concerned I'm not at all in panic mode. We have three remaining debates, and over three weeks to regain momentum and attain a wave victory--in which we can not only retain the Presidency and the Senate, but possibly regain the House. And three weeks is at least three political lifetimes, as we can have all seen this past week. But still I remain pissed off at Obama--and probably will remain so until I see something very different from this debate performance.
First of all I'm pissed off at the stupidity of their choice of strategy in the first debate. Given Obama's political persona over the past four years--his fantasy of being the Great Conciliator, which has contributed greatly to his image of ineffectuality among many swing voters--it was numbingly predictable that he would prefer to maintain a bland, dignified posture during the debate. To act "presidential", as the team has acknowledged since. In going whole hog with this strategy, with no apparent consideration of another option, they allowed the Romney team to develop an effective counterstrategy--running wild with full-on offense and ad lib lying, daring Obama to deviate from his strategy. Obama, as disciplined as he is, indeed managed to maintain his countenance--but considering that he was doing so while his opponent was egging him on and figuratively spitting in his face, he came off as weak, detached, and lacking the courage of his convictions.
It pisses me off that the Obama team couldn't foresee this, because frankly if I were the Romney team with their backs against the wall, it's not only the strategy I would have chosen--it's about the only one they had to consider. As long as Obama remained locked into "presidential" mold, he was doomed. No flexibility for Obama's approach seems to have been planned. Obama looked much of the time like he was sucking a lemon, not doing what he knew in his heart he wanted to do. If appropriate strategic planning had been done, that could have been a cue to adopt Plan B. But I saw no Plan B evident for the entire span of the debate. They brought a knife to a gun fight. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
But that's not all I'm pissed about. I'm pissed at the deeper implications of this "play it safe" strategy--that all the Obama team had in mind with this debate was to make sure that their candidate came through unscathed with enough support to eke out a win. It smells of the triangulation strategy of the Clinton years--as if all that matters to the team is to retain the Presidency, without regard to the progressive agenda at large, since that would require a wave election to sweep Democrats into the House.
I'm pissed because Obama seemingly continues to see the Republican Party as an organization with good intentions, rather than as many of us see it--as the party clearly representative of the forces of hate and greed in the country today. I long for Obama to see these debates not as opportunities to secure his reelection, but to communicate progressive values to all of the available souls in the audience. He was presented with the opportunity to deliver a knockout punch to the de facto leader of a corrupt, hateful, and deceitful party that stands hell-bent in opposition to the values of community and compassion, and he chose instead to "play it safe". I don't know what it is--cowardice, or self-interest--but there's no dignity in it that I can see.
I long for Obama to find his inner FDR--who so boldly stated that "I welcome the hatred of my enemies!" I want him to be a man who sees himself as the leader of a larger progressive movement, rather than as a POTUS trying to save his political skin. Someone who is fighting for all of us every time he gets the chance to do so, rather than making tactical retreats.
THAT would be change I can believe in.