Saturday, October 20, 2012

Second Presidential Debate

Kerry Ladka: Libya question

Every commentator seems to agree that the second Presidential debate between President Obama and Governor Romney was the most contentious so far. Most also agree that President Obama made a much better showing than he did in the first debate. I admit being partial to Romney but sitting in my living room, I found it hard to say if either candidate had scored a clear victory.

In the first place, it bothered me that both candidates while being polite and attentive to the town hall questioners, tended to largely ignore the questions. I know that this is standard operating procedure, but both seemed less than genuine when they used a question to go off on a standard stump reply.

It made me think back to a sales meeting many years ago when a big shot from the home office visited our local office to deal with some pressing problems. He assembled us all in the meeting room and indicated that he had come to listen to our questions and problems and that he had no preconceived agenda. Then, he opened the floor to questions and in response to the first launched into a two-hour exposition of how he had achieved such success in his own career. Needless to say, there were no further questions after this ordeal.

Nevertheless, the debate contained some extraordinary revelations. At one point Governor Romney indicated that one of his goals was to eliminate the tax on savings and investment income for people making less than $200000 per year. President Obama did not pick up on this bombshell and since the debate I have seen no discussion anywhere.

Elimination of tax on savings and dividend income would mark a revolution in the personal finances of most Americans as well in the financial services industry. Tax deferred bonds would lose much of their luster for middle class America. Tax-deferred annuities would lose much of their reason for being. Even IRAs and other retirement plans would become less attractive. On the other hand, dividend-paying stocks would become even more attractive especially to Seniors. In a focus group right after the debate one older woman said that this issue alone would make her vote for Romney.

Again, I admit my anti Obama bias but even though he was more energetic, I can’t say that he made any memorable points. From the first, he went back to his original story line that his opponent was only interested in helping rich people and cared little for the middle class. In my opinion, the class warfare theme is getting weak.

I thought that Governor Romney did a creditable job but I believe he missed a golden opportunity on the Libya question. The question was asked by a man who later identified himself as a supporter of the President on social issues, but who admired Romney’s business skills. Here is the question he formulated with some of his buddies at work.

Question: We were sitting around, talking about Libya, and we were reading and became aware of reports that the State Department refused extra security for our embassy in benghazi, Libya, prior to the attacks that killed four Americans.
 Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?
President Obama was the first respondent and no one watching or reading the transcript later can honestly say that he answered it. He never said who denied the enhanced security or even admitted if it was denied. He certainly never got to the why.

Then it was Romney's turn. I know it's hard to react quickly when 60 million people are watching and so much is at stake, but at the moment here is what I thought he should have done. He should have approached the questioner, Kerry Ladka, an ordinary American citizen, to repeat the question. At that point he only had to say, "I can't answer your question, only the President can." ###

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