President Obama was clearly better in the second debate than in the first.
His supporters can take comfort in his energy, aggressiveness, and determination. He was far stronger than in the first debate.
But although Obama improved stylistically, he was profoundly dishonest on the substance.
Romney was strong but not quite as good as in the first debate. He missed a huge opportunity on Libya, a big opportunity on energy, and several smaller opportunities.
He was also forced to be argumentative and pushy by moderator Candy Crowley’s constant intervention on behalf of Obama.
After two debates in which the moderators were relatively passive and allowed the candidates to decide the pattern and rhythm of the debate, this town hall saw the return of the liberal activist as an interventionist force.
As I have often warned when Republicans tolerate liberal moderators, they are setting up two-on-one contests in which they have to fight their way past both the moderator and the opposing candidate.
Crowley repeatedly intervened to stop Romney from dismantling Obama???s lies on taxes and women???s issues, even though she had given him far less time to speak. Her support of Obama’s false claim that on Sept. 12 he had described the Benghazi attack as terrorism may go down in debate history as an extraordinary propping up of falsehood.
Obama in the Rose Garden called the Libya attacks ???senseless violence??? and referred generally to ???acts of terror,??? then spent weeks dodging the truth on Benghazi. Everyone knows this. Within minutes after the debate Crowley acknowledged that of course Romney was ???right in the main???: the administration did refuse for weeks to call the acts ???terrorism??? or to attribute them to ???terrorists.???
It is precisely because so many of Obama’s key moments were based on falsehood that we will not know for several more days who really won the town hall meeting.
His lies about Libya were systematic, methodical, and as fully mendacious as his administration has been on this topic for more than a month.
Four Americans, including the first ambassador to die from terrorism in 33 years, were killed and the President of the United States deliberately lied to the American people.
United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice was sent out the Sunday after the attack to lie on five TV shows. Her interviews were explicitly false and misleading. The Obama administration had decided, for whatever reason, that it did not want to admit the Benghazi attacks were a deliberate assault by allies of al Qaeda. The administration was determined to pin the blame on an idiotic movie made by an anti-Muslim extremist.
This was not a temporary act of dishonesty.
Even when the president’s media spokesman was forced to concede there were terrorists behind the Benghazi attack, the president the very same day went back to blaming crowd anger caused by an anti-Muslim film.
Furthermore, President Obama went to the United Nations and six times mentioned the film in his speech to the General Assembly. He did not once call the attacks terrorism.
When asked outright on “The View” and on Univision whether the attacks constituted terrorism, twice he refused to say.
Just look at the timeline of what the administration said surrounding the attacks and it will be very clear that the president???s dishonesty continued last night.
Some enterprising activist is going to put President Obama’s Benghazi falsehoods in the town hall meeting in a YouTube video with all his and his administration’s earlier statements and the depth of their dishonesty will be vividly obvious.
By Saturday this should have happened and then we will see if Obama???s strength in last night???s debate survives the proof of the his dishonesty.
Obama was misleading in his energy answers and the gap between his claims and the fact is entirely to his disadvantage. He said that oil production is at its highest level in 16 years and that they are drilling on more public lands than the previous administration. In fact, annual leasing on federal lands is at a 30 year low. Mitt Romney was correct when he said oil production on federal lands is down 14 percent — and 9 percent for natural gas. The president just flat out lied in this exchange.
Beyond his dishonesty, he will be hurt both by the price of gasoline — $2 a gallon higher than when he became president — and by the degree to which leaders in coal, oil, and gas will reject his claims.
As Romney said to the president in the exchange, ???I don’t think anyone really believes that you’re a person who’s going to be pushing for oil and gas and coal.???
Romney may have been at his best in his closing when he kept saying that we do not have to settle for the current performance failures.
In many ways President Obama’s deliberate lying to the American people about terrorism and the death of four Americans may be the greatest Obama failure.
We will see by Saturday if the country has digested the Benghazi falsehoods and rendered judgment.