|He was having a ball|
I had my doubts for a while, but now I think I might have been right to imagine in a previous post that President Obama threw the first debate, that he deliberately underperformed.
The question would have to be, why take such a huge, deliberate risk?
This is why I think he took that risk.
All the analysts are in agreement (and always have been) that this election is going to be very close… the economy is what it is and getting reelected with unemployment hovering around 8%, if not mission impossible, is mission pretty difficult. Playing it safe could turn out to be a bigger mistake than boldness when everything is playing out within the statistical error of the polls.
Analysts also agree that the Obama campaign was very smart to spend a lot of money early on in defining Mitt Romney as a hard hearted, tin eared, out of touch, clumsy, flip-flopping phoney. This early attack was successful in selling its narrative of Romney to voters before people were as over saturated with attack ads as they are at this stage.
Then why put up such a weak defense in the first debate? Why encourage his opponent’s aggression?
My reading is that Obama believed that if he had attacked Romney personally with the same brio in the first debate as he did in the second debate people might have found him overly aggressive.
Why would he think that?
Because there is probably no politician in America, black or white, with a deeper understanding of American race psychology. One of the reasons being that perhaps the most important person in his whole life was a nice, little old white lady from Kansas, the woman who raised him, his own grandmother, Madelyn Dunham.
Here, taken from Wikipedia are some quotes of the president talking about her.
He describes his grandmother as:
“a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe. (…) not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity – she doesn’t. But she is a typical white person, who, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know…there’s a reaction that’s been bred into our experiences that don’t go away and that sometimes come out in the wrong way, and that’s just the nature of race in our society.(…) some of the fears of street crime and some of the stereotypes that go along with that were responses that I think many people feel. She’s not extraordinary in that regard. She is somebody that I love as much as anybody. I mean, she has literally helped to raise me. But those are fears that are embedded in our culture, and embedded in our society, and even within our own families, even within a family like mine that is diverse.”
And if you don’t believe racism is alive and well in America, all you have to do is follow the Drudge Report, where a chorus of every imaginable racist dog-whistle is blown daily. I don’t think a white person can get assaulted or mugged by a black person anywhere in America without Matt Drudge covering it, echoing it and trumpeting it. By his numbers, readers appear to lap it up
So I believe that Obama thought that if in the final weeks of the campaign he was going to be able to attack Mitt Romney cruelly, brutally, that he could not be seen to “throw the first punch”, to be the aggressor, to be someone with a chip on his shoulder, looking for a fight. His goal is not to be seen as someone who starts fights, but to be the sort of person that the American psyche loves, the hero of every classic western, the person who “finishes fights”.
In this case Obama didn’t start the fight, he got up off the floor with a bloody nose and fought back.