The economy, abortion, and national security took center stage, but the moderator stole the show at Tuesday night’s presidential debate at Hofstra University. While liberals were racing to announce, “Obama is back,” the debate resulted in a firefight that clearly highlighted the contrasts between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Obama.
From their leadership styles, approach to governing, and national security strategies, to their domestic, foreign, and economic policies, the contrast could not be clearer.
Regardless of the questions, President Obama found a way to steer them to the issues he wanted to discuss even if the answer was blatantly off topic. He turned a question about equal pay for women into an opportunity to promote more government funding for the abortion industry.
Five times he touted Planned Parenthood. He equated more taxpayer funding for the abortion industry as “a pocketbook issue for women.” In addition to defending Planned Parenthood funding in his response to a question about pay equity, President Obama promoted more taxpayer funding for the abortion industry in response to questions about what he had done to earn someone’s vote and how Romney was different than George W. Bush.
It was clear he wanted to talk about abortion any chance he got, a continuation of his Democrat convention talking points.
He tried to assert that “Governor Romney feels comfortable having politicians in Washington decide the health care choices that women are making.” Yet, ironically, it is President Obama who used Washington politicians to force a government orchestrated health insurance system, Obamacare, on all Americans. It is President Obama who is forcing “everybody who is insured” to pay for contraceptive and abortion-pill insurance coverage regardless of the dictates of their faith through the HHS mandate.
Romney pushed back on the president’s implication that he didn’t want women to have contraceptives, saying, “I don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not. And I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not.” As Romney has repeatedly said, people of faith should not be forced to pay for abortion pills and contraceptives that violate the “tenets of their own faith.”
On the economy, the former governor laid out a comprehensive and cogent contrast between his plan and President Obama’s record. He explained:
I understand that I can get this country on track again. We don’t have to settle for what we’re going through. We don’t have to settle for gasoline at four bucks. We don’t have to settle for unemployment at a chronically high level. We don’t have to settle for 47 million people on food stamps. We don’t have to settle for 50 percent of kids coming out of college not able to get work. We don’t have to settle for 23 million people struggling to find a good job.
If I become president, I’ll get America working again. I will get us on track to a balanced budget. The president hasn’t. I will. I’ll make sure we can reform Medicare and Social Security to preserve them for coming -- coming generations. The president said he would. He didn’t.
President Obama’s response to the sluggish economy was to say that he would bring about government takeovers of more industries like he did for the auto industry, saying, “I want to do that in industries, not just in Detroit, but all across the country.” He told the young man asking how he could find a good job that his plan was to bring “high wage, high skill jobs” back to America, and then proceeded to basically give him a choice to work in manufacturing or an auto plant.
It is clear that Romney won more favor with the American people on how he will handle the economy. CNN’s flash poll showed Romney gained “an 18-point lead on the economy,” and CBS’s poll showed Romney winning the debate on the economy 65 percent to 34 percent
On this key issue, which most agree is the key issue of the election, Romney dominated.
While the debate was heated from the opening question to the final moment, as it progressed, the moderator interjected herself more and more until an unfortunate moment at the most critical part of the debate – the Libya question.
Candy Crowley, CNN’s chief political correspondent and the first woman chosen to host a presidential debate in two decades, was given the unique opportunity to set the bar for aspiring female journalists. Instead, Crowley awkwardly went outside the boundaries, rudely interrupting the candidates when she saw fit, and conveniently making up the rules as she went along. In fact, it is estimated that she interrupted Romney 28 times while only interrupting Obama nine times.
South Carolina’s Charleston County Republican Party Chair Lin Bennett said, “Romney not only had to debate the president but he had to debate Candy Crowley as well.”
Crowley was caught in a blatant act of partisanship when she attempted to cover for President Obama’s statement on Libya. Don’t be fooled, Crowley’s defense of the president was no innocent mistake, but yet another example of journalistic integrity gone awry. At a minimum, viewers deserve a level of professionalism from a presidential debate moderator. However, Crowley’s lack of judgment only served to confirm the faults of the so-called “Fourth Estate.” When asked why she could possibly make such an error she replied, “The president kept looking at me going, ‘you know’ -- and I thought, well, I did know then.”
This response is not the defense of a veteran journalist but rather the ramblings of a faithful follower of President Obama. A moderator should think twice before blindly following a candidate’s command to speak out on his behalf. Crowley became an Obama aide when she incorrectly decided to briefly become a surrogate for a candidate whose real goal was to end the discussion. While she may have succeeded in assisting Obama during the debate, what happened next is further insult to her integrity as a journalist.
If Crowley is a “veteran journalist” with unprecedented experience, she should know not to make statements without knowing the truth. But when asked what she thought of the candidates performance Crowley said, “So I thought they were both incredibly intense, they both came to play, but I didn’t totally get this kind of ‘we hate each other’ vibe from them at all. I just got an urgency vibe from the both of them.” Her actions did no not match her words, a convenient cover for the biased environment she created.
Crowley failed and ended up spending the rest of her night admitting that she was wrong. It was clear that her goal was not to deliver truth to the American people but rather to please the liberal establishment. No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, this sycophantic behavior by a moderator should not be tolerated in a debate.
Crowley’s journalistic failure could not have come at a more critical moment of the debate. In response to the only question on what happened when our consulate was attacked and our ambassador murdered last month in Libya, President Obama asserted that he told the American people the morning after the attack that, “this was an act of terror.”
Romney pressed him on this assertion stating, “I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.” Crowley interjected herself into the debate, with a sort of on the spot fact check, that Obama “did call it an act of terror.” An assertion by the debate moderated that was just plain wrong. The Washington Post, Washington Times, Politico’s Mike Allen, and even Crowley herself, later stated that Romney was right. The reality is that while Obama did say, “‘No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this nation,’ . . . he did not say ‘terrorism’—and it took the administration days to concede that that it an ‘act of terrorism’ that appears unrelated to initial reports of anger at a video that defamed the prophet Muhammad.”
Putting aside the fact checking, the moderator, the semantics, and the spin, the President’s handling of Libya and how he explained it to the American people leaves many questions to be answered.
If President Obama knew it was an act of terrorism on the day after the attack, why did he send his United Nations Ambassador out five days later to say it was a mob reaction to a video? Why did he himself go before the UN two weeks later and blame that video six times?
What President Obama essentially did last night was admit that he voted for calling it a terrorist attack before he voted against it, and then for it again.
These questions are only going to build until the final debate on foreign policy. Libya was the only question of the entire debate that Obama didn’t want more time to talk about and asked to move on from. He won’t have that luxury on Monday night.
Jordan Sekulow is executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice. He served as a consultant to Romney for President in 2008. Anna Sekulow is director of digital policy for the ACLJ. Matthew Clark is an attorney for the ACLJ.