If you're like me and can’t wait for the debates, check out the back-to-back interviews with Mitt Romney and President Obama on last night’s “60 Minutes.”
A couple of conclusions after watching. First, the debates will likely help Romney, perhaps a lot. Assuming he doesn't make a mistake, the American people will see a candidate who looks stronger, more decisive and compassionate than his caricature. There are a lot of weaknesses in the interview, particularly when Romney suggests that people who don’t have health care can always rely on the emergency room if they have a heart attack, prompting the interviewer to ask, “But isn’t that the most expensive way to deliver care?” Romney says under his plan of state control, he won’t mandate the emergency room; a clinic would be okay. Another contorted answer caused by his disowning his Massachusetts health-care law. And Romney looks shifty when he refuses to discuss what exemptions he will eliminate as part of his tax plan, and unbelievable when he says that he can balance the budget without any new taxes. But much of the time, Romney appears calm, rational and smart about job creation. The debates cannot come soon enough for him.
Obama, on the other hand, does well on defending his domestic and foreign record and in linking Romney's prescriptions for the economy to failed trickle-down theories of the past. But here is where the president is weak, and it is a vulnerability I have noted several times before: He lacks conviction on why his second term will be better than the first. At first, when asked why anyone should believe that he will be able to get more accomplished in the future, he says that after the election his “expectation and hope” is that “cooperation will come to the fore.” Really? I think he should have made central to his convention and should close on in the weeks leading to the election: The role of the American people in demanding that Washington address our twin challenges of jobs and the deficit with a balanced approach. When asked how he will ever get Republicans to accept higher taxes on the wealthy as part of a budget deal, Obama replies, “I won’t; the American people will.” This is on the right track; he should make his election a referendum on the future. He says, rightly, that this is an important election, and one that offers the American people a clear choice. What Obama needs to do now is to sound more excited about making the right choice and the possibilities that offers our country.