The first presidential debate opened jovially, with the President Obama acknowleding his wife and their 20th anniversary and Mitt Romney joking that the president could have chosen a far more romantic setting, not one featuring him and millions of Americans.
While the first major segment didn’t focus on ethics, moral or faith-y topics there were moments that were very telling about each man:
Did Romney call his children liars?
“Look, I’ve got five boys,” he said. “I’m used to people saying something that’s not always true, but just keep on repeating it and ultimately hoping I’ll believe it. But that -- that is not the case. All right? I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans.
Will they talk about poverty?
Within the first two segments, Romney did reference food stamps as he discussed his priority for putting people back to work. “We’ve got 23 million people out of work or stopped looking for work in this country. It’s just -- it’s -- we’ve got -- when the president took office, 32 million people on food stamps; 47 million on food stamps today; economic growth this year slower than last year, and last year slower than the year before. Going forward with the status quo is not going to cut it for the American people who are struggling today.”
Romney: Federal debt is a ‘moral issue’
“It’s a critical issue. I think it’s not just an economic issue, I think it’s a moral issue. I think it’s, frankly, not moral for my generation to keep spending massively more than we take in, knowing those burdens are going to be passed on to the next generation and they’re going to be paying the interest and the principal all their lives.
On the same point, President Obama noted after he was elected nearly four years ago he encountered the following:
When I walked into the Oval Office, I had more than a trillion-dollar deficit greeting me. And we know where it came from: two wars that were paid for on a credit card; two tax cuts that were not paid for; and a whole bunch of programs that were not paid for; and then a massive economic crisis.
And despite that, what we’ve said is, yes, we had to take some initial emergency measures to make sure we didn’t slip into a Great Depression, but what we’ve also said is, let’s make sure that we are cutting out those things that are not helping us grow.
Romney shouts out Big Bird yet aims to cut PBS
I’m sorry, Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS, I love Big Bird. Actually like you, too. But I’m not going to -- I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for. That’s number one.
It’s my turn! No, it’s my turn!
Slight verbal tussle of who gets to answer next with Romney appearing to quibble over debate rules and the president also trying to point out who should speak when. The back-and-forth prompted reaction on Twitter among debate-watchers wondering how well moderator Jim Lehrer was handling the flow of the conversation: