In the cold light of a new day it does indeed appear that the consensus is that Willard ‘Rat’ Romney “won” the debate last night but mainly on “style” points. Willard Rat displayed verve, passion, aggression, even defiance as he continually peered hawk-eyed at his opponent and mugged the hapless stooge of a moderator, Jim Lehrer. Meanwhile, Obama (the de facto President) mostly stared with downcast eyes at the podium….when he wasn’t looking with imploring eyes for help at the rattled Lehrer. As anyone knows who’s studied predator behavior, whether in wolves, dogs or chimps, this is a sign of submission. What you do NOT want in any televised presidential debate is to appear submissive to the audience when you’re fighting for re-election as leader of the world's foremost superpower. Leaders are NOT submissive, even in the media optics zone!
On that note, and for what it’s worth, I offer the following advice to President Obama for the next debate:
1) At no point, no matter what some nimrod prepare wonk tells you, look down or with downcast eyes at podium! As noted above it is a display of submission. Those of us who’ve owned big dogs (two Rottweilers in my case) know you eye -stare them until THEY back down, to show them WHO is the leader, the dominant. Last night, Romney came over as the dominant, you as the submissive ….by your body language!
2) Do not purse your lips! Especially while looking down! This amplifies the picture of a submissive especially while your opponent is talking. Be aware the camera is always on, often in a split screen mode – showing the two of you side by side. Be sure to look toward the opponent, and stare at him with a hard-eyed look of dominance not professorial or wussie ambience!
3) Interject your own points when the occasion allows. Do not wait for openings from the moderator, as you won’t get any! There were multiple openings last night to beat Romney over the head with his “47%” comment to the plutocrats but you didn’t use them! What? You did not wish to appear overly “aggressive”? Sir, this is for all the marbles! You can’t afford NOT to be aggressive if you expect viewers to believe you’re committed to your positions and policies.
A long time liberal complaint against you is that there is no position or belief you will truly fight to the death for. That you will “split differences” as far as you can as you did while an IL State senator, merely to preserve peace. This is not good enough.
Not definitively differing with Romney (which I attribute alas, to some of your Neoliberal instincts - which also played the 'deficit' and Bowles-Simpson card at the wrong time) blurs distinctions and also undercuts your populist rhetoric while in campaign mode, addressing 'Middle Class' USA. It makes you appear like an ersatz populist. You need to make your mind up to FIGHT for the true sustenance and benefits in these programs (and DON'T call them "entitlements") whether in debate TV format or otherwise.
You have to be prepared to bring fire in the belly and FIGHT for traditional Dem programs, or many people will believe you stand for nothing. Only trying to win the elections. Bear in mind JFK’s words here: 'For the Democratic Party is not a collection of diverse interests brought together only to win elections. We are united instead by a common history and heritage--by a respect for the deeds of the past and a recognition of the needs of the future".
The discussion of Social Security last night was a perfect example. Instead of ripping Romney’s head off for his privatization plan AND VOWING TO PROTECT EXISTING BENEFITS you seemed to side with him that “entitlements” benefits need changing. To quote Joan Walsh of Salon.com: "giving Romney the benefit of the doubt on Social Security is political malpractice". In this respect, you appear to have forgotten that your lead in crucial states such as OH and FLA hinges on the future of Social Security, Medicare. You may now, because of the tepid response on key programs to Romney in the debate, have to do 'damage control' on the campaign trail!
4) PRACTICE MORE! To eliminate mouth –verbal pauses. Uh-…uh….w-well…uh….. This is not beneficial and makes it appear you either don’t know your own mind, or that your policies and thoughts are too nebulous to be expressed clearly and concisely. Those pauses, when you ought to have been able to fire back at Romney without a nanosecond’s hesitation, made Bill Maher – one of your supporters- tweet: “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Obama really does look like he needs a teleprompter!” And that’s from one of the good guys!
5) Put Romney on the defensive more! The next debate is about foreign policy, and you need to be sure to interject Romney’s statement some years ago that pursuing Osama bin Ladin wasn’t worth risking lives. At the same time, YOU need to be sure to mention your own taking him out – even if the moderator never brings it up. In other words, forcibly interject it!
6) Finally, your preparers have likely told you ‘Just avoid the big gaffe! This is yours to lose!’ but it’s still not a recipe to WIN! Ask any NFL team that’s sat on a lead by trying to play the god-awful “prevent defense” – which 69% of the time ends in a loss, because the opponent plays more aggressively to WIN while the lead-holder typically goes passive. You have to come into the next debate with a winner’s-fighter's mentality, harnessing directed and controlled aggression to unleash at the right moments - not merely a ‘don’t lose’ passive mentality that displays you as a Class A Wuss. If you refuse to do that, you will likely hand the election to Romney – to the eternal detriment of us all!