President Obama has a surefire winner in any debate with GOP presidential foe Mitt Romney. And that’s his record.
Romney stood it on its head and belittled it in their first debate. Given the imposed limitations of the debate, Obama couldn’t hammer back with it. But he can and he must. Debates are as much about style as substance. But substance with style will win every time. And this is where Obama can always beat Romney.
It starts with Obama’s record. It’s an astoundingly productive and perfectly defensible record that keeps the focus on crucial make-or-break election issues such as the economy, health care, and foreign policy.
Obama does not need to keep saying that he took over a mess from George W. Bush and has had to fight to clean that up for three years. That’s a given, but it will be parried. Instead, Obama can keep saying that the economy — despite its towering problems — has shown clear signs of rebounding, with unemployment down, economic indicators showing positive growth and proposed measures in place to reduce the deficit without putting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid at risk.
Obama does not have to be defensive about military cuts, his relations with Russia and the European allies, and, most importantly, his outreach to the Muslim world. He can keep saying that it has brought peace, stability and healthy relations with European allies and cooperative relations with the Russians.
He can keep saying that he has kept the line of dialogue open between the Palestinians and Israelis, and there is absolutely no proof that he’s done this at the expense of weakening U.S. and Israeli relations. He can keep saying that his outreach to the Muslim world is the best guarantee of America’s defense and security.
He can keep saying that countless defense experts and those in the defense establishment have been absolutely unequivocal that the phased-in military reductions he, in tandem with the Defense Department, have projected over the next decade will not weaken one bit of America’s strength and ability to respond to a crisis.
He can keep saying these facts with short, punchy lines, and respond aggressively to Romney’s comebacks with equally quick and punchy rebuttals.
He can stand Romney’s non-presidential record on its head. Romney did not inherit two flawed and costly wars, and Romney did not end one and wind another down.
He can keep saying that if the GOP, Romney’s GOP, had not put every obstacle humanly possible in his way, he could have done even more to create jobs, reduce the deficit and add even more luster to America’s foreign policy image.
He can keep saying that Romney has not had to make one decision about the budget, taxes, jobs, the military and defense, and foreign policy. Finally, he can keep saying these are things that he has actually done, and not what someone who has never served a minute in the Oval Office has the luxury of making inflated promises to do.
Debates are just that — debates. They are verbal warfare, and wars are not won by diplomacy and civility. They are won by the side with the most firepower and the right means to deploy it. Obama’s record is his firepower — a firepower that Romney can never match. The right deployment of it is to take it to Romney, hard, fast and unapologetically.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.