Wednesday Take-Aways

Old habits die hard. It’s been a full 10 years since I left Capitol Hill and all the craziness my work there entailed. Nevertheless, come this point in an election cycle, I revert to my old ways: Checking polls like a monkey on crack, wading into pointless arguments with my liberal friends, and throwing parties every time there’s a presidential debate (or, more importantly this year, vice-presidential debate) on television.

Accordingly, this past Wednesday, my political junky friends and I gathered together for a little debate-watching bash in my basement. The plan was to drink copious amounts of wine and throw popcorn at the television whenever Mitt Romney spoke nonsense. Not my usual method of coping, but quite effective when necessary.

As it turned out, however, very little drinking and absolutely no popcorn throwing took place. The debate was, by all accounts, amazingly endurable. Heck, there were parts that were downright enjoyable.

Now that I’ve had a day to process it all (and other pressing deadlines have been met), here’s what I took away from the night.

1. Our guy doesn’t stink.

I know. Not the most glowing endorsement of Mitt Romney. But for someone who avoided the primary debates like the plague and couldn’t bring herself to stay up late enough to watch his convention speech (Paul Ryan’s speech being a different matter entirely), it was a lovely treat to discover that the only candidate I can even consider voting for is actually a lively and personable debater who is unafraid to call Obama’s bluff.

Throughout the debate, Romney came across as smart, strong, and in better command of policy issues than both the president and many previous Republican nominees (cough, cough…John McCain…cough, cough). He spoke much common sense and wasn’t afraid to go after China or Big Bird, both acts of bravery which earned him my earnest admiration. Do I agree with him on everything? No. But do I feel more confident that pre-gaming shots of hard liquor won’t be needed to steel my nerves before voting for the man on November 6? Yes. Even more importantly, do other conservatives feel the same? Seems so. Which means Wednesday was a win for Romney not just on debate points but on the the even more significant task of re-energizing the base.

2. The “I’m too busy being president to care about this silly debate” excuse does stink.

President Obama was seriously not sexy on Wednesday night. Whatever cool he had on the 2008 debate stage was gone. The president had an actual record to defend, as opposed to a rainbow and unicorn themed agenda to put forward, and he was quite simply not up to the job. He muttered and meandered his way through wonky, wonkish answers that left the eyes of even die-hard policy junkies glazing over. And it’s not, as some of my more liberal or non-conformist friends keep insisting, because Romney has the time to be a full-time candidate and Obama has to busy himself with the work of being president.

That excuse had a wee bit of traction in 2004, when President Bush was consumed with the pressing demands of being a war-time president. But these days, the demands that seem to be consuming President Obama the most are his repeated appearances on “The View.” Oh, and all those fundraisers. The truth is, this is the same man who couldn’t manage to get himself to intelligence briefings in the weeks leading up to September 11 and who can’t find the time to meet with his Jobs Council, but still somehow managed to squeeze in an interview with the Pimp with the Limp. I’m sure the presidency puts lots of demands on his time. I’m not denying that he works hard. But when there’s time for chats with deviant DJs, there’s time for debate prep. President Obama’s poor showing wasn’t about scheduling. It was about him.

3. The future of debate analysis belongs to the manufacturers of snarky one-liners.

I don’t tweet. I’m not going to tweet. But, the fact remains, Twitter owned Wednesday night. By the time Chris Matthews and Ed Schultz began having the most entertaining nervous breakdowns in television history, the narrative for the night had already been set by all the chatty Kathy’s with smartphones. Throughout the night, the snappy remarks of Bill Maher, Dennis Miller, Larry Sabato, IowaHawk, Josh Trevino, Moe Lane and more made their way into my family room via Tom Crowe, who was like a talking Twitter Feed all evening. Those same remarks then dominated the network and print coverage afterwards.

I know I should be saying such snappy, off the cuff analysis doesn’t bode well for the future of our republic. But I’ve got to admit, most of those folks managed to say more in 140 characters than the blonde Fox babes did all night. Again, no plans to Twitter myself, but I think from now on, at least come election time, I’ll be grumbling less about those who do.

That’s all I’ve got today. Now it’s on to researching Paul Ryan-themed food for next week’s party. I’ve been told heart shaped cookies would be inappropriate (him being a married man and all), so I’m in need of other ideas. Send ‘em my way if you’ve got ‘em.

Emily Stimpson is a Contributing Editor to “Our Sunday Visitor” and the author of “The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide for the Single Years,” where she dishes on the Church’s teachings about women, marriage, sex, work, beauty, suffering, and more.



  • Rich

    Emily –
    You started off with what seemed to be a well reasoned and reflected view on how you saw the debates, though not much reflection on your faith as you sat down to learn more about the leadership of the country for the next four years. I think many of us look more for the “circus act” of the debates rather for the great and the small points that are being shared and through which we are called to use our faith – Scripture, prayers, Church teaching, conversations with our faithful friends, and meditation on how God is speaking to us in this election. Yet, the drinking games are fun for many of us (Like the sobering one of drinking when you see a person of color at the Republican Convention.)
    Point 1. That you candidate does not stick is very amusing in several ways. First is seems odd that you would be such an ardent supporter of a person who you thought may stink. It was quite known that he would be a skilled debater, even though in the primaries he made some stylist (and press grabbed) errors which continue to please the late night tv show hosts.
    As Romney moves from the ultra conservative positions that he needed to endorse for the Nomination, and morphs back the the Mitt that all have known and loved for the past many decades of his political career, he will be seem as more reasonable to many. The thing to really consider is whether he will maintain strong on his more recent pro-life position (without any really action to demonstrate his commitment) or return to his earlier pro-choice position that helped his be elected as Governor. This seems to be something that has not been well considered as people have jumped to support Romney, as has been the warning that many theologians have been using to help people not leap to unreasoned assumptions, though many has chosen not to listen and have used this to mask other political aims instead.
    Point 2. I don’t know where you came up with this as an excuse. No one really allowed for any excuse. There was the Romney has been debating for the last year in the primaries but Obama not since the last election, and the incumbents usually don’t “win” the first debate, and the “Remember that Ross Perot one the first debate (you might remember President Perot.) This is a rather unimportant analysis or just a faux analysis in order to make a few snarky comments – Which leads right into
    Point 3. Trying to posit that Boggers are better than Tweeters is, wel, dumb. Both are usually people who think what they have to say is somehow worth other people reading, even if it is nothing more than their opinion and somethings without much information. But to cite them for snarky comments while doing the same yourself seems rather odd. And to mention Tom Crowe as only reading the snarky remarks of others is to miss his claim to fame on this website.
    No one really minds a person to have conservative viewpoints, but to somehow position that only the non-conservatives are misleading people or are being rude and judgmental is an outright fabrication. To do so under the assumed “consent” of the Catholic Church is gravely wrong. To treat the task of informing the faithful about things political as a joke is bad. But one only has to look at the blogs here – even the titles that are nothing more than insults and poor humor.
    Maybe it is because you can only assert that Romney does not stink (your words) that you have to work so hard at insulting the President and engaging your small following (the six to eight that follow your lead to be nasty and unwelcoming to any opposing comments) in the negativity. Yet I have to believe that this is not where you live your faith. I would hope that you wake in the morning ready to proclaim the greatness of God and not just waiting to throw more bad jokes at the President and make believe it is due to the love you have for all who read your posts.
    Make your case for Romney as something more than a person who doesn’t stink and who is better than the insulting caricature presented without respect for the man or the truth. You advance nothing if the only people swayed by your argument are the ones who are already there before they even read your work. It is really time to some the gaming and to present why you find the man who doesn’t stink to be a potentially great leader, and do it without just tearing down his opponent.
    The challenge if you are up to it, is to make a case for Romney without using Obama at all. And as much as possible bring in how you view him positively in light of his faith. It is not wrong to say that you support him in some areas, but would like to challenge him in others. In reality this is the time to help form candidates for what we also see the world needing.
    And finally, realize that just because a person criticizes your work that they can still respect you. I think my comments indicate a lot more support than some who only like your work because you agree with them.
    Remember always to temper your blogs with the love that Jesus has for all of us, and who calls us all to the same Church without the restrictions that we humans like to place on people. It is not a sign of weakness to be able to praise Romney without bashing Obama, it is also not so bad not to repeat the messages that are not verifiable, but make good press (and great blogging/tweeting – not many hold a lot of space between the two groups.)

  • Seth Wm. Peters

    That’s so funny about Ryan-themed food! My roommate in college was a poli-sci major, and we would have Election Connection parties wherein I made the food and he setup the screens. We would watch returns while eating Bush’s baked beans, Gore-gonzola cheese, Cheney’s artery-clogging bacon, and Kerry’s three purple heart cookies. I always served salad Greens. I would suggest: instead of Ryan-themed food, you should host a P90X party and invite everyone to an intense workout.

    This year, I’ve been thinking of serving baby-Barack ribs with Mormon ‘funeral potatoes’. Perhaps for Biden and Ryan you could serve one food made with artificial flavors and the other made with genuine ingredients as a way of emphasizing how one is Catholic and the other only thinks he is. For example, you could serve fresh-squeezed lemonade vs. Country Time.

  • Joe M

    Thank you Emily. Nice breakdown. I had wanted Romney to run instead of McCain the first time around. I still wonder what the result would have been…

  • Arthur

    Paul Ryan themed food? I have a recipe for Grandma’s Quick Roast. Throw it in the oven and it is done in three hours, high twos. No, it certainly won’t take over four hours to finish, why would anyone lie about that?

    • Rich

      This is the best comment ever! Subtle and very funny.
      Thanks for an honest laugh.

  • Shawn

    This the best analysis of the presidential debate I’ve read so far. I also didn’t like “doesn’t have enough time” excuse for Obama. Part of being any leader is being good with time management, and if you can’t seem to find enough time to research for a debate but can find time to be on silly show, then he really needs to reevaluate his priorities. Hopefully some independents were won over on Wednesday night. God bless you Emily and your writings!

    • Randall

      Oh you missed the best excuse of all. Algore said that it’s because of the elevation change that he was out of it!! It looks like The One’s kryptonite is being on a mountain. Oops! I guess Obam-bam doesn’t care about the 47% of people who live more than 1000 feet above sea level.

      • Now Romney’s a Liberal

        So you don’t think the President is sexy? Yea, that is astute analysis. But I’m sure Michelle does and they had a great night celebrating their anniversary. Sexy is as sexy does and some just don’t got it. And ever think that Obama was taken aback mostly because Romney just simply denied just about every one of the policy positions he put out to the public? And now he’s saying he didn’t really mean what he said about the 47% and that he’s really sorry about that. It’s now obvious that he’s moving further and further to the left. I wouldn’t be surprised if he soon reverts to his former position on abortion and health care. He’s the personification of change, y’know.

    • Julie T.

      Great column, Emily. Thank you. I agree with both of you, Shawn and Randall. Obama was caught flat-footed with the first debate because his arrogance told him, that as the “smartest kid in the class,” he didn’t need to prepare, but hang out with his PR people posing as members of television programs. And Al Gore blaming Denver’s altitude was priceless. Apparently he forgot Obama gave his best performance of “I am Caesar and Your Messiah” tour of 2008 in Denver’s Mile-High Stadium. Oops.

      • Joe M

        Al Gore hasn’t exactly proven adept when it comes to the science of geography and climates. So, we should cut him some slack.

    • Curious

      Obama debated just as he leads his presidency, NOT engaged. Obama has missed 60% of military briefings and look at the Middle East. He goes on The View instead of meeting with world leaders of which are our allies IN NEED. His interest is being seen. He is so self absorbed. He LIES to Americans daily. Yesterday, while in Virginia, he made a claim that Romney said he would give 5 trillion dollars in tax breaks. Even CNN called him out on the lie, saying that Romney NEVER said that and that would be impossible. Obama is either lying or he is a puppet for those writing his “stuff”. Either way he is NOT engaged in speaking the TRUTH. He LIED about Libya, even weeks after the terrorist attack with his speech of lies to the UN. He goes golfing and vacationing more than any president of modern history instead of meeting with both democrats and republicans. He accused police officers of doing wrong before finding out the truth of the ACTUAL happenings, again NOT engaged in TRUTH. He pushed the Muslim Brotherhood before finding out their TRUE motives. The latest is the complaining of not being able to use his TelePrompTer at the debate. Again, he does not want to be engaged in thinking for himself, but he wants to read what he is fed. We could go on and on with examples of how Obama is NOT engaged with the JOB of being a president. We need an ENGAGED president, and Obama is NOT that person. On the other hand, Romney was a VERY engaged debater. God bless



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