Friday, October 12, 2012


It might sound paradoxical to describe the vice-presidential debate as the junior league. Indeed Paul Ryan, the Republican contender is young but his Democratic rival can count the ways and the years. It showed. The latter was impressive, showing both a sense of entitlement and savoir faire. The former played more in a technocratic mode, which was impressive by the way.  In doing so, both helped the presidential candidates and the debate ended with some punchlines but without a match point.  Romney must be pleased, Obama should be relieved.

The President will have to look awake next Tuesday because Governor Romney will find in foreign policy matters ample ammunition.  I find this unfair because President Obama and his Secretary of State can boast considerable achievements after the dark Bush years. Their Asian Fire Wall strategy aiming at controlling the perfect storm which is menacing the South China Sea is timely.  Their calibrated handling of the Middle East mess is generally well-timed.  It is too bad that the American ambassador to the United Nations made a fool of herself and, by proxy, of the American policy in the region. This unfortunate event gives the Republicans the stick they were looking for, after the debacle in Iraq and the Afghan fiasco.

Romney continues to ascend, thanks also to the good performance of his running mate. He should beware of veering too much off course though, because there are certainly more Tea Party aficionados than independents. Obama must go for the jugular and his vice president helped him in this.   He almost made the viewers forget his age, his unpredictable temperament and a style of debate which was more geared to the mores of times past than to the cyberculture of times in the making.  Still, since he did not lose, he won, almost. The President meanwhile looks more like the man of hope in his first campaign but he will have to climb a steep mountain if he wants to keep an advantage, which is small. Romney might be short on details but in these economic hard times the voter might be more tuned to a financial record than to abstract lyricism. I do not pretend that Obama's bilan is unconvincing.  It is just rooted in a vocabulary which has not the concrete appeal which is needed.  The Americans hate the moral void and this in turn creates a feeding ground for the absurd, the birthers and the other camp. The neo-cons and evangelicals will brandish the spectrum of socialism, communism and a Moloch state, while they often have no clue of what those terms cover. The political landscape has become a wasteland right and left werein only beasts roam.  Foremost, the next president will have to be an animal trainer.  Both Romney and Obama have the class to come to terms with a situation which starts to look almost hopeless. It has to be hoped that the Democrat will be able to recharge his magnetism and that the Republican will not be distracted by the treacherous currents in his own party. A level field can bring the best out of both. It is Obama's turn to show that a bad moment should not be confused with a downspiral mood. Biden might have been the one who gave him the needed lift. Contrary to the movie, this is still a country were an older man can help a president jump through the hoop of a lackluster performance.

The President is still liked by a majority of voters but in these dire times, unemployment, foreclosures, and economic downturn might speak louder than a smile, which looked irresistible four years ago. On Tuesday, the second presidential debate may be judgement day and a redemption for Obama.  Better economic indicators and an improved labor market might help too, but the financial cliff will continue to claim victims.  The glass is still half-full and cheers remain muted for an indefnite time.

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