No 586 Posted by fw October 4, 2012
“Romney’s defense of small banks, small businesses and the middle class is disingenuous, but Obama shares too many of the same assumptions to counterattack.” —Leo Panitch
Thanks to Paul Jay and the independent Real News Network for providing an alternative perspective on last night’s US presidential debate. Thanks, too, to Professor Leo Panitch, for his informed take on the surprising turn of events — Obama’s appalling performance.
Personally, I was dumbstruck. One explanation for Obama’s collapse comes to my mind and it is this: Obama has compromised his personal integrity and principled convictions so many times over the past four years that he no longer knows what he stands for and has completely lost touch with heart-and-soul speech. Romney, on the other hand, has been lying for so long, is so conniving, that he is incapable of heart-and-soul speech; he will tell as many lies as necessary to win the presidency. In my estimation, neither deserves it.
On the other hand, third party candidates Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, who were cut out of the main event, gave highly credible performances on Democracy Now. Watch it here: Expanding the Debate Exclusive: Third Party Candidates Break the Sound Barrier As Obama-Romney Spar, Democracy Now, October 4, 2012.
Returning to the primary theme of this post, watch a 7-minute video of Paul Jay in conversation with Professor Panitch, which focuses primarily on Obama’s fall from grace. My transcript follows the video. Alternatively, watch the Panitch interview on TRNN by clicking on the linked title below.
Paul Jay – Last night President Obama and candidate Romney met for the first presidential debate. Now joining us to give his opinion of how things went is professor Leo Panitch. He’s a Canadian Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy at York University and is the co-author of the recent book The Making of Global Capitalism. My headline take on the debate was Masterful Liar Beats Man without Conviction. What was your take?
Leo Panitch – Well I thought Romney said one thing that was absolutely true and President Obama agreed with it. And that was when Romney said: “High income people will do well whether I’m president or you are.” I think that was the truest thing he said all night. That said, he was full of cant and hypocrisy, although he pulled it off well because Obama was unable to present any vision of his own. The hypocrisy was astonishing when he said that Dodd-Frank protects banks too big to fail. These are known as systemically important financial institutions. And then in the next breath said this is going to harm middle-sized banks. And, of course, where those banks fail the whole point is they would bring down the middle-sized banks with them. That’s why they’re systemically important. It was astonishing that Obama was unable to respond to that. And he was unable to respond to it because indeed he is so much in the pockets of the big banks and the banking system, and is responsible for reproducing that system through this crisis.
You know, at every level, hypocrisy was beyond belief. Perhaps most important was Romney appeared to get away with accusing Obama of being the person who said to the Republicans, “My way or the highway.” Now the one thing that defines Obama’s policies and has been present in everything he’s done is compromise. He has been on his knees to compromise with the insurance companies on Obamacare; he has done everything to compromise with the Republicans and they wouldn’t go along with it of course. And that’s why we’ve had such gridlock. And Romney gets away with accusing Obama of being unilaterally one-sided in terms of getting his way. And somehow he got away with it.
Paul Jay – The reason I say “man without conviction” – and obviously I mean President Obama – is that on the campaign hustings, at least when he’s amongst working people, he sounds like this kind of rallying, rabble-rousing left-winger, railing against the rich and all of this. In this debate he seemed to have no conviction about anything he said except that he was trying to become more of a Republican than Romney. And then he got caught because Romney was actually more a Democrat than Obama.
Leo Panitch – There was such a weak defence of any alternative program – even the one that he stands for. It was an amazingly weak defence. It was a constant attempt to stand on both sides of every issue. So when he said, Clinton created 28 million jobs, in the same breath he said, and he created lots of millionaires in the process. So all along he was making this appeal to the middle class, hardly at all to those below the middle class. And, of course, objectively what’s happening is that more and more people are being thrown out of it and have no prospect whatever of climbing into it [the middle class].
And it was just amazing that he should be presenting himself in a way that not only doesn’t offer a vision beyond the limited kinds of Clintonomics, but a vision that is even defending what he has done.
Paul Jay – The one thing that I have not understood about Obama’s campaign – in fact I have not understood this about the whole last four years – is why Obama is not continuously campaigning against Bush. The eight years of Bush clearly was a major contributor — the policies of Bush, of course, we know there’s a lot more to it than just one president – at the same time, Bush policies helped facilitate and trigger this crisis in 2008. Why isn’t Obama campaigning against Bush and then saying Romney’s more Bush. He just made this one little reference to the [Bush] administration. You pointed out, off camera, he wouldn’t say the word “Bush”. I cannot understand it.
Leo Panitch – Well it was absolutely astonishing that he said the policies were set entrained to build up the deficit and bring about the mortgage crisis 2001 to 2003 but would not name Bush. There is some strategy on the part of the Democrats here that I absolutely don’t understand. Maybe appearing presidential means that you don’t by name criticize the previous president, in their view. It’s astonishing. He tried, he tried to say that the problem isn’t only on Wall Street but that Bush let every shyster into the mortgage business. As he was trying to point out – although he didn’t do it graphically – there were guys hawking mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them. Indeed the Congressional Inquiry Commission showed that 10,000 people in Florida were led into the business who had criminal convictions, and they were loan sharks in the mortgage business – 4,000 had criminal convictions for fraud. That’s the kind of graphic thing he should have been saying. It causes a bit of a problem for him because even though Bush let the shysters in, Clinton was very proud of the way in which the mortgage bubble was developing. It’s one of the reasons he got called “The Black President” because he was letting blacks into the American dream by having the financial system channel credit to them so they could get into the housing bubble.
I don’t know why he was so appalling. You could have attacked but without revealing that side of your own legacy. It was an astonishingly bad performance. And we just have to hope that people see through the astonishing hypocrisy of almost everything that Romney said.