Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Debate Recap: Knockout

Debate Recap: Knockout

          Barack Obama and Mitt Romney went toe to toe tonight for the first time in a Presidential debate, in Denver, Colorado.  The format consisted of six main topics (only five were really covered), with each candidate giving a two-minute response followed by a period of discussion.  The more open format allowed for a lot of direct debate between the two men, and led to an unusually good event.  Some viewers might have thought both candidates pushed moderator Jim Lehrer around a little by ignoring the time limits, but Mr. Lehrer’s allowing that flexibility enhanced the debate, I think.
          The first three topics all focused on areas related directly to the economy – taxes, the deficit, and entitlement reform.  In many instances, the debate was over Governor Romney’s plans versus President Obama’s record.
          One of the problems Mr. Obama had was that he made many of the same promises he made in 2008 and was unable to keep.  For example, he promised to cut the deficit, like he did in 2008, but it has ballooned in the last four years.  Voters had to wonder why they should believe he would do it this time after failing in his first term.
          The most heated debates came over Medicaid and health care.  The President accused Governor Romney of weakening Medicaid by proposing to send its management back to the states.  However, as Catholics, we likely very much liked the idea.  It is a prime example of the social justice principle of subsidiarity, which states that such programs should be administered by those closest to the need.  On both Medicaid and education, Mr. Romney capably applied this principle, and Catholics should have been able to see the wisdom in that.  Mr. Obama, by contrast, suggested that would lead to cuts, and implied that the federal government was more capable of dealing with such issues. 
          There were a couple of issues of supreme importance that might have been missed by some viewers.  A lot of time, actually, was spent on the “death panels” in Obamacare (a name that Mr. Obama embraced tonight).  Mr. Romney brought up numerous times the “unelected board” that would decide what medical treatments you can have.  Mr. Obama played it off as a group looking for “best practices” to keep costs down, but there is no question about it, the boards will lead to rationing of health care services.
          Mr. Obama made a passing reference to requiring people to have a living will.  Most people might have missed it, but it is incredibly important.  Living wills are documents people often sign as part of their estate plans without understanding them.  They are often used to insure someone’s assets, but basically what they do is give permission for treatment or life support to be suspended, allowing a person to die, and avoiding major medical costs.  Everyone should find out if they have a living will, because it is something that can potentially take the question of whether you are kept alive out of your hands.  The subtle mention by the President that everyone needs to have one is a very scary statement, and it should not go unchallenged.
          Mr. Romney gave only a passing mention to “religious freedom,” and I found that unfortunate.  With the President continuing his attack on Catholics and many other people of faith, I wish the HHS mandate and our diminishing liberties had been highlighted.
          So who won?  I tend to underestimate the performance of “my guy” when I watch a debate, but there was no denying that Mitt Romney gave Barack Obama a trouncing tonight.  Not only was he far more on point, but he was more fluent with information, more confident, and frankly, looked far more Presidential.  All evening Mr. Obama stumbled over words, and said “um” and “you know” as he tried to catch his train of thought.  I am fiercely critical of many of the President’s policies, but I don’t tend to make personal attacks, so I don’t say that to be insulting, but I think it’s a fair assessment.  Of course, there are two more Presidential debates as well as the vice Presidential debate next Thursday, and I doubt tonight’s performance is indicative of what we’ll see out of the Democrats going forward.  So let’s hope no one takes anything for granted.