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Who Won?

Well, Romney. It’s wasn’t the slam-dunk of the first debate, partly because Romney wandered a bit on the Libya and Islamic-extremist questions, but mostly because Obama was actually present and accounted for this time, focused intently on the man who is just about to succeed him as president of the United States. He clearly didn’t like being there any more than he did the first time around (or the second, for that matter), but at least he was focused. The prospect of hanging in a fortnight, as Dr. Johnson observed, does concentrate the mind. Obama’s mind was concentrated, which was an advantage, but voters got to see what he was really like, what he really has planned for us, which was perhaps less of an advantage. Instapundit has a good roundup describing the president’s performance: snarky, condescending, peevish, and small, with a little detour called “Wrong Again, Mr. President,” department of apologies by the president of the United States about America to the rest of the world.

Probably Romney’s single best line last night was “Attacking me is not an agenda,” but his more devastating responses centered on two large issues: the president’s record, which has been an unmitigated litany of failure, and his lack of a coherent plan going forward.

“Forward,” of course, is the president’s campaign slogan, and Romney adroitly turned that around: Yes, we need to go forward, but another Obama term would mean going back to the failed policies that brought you a $16 trillion federal debt ($5.5 trillion added all by his lonesome self in less than fours years), high unemployment, record deficits, record numbers of people on food stamps, high energy prices, etc., etc.

For his part, the president returned again and agin to two themes: 1. it was Bush’s fault (with Dick Cheney thrown in at one point to frighten the children), where by “it” I mean whatever problem is at hand, foreign or domestic: it’s  all Bush’s fault, unless there was a success, in which case, the glory is all Obama’s; and 2. we can solve the economic crisis by asking “the wealthy” to pay a little bit more.

Blaming George Bush for anything at this point, four years on, is simply embarrassing, so I will pass over that. But it is worth spending a moment on the president's aria about “the rich.”