By MORTIMER B. ZUCKERMAN, October 5, 2012
When you accumulate some of the adjectives from the pundits, the media, and other appraisals that were not from the right but from baffled sympathizers and centrists, there is no doubt that President Barack Obama clearly lost the debate this week, as a matter of both substance and tone. Take your pick from the river of insults: listless, meandering, lazy, dull-brained, long-winded, languid, and flaccid were just some of the epithets from the pundits. Even the New York Times opined that “He lost his competitive edge.” The worst that Mitt Romney’s relatively few critics could come up with was that his tax cut was unaffordable.
All Obama could do was repeat the charge, and Romney was able to make the pledge that he would not reduce revenues through his tax cut because they would be offset by the elimination of special write-offs and loopholes. What was remarkable was that Romney, who has been in everyone’s dog house for months with an erratic campaign, has suddenly assumed the stature of a president. He was warm, articulate, logical, informed, forceful, and most important, presidential. He was more engaged, more detailed, more decisive, more animated, more aggressive in attack, and more robust in defense than the president, who was lackadaisical and without mastery of the facts or the ability to respond to what was put forth by his challenger.
But what is at issue isn’t debating style, questions of posture and demeanor, “gotcha moments,” or “You’re no Jack Kennedy” zingers. The fundamental issue for America is that we seem to have lost our way and we haven’t found it after four years of the Obama administration, thanks to a leadership so lacking that the American dream now seems to be a chimera of nostalgia. The president appears to have lost his intellectual interest.