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For the Paxton Record

Most of us watched the recent debate between President Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.  Wow! What an unexpected outcome. It seemed as though the president was as shocked and paralyzed as a deer caught in headlights. 

Mitt took charge very early on and dominated the discussion through the debate. It was so bad for Obama that at one point he  suggested to the moderator, "Jim, you may want to move on to another topic."

I will discuss a few of my favorite exchanges.

During the session Obama tried to return to his long-used talking points and rhetoric, but Romney called him on it.  Obama began by talking about his inheriting the worst economy since the Great Depression, that Romney will roll back taxes and cut regulations — that he, Obama, has more work to do including developing new sources of energy and reducing the deficit. 

Romney countered with a humanizing greeting for the president in which he quipped that  he was sure that this is the way the president wanted to spend his anniversary with him on stage in front of 40 million people.

Romney then moved quickly to make his points including: that we must move on a new path, we must develop energy independence including opening more tracks of federal land for energy development, improve the education system to ensure success and jobs, and that he is a champion of small business which will create the needed jobs in our country.   Mitt finished his rollout with a negative comment about the  "trickle-down government" approach of the president.

Obama responded with the same old: improve education, add 100,000 math and science teachers (this was new to me), lower corporate tax rates, boost energy production, close the deficit, and that Romney’s plan calls for massive tax hikes.  A fired-up Mitt responded that "I don’t have a 5-trillion-dollar tax hike" and that we need to provide relief to the middle class, pointing out that median income has dropped $4,300 under the Obama Administration, that gasoline prices have doubled, electric rates are up greatly, and that health care costs have actually risen by $2,500 contrary to the presidents plan to lower health care costs. 

Romney continued, saying that we need to move education back to the states away from federal controls, that energy production is up in spite of the administration, pointing out that production is up on private land and that federal land permits and leases for energy production have been cut in half under Obama.  Mitt continued that we need clean coal.

The president then tried a common liberal ploy, referring to a study that says that there is no way that Romney’s tax plan can be done without adding 8 trillion dollars to the debt.  Mitt answered that the president’s description of his plan is inaccurate, that he will not reduce the share paid by high income tax payers, that he will not raise taxes on the middle class and the he can cite six studies that say the president’s study is wrong on his tax plan. 

Romney indicated that 54 percent of Americans work in small businesses that pay at the individual tax rate, and contrary to Obama’s rhetoric, he will not raise taxes on these corporations. Mitt added that the president has doubled the deficit and put into place in four years almost as much debt as all the prior presidents combined. 

The president was  reminded that he said in 2010 that "when the economy is growing slowly you don’t want to raise taxes."  Romney pointed out that the economy is now growing more slowly now than when he made this statement, and he added that "if you raise taxes you will kill jobs."

Obama switched to attacking corporate taxes, saying that the oil industry gets $4 billion a year in tax breaks. He said it as corporate welfare and that Romney will shift medicaid to the States. Romney responded  that the "Department of Energy says the tax rate for oil companies is about $2.8 billion per year" and that most of that goes to small oil companies not the big companies.  Mitt than proceeded to point out the the president provided 90 billion to "green energy" companies like Solyndra, Fisker and Enerone. He added that he has a friend who said the president doesn’t pick winners and losers but that he picks the losers.  Romney finished up with the thought that this $90 billion is about 50 years of oil company tax breaks.

Obama and Romney then sparred on Obama Care after conceding that he and the governor probably agree on Social Security. Obama indicated the $716 billion he is moving from Medicare was due to projected cost savings.  Romney countered that the projected cost saving was from the Obama Administration, mandating new lower rates for medicare services not actual savings.   He followed up with a recent study that indicates that 15 percent of hospitals and 50 percent of doctors will not take new patients under the lower rates and 4 million Medicare Advantage users will loose coverage under Obama’s cuts.

They also spoke about the Dodd-Frank law, which adds regulation to Wall Street and banks.

Romney conceded that we need regulation, but it must not be excessive and many laws have unintended consequences. For example, he said, we still have several large banks that are classified as too big to fail, while 122 small banks have failed. Obama referred to the reckless behavior across the board. Romney ended the session by noting Dodd-Frank has been in place for two years and requires a qualified mortgage.  Unfortunately, the term "qualified mortgage" has yet to be defined and the banks are not lending.

During a followup exchange, Romney slammed the president by indicating that he will come in ready to work across party lines like he did in Massachusetts, where 87 percent of his Legislature was Democratic.

This debate showed me the difference between a seasoned successful businessman, former governor, and a politician with limited previous experience. The contrast was strikingly evident. 

One of my favorite post-debate comments was from Bill Maher ,who was reported to have tweeted: "The president really does need the teleprompter."  

I expected the president to do much better. 

The cover of the New Yorker Magazine shows Mitt at the podium during the debate with an empty chair behind the other podium. 

Mr. President, where were you?

Phil Peterson is a Ford County Republican who writes occasional opinion pieces on political issues for the Paxton Record.