ABC’s ‘This Week’ panelists offer varying reasons for Obama’s debate performance

Jeff Poor Media Reporter
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On Sunday’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” on ABC, during the roundtable segment, both liberal and conservative panelists skewered President Barack Obama for his poor performance during Wednesday night’s presidential debate.

“I thought the president barely showed,” former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan said. “I thought ‘The New Yorker’ covered, the now famous ‘New Yorker’ cover in which they had a candidate Romney at a podium looking at the empty chair where Mr. Obama would have been, captured it all. I am very curious about what the heck happened. Was it a strategic mistake on the part of the Obama campaign to play it a certain way, and it didn’t work, or were there other factors involved? To me, it is a mystery and one of those delicious things that will probably be answered in the big books about 2012. But, yes, the president was bad, Romney was good.”

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman explained the lackluster performance away by suggesting that the president has long been reluctant to fiercely attack his opponents.

“This is classic Obama,” Krugman said. “He really, really wants to be the president of national unity. He’s always wanted to be the reconciliation candidate, and his instincts always in confrontations is to not go for the jugular but to go for the capillaries. He did the same thing in 2008. People forget how weak his campaign was through August of 2008, when he just was refusing to make the obvious case against McCain, and then he toughened up but … because he needs to be — have his back against the wall, but this was classic. This was the real Obama who does not like — he really wants to be a president of the whole nation. He somehow has a hard time wrapping his mind around the necessity of taking a tougher line.”

Democratic strategist James Carville, however, was more critical of the president and said that he needed to improve in future debates.

“I said on CNN, I didn’t want to come to this conclusion but sitting watching I have to come to it: He just didn’t want to be there,” Carville said. “I don’t think it was [a calculated strategy]. We’ll know the next debate. I mean, he’s obviously either got to be different, or it’s going to be pretty bad. But just looked like to me he really didn’t want to be there. His mind wasn’t on it. He didn’t want to engage. He just wanted to get through the 90 minutes, and I’m sure he’s a very competitive guy. I hope — knock on wood, we’re going to see a different President Obama at Hofstra.”

Carville’s wife, Republican strategist Mary Matalin, insisted the president simply has “no game” whatsoever.

“Can I state the obvious, since we all have theories?” Matalin said. “The obvious is, he didn’t bring his game because he doesn’t have a game. They have now blamed his performance on everything from strategic — he’s a unifier. That’s belied by his campaign calling Mitt Romney everything from a liar to a tax thief to a felon to a murderer to a dog abuser to a misogynist. This is one of the most negative campaigns in history. … He has no game.”

Krugman disputed that point, but the panel did agree Obama needs a new strategy for the next presidential debate on October 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

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