Brooks: Romney Really 'Broke The Tea Party Spell' During Debate

David Brooks was apparently very enamored with Mitt Romney's flip flopping during the first presidential debate and believes that he is somehow not beholden to the right wing of his party because he shifted a bunch of his positions back to the
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David Brooks was apparently very enamored with Mitt Romney's flip flopping during the first presidential debate and believes that he is somehow not beholden to the right wing of his party because he shifted a bunch of his positions back to the so-called "center."

The reason Mitt Romney has gotten away from having one of the most lie-filled presidential campaigns and with being on every side of every issue without being punished in the court of public opinion for his mendacity, is exactly because of the likes of David Brooks and his ilk in the media who continually either excuse or praise his behavior, as Brooks did here.

Here's how he ended the segment above:

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Obama folks are saying it is a different Mitt Romney.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, they had a big decision to make six, eight months ago, which was, do we attack him as a right-wing ideologue or as a flip-flopper? They went ideologue. Now they're trying to switch to flip-flopper.

But I think he will have to continue that. It's working for him.

Yes folks, all that lying is working out splendidly. As I've heard a few people -- one being Randi Rhodes on her radio show -- point out after listening to Romney again 'pivot" on a number of his positions, if you're on a debate team at your high school or college, there are actually penalties for lying. You lie like a rug and reverse yourself and tell easily disprovable lies like we've been hearing from Romney for ages now, and you lose the debate just for that. Sadly, we don't have anything close to those standards in the corporate media or for presidential debates. There, the opposite is true and the lying is rewarded.

And if anyone actually believes that Romney won't be beholden to the right wing of his party if we're unfortunate enough to find him as our next president just because he's shifting some of his stances again to appease some low information voters who watched the debate, I'd say they're deluding themselves. All you have to do is look at how he's responded to them during this campaign and the fact that what moves he did make during that debate were empty rhetoric which either he or his staff started to immediately reverse course on as soon as he left the stage.

And speaking of Romney lying, here's more from Joe Conason, who did not excuse President Obama's performance, but expressed some of the same frustration I had while watching the debate -- Highly Debatable: The Big Liar’s Biggest Lies:

“It’s not easy to debate a liar,” complained an email from one observer of the first presidential debate – and there was no question about which candidate he meant. Prevarication, falsification, fabrication are all familiar tactics that have been employed by Mitt Romney without much consequence to him ever since he entered public life, thanks to the inviolable taboo in the mainstream media against calling out a liar (unless, of course, he lies about sex).

Yes, President Obama ought to have been better prepared for Romney’s barrage of blather and bull. The Republican’s own chief advisor, Eric Fehrnstrom, had glibly described the “Etch-a-Sketch” strategy they would deploy in the general election, to make swing voters forget the “severe conservative” of the primaries. Romney executed that pivot on Wednesday night, but he could do so only by spouting literally dozens of provably fraudulent assertions — which various diligent fact-checkers proceeded to debunk. Read on...

And here's Steve Benen's latest with his update on the staggering number of lies told by Willard over the last thirty seven weeks -- Chronicling Mitt's Mendacity, Vol. XXXVII.

Full transcript below the fold.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, and you mentioned the debate. To the two of you, here we are 48 hours afterwards. David, does it look any different as you look backward through the lens?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I have two questions. One, first on the Romney side, he established a much more moderate persona I think than he has at any time.

And so the question to me is how does he develop that? Does he sort of flesh out that moderate persona and try to hit the people he really has to hit, which is white working-class women in places like Ohio, to show how government can help them out and how he has a plan to help them out using government?

So I thought -- I think he did very well. And he really broke the Tea Party spell. A lot of mainstream moderate Republicans didn't want to sound anti-Tea Party, because he was afraid there would be a backlash on the right. He did it and conservatives loved it because it was effective. And so we will see how he develops that.

On the Obama side, you know, I think a lot of it, the fatigue of being in office -- I was trying to think of the last time Obama gave a good political speech. And I think it's been a couple years. He gave a very good non-political speech after Gabby Giffords. But I can't think of a good political speech he's given.

And, you know, it's tough to be president. You get fatigued. And if you are sort of only peripherally engaged or not the super-engaged person -- Ronald Reagan wasn't engaged in every detail -- he could have the stamina to do it. But Obama is engaged in everything.

And I do think there is a sense of fatigue that one senses around the White House and one senses around him. And so to get the passion that he had in 2008, I think, is just hard given everything he's been through for four years.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think that explains, Mark, partly what happened?

MARK SHIELDS: It may well, Judy.

What -- 48 hours later -- first of all, just a personal note, I speculated on election -- election night -- on debate night that the president's passive performance -- and it was quite passive, listless -- may have been attributed in part to John Kerry, his sparring partner in the prep sessions, who is a leading contender to be secretary of state, maybe not going tough toe-to-toe to him.

My subsequent reporting has, in fact, contradicted that. John Kerry, I was told by two eyewitnesses, was actually tougher inside than Mitt Romney was with Barack Obama in the debate.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So that's not an explanation.

MARK SHIELDS: So, that's -- no, I don't think that -- I do think what we concluded before -- at least I heard several wise people say presidential debates don't matter.

This one mattered. The Republicans were heading for the lifeboats before Wednesday. I mean, there was a sense of inevitability, that Romney was slipping, that he was going to lose. And that was totally turned around by what happened.

He wiped the slate clean of what had been a bad, bad month of stumbles and gaffes and everything else. And the sense that the president was the inevitable winner, I think, was pierced. I don't think it was broken, but I think it was pierced.

And I think -- most of all, I come back to what Bryce Harlow, one of Washington's great wise men, an adviser and consular to both President Eisenhower, every Republican president from President Eisenhower to Reagan, told me once about the bubble at the White House.

And he said, it's the terrible thing. It's the office itself that happens to the president. Presidents don't get candid criticism.

And he said, I don't care who it is, whether it is the most powerful committee chairman or captain of industry or president of the university, comes and say, if I could just have five minutes with the president, I could turn him around and say -- and once they step into Oval Office, whoever the president is, the same thing happens.

They melt and say, Mr. President, you are doing a wonderful job and our prayers are with you.

And I think that he wasn't -- the president wasn't prepared for that kind of a -- and Mitt Romney, to his credit, did a dash to the middle, a smiling dash to the middle, not a mad dash to the middle, and made the case, I thought.

DAVID BROOKS: I would say they had a bad theory, which was that Romney was going to come out as sort of a very conservative, more extreme figure. When he comes to the middle, that -- they have got the wrong theory for the wrong debate.

And, you know, I read the transcript again.

JUDY WOODRUFF: You mean they didn't realize how much he was going to move to the middle.

DAVID BROOKS: Right. I think they were unprepared for what was about to happen, and they sort of left Obama without the lines that he probably had prepared.

Also, I re-read the transcript yesterday. And I actually thought, on paper, Obama looks a little better. There is one section which is worse, which was the closing argument, the two-minute closing argument, which is just terrible, just really as bad a two minutes -- for a closing argument, that is something you can script and you can really think about.

And they have really got to have a concise argument, here's what I'm going to do in the next four years. Here is why you need me.

When you look at the Romney closing argument, there was a very contrast. He will do this, I will do that. He will do this, I will do that.

The Obama thing was just a muddle.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But if he didn't do what he needed to do before 60 million or, what, 70 million people, Mark, can he make up that ground? I mean, you have got the vice presidential debate coming up next week. How does he make up for what he -- the missed opportunity?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, we have seen staircase humor since the debate.

He's kind of saying, well, I should have said then, I should have said -- and Mitt Romney, you are right, he has not appeared before 60 million or 70 million people.

The president didn't play either offense or defense Wednesday night. He didn't defend himself against charges that Mitt Romney made of his administration that have been fact-checked time and again on the president's side.

And he didn't play offense. He didn't give a sense of where he wanted to go. Judy, the vice presidential debate does matter, because the Democrats can't lose two in a row. They really can't.

I think Joe Biden is in a stronger position, because he has spent a lot of time, four years, defending, explaining and making the case for Barack Obama, whereas Paul Ryan is in an awkward position.

He's got to defend, make the case for Mitt Romney, whom he has basically been joined to the hip at six weeks ago. And, you know, he's got a whole independent political identity himself. I mean, Biden-Obama is a team at this point.

But I think that the president, he has just got to forget that first debate and be ready in the second one to make his case and to engage. He wasn't engaged.

If you turn down the sound on Wednesday night and just watched those two people, he didn't look happy to be there, and Mitt Romney did.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What about the vice presidential? Are the expectations now raised, as Mark says?

DAVID BROOKS: I think so.

In part, there is a little more pressure on Joe Biden, because, as Mark said, he has to do well. And a hyperactive Joe Biden is a high-risk proposition. It could turn out very well. And I happen to think he's a pretty good debater.

MARK SHIELDS: He is.

DAVID BROOKS: He did well, I thought, against Sarah Palin. He did well when he ran for president. He's an eloquent guy who in the big debates has always been a very controlled figure.

But Paul Ryan has what Mitt Romney had, which is the ability to reel off number after number. And again I'm struck by the fact that you can get wonky this year. People somehow seem to want that.

And Ryan certainly has that capacity to just go through, here's why our position is right, number A, B, C, D.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And just very quickly, 30 seconds, this notion you said a minute ago that Romney has moved to the center, is that something he continues on the campaign trail?

DAVID BROOKS: A bit.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Obama folks are saying it is a different Mitt Romney.

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, they had a big decision to make six, eight months ago, which was, do we attack him as a right-wing ideologue or as a flip-flopper? They went ideologue. Now they're trying to switch to flip-flopper.

But I think he will have to continue that. It's working for him.

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