Obama, Romney trade blows in debate

Dan Mackenzie and Charles O'Brien

President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney traded blows Wednesday night in Denver, Colo. at the first of three presidential debates for the 2012 election. The two made clear divisions in their policies surrounding tax plans and healthcare.

Moderator Jim Lehrer began the debate with a question directed at the differences in job creation plans that slowly turned into the two candidates espousing their differences about corporate and individual tax rates.

Obama said the correct path is to relieve taxes on the middle class and raise them for those making $250,000 or more, to return to where we were under former president Bill Clinton. He recalled that under Clinton, the United States saw a budget surplus and the creation of more millionaires. Obama cut against his opponent, saying Romney’s plan to cut tax loopholes and deductions ust doesn’t add up with his plan to cut $5 trillion in taxes and increase military spending by $2 trillion.

Romney defended himself, saying, “Bottom line, I want to bring [tax] rates down.”  He also said the most important way to get the economy working again is to help small businesses that pay the individual tax rate. “For me, this is about jobs. This is about getting jobs for the American people,” said Romney.

The former governor continued by saying that his plan would reduce deficit by trying something no one else ever has: bringing down taxes and credits at the same time. He also said that reducing the deficit was “not just economic issue, it’s a moral issue. … Adding a trillion dollars a year [to the deficit] simply is not moral.”

Romney said that if he becomes president, he would cut government employees and combining agencies, he would look at government programs and ask, “Is the program so critical it’s worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? If not, I’ll get rid of it.”

Obama went on the defense by saying, “The day I walked into the Oval Office, I had a trillion dollar deficit waiting for me,” referring to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which had not been paid for, and the economic crisis.

After the candidates discussed their different views on social security and Medicare, Lehrer moved the focus to Obamacare. Romney, who has been extremely critical of the plan and its costs, criticized Obamacare. He defended his own plan, which was put into place in Massachusetts, by saying that it was right for the state at the time, and he pushed it though with bipartisan support.

He contrasted his plan to Obama’s plan, which would force a one-size-fits-all plan onto every state.  He said the plan was forced through Congress with no bipartisan support. Romney said he favors a change in the healthcare system, but one that lets the private sector drive those changes.

The president expanded on earlier messages by saying that making the healthcare system work smarter, not harder, will be the key to bringing down costs. He spoke about hospitals changing the way they function to make a more streamlined process for patients.

The clear differences, though, came in each candidates’ closing arguments.

Obama acknowledged that he inherited a country in crisis four years ago, but the way to make sure the country can climb out of that crisis was to make sure that “everyone is playing by the same rules,” and that “four years ago [he] said [he] would be a perfect presdient, but promised to fight every day on the behalf of the American people.”  He said if he is elected he would continue that fight.

Romney had the last word, though. He said America has “two paths” from two choices. He said that under his watch, unemployment would go down and America would see 12 million new jobs. Romney said he “will keep America strong and keep middle class working.”

Students and professors were gathered in Linden Hall to watch the debate. Of the roughly 40 that were in attendence, the general opinion was that Romney had “won” the debate.

“I thought Romney seemed incredibily prepared. Obama was not as smooth as he had been before; Romney was chomping at the bit,” said James McCormick, professor of political science.

“I was surprised that Obama didn’t go with the attacks that he has been using in his ads; he didn’t make any of those points,” said David Peterson, associate professor of political science.

Rhiannon Michelson, freshman in pre-architecture, said she was just interested in learning. “I watched the debate tonight because I wanted to be a more informed voter.”

She said she was also a bit surprised at the outcome. “I thought Obama was going to be the stronger individual tonight, but he was the weaker one.”