The Debate: What They Didn’t Talk About
Bruce Dixon, Managing Editor of Black Agenda Report, on first Presidential debate
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore.
Last night, President Obama met Mitt Romney for the first presidential debate. And now joining us to give his take on the debate is Bruce Dixon. He’s the managing editor of the Black Agenda Report. He’sâ€”has an extensive career as a union activist in a string of factories. He’s a community organizer. And he joins us again on The Real News Network. Thanks very much.
BRUCE DIXON, MANAGING EDITOR, BLACK AGENDA REPORT: Thanks for the invite, Paul.
JAY: So what’s your take?
DIXON: Well, it was boring. They agreed on many, many more things than they disagreed about. Their exchange wasâ€”how can I say? It was marked by all the things that they agree on and all the things that they agreed not to mention. They talked on and on and on about tax cuts for the middle class, but they never mentioned the poor at a time when poverty is the highest it’s been since Lyndon Johnson initiated the Great Society back in 1965. But I guess that for Democrats and Republicans alike, the poor are not with us.
JAY: Yeah. The host was actually struggling to find a differentiation between them. He said, okay, well, there is a difference with you on this, is there?
DIXON: Yeah. And the only time when President Obama really scored points was the point where he was defending his Affordable Care Act, which the Republicans call Obamacare, and he said quite correctly that, well, he stole it from Romney in Massachesetts. And that was just about the only clear point thatâ€”clear and understandable point that Obama made on Romney. But even that marks how much they agree.
JAY: Yeah. It shows that Obamacare essentiallyâ€”in fact, he said it’s a Republican idea, which is why people that support a single-payer health care system were so critical of it and why Obama never really had any conviction about the public option.
DIXON: Yeah. So for a debate that was on domestic issues in general, I also didn’t hear anything about the war on drugs, which is something that theyâ€”but perhaps I didn’t hear it because it’s something that they both agree on.
JAY: I was a little surprised at Obama’s take on Social Security, hisâ€”even on Social Security he starts by saying, well, we probably agree mostly on this, which leads one to think that even though he’s critical of the voucher system, maybe that’s something he has in mind himself.
DIXON: Well, he did praise Simpsonâ€“Bowles. And even Romney said that he agreed with most of Simpsonâ€“Bowles, and he said that the president should have seized upon Simpsonâ€“Bowles and rammed it through Congress. However, Simpsonâ€“Bowles is about putting everything on the table. And this lends credence to some of the things that my colleague Glen Ford and many others have been saying, that during the lame-duck session, that President Obama, win or lose, plans to propose some kind of grand bargain with the Republicans on Social Security that will give away massive amounts of ground on what Obama also calls the entitlement on Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare.
JAY: Which is something he’s believed in from the very beginning. He hadâ€”we’ve reported on this a few times. Other people have, too. Right after President Obama was elected, or maybe, I think, a few days after he was inaugurated, he had dinner with George Will and a few other right-wing, conservative columnists, and he promised them he would take on the entitlement programs.
DIXON: Well, that seems to be something that he has not wavered on since and is not wavering on this time. But for ordinary Americans who watched this farce, this charade on TV, who stayed up late at night, I guess, if you’re on the Eastern Time Zone like you and I are, there really wasn’t much payoff, there really wasn’t much reward here, because they agreed on so many more things than they disagreed on. And Mr. Obama was not withoutâ€”well, no, was basically without a lot of conviction and without a lot of heart. He’s got a great reputation for being an orator. We didn’t see that tonight. All we saw was him agreeing, mostly, with the Republicans.
JAY: Yeah. It seemed to me there was a little bit of arrogance on Obama’s part, that he didn’t think he had to prepare fully for this, that he would, you know, fairly easily deal with Romney, or he had a game plan and the game plan clearly wasn’t working and he couldn’t get off that game plan. I mean, I still can’t understand (I’ve said this in some of the other interviews I’ve done tonight) why he didn’t viciously attack the Bush administration and that history. He just made one reference vaguely to it. But that’s clearâ€”his whole presidency hasn’t gone after Bush. One really wonders why.
DIXON: Well, actually, since Bush is out of the picture, that’s a place where he doesn’t go much. But that’s looking at the debate from the point of view of what he should have done. Really what we need to be doing is we need to be looking at this debate for what it should have been for the American people if they had actually included candidates like the Green Party’s Jill Stein and others.
JAY: Yeah, I actually should have said this in the introduction: you’re the cochair of the Georgia Green Party. So people should know that. But go ahead.
DIXON: That if they had actually included the candidates of real parties that don’t belong to corporations, this debate would have been a lot more watchable, it would have been a lot more engaging, it would have been a lot more informative. They would have actually mentioned the fact that there are poor people in this country, and they also would have mentioned the fact that the last time there was a real federal jobs program that put millions of people to work was something called the WPA, the Works Progress Administration, almost 80 years ago. President Obama’s home city nowadays is Chicago, and I’m from Chicago. And I promise you that the subway tunnels underneath State Street in Chicago were built by the WPA, by the Works Progress Administration, people directly on the federal payroll. Soâ€”you know. But that’s the kind of reality that Republicans don’t recognize and Democrats don’t recognize.
JAY: Alright. Just one quick question to end this. If you were in a swing state and your vote mattered, would it matter to you which one of these gentlemen won?
DIXON: I think every vote matters. And if your vote is your voice, you should vote what your real voice is, no matter what the outcome is.
JAY: Alright. Thanks very much.
DIXON: Thank you.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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