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The Debate: Why Didn’t Obama Attack the Bush Years?

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Baltimore.

And last night, President Obama and Mitt Romney met for the first presidential debate. And now joining us with his take on the debate is Jeff Faux. He’s the founder and now distinguished fellow of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. His latest book is The Servant Economy: Where America’s Elite Is Sending the Middle Class. Thanks for joining us.

JEFF FAUX, AUTHOR: Good to be here.

JAY: So the leader of one section of the American elite debated the leader of another section of the American elite. How did they do?

FAUX: Well, you know, in a sense, Romney, being behind, had to do better than the president. I think he did. He was aggressive right from the beginning, right from the first bell. He went after his own image as a rich kid, and he kept insisting—lying, you have to say—that he wasn’t for cutting taxes on the rich, that he was in favor of saving Medicare. He had this number about $716 billion that he accused Obama of taking out of Medicare, when this whole business was forced on Obama by the Republicans. So Romney was essentially recreating himself, moving to the middle, after having, you know, captured the Republican nomination from the right.

JAY: Right. I mean, I joked in another interview that my headline for the debate was "Brilliant Liar Defeats Man without Convictions".

FAUX: Yeah, well, that’s certainly how the president came over. Obama was passive. I think Obama’s big mistake, you know, forgetting for a moment about the style—but I think his biggest mistake was that he didn’t explain how we got into this situation. You know, he let Romney rake him over the coals, which he should have expected, on unemployment and on mortgage foreclosures and, you know, all of that stuff. He let Romney say jobs, jobs, jobs about seventeen times. But he never said, look—he said he inherited the problem, but he never said, it was your party that created the problem, it was your party that led us, you know, down this track, and it was the deregulation of Wall Street. Actually, I was amazed Romney was the first one who mentioned Wall Street, and he mentioned it in the spirit of criticizing too big to fail. So, you know, the president really did let him loose.

I thought Romney overdid it. I thought he began to look a little manic after about half of the show, and his mannerisms started to fall apart, and the president looked more presidential. But Romney hammered him away, hammered away on the economy, and the president kept coming back to Romney’s tax plan. And I have to tell you, I think he lost 75 percent of the audience on that one.

But when, you know, you step back and you look at this, Paul, what’s clear is that neither of these guys have a plan or a vision for the future. You know, there’s no sense for the average working person looking at this show, looking at this debate, about where they would be four years from now. And I think—you know, I don’t think the president lost a lot of ground, but here was an opportunity, you know, to really make the case that—for the things that he says he hasn’t done over the last four years, like public investment and about creating jobs and making those investments in the future. But he just stalled, and I just think it was a lost opportunity.

JAY: Well, that’s why I say man without conviction, because if he spoke—if he actually had convictions about these values and these concepts that he campaigned on four years ago and didn’t push very hard for, you know, he could have used this as an opportunity to explain why the crisis is and what needs to be done about it. But that’s not who he is.

FAUX: Yeah. Well, I think we’ve learned—we’ve relearned that. You know, Romney was in many ways a complete phony, because what he was saying tonight was 180 degrees as what he’d been saying for the last year.

JAY: And unbelievable that Obama couldn’t quote some of his speeches from the primary campaign, where he was playing to the radical right of the Republican Party, and Obama couldn’t quote any of that.

FAUX: Exactly. Exactly. And Obama gave much too much away on the question of Social Security. I almost fell off the chair when Obama says, oh, yeah, well, the governor and I agree on Social Security. They don’t agree on Social Security. Romney and his cohorts, they want to privatize Social Security. It’s quite clear.

JAY: Well, maybe Obama’s not so against it.

FAUX: Well, certainly it turned out that in his last days, Obama’s Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton, was not against it. You know. But here again, I mean, the lack of conviction in the Democratic Party and the leader of the Democratic Party is very, very painful to watch.

JAY: Okay. One quick question. So in the introduction, I said the leader of one section of the American elite debated the leader of another section of the American elite. Some people are saying it doesn’t matter which one of these sections of the elite comes to power. What’s your take on that?

FAUX: Yeah. Well, I think it matters a little bit. I think that if we reelect the president, the next four years are going to be like the last four years. If we elect Romney, the next four years are going to be worse than the last four years. So, you know, that’s our Hobson’s choice, as they say. That’s where we are in America today.

JAY: Alright. Thanks very much for joining us, Jeff.

FAUX: Okay, Paul. Good to be with you.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End

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