Obama-GOP “rumble” was good — but only as a first step

Last Friday’s rare — if not unprecedented — question and answer session between President Barack Obama and the Republican House caucus, offered a true glimpse of the President’s debating skills (excellent) and of the Republicans’ ability to present coherent, particularly economic, positions in a reasonable way.  Since the session was televised live, everyone clearly played to the camera, and the substance offered by both sides was often obscured by sound-bite piled on sound-bite.  Still, the session left this former member of the House Republican caucus yearning for more.

One hopes the president will follow up this first foray deep into “enemy territory” with a series of visits to both the House and the Senate caucuses (of both parties); and under rules that allow for both public and private sessions.  There needs to be some limits imposed on the length of both questions and answers, but time also perhaps for at least limited follow up.  Whether the Republicans and the Democrats will permit this sort of continuing interchange, which at least comes close to a political debate format akin to that employed for decades by the British House of Commons in questions to the Prime Minister, remains to be seen.  However, if both parties have the backbone to subject themselves to a robust, public program of “debates” like last Friday’s, the American public will learn more about whether their political leaders possess the knowledge and the sparring skills to truly articulate and defend their positions, than they possibly could glean by sitting through a dozen state-of-the-union addresses. 

Last year’s so-called “presidential debates,” like those four years previously, were an embarassment.  So little of real substance could be gleaned from the six hours of programming, as a result of rules deliberately designed not to allow for real substance to emerge, that it was hardly worth the time to tune them in.  Last week’s Obama-GOP match might hopefully spur next cycle’s presidential candidates to engage in something that at least approaches a real “debate.”

Kudos to Obama for suggesting this first event, and to the GOP for accepting the challenge.  Now that the precedent has been set, Let’s Rumble!

81 comments Add your comment

Craig

February 3rd, 2010
6:56 am

Bob you are dead on when you day that Obama is a master debater.I have never seen a politician so astute @ taking a lie and promoting it as truth and makeing it sound so good in the process.The Republicans had better start articulating a conservative agenda and be able to defend it and support it with equal vigor or they are doomed as a valid political party. For instance there is a good reason why letting people keep and spend their own money is the best way to stimulate the economy rather than have the fed govt take it in taxes and sprinkle it around as it sees fit. The Republicans had better have an answer for the American people or they will be toast.

Tom Turner

February 3rd, 2010
7:59 am

Great column! I particularly like your assessment of the presidential “debates” which reduce all the candidates to posturing chowderheads and SNL skits to lame reenactments. Debate such as we witnessed from Baltimore is precisely what the doctor ordered. I only hope that prescription comes with perpetual renewal.

Cutty

February 3rd, 2010
8:13 am

Craig- You must’ve forgotten about the run up to the Iraq War. The biggest lies in the history of our country were told then. Remember mushroom clouds, weapons of mass destruction, Saddam was in on 9/11. If that wasn’t “taking a lie and promoting it as truth” than what is? Also, record tax cuts were approved during that time to “stimulate the economy and let people keep more of their hard-earned money.” We say how that worked out. Republican policies have always failed, which is why no republican president in over 40 yrs has balanced a budget. They talk a good game, but once they get on the court we see their real skills.

TnGelding

February 3rd, 2010
8:20 am

Agreed, I found it very productive. Now if they can just follow through and continue to talk and not demonize each other. The presidential debates certainly need overhauling as well.

Glenn

February 3rd, 2010
8:37 am

Round one Obama . I agree that it is a good thing as well Bob . Misinformation should go down & accountability should go up on each side . Maybe they will even work together . Here’s wishing for several more rounds .

Chris Broe

February 3rd, 2010
8:46 am

Rita Moreno rebutts Obama’s debating ploy: The West Wing Story.

My fellow wingnuts: A ploy like that; a bill, a brother. A ploy like that you filibuster. Stick to your own kind. Stick to your own kind.

Road Scholar

February 3rd, 2010
8:47 am

I agree with you Bob. More dialogue of substance is needed as the public becomes educated not only about our politician but also their positions and solutions. But your quote above “There needs to be some limits imposed on the length of both questions and answers, but time also perhaps for at least limited follow up.” is wrong. Are you proposing more soundbyte answers versus the in depth explaination of their position? We have enough soundbytes; we need substance over talking points.

Those who say Obama “lies” aren’t listening or comprehending what he is saying and proposing. They have their minds made up over the soundbytes.

We need respectful and deeper discussion on what they propose, why they propose it, and how they would implement it. Both sides! The main press seems more interested in Tiger Woods and Edwards vrsus the well being of our country.

Oh By the way, why did FOX cut away from the session? I thought that they were “fair and balanced”!

MrLiberty

February 3rd, 2010
9:00 am

The biggest problem with these gatherings is that the Republicans know nothing of economics, the free market, or constitutional limits on government. In their back an forth about insurance, current restrictions on interstate purchases, etc. the republicans never took the high ground supporting the proper use of the commerce clause in striking down the state restrictions. They also never took the high ground for the free market by noting how even the state regulations force consumers to buy insurance coverages they do not want (42 mandates in Georgia alone).

The basic problem with the republicans as has always been the case is that they lack principles. They really are just socialists masquerading as small govnerment libertarians to try to appeal to the common sense constitutionalists among their constituents. Fundamentally however they love big government and its power as much as any democrat. They just love the power to blow people up in foreign countries and to shovel tons of money to their favorite businesses and speak out against the democrats doing the same thing.

Gatherings like this one only serve to perpetuate the lie that there are really two different parties in this country. There are not. There is the big government war party and it has two faces – republican and democrat. Most americans are finally waking up to that reality. Let’s only hope they wake up soon enough.

JDW

February 3rd, 2010
9:01 am

Bob this time you are right on. This needs to be a regular occurance going forward for this and all subsequent presidents.

Davo

February 3rd, 2010
9:03 am

It was a good debate allright. Nothing like seeing a bully get beat on his own ground. But that is all it will amount to. The GOP will not let that happen again, and Obama is as rigid in his socialistic beliefs as ever before. Until we get a viable 3rd party this stalemate will continue ad nauseum.

k

February 3rd, 2010
9:07 am

I was particularly interested in the claims by Tom Price-GA. How bold can you be offering up a plan that previously had no numbers during the summer debates and stating that it will cost the American people absolutely nothing. Really! This is why both Republicans and Democrats need to get it together. Pelosi/Reed or McConnell/Boehner are all bad for the country if they live on the 24 hour news cycle yet offer not real constructive way to solve problems.

k

February 3rd, 2010
9:12 am

Craig,
be a grown up and stop falling for the idiotic fring arguments. The truth is always somewhere in the middle. Hold your elected officials accountable and express your anger that they aren’t getting things done by playing these games of name calling (socialist, big spenders, conservative litmus test). Democracy has always been about give and take not all or nothing.

The Barr Tab

February 3rd, 2010
9:19 am

Call our President what you will but all must agree he is a great orator and communicator. And by the way, gutsy is an understatement. Oh Mam, could you bring me another?

The Snark

February 3rd, 2010
9:19 am

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) — the Congressment voted by his fellow Republicans as “the one we’d most like to muzzle.” Really!

Davo

February 3rd, 2010
9:22 am

Ron Paul warns of Coming Social and Political Chaos
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2y4na-HSrY&feature=player_embedded

SA@TAC – Taking the ‘Neo’ Out of ‘Conservative’
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHr5qdIwb7U&feature=ytn%3Amptnews

Jefferson

February 3rd, 2010
9:31 am

I could give a fat rat’s ass for a D or a R, but the party of NO should be exposed. Look at the state, without bailout money that they bad mouth, there would be hell to pay. All they do in pander and enrich their buddies. They ran the country in the ground and now blame the current president. No ideas, No help for the working middle class, NOthing. Its a ping pong game and the taxpayers are the ball. Both sides playing the middle.

The Barr Tab

February 3rd, 2010
9:33 am

Okay, I may be a little tipsy but keep looking at Bob’s lips in the picture and see if they don’t appear to be moving.

The Barr Tab

February 3rd, 2010
9:48 am

Could it be a sign from God to stop bar hopping?

mike drake

February 3rd, 2010
9:49 am

That format certainly provides for a more adult debate. If you can have more of the same our elected officials may actually solve problems rather than exacerbate them. Americans are beyond fed up with the schoolyard behavior of so many in DC. I for one hope this type of debate becomes the norm because we will quickly expose those who are ready to get this country back on it’s feet and those who want to play politics as usual.

Cuttys Mom

February 3rd, 2010
9:53 am

Cutty – Wake up! Quit blaming Bush like the whole OBAMA administration does. OBAMA is a true socialist and full of it. He talks the talk but he doesn’t walk the walk. OBAMA is a smooth talker though and he sounds so sincere. But the American people has seen the truth and even Mass. woke up! I’ve never seen so much shady tactics and back door deals on a contiuous basis. I’m glad America is waking up. I’m not saying Republicans are the answer, but I know OBAMA isn’t.

Swede Atlanta

February 3rd, 2010
9:57 am

Agree this is a good thing and the way that in my view adult politicians should engage one another.

But the proof is in the pudding. Obama needs to get Pelosi and Reid onboard although the Republicans saying they were shut out of everything and the Democrats saying they included a number of Republican ideas means that the truth of how shutout they were is somewhere in the middle. (If I recall I don’t think the Democrats were included at all during the first 6 years of the Bush years). But let’s face it, this is politics and right now the Democrats have the majority in both houses.

Most interesting will be to see if the Republicans can come out of their “No” shells and behave like adult politicians. Politics is a game of compromise. So if the Republicans continue to say no to everything even if the something they are voting on is something they support, they are like children in a sandbox. In a democracy you have to give and take.

I personally think a straight line of Republican No, No, Nos is going to be an effective tool for Democrats in the Fall. On the other hand if Republicans can compromise on some things to move important legislation forward, they can point to their success as the opposition party. They can claim they did what they could to hold back what they view are bad policies or excesses of the majority while compromising in the face of important legislation.

W.

February 3rd, 2010
10:00 am

Road Scholar, just curious…Do you still support and approve of what Obama is doing and has done so far?

Chris Broe

February 3rd, 2010
10:00 am

RU calling Barr a liar? (lips moving) sorry.

Assignment for wingnuts: shred all media reports of the GOP leaders who pretended to refuse Stimulus money and then changed their minds at the last minute so that they could pay off lobbyists and cronies and the girls. How much for the girls? The wives. the girlfriends. How much? For the girls?

Assignment lunatic fringe: Destroy any evidence that GOP leaders wished to pay off the girls. To keep the girls quiet. How much 4 the girls? Shred the news reports. About the girls. The camera girls. The interns. and how much they paid. for the girls.

Cutty

February 3rd, 2010
10:04 am

Cuttys Mom- Nice moniker, although my mom is deceased, that probably warms your heart though. You don’t even know what socialism is, and if you did every republican who voted for Medicare Part D is a socialist as well. As is the new Senator from MA who voted for that state’s healthcare plan.

Shady back door deals like writing an Energy policy with energy CEOs? Republicans are hypocrites, pure and simple. Tom Price screaming about deficits until Obama cut the F-22 from the defense budget. Name one republican President since ‘76 that has balanced a budget? Zero. Is Obama a Socialist or a Fascist today? You know he can’t be both. Or do you?

Bush was talking about Clinton’s recession for two years. This was a near depression, and yes, the public should be reminded that those who caused are screaming now about fiscal discipline. Get over yourself, I could run circles around you just telling the truth. If you’re so much against socialism, sell your can, grow your own food, and don’t get on a plane again, since the DOT, FDA, and FAA are all socialist programs. Idiot.

Garry Owen

February 3rd, 2010
10:18 am

Stop calling the GOP the party of “no” when a majority of the country is opposed to the same government socialist take over programs the GOP is opposed to supporting. It is amazing tha the Democrats control the White House and Congress and still can not move forward. Why? Because they can not blame the GOP for possible failures. Also, many Democrats see the anger of a politically self educated people and now realize their political future is on the line. Being a great debater is one thing. Mr. Obama entered the race for the White House debating as a moderate, but he governs as a liberal. Is this good debating skills or is it deception?

What?

February 3rd, 2010
10:21 am

I really don’t understand when people say “letting people keep and spend their own money is the best way to stimulate the economy”. Does that mean you will pave the roads, Put out the fire and not call the fire department, Fight the terrorists yourself, Volunteer your time to work in the airport security, Run your own ambulance service, deliver your own mail? It sounds very stupid when people say that we don’t need the government and we should keep our own money.

Transparency?

February 3rd, 2010
10:23 am

Take Nevada out of the 2012 Obama column, Harry Reid is done too.

Swede Atlanta

February 3rd, 2010
10:26 am

Ref: Garry Owen

GOP is the party of No, No, No. They won’t even vote for bills that contain things they themselves proposed. 7 Republican senators that sponsored legislation creating the bi-partisan Fiscal Commission turned around and voted no when it came up for a vote. Talk about being schizophrenic.

Please provide your understanding of socialist “take over programs”. Do you mean Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security? Do you mean the Medicare Rx program? Do you mean the EPA, FDA, DoT, etc.? How about the TARP program that was developed under Bush/Cheney?

Many of the extreme measures the President had to take were to salvage the economy. Yes he bought controlling interest in two of the automakers to keep those industries alive. Had he not done so the unemployment rate likely would be over 20%. The health care reform plan going through Congress is not socialism despite the talking points. It actually gives PRIVATE insurance companies millions of more customers. I think that is, if anything, forced capitalism.

W.

February 3rd, 2010
10:34 am

I dont get why people such as Cutty and other morons are so inclined to live in a socialist country. Why would you go and change something that has been working and continues to work. Granted there needs to be some modifications to certain aspects of the system, but giving the government complete control of everything would be suicide for us as a country. I dont see how anyone, no matter what party you categoroize yourself as, can still support and actually think Obama is on the side of the people of the United States of America. Granted he is a smooth talker and he does have a way to convince large groups of people into believing what he is saying, but all dictators have that same appeal in the beginning.

Aquagirl

February 3rd, 2010
10:45 am

I notice plenty of mudslinging ’bout Cutty’s post, yet no real substance in replies.

And no, saying Obama is evil/socialist/deceptive is not an answer, unless you’re on Faux news. Turn that crap off and learn to think. Idiots.

W.

February 3rd, 2010
10:47 am

I am guessing we should be watching NBC, MSNBC, ABC, because they arent slanted or bias at all. Is this Cutty’s sister?

W.

February 3rd, 2010
10:51 am

that was directed to you Aquagirl. i am guessing you are still an Obama supporter and you are still “hoping” for the change that he has been promising. the only thing that changed was the pitch that he gave to you suckers that voted for him. congratulations on your wonderful president.

Cutty

February 3rd, 2010
10:55 am

Shouldn’t you be clearing brush somewhere, W?

You and people like you take a Rush talking point and run with it.

Aquagirl- Thats all they have are cheap talking points. They can’t hold a relevant discussion on substance because they would lose every time. Dude is probably on SS, yelling about socialism.

mike

February 3rd, 2010
11:12 am

That SS money is his, Cutty. He paid it in over his working life. That is not the same as some of the lefts programs where it is given to folks who never pay in.

Rita

February 3rd, 2010
11:16 am

Got a call from Rep. Tom Price last night for a “town hall” telecon. It was one long preview into his campaign this fall. Little substance, no solutions, lots of fear. Just making excuses for not manning up by complaining about how helpless he and his posse of “no” are in Congress. He preached to the converted, including some poor paranoid lady who has been watching Glenn Beck long enough to fry her brain. She thinks the gubmint’s going to take her hostage for some reason, and Price not only said nothing to calm her down, he added fuel to the fire. He’s an educated guy cynically playing to the great unwashed.

Can't we just get along!

February 3rd, 2010
11:18 am

I’m sure the terrorist are having a field day watching America implode saving them a lot of work. American against American we are saving them a lot of time and trouble by terrorizing ours selves with the GOP leading the fight. With the name calling and bashing of the leader of the free world. Who in the world should have respect America with all in government infighting going on…

C from Marietta

February 3rd, 2010
11:35 am

LOL. It’s Rhode Scholar NOT Road Scholar.

Swede Atlanta

February 3rd, 2010
11:35 am

Mike @ 11:12

That isn’t W’s SS money. W’s money went to pay those that were on SS when W was working. Those of us working today are paying those that are drawing today.

So those that want to cut benefits need to understand they will be affected. Just because they paid in when benefits were one amount doesn’t mean they will draw the same amount.

Aquagirl

February 3rd, 2010
11:36 am

W, your programming is showing—”still?” You think I voted for Obama? Nope. However, you are right on one thing: he is my president, just as George W. Bush was. I didn’t vote for him either, but he was still the president. That’s how it works in our country.

You may now resume talking-point regurgitation, you simple-minded wingnut. Every stupid assumption you make just drives home the point—dummies like you are stuck in absolutes, because actual thinking is too difficult. Enjoy your strawman jousting.

Hard Right Hook

February 3rd, 2010
11:36 am

The Barr Tab

February 3rd, 2010
9:19 am

“Call our President what you will but all must agree he is a great orator and communicator.”

The man is an empty suit, and says nothing better than any modern poitician I’ve ever heard. His mesmerizing tone is just that; all sound, no substance.

But he spends other peoples money very well.

dylandawg

February 3rd, 2010
11:39 am

I get so confused reading these posts. Can someone please define for me what they mean by taxes are too high? I am not sure what that means. Remind me what Obama did that was so bad. Stimulus package? Most economists agree with and feel if there was a problem it was too small.health care? Maybe you don’t agree but trying to come up with a plan to slowdown health care costs and bring health care to our poorest citizens doesn’t seem all that terrible.

C from Marietta

February 3rd, 2010
11:40 am

TO dylandawg,

If you have to much debt, do you spend your way out? No you cut up your credit cards and STOP spending. Boy do the politicans in Washington have you fooled. Sucker born every second. In this case millions of suckers. Keep voting for Republicans AND Democrats and see where that will get you. Screwed in the behind without being wined and dined.

C from Marietta

February 3rd, 2010
11:47 am

Oh and BTW. CONGRESS sets the spending. NOT the President. He signs the budget and makes recommendations. The Clinton “Surplus” was done with a REPUBLICAN Congress. President Clinton and the Republican Congress were able to set aside differences and get stuff done. This President and Congress are a JOKE. All they want to do is stuff their pockets and blame the other guy. Our Republic as we know it is being lost, b/c everyone believes the liar in chief.

dylandawg

February 3rd, 2010
11:47 am

Nothing to do with poilticians, I am afraid of the deficit as much as anyone. But…economists who do this for a living…said it had to happen…big majority opinion. Including the ones who saw this coming. It’s not a question of idealogy, it a question of ecomomics.

Lorenzo

February 3rd, 2010
11:52 am

I’d like to see a debate featuring the few Republicans who are true conservatives. These days most of them are just deficit spending, run of the mill right-wingers.

C from Marietta

February 3rd, 2010
11:53 am

That is basic ecomomics if you spend more than you make YOUR SCREWED. You have to pay the debt off sometime. Quote me ONE ecomomist that says a huge defict is good. It has to stop somewhere. BTW… Private Enterprise is the key to stopping job loss NOT the big bad government.

Big D

February 3rd, 2010
11:54 am

This for the Liberal minded. Imagine going to the mail box and getting a notice that you are now the co-signer on a note for a house that you can never own, but if the guy who is living there can’t pay you will have to…and he gets to keep living there. This is what the new debt will give us from your savior Obama. Churchill on taxing the public into prosperity ( jobs bill,stimulus ect.) “it’s like a man standing in a bucket trying to use the handle to pick himself up”. Either Obama is the stupidest president ( maybe aloof) or the Manchurian candidate…you choose.

C from Marietta

February 3rd, 2010
11:55 am

Hey Lorenzo,

Amen. Me too! Stop the madness Stop the spending.

Lorenzo

February 3rd, 2010
12:12 pm

Amen to you, C. Anyone who believes what Dick Cheney said, that deficits don’t matter, should watch the film I.O.U.S.A. from the Peter G. Peterson foundation. This film shows the overwhelming debt trend with which the government is saddling our children and grandchildren. Congress just voted to increase the debt ceiling to $14+ trillion! Pete Peterson, by the way, is a Republican.
http://www.pgpf.org/
Scroll down to the bottom of the home page and watch the 30-minute film.

robo mojo

February 3rd, 2010
12:12 pm

W
Why do you consider Reagan a “great communicator” but Obama only a “smooth talker”