Let's Get Political Presidential Debate Round II Roundup Julia Gazdag

Apparently President Obama and Mitt Romney took some feedback to heart after the last snoozefest debate, because last night, they brought their ‘tudes to play. Obama brought the attitude of someone who is president and is almost pompously confident, albeit with diplomatic experience. Romney brought the attitude of a 5-year-old who dropped his cookie and doesn’t want another cookie, nor does he want you to change the subject, just listen to him talk about his cookie! Candy Crowley was the moderator, and she was not handing out cookies, in a totally boss, sit-down-and-shut-up-I-run-this-sh*t kind of way. Overall, the spectacle ranged somewhere between a cafeteria food fight and a back alley knife brawl. At least I could stay awake the whole time.

It took Romney almost the full 100 minutes to learn that when it wasn’t his turn, it wasn’t his turn. Obama opted for the high road, aka basic common courtesy, which some people will think made him look weak, and others will respect. Mostly, whatever your opinion already is, it’ll just stay that way. A note for Governor Romney: when you’ve spent your whole campaign getting called out on how medieval your stance on women’s issues is, trying to walk all over the female moderator and talking to her like she’s your housemaid/butler (I don’t know which one he has, probably both) isn’t helping.

Both candidates spent the whole debate trying to Biden each other. Neither pulled it off. I miss the VP debate, you guys.

Of course, the Big Bird moment of the night was Romney’s “binder full of women” quip, which is, and I say this without bias, a treasure trove of misogynistic stupidity. [Editor's Note: It's also total boloney!] It served as living proof that armies of meme creators were ready and waiting for the next big thing. The Facebook page was up to 98K likes half an hour after the debate ended, and the Tumblr went up 30 seconds before Romney even said anything. Let’s get some context, because we all know this is what we came here to talk about, anyway.

The question asked Romney how he would address the gender pay gap. Here’s the full quote:



Now, the question wasn’t, “Do you acknowledge women as valid members of society whatsoever?” The question was about the gender pay gap. You know, that thing where women get paid less than men for doing the exact same job with the same hours, and it’s legal? Romney did not come out in support of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and you may recall this past summer, when he called WI Gov. Scott Walker a hero (the same Gov. Scott who repealed the Equal Pay Enforcement Act in his own state). Eventually, after much question dodging, Romney’s campaign said they support equal pay for women, after it became apparent how unwelcome a lack of support was to voters. But apparently in Romney’s world, closing the gender pay gap means giving women grownup jobs, and feeling super progressive for doing so. High five in the 1950s, y’all! Actually addressing the issue of the whole 80 cents to the dollar thing was beyond his reach, though.

He went on to talk about the importance of making sure that work hours for women folk are flexible, so that they can go home and take care of all their children. I presume these children will be the harbingers of the population boom that will be an after-effect of destroying female reproductive liberties, and as we all know, population explosions are a great economic stimulus plan.

This is his answer on unequal pay, you guys. He avoided the actual question, and instead went off on how great it will be that women can work part time and focus on their housewifery. The thought that men may choose to partake of family duties, or that perhaps the diverse array of couples in this country have a personal choice over how to divide roles and manage their lives, doesn’t seem to have occurred to Romney. Nor, apparently, did the idea that a woman can exist without birthing a litter.

In one fell swoop, Romney was not only displaying a spectacular show of blatant sexism, he was also preaching a specific lifestyle and showing a plan that benefits only those who fit into his idea of how life should be lived. I can totally see how he spent all those years as a missionary. In his world, women not only all choose to have babies and are solely responsible for actively raising them, they are all looking for a way to put their careers on the backburner. Young professionals aren’t an actual thing, right? I know I had ten kids as soon as I got my first period (you know, test-runs), and my job is just for funsies!.

But hey, Romney’s not sexist, because he went out of his way to include the women folk! Sure, the part of the process that left a mark on him was organizing them into easily perusable documents (and what’s more humanizing than that), but look at how progressive he is, being open to hiring them at all! Romney wrapped up his answer by citing statistics on women’s unemployment and poverty, but instead of saying that he thinks it’s important to pay them the same amount for the same work as men, he thinks that boosting the economy as a whole should be good enough for all of us. Obama at least took the time to discuss realistic women’s issues regarding equal pay, and even used words like “glass ceiling”, which leads me to believe he’s read at least two chapters into any given gender & econ textbook. But then, he’s the one who signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into effect.

The debate, more than anything else, reflected the tension and increasing hostility of this race. Despite the massive threat to the income, personal liberties, and reproductive rights of half the country’s population, the main topic was jobs and the economy. Because that hasn’t been discussed enough, nor will it ever be, and 90 minutes is certainly not enough for either candidate to sum up their position and move on to other topics. OK fine, they spent three whole minutes on immigration. Basically, nobody won, and we all continue to lose. Please go vote so that none of this will have been in vain.

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  1. I’m a mormon women. I’m unmarried. I’ve got a successful career — that I plan on pursing throughout my life. I’ve never had children (test-runs or real ones, even though my period was nearly a decade ago). Hey, I even call myself a feminist. So would you like to explain to me why in your attempt to attack one man’s political agenda — all in the name of equality– you have in turn resorted to using outdated, unfair, condescending stereotypes towards an entire religion and its women? That is the very opposite of feminism and equality as I have come to know it.

    • Although the author is alluding to mormonism in her article, she very carefully avoids directly disparaging the religion, in essence reducing it to a “lifestyle”. In fact, she calls it Mitt Romney’s lifestyle, not Mormonism’s. For you to be so offended, as a mormon person, by an article that doesn’t even use the word “mormon” indicates that perhaps there might be some truth to the stereotypes the author mentions.

    • Let me make this absolutely clear, Desiree: I did not use the word Mormon, nor did I refer to the religion in any way, let alone disrespectfully, with condescension, or with stereotypes. Perhaps you are referring to me pointing to Romney’s past career as a missionary. Mormons do not have a monopoly on that profession, and my reference was to the fact that the job of a missionary is to convince others to adopt the beliefs and lifestyle of the missionary. This is not way denigrates the Mormon religion or its followers in any way, nor is that something I would ever do, whether in print or off the record. I take deep personal offense that you have jumped to this conclusion and accused me of this kind of ignorance and hatred by reading something into my words that is far from being there.

  2. As someone who is undecided in this election. I was frustrated by the debate. I felt that Obama never answered SEVERAL major direct questions. I am also one of those women who lost my job because of the economy. I am in grad school that I do not qualify for grants for, which I never got a really clear answer on why because I am in the correct income range. As for the women’s issues, I was more amazed that a white republican would request help in recruiting Females on his staff and be willing to be flexible with their schedule.
    I think the part that frustrated me the most is Obama constantly Interrupting and When he straight up told Candy he was done answering the question and he would not be moving on. My decision has not been made but I was not impressed with Obama Last night.

    • Romney actually lied that he went to groups asking about qualified female candidates. They came to him with suggestions. In terms of the economy, the president actually has much less control of the economy than we would like to think. That said, the crash happened under a republican president and many point to Reagan’s deregulation of business as planing the seed for it. It will take the economy probably a decade to recover and there wasn’t much Obama could do with the congress shooting down everything. Repairing the economy takes time and cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans isn’t going to do anything for the middle class. Trickle down economics has never worked. Count me as one of the jobless, though thankfully I have a temp position now that will last a few more months. Without earned income credit from my last tax return and extensions of health care, I would have been much worse off.

      • I’m always astounded by how many people point to the President regarding the economy, I guess because it’s so easy since he’s so visible. I find it very frustrating that the members of Congress who keep limiting economic growth by voting against helpful legislation are usually Republicans, and it’s not even about disagreement with policies, but a political move to oppose Obama. Back in July, before the Republican primaries, the Republican platform was only “get rid of Obama” — that didn’t say to me, “we want to represent and help voters.” That sounded more like a football game that they wanted their team to win just for the sake of victory.

        • I completely share your frustration with Congress. Every move they made on the economy was meant to make Obama as ineffective as possible instead of trying to help America. You would think Paul Ryan being on the committee to create a bipartisan budget then shooting down his own work, and THEN trying to say that it was Obama’s fault it didn’t go through would matter more to voters.

          • That requires actually paying attention. It’s so much nicer to let the nice man show up on TV a month before the election and convince you with his pretty words. “fact-checking”, aka not being disingenuous, is optional.

    • It sounds to me like you were quite decided going into the debate. I can’t, for the life of me, understand how you came to those conclusions. Also, again, Romney stretched the truth, once again, by claiming HE HIMSELF reached out for more female potential staff members. I would suggest that you read up on the candidates and research their actions; debates are political theater. Read up on Romney’s history of support for women’s issues. Also: Obama did not personally deny you grants.

      • I was going into the debate with an open mind. I live in a very conservative state and I tend to be highly critical of extremes on either issue. Truthfully. my decision is made up now… I will not be voting for either candidate. I do not think either one is worthy of my vote… not that my vote really matters… we are a republic after all. I guess my biggest problem with the whole debate is that neither candidate answered questions. And you are right, Obama did not personally deny me grants, it was legislation that happen under him that did reduce the number of grants available for Graduate students. I did agree with some of the things that Obama has put into place over the last 4 years especially what he has done in terms of women’s equal pay… However, I have watch the economy in my area and in my hometown suffer and I am not sure how much more we can take. Luckily America is known for bouncing back…

    • “I felt that Obama never answered SEVERAL major direct questions.” — It’s so interesting what people take away, because I thought it was clear that he answered every question using specifics, especially the first one about how he would create jobs for graduates, whereas Romney brought out his classic, “I know what to do” without giving any specifics. I think we all know what the answer is here: Jeremy 2012.

    • I’m sorry you have that experience, and I know that I had a hard time finding a job and lucked out to currently have one which I actually enjoy. I’m surprised at your comment, though — I felt Obama was assertive, but not to a point where it irritated me. I was very taken aback by Romney’s aggression, his constant interruption of both his opponent and the moderator, and felt that Obama mostly was trying to take his own time back (save for a couple occasions), which Romney kept trying to take. I was actually offended when Romney held his hand up to Candy repeatedly and told her to let him finish, even though he had overstepped his time and knew what the ground rules were, having agreed to them.

  3. Meanwhile we ignore the fact that Obama and Candy lied about his response to Libya, trying to say that he said it was a terrorist attack when everyone knows they blamed it on a youtube video. But clearly saying “binders full of women” is much worse.

    • It baffles me that “define what happened in Libya!” is even an issue. He said it was an act of terror. It’s pure semantics as to whether or not that qualifies as calling it a terrorist attack. At the time, he was told the video influenced the attack. After getting more intel, it was shown that the attack was planned and would have happened with or without the video. When people are rioting across the middle east, of course intelligence is going to link the two at first. The wide-spread riots also probably made it very hard to gather concrete information on what exactly happened. Obama’s wording and the intel he was GIVEN (not his own conclusions but what was told to him by our intelligence agencies and the state department) should be a non-issue as it does not reflect on Obama’s sincerity or his policy and plans for the future. This is especially true when you compare it to Romney’s 47% remark, Paul Ryan pretending to help at a homeless shelter, Romney going back and forth on abortion and access to contraception, and the fact that the Romney/Ryan fiscal plan does not mathematically work.

    • Semantics: the game with no winners.

    • I also feel like Romney’s avoidance of a question that affects the lives of half this country’s population is worse. It’s not about him saying a funny line that’s become a joke and a catchphrase. It’s about his sentiment that women don’t deserve as equal a treatment as men, and his reluctance to stand by the Fair Pay Act.

    • I’m not sure it was a lie, though I don’t think it was Candy’s place to back up one of the candidates in the context of being moderator. I also kind of wish I felt less compelled to keep this post short and sweet, because Obama’s response to the gun control question was kind of ridiculous too. Creating stronger families isn’t the answer to crazy people with guns. Strengthening mental illness care would be, though. As this is a women’s site, however, I decided to focus on the issue I felt to be most relevant to our audience.