By Matthew Rothschild on October 16, 2012

President Obama came to play, and came to fight.

He was prepared. He had a lot of energy. He was combative without being rude, and he repeatedly took it to Mitt Romney, who seemed to run out of gas half way through the debate.

Obama right away challenged the veracity of Romney’s answers, saying that they just weren’t true, as when Romney said he had the same position as the President on taking the auto companies into bankruptcy.

On energy policy, Romney was Sarah Palin without the wink, all but saying, “Drill, baby, drill.” He said we needed “Mr. Oil, Mr. Gas, and Mr. Coal” in the White House, and those are the three stooges who are burning the planet up.

Romney also gave a terrible answer to the Latina who asked a question about undocumented workers, whom Romney proceeded to call “illegals”—a term of great offense to many.

Obama hit Romney hard on China, pointing out that one of his companies had helped the Chinese government with tools of repression. But Obama didn’t bring up Bain and the exporting of jobs to China, which was just sitting out there.

At one point, Romney foolishly asked Obama if he’d looked at his investments lately, and Obama quickly joked that his weren’t nearly as big as Romney’s.

Two subjects that Obama had opportunities to bring up but never mentioned were abortion and preexisting conditions. Obama got as far as talking about contraceptives (and Romney—Mr. I Will Defund Planned Parenthood—magically came out for contraceptives for all!).

But Obama didn’t make the point that Romney’s vice presidential pick is against abortions even in case of rape, incest, and the health of the mother.

And while Obama defended the Affordable Care Act (and fortunately didn’t embrace the term “Obamacare” this time), he didn’t make the most persuasive case for it, which is: If you have a preexisting condition that is life threatening, you’ll be covered, and if your kid has one, your kid will be covered, too.

Obama once again genuflected to the free enterprise system as one of America’s greatest achievements, which it isn’t, and he once again boasted about “winding down” the war in Afghanistan when we still have twice as many troops there as were there the day Bush left office.

But Obama ended strongly, taking Romney on about the infamous 47% comment he had made, and making a direct pitch for viewers’ votes.

This was the Obama that many of his supporters longed to see the first time. And had they seen him the first time, this race wouldn’t even be close right now.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Romney in Denial about Lethal Lack of Health Insurance."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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