Last night, campus political groups the Columbia Political Union, CU College Republicans, CU Dems, and the Roosevelt Institute hosted a live screening (with free pizza!) of the first Presidential Debate being held at the University of Denver, Colorado. Bwog’s Debate Devotee Maren Killackey watched intently as America’s favorite presidential candidates went at it.

The air of Lerner Piano Lounge where the screening was held was electric in those first few minutes before the debate as politically involved and concerned students chatted excitedly about expectations of their future president, who they planned to vote for, what issue they were most worried about, and pizza… mostly the pizza. Presumably, a significant portion of the sixty odd people seated in chairs, on the floor, and on, yes, on the computer bay came to mooch free food, but stayed for the hilariously predictable political nonspeech.

The players:
Jim Lehrer: of PBS NewsHour, moderator, ineffectual
Barack Obama: uhhhhh… current President
Mitt Romney: the Challenger, “kind of attractive” (overheard)

The questions:
1) How does each candidate differ on jobs?
2) How does each candidate differ on how they’d cut the deficit?
3) Is there a major difference between each candidate’s position on Social Security?
4) What is each candidate’s view on the level of federal regulation of the economy? Is there too much or should there be more?
5) Why does Romney want to repeal Obamacare?
6) What role does each candidate think the federal government plays in people’s lives?
7) What would each candidate do about partisanship?

The answers:
1) Jobs – Obama: I want to create more of them. Romney: Yeah. What he said.
2) Reducing the deficit –  Romney: Does it get government funding? Yes? Is it necessary? No? Gone. (Cue horrified look on Lehrer’s face) Obama: I didn’t inherit this! Blah blah blah balance blah blah young people.
3) Social Security – Obama: I wouldn’t cut it. He’s going to cut it. Romney: What? I’m not going to cut it. You’re going to cut it.

Actually, by this point a fairly recognizable pattern had been established:

Lehrer: How do you two differ on this super general category?

Obama/Romney: Well, Jim, basically my opponent, Governor Romney/President Obama, would do some obviously stupid thing that I don’t agree with. On the other hand, I would do this totally awesome thing that’s pretty vague but sounds good.

Romney/Obama: (If Obama response, add “zinger” such as “His big bold plan was ‘Nevermind’” (on Romney supposedly renouncing the tax plan he’s advocated for the past 18 months) or “Donald Trump is a small business, though he doesn’t like to think of himself as small anything” (on not giving tax cuts to the top 3% of small businesses)) What President Obama/Governor Romney just said is entirely not true and he needs to check his facts/math/teleprompter (not really but Bwog wishes there had been a teleprompter joke). I would do EXACTLY what President Obama/Governor Romney just said. In fact, it’s him who’s not going to do what he just said he was going to do and attacked me for not doing… Er, random statistic you can’t dispute!

Obama/Romney: Well, I raise your random statistic an adorable anecdote about my childhood –

Lehrer: Gentlemen, we are out of time!

Romney & Obama: (Completely ignoring Lehrer) Crosstalk!

Obama/Romney: (Still ignoring Lehrer) continuing adorable anecdote/now talking about some unfortunate individual I met on the campaign trail who lost her job/can’t afford health insurance/ ’s kid goes to a sucky school/is probably upset that her personal problems are being used as rhetoric to make me appear “in touch.” Awkward transition to the deficit, Medicare, or both.

And so it went for 90 minutes. Each candidate pretty much indecipherable (mainly because they kept talking over each other), repeating the same allegedly incorrect statistic, which for Obama was Romney’s $5 trillion tax cuts and for Romney was the $716 billion Obama would gut from Medicare, and shamelessly – but necessarily –  pandering to middle class voters.

Of note (to varying degrees):

  • Though President Obama presented himself as King of the One-Liners (and if he doesn’t get re-elected at least he has that title), it was Governor Romney who cast the first stone. Obama began his opening remarks with a short address to the First Lady apologizing for having to celebrate their twentieth anniversary in front of 40 million people. Romney likewise apologized to the President saying that this probably wasn’t the most romantic location he had envisioned for his anniversary – “here with me.”
  • Romney’s plan to make the US energy independent, and in doing so “make sure we can continue to burn clean coal” as coal companies have felt “crushed” by Obama’s policies.
  • Obama’s $90 billion in tax breaks (50 years worth of what oil gets) to green energy companies, half of which, according to Romney, have gone bankrupt, the other 50% comprise of some of Obama’s biggest supporters
  • Both candidates’ promise to keep tuition low for students. Surprisingly no reaction from the CU audience, though most likely it’s because our dreams of such a thing are dead.
  • Obama would hire 100,000 new math and science teachers because he unlike that other guy thinks education is important. That other guy in response: “WTF are you talking about? Of course, I like education!”
  • Romney wouldn’t change Medicare benefits for current retirees, told audience at home, “If you’re 60, stop listening.” Obama pointed out that Romney would then adopt more or less a voucher system for not-current retirees and to the audience, “If you’re 56, listen up.”
  • Dodd-Frank came up when Lehrer asked about regulation. Romney made it clear he was not opposed to regulation, agreed with some points, but Dodd-Frank had to be “thought through” more. Obama made it clear that if “anybody out there thinks the big problem we had was too much regulation… Governor Romney is your candidate,” promptly interrupted.
  • When asked what he’d do about partisanship in Congress, Romney cited his previous experience as Governor of Massachusetts where 87% of the state’s Congress was Democrat and said that his first day in office he’d sit down with Democratic leaders. Obama, bringin’ the snark, commented, “Well… I think Governor Romney’s going to have a busy first day, because he’s also going to repeal Obamacare…”
  • In their closing remarks, Obama promised to continue to fight “just as hard” as he’s fought the past four years. Romney, “concerned” about the direction America is heading, painted a gloomy portrait of the Obama Administration Round 2.

In conclusion: Both candidates would raise taxes, leave millions uninsured, and cut Medicare, all while taking a “balanced approach” or “reach[ing] across the aisle.” The other guy’s facts are wrong and even though they’re both saying they want to do the same thing, neither does or will.

So there you have it. Doesn’t matter who you vote for* because for all intents and purposes Romney and Obama are interchangeable talking heads and we’re all going to be sold to China/die in the Mayan apocalypse. Happy Elections everyone!

*Completely kidding. It’s important to educate yourself about the issues so you can make an informed decision about who should be the next leader of the United States. For the entire broadcast of the debate (which was legitimately amusing and more nuanced than the above would suggest) click here.