We live GIF-blogged the second presidential debate, and President Obama and Mitt Romney rewarded us for our efforts with a very confrontational show. If you missed the debate -- or if you want to relive all the best finger points and fact checks and zings -- here's our recap.
11:50p.m.: Highlights: Obama and Romney got all up in each other's faces over the hot-button issue of... the allocation of energy permits to use public lands. We GIF'd a moment-by-moment breakdown of the fight. In trying to explain how good he was about hiring women in his administration as Massachusetts governor, Romney said he got "binders full of women." Which immediately became a Tumblr and who knows what else kind of soon-to-be-abandoned social media joke delivery system.
Romney had some good zingers planned, but Obama had some anti-zinger zingers to deal with the best ones. The most surprising moment was when Obama said he'd called the Libya attacks a terror attack the day after they happened, and Romney couldn't believe it, and nodded for confirmation that Obama really meant to say that. This is my personal favorite GIF of the night...
... because Romney thought he was so right, but Candy Crowley informed him that he was wrong. Mostly.
Obama was clearly a lot more aggressive and engaged than he was in the first debate, and it's hard to think of a really big point that Romney scored. He was best early in the debate when saying Obama couldn't get stuff done. But Andrew Sullivan can breathe again. As we predicted, his declaration of Obama's victory tonight is as intense as his declaration that Obama threw the election away not quite two weeks ago: "To my mind, Obama dominated Romney tonight in every single way: in substance, manner, style, and personal appeal. He came back like a lethal, but restrained predator."
11:46p.m.: One way to measure how aggressive Obama and Romney were this debate is the number of fingers that got pointed:
(All photos via Reuters except bottom left and bottom center, which are via Associated Press.)
11:35p.m.: A great shot from Reuters:
11:15p.m.: The last question of the night was, "What do you believe is the biggest misperception that the American people have about you as a man and a candidate?" This served to set up closing-ish statements from the candidates. Obama talked about the 47 percent. So did Romney, implicitly:
I care about 100 percent of the American people. I want 100 percent of the American people to have a bright and prosperous future. I care about our kids...
My -- my passion probably flows from the fact that I believe in God. And I believe we're all children of the same God. I believe we have a responsibility to care for one another...
We don't have to settle for what we're going through... If I become president, I'll get America working again... And by the way, I've done these things. I served as governor and showed I could get them done.
Obama got the last word:
I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk takers being rewarded. But I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot and everybody should do their fair share and everybody should play by the same rules...
I believe Governor Romney is a good man... But I also believe that when he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considered themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility, think about who he was talking about... Folks on Social Security who've worked all their lives. Veterans who've sacrificed for this country...
And I want to fight for them. That's what I've been doing for the last four years. Because if they succeed, I believe the country succeeds...
11:09p.m.: The consensus seems to be that Romney whiffed the performance part of the Libya question when Crowley said Obama had called the Benghazi attack a terror attack the day after it happened. Here's Keith Urbahn, former chief of staff to Don Rumsfeld: "GOP spent 1 month assembling up facts on
#Benghazi case. In 90 seconds it all evaporated with an epic Romney whiff on Libya Q."
But who won on the facts? Here's the transcript from Obama's Rose Garden speech September 12.
No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.
On the other hand, for the next two weeks, Obama did not talk about the event being a terror attack.
10:49p.m.: After the debate ended, and all the families walked on stages, and the candidates hugged and kissed their wives, Obama talked to the voters in the hall, and Romney talked to his sons.
10:38p.m.: Obama saves the 47 percent reference for the very last moment. He references soldiers, the most sympathetic people who don't pay income taxes.
10:36p.m.: The Obama spin crew is rushing the spin room before the debate's even over, Slate's Dave Weigel reports:
10:22p.m.: Crowley live fact-checks the debate. Romney is attacking Obama on his handling of the murder of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, and for blaming an anti-Islam YouTube for too long. Obama says he said it was terror right away.
"You said in the Rose Garden, the day after the attack, that it was an act of terror?" Romney asks, incredulous. He nods to make sure he heard that right.
Obama says yes, "please proceed." Romney says, "I want to make sure we got that on the record because it was 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror." Obama suggests he "check the transcript." Crowley says that's true, he did say that in the Rose Garden. "Can you say that a little louder, Candy?" She seems almost apologetic, saying, "he did say..."
But she throws Romney a bone too. "It did take two weeks as well for the whole idea of there being a riot out there to come out [that it didn't happen]."
Here's video of the exchange:
10:20p.m.: When Obama tries to sound folksy, he says "folks" a lot. Sometimes it doesn't really fit the situation, as when he was asked about an assault weapons ban, and he mentioned, "Assault weapons that kill folks."
10:17p.m.: Romney tries to get into Obama's financial records. Obama appeals again, "I thought we were talking about immigration!" Look at all the fingers getting pointed.
10:11p.m.: Romney gets frustrated with being interrupted by Obama.
10:07p.m.: When Obama brings up Romney's investments overseas, Romney has a zinger prepared. "Have you looked at your pension?" Romney says, implying there are investments overseas. "Have you looked at your pension?"
But Obama has his own prepared zing. "I don't look at my pension very often. It's not as big as yours so it doesn't take as long."
9:55p.m.: Romney says he's not Bush -- that was another candidate and another time. Obama has a comeback that liberals were begging for, and one that he clearly practiced. He says there are some differences between Romney and Bush -- Bush never tried to make Medicare a "voucher," "he never said illegal immigrants should self-deport."
9:45p.m.: Romney tries to get one more response in on women, and Obama appeals to Crowley to play the rules. She tries to smooth things over like an opera conductor.
9:38p.m.: "They brought me binders full of women," Romney says. It was a response to a question about equal opportunities for women.
9:25p.m.: A GIF anatomy of a fight.
Step 1: The provocation.
"In the last four years, you've cut permits and licences on federal lands and federal waters in half."
"Not true Governor Romney."
Step 2: The personal space invasion.
"How much did you cut licenses?" "We produced more oil..." "How much did you cut licenses and permits?!"
Step 3: The finger point in the general facial area.
"Governor Romney, here's what we did..."
Step 4: Escalation, and appeal to the crowd.
Here, notice how Romney puts his hands closer to Obama's general facial area. Obama quickly turns to the crowd, like 'Can you believe this?' then changes his hand position to say, 'Let's be reasonable...'
"I had a question," Romney says, "and that was how much did you cut them by?"
Step 5: Further appeals to third parties.
Obama said companies had leases on public lands that they weren't using, and they told them they couldn't just sit on the lands and not use them.
Step 6: Attempt to return to engagement.
Romney tries to ask his question a third time.
Step 7: Disengage
Obama tries to signal an end to the fight.
9:20p.m.: Guys, they're actually confronting each other -- the aggressive fight for their records and policies we've all been begging for. And now that we've got it, it scares us a little. "The almost personal space violation makes my stomach churn," The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza tweets.
Don't worry, fight GIFs are coming.
9:10p.m.: Obama is definitely more aggressive this time. After Romney said sure, he called for letting Detroit go bankrupt, but that's what actually happened under Obama, Obama responds, "That's just not true." He says even Detroit executives who support Romney would agree the industry needed federal support to get the loans to go through bankruptcy and survive.
"Governor Romney doesn't have a five-point plan, he has a one point plan: that people at the top don't have to play by the rules."
"That Detroit answer, and the other answer, way off the mark," Romney says. Crowley tries to shush him.
9:06p.m.: The first question is about a college kid who's worried about finding jobs when he graduates. "I know what it takes to create good jobs," Romney says. Then he tries to make a personal connection: "I'll make sure when you graduate -- when do you graduate? 2014? -- I'll be president and I'll be sure you get a job."
9:03p.m.: The first questioner is a college kid wearing purple pants.
9:02p.m.: The debate begins! I did some warm-up GIFs from the sexy aerobics movie Perfect but they're all inappropriate for a family liveblog.
8:45p.m.: Ann Romney is wearing hot pink tonight:
Her designer has said her husband loves her in red and pink.
(Photo via Associated Press.)
8:19p.m.: Ahead of the second debate, New York's Jonathan Chait wonders whether liberal hysteria created the conventional wisdom that Obama was totally destroyed by Romney in the first debate. Chait points to a column by The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne, who blames Twitter:
As the first presidential debate went on, the feeds of progressives went almost silent. After the debate, Obama-leaning commentators might have been even more critical of his performance than neutral analysts were. The negativity built and metastasized to the point where Obama’s “defeat” looked far worse 24 and 48 hours later than it did at the time. To invoke a football metaphor, it would be as if postgame commentary had the power to spin a 24–14 defeat into a 38–3 catastrophe. That can’t happen in sports, but it can happen in political debates.
This is interesting for two reasons. First, how did conventional wisdom snowball before Twitter? America's pundits went insane over one misquote of Al Gore that made it sound like he started the investigations into Love Canal. It's a reason one big theme of the 2000 election was that Gore was a lair.
Second, guys, you need to let go of football as a presidential campaign metaphor. Presidential campaigns are nothing like football. In football, it's a whole team working together, and if the quarterback gets hurt, you send in the second string guy, and if he gets hurt, you send in the third string guy. But you can't do that in the election. There's a huge group of coaches that preps the candidate, but in the end, you just have to hope he'll perform under pressure. Coincidentally, this happens to have much more in common with my sport, gymnastics.
This also solves Dionne's sports metaphor problem. Since gymnastics scoring is subjective, judges are influenced by all kinds of things, like international reputation and hype. Think of this liberal hysteria working as a last-minute and successful appeal to the judges to chance the scores to hurt liberals' own athlete.
8:10p.m.: Romney's aide tweeted this photo of Romney and his wife on the way to the debate:
8:05p.m.: Any ideas what this protester's sign means? He's protesting outside the debate.
(Photo via Associated Press.)
President Obama is reportedly so pumped for his second chance at Mitt Romney in tonight's presidential debate that his aides are worried he'll overcompensate and come off like a bully. The debate is town hall style, meaning undecided voters selected by Gallup will read questions screened by moderator Candy Crowley, and if the questioners try to ask a follow-up, debate rules say their microphone must be cut. Obviously, this is the very kind of freewheeling, no-holds-barred type of format that Romney struggles with. He's been working on his body language so he doesn't literally recoil from the questioners. (Okay, Politico put it more delicately: "Romney has been warned not to physically back away from a questioner, but to lean in as if having a one-on-one conversation...") We'll be live-GIFing the events at Hofstra University tonight.