Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Luck or Genius?

In reading around the internet about the Obama/Romney debate last night, I was struck by a word Kevin Drum used twice..."luck." It came as his response to what were probably the two most memorable moments of the debate.

First was the way Romney's attack on President Obama about the Benghazi incident backfired.
Obama played this really, really well. He let Romney dig himself into an ever deeper hole, and just smiled when Romney tried to get him to directly deny it. This turned out to be either lucky or smart, because it gave Candy Crowley a chance to fact check Romney and confirm that she was there and she heard Obama refer to Benghazi as an act of terror on the very next day.


The second was in using a quote from Andrew Sprung  on President Obama's response to the last question.
Lord-a-mercy, Obama just killed Romney on the 47%. Was it genius, or luck that he saved it for the end, when there was no time for rebuttal?


I've written before about this tendency to ascribe President Obama's success to luck. To be honest, what Drum did in these two instances is merely raise the question. So I don't want to be too hard on him. I just think it offers an opportunity to answer the question.

What we saw in both of these instances is a President who doesn't feel the need to jump the gun on the attack. As Drum noted in the first example, he was willing to let Romney dig himself in. And then, confident of his own position, he crushed him.

Ain't no "luck" about any of that...its pure genius.

18 comments:

  1. When the President finished his final comment, I jumped up and shouted, "He crushed him!" Pure genius indeed! GOTV!

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  2. There was an element of luck in that the final question could have been on Iran's nuclear capability, which would present no opportunity to present the 47% answer. He could've done it earlier during the tax question, or the "different from Bush" question, but the nature of the final open-ended question, likely selected by Candy Crowley because it was a surrogate for, "Make your closing statement," just teed it up. So there was some luck involved.

    There was no luck involved in catching Mittens in the Benghazi lie, though. That was a pure setup.

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    1. While all the partisans were itching for Obama to use the 47% remark, its clear he would have been content not to...unless Romney provided an opening to crush him with it. That was the genius of it. When you have the patience and confidence to use what your opponent gives you, it has this kind of powerful impact that jumping the gun would have missed.

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    2. True, true... Never let it be said that PBO doesn't take the opportunities that Mitt provides him.

      But the Benghazi lie, he knew that was coming. He knew it was the Fox News talking point; he knew that with minimal prodding, Mitt would repeat it, like he had many times before. It shouldn't be called luck to rely on a supposed journalist to do the job of a journalist. That it is called luck shows how low the journalistic profession had gone. Had.

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  3. I wrote a typically lengthy comment and closed the window before posting!

    So, to sum up, I use the Chinese aphorism, "plant a melon seed, get a melon." There's no luck involved. Romney's delusional insistence that the president "apologizes" for the country and is "weak" led him to clearly believe that Obama must not have called the attacks in Benghazi "terror" until long after. There was nothing lucky about his delusional thinking. Romney has worked for that delusion for some time now. It's simply the terrain.

    We've talked about this before. At best, people who ascribe the president's success to luck at best are people who are still accustomed to (and even comfortable with) losing, and at worst can't handle having a Black man do something better than any of his white peers.

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  4. Luck is a part of the equation. However, it's how you respond to the luck that's more important. Not everybody takes full advantage it or even recognizes it when they see it.

    This is why I wasn't afraid after the first debate. Obama is a good leader not just because he has strong policies, but because he recognizes and takes advantage of opportunities (or luck). Luck isn't always self-evident and it's not always easy to utilize. And when I look at the last 30 years of lame Democratic candidates for POTUS, I'm reminded of this time and time again.

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  5. There's nothing lucky about anything. His closing statement? That was...his stump speech. He's said some variation of those themes 10,000 times in the last year.

    "Fair share," "fair shot," "everybody plays by the same rules," "build the economy from the middle out, not the top-down."

    It must be a very strange thing to be President Obama, to be so completely transparent and consistent on his socioeconomic philosophies and goals in public, and yet have his words be treated as either revelatory or unknowable every single time he goes out there.

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    1. Luck does play a role because you can't completely control or forecast the actions of another person. I think Drum does have a point, but I think he goes a little too far with it. Especially when Romney is a totally inept politician and Obama has been relentlessly consistent throughout his political career. Hello! Romney had this ass-whipping from Obama coming. It was just a matter of where, when, and how.

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  6. I just watched that video of the exchange over Benghazi, and there's a moment when Romney starts in that the camera cuts briefly to Obama. The president seems like he's thinking, "oh, fuck yeah, I can't believe he's doing this." And what does he say? "Proceed." That's all. You can see in his eyes how thoroughly he knows what he's doing.

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  7. I guess it's luck if your opponents are stupid and their base is hateful and brain dead. I guess it's luck if your opposition has never experienced real difficulty. I'm sorry they didn't know that the president is always a first class politician. Yes, the black guy's the best politician out right now.

    I know a little bit about politics and saw a decent opening for Romney on gun control. He could've hit Obama on all the pro gun legislation the president signed. Romney sucks when it's time to deviate from the talking points. He's not a quick witted dude. "Is the sky blue." Romney's answer would be he was a good businessman. Or some shit about two parent households. His grandpa didn't have a two parent household and he did ok. It's luck that Romney couldn't exploit a slow pitch.

    Vic78

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    1. Having said that, Romney left too many openings for Mr President to exploit. I wouldn't call it luck that Romney's a fish.

      Vic78

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    2. Luck is just as much about how you use it as it is in receiving it.

      However, when you know what you're doing, act on that knowledge, and get positive results, effort deserves a lot more credit.

      The "Obama's so lucky" meme is bothersome because it diminishes the effort on Obama's part and it excuses Romney's ineptitude.

      I've got no problem saying that Obama is lucky. But, I have a huge problem with the assumption it's only luck at play here. It's not.

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  8. I haven't heard anyone comment about Mitts comment about the middle class being "buried" the media was all over Joe Biden when he made that comment. But I love the Binder full of women. God that man is a moron- mysoginist mormon.

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    1. How about finding out women had problems in the workplace in 2002? Slightly out of touch Romney is. How about what Mitt said about two parent households? His grandpa wasn't in a two parent household.

      Vic78

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    2. Yeah, I didn't think of this at the time, but others have since pointed out that Mitt was talking about the horrors of single parenthood -- in front of a guy who was raised by a single mom, overcame NOT being born rich and politically connected, and was onstage with him as the leader of the most powerful nation on earth.

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  9. Also wanted to add -- thank you for writing consistently about the dismissive "He is SO lucky!" meme around Obama. Sure, he's had some luck in opponents who have melted down (Jack Ryan comes to mind). But to say that a guy who came into office with everything working against him (including the GOP and some members of his own party, as well as the economy and two wars) and has accomplished as much as he has is just somehow blessed with outrageous fortune is, well, outrageous.

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  10. I don't usually read the comments on blogs, so I don't know if this has ever come up. But along these same lines is the meme that the President's post-convention bump was wholly a product of Former-President Clinton's speech. I loved his speech, but PBO beat the Clinton's and got elected President of the US as a person of color. Calling it the "Clinton Bounce" is terribly dismissive & disrespectful.

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    1. I figured it was an overall better convention than the GOP did. Romney couldn't even put together a decent convention. Clinton's speech was great. The pundits are nostalgic about some pretty dysfunctional times. It was irritating to hear them blather on about how great Clinton was as if he could've done half of what PBO accomplished. The black guy'll get his credit in the future.

      Vic78

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