, Gloucester, MA

October 17, 2012

Politics: In the end, it's all a big game

Bill Burt
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Editor’s Note: Now that the disastrous Red Sox season is over, the NHL is in a lockout, the Celtics are in pre-season, and Bill Belichick still doesn’t answer questions, sports columnist Bill Burt has time to turn his attention to the full-contact sport of presidential politics.

I went to watch the second of three presidental debates in my family room and, well, a heavyweight fight broke out.

Yes, it was a sportswriter’s dream.

In fact, my only wish as the debate was 15 minutes old was that some political operative could have slipped in two pairs of 16-ounce boxing gloves.

Honestly, there were two, maybe three times, when President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney, stood face to face, about a right hook away from each other, talking tough.

I loved it. Everybody loved it.

This is what politics should be about: passion and more passion. Sometimes, somebody gets a little heated. So what?

Facts and issues? They’re overrated. We’ve heard all of this stuff before about taxes, immigration, terrorism, gas prices, unemployment, jobs, etc.

Sure, we’ve got opinions on all of the above, but that’s not what these debates are about. I’m a part-time follower of this and I had heard every argument last night at least a dozen times.

These debates more represent how our representatives think on their feet, literally, and show some leadership in a public setting. I like it. There are no scripts, only issues and, well, jabs.

Quite frankly, Obama was a church mouse in Denver in the first debate, which I watched in its entirety. His obsession with trying to look cool and suave, a problem he always has I believe, killed his half-hearted arguments and efforts.

Obama apparently read the polls and heard the pundits who said he was a punching bag for Romney, “the bully,” last time out, leading to a recent surge for Romney’s candidacy and making this race very close to even.

But the president earned a lot of points by coming to fight last night. He was ornery throughout the night and, to his credit, didn’t take Romney’s criticism sitting down.

My early thoughts on the debate were this: It’s about time you fight for your job, Mr. President.

As for Romney, he was solid. He’s always solid. I don’t know if I’d want to have a beer with the guy, but I’d sure love him to take charge of my 401(k). He’s got “leader” written all over him. He’s a confident man.

There were moments last night that I thought both men were stars.

Obama’s closing two minutes, focusing on Romney’s knucklehead comments about 47 percent of the country on the government dole, was magnificent, the best punch of the two debates.

The other big haymaker Obama scored was when he methodically added up Romney’s $8 trillion in cuts or lost revenue. Romney had a weak answer for it, basically answering, “Trust me, my new economy will make up for those cuts.”

Advantage Obama.

But Romney’s two-minute carving up of the last four years of “failed” Obama policies, while answering the question from the disgruntled African-American and former Obama supporter, was a big knockdown by the challenger.

Romney also seemed to jab Obama incessantly over his “lack of a energy” policy, with a lot of success.

As soon as the debate was over I immediately went to the two biggest networks/supporters of these two candidates, MSNBC (Obama) and FOX News (Romney) for their thoughts.

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, with some insane scoring system only he could understand, had Obama winning 6-1-3, over the 10 main issues covered. I laughed. It sort of reminded me of the old WWF and Captain Lou Albano pushing the cause for his wrestler.

And Fox News basically gave the nod to Obama, in a close decision, which was more in line to what I was thinking.

Anyway, it was my pleasure to cover. It was a competitive 90 minutes of sporting action, as good as the Patriots-Seahawks game on Sunday night.

As for Debate No. 3, my advice to the moderators is I wouldn’t waste the 90 minutes on jobs and foreign policy. Obama vs. Romney would be a fair fight, mano y mano, with nicely padded gloves: the slick kid vs. the cagey veteran.

I’m game to do this again, if they’re game.

You can email Bill Burt at