The Picture That Encapsulates the Debate

By James Fallows

As a bonus two-point update (from inside a car! in China! an unfortunate first -- but at least I'm not driving) of the two earlier debate points:

1) The Obama team had clearly thought about one long-term tic in Mitt Romney's debate demeanor: His apparently uncontrollable vulnerability to being flustered if he thinks the "rules" are not being enforced. "I'm speaking ... it's my turn." Thus pictures like this, with Romney in a "teacher! teacher!" mode. This is the counterpart to the iconic picture of the first debate, which was Obama looking downcast and downward with a scowl. If I had more time I'd dig up one of those pics.

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Getty Images

2) To spell it out, I agree with my Atlantic colleagues Ta-Nehisi Coates and also Robert Wright on the general flow of this one, and I disagree with our National Journal colleague Ron Fournier, who considered it a no-winner squabble that left everyone worse off. Certainly there were pitched disagreements -- but to me they did not amount to squabbling but rather to the expression of actual differences in outlook, on issues from Libya to taxes. Unfortunately not on the automatic-weapons question, but that's for another day.

Update On reflection I think that the most important words in the debate, a kind of turning point, were "Please proceed, Governor." Explanation later; if you saw it, you'll know what I'm talking about. Clip is in previous post, and the crucial part starts about one minute in.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/10/the-picture-that-encapsulates-the-debate/263734/