NOTE: You can read my USA Today debate reaction opinion piece here.


That was one weird town hall for Mitt Romney (transcript), as this one is was an easy win for Barack Obama. Mittens gave some really poor answers to some of the questions – try the epic #FAIL on gender pay equity — he continues to refuse to say whether he supported the Lily Ledbetter Act. How basic is it to support equal pay for equal work? Well, since Mittens wouldn’t say, he went off on a tangent about creating job opportunities for women in a bizarre statement:

And I — and I went to my staff, and I said, “How come all the people for these jobs are — are all men.” They said, “Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.” And I said, “Well, gosh, can’t we — can’t we find some — some women that are also qualified?”

And — and so we — we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.

I went to a number of women’s groups and said, “Can you help us find folks,” and they brought us whole binders full of women.

That’s already being parodied – see the Tumblr site Binders Full of Women. Lilly Ledbetter reacted to this:

“Mitt Romney’s solution on leveling the playing field tonight was to point out he once had a binder full of women applicants. That binder didn’t help me at Goodyear, and it’s not helping the women across this country, making 77 cents for every dollar a man gets. If Romney was truly concerned about women in this economy, he’d take a stand against paycheck discrimination. Instead, he has remained silent and refused to speak out for equal pay for women and their families. Simply put, Romney doesn’t get it. But President Obama does and knows that when women make less than men for the same work, it threatens the economic security of entire families. President Obama has worked tirelessly to level the playing field for women because he understands that equal pay is not just a women’s issue, but an American issue.

So I’m listening to some clueless women are on the MSNBC post-debate focus group. Two of them (leaning Romney) don’t know how they feel about his inability to declare support for equal pay for equal work. “Maybe he’ll say in the next debate,” said one. “Maybe it didn’t occur to him” said another. More evidence that critical thinking skills are absent in some of these undecideds.

Foot-in-mouth disease seemed to plague the former Massachusetts Governor as well. I don’t think it’s helpful if you want to court Latino voters to refer to undocumented immigrants as “illegals,” but it’s reflexive for him. The whole self-deportation laff-fest was a bonus, I don’t know how he said this with a straight face:

Now, let me mention one other thing, and that is self-deportation says let people make their own choice. What I was saying is, we’re not going to round up 12 million people, undocumented illegals, and take them out of the nation. Instead let people make their own choice. And if they — if they find that — that they can’t get the benefits here that they want and they can’t — and they can’t find the job they want, then they’ll make a decision to go a place where — where they have better opportunities.

But I’m not in favor of rounding up people and — and — and taking them out of this country. I am in favor, as the president has said, and I agree with him, which is that if people have committed crimes we got to get them out of this country.

And how about this for a self-inflicted wound…

ROMNEY: Just going to make a point. Any investments I have over the last eight years have been managed by a blind trust. And I understand they do include investments outside the United States, including in — in Chinese companies.

Mr. President, have you looked at your pension? Have you looked at your pension?

OBAMA: I’ve got to say…

ROMNEY: Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?

OBAMA: You know, I — I don’t look at my pension. It’s not as big as yours so it doesn’t take as long.

And in one of the night’s epic smackdowns, Romney was called on a lie by moderator Candy Crowley (who did a great job of balancing the audience questions and holding both candidates to the rules; Romney had the most difficult time adhering to them, attempting to interrupt, bully ad go off topic quite a few times). Here’s what it looks like to be fact-checked on live TV on the embassy attack in Libya (a subject he should have been able to capitalize on if he had been smart):

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror.
It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you’re saying?
OBAMA: Please proceed governor.
ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.
OBAMA: Get the transcript.
CROWLEY: It — it — it — he did in fact, sir. So let me — let me call it an act of terror…
OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?
CROWLEY: He — he did call it an act of terror. It did as well take — it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.

And yes, contraception came up again. And yes, womb-controlling Mitt Romney lied again.

ROMNEY: I’d just note that I don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not. And I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care of not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives. And — and the — and the president’s statement of my policy is completely and totally wrong.

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America:

“Mitt Romney has once again lied about his views on women’s access to birth control,” Keenan said. “Allow me to remind Mr. Romney of his support for the Blunt amendment, which would have allowed bosses to deny birth-control coverage to their employees; his promise to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides contraception to millions of Americans; and his statement that he would eliminate funding for Title X, the nation’s federal family-planning program. Women will not be fooled by Mitt Romney’s latest attempt to mislead the public about his anti-choice position.”

While LGBT issues didn’t come up this time, Mittens gave the President an opening for it when asked about addressing gun violence.

But let me mention another thing. And that is parents. We need moms and dads, helping to raise kids. Wherever possible the — the benefit of having two parents in the home, and that’s not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone, that’s a great idea.

Because if there’s a two parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically. The opportunities that the child will — will be able to achieve increase dramatically. So we can make changes in the way our culture works to help bring people away from violence and give them opportunity, and bring them in the American system.

You’d think someone this hell-bent on saving society from violence through two-parent families would advocate for marriage equality, no?

But back to another smackdown, this time on outsourcing and taxes and the Romney plan for the economic growth. The President was cruising and having fun on this one. I almost felt sorry for Mittens (nah, not really).

Governor Romney’s says he’s got a five-point plan? Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan. He has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules. That’s been his philosophy in the private sector, that’s been his philosophy as governor, that’s been his philosophy as a presidential candidate.

You can make a lot of money and pay lower tax rates than somebody who makes a lot less. You can ship jobs overseas and get tax breaks for it. You can invest in a company, bankrupt it, lay off the workers, strip away their pensions, and you still make money.

That’s exactly the philosophy that we’ve seen in place for the last decade. That’s what’s been squeezing middle class families. And we have fought back for four years to get out of that mess. The last thing we need to do is to go back to the very same policies that got us there.