Barack is Back

He’s back.

Last night our president was articulate and forceful — in sharp contrast to his performance in the first presidential debate. He stated his beliefs. He defended his record. He told America where he wanted to take the nation in his second term.

And he explained where Romney wanted to take us.

For example: “Romney 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.”

And:

“Governor Romney … was on ‘60 Minutes’ just two weeks ago, and he was asked, is it fair for somebody like you, making $20 million a year, to pay a lower tax rate than a nurse or a bus driver, somebody making $50,000 a year? And he said, yes, I think that’s fair. Not only that, he said, I think that’s what grows the economy. Well, I fundamentally disagree with that.”

Obama told voters what Romney’s plan was for women (take away their freedom of choice), and for Hispanics (allow police to stop them and demand proof of citizenship, as in the Arizona law “that’s his [Romney’s] policy, and it’s bad policy.”)

He took responsibility for the security lapse in Libya, but made sure Americans understood the danger in Romney’s shoot-from-the-hip, rush to judgment approach to foreign policy.

And the President explained why the way to create more jobs and to get the economy back on track is to strengthen the middle class, in sharp contrast to Romney’s trickle-down redux.

Romney was as combative as in the first debate, but our newly-invigorated president made Romney’s combativeness look like that of a child in a tantrum rather than a principled adult with facts and detailed proposals to support his position.

Romney was also an automaton — moving robot-like across the stage, repeating the same scripted paragraphs in answers to different questions as if he had been programmed with a limited number of options.

Obama, by contrast, seemed steady and relaxed.

The debate left me relieved — the President’s performance will almost certainly stop Romney’s momentum, and may turn the tide — but also left me perplexed. Where was this Barack Obama in the last presidential debate? Was it the altitude in Denver, a failure of preparation, exhaustion, a temporary emotional glitch?

Mostly, though, I’m glad Barack is back.

About Robert Reich 547 Articles

Robert Reich is the nation's 22nd Secretary of Labor and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

He has served as labor secretary in the Clinton administration, as an assistant to the solicitor general in the Ford administration and as head of the Federal Trade Commission's policy planning staff during the Carter administration.

He has written eleven books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into 22 languages; the best-sellers The Future of Success and Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine. His weekly commentaries on public radio’s "Marketplace" are heard by nearly five million people.

In 2003, Mr. Reich was awarded the prestigious Vaclev Havel Foundation Prize, by the former Czech president, for his pioneering work in economic and social thought. In 2005, his play, Public Exposure, broke box office records at its world premiere on Cape Cod.

Mr. Reich has been a member of the faculties of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and of Brandeis University. He received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, his M.A. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and his J.D. from Yale Law School.

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