For the more than 54 million Americans who passed up a perfectly good Friday night in September 2008 to watch the first presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, the exchange seemed like a win for Obama.
According to a CBS News/Knowledge Networks poll conducted at the time, 39 percent thought Obama (then a Democratic senator from Illinois) won the first debate; 24 percent gave the nod to McCain (then and now a Republican senator from Arizona); and 37 percent called it a tie (which still may have helped the relatively unknown Obama as the debate was weighted toward foreign policy, supposedly McCain's strong suit).
But while he may have gotten the most debating points, Obama blew enough smoke to raise global temperatures by several degrees. Debates are forums for signaling how you will govern, laying out ideas for change, and putting your policies up for review. By that standard, President Obama's time actually running the country have borne little resemblance to his 2008 rhetoric. He has vindicated some of his foreign policy claims (focusing on Osama bin Laden; unfocusing on Iraq). But on what George H.W. Bush used to call "the domestic side," the last four years have been as punishing for Obama's truthiness as they have been for the American people.
Tomorrow night President Obama will go up against former Republican Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. In the which-one-would-you-rather-have-a-beer-with dynamic of presidential contests (a contest in which Romney, who doesn't even drink coffee, already has a handicap), Obama again has a good prospect of winning.
But before subjecting yourself to a new round of Obama fish stories, take a look at how the ones from 2008 have held up:
1) We Need to Reduce Our Debt to China
"[W]e've got challenges, for example, with China, where we are borrowing billions of dollars," Obama announced in 2008. "They now hold a trillion dollars' worth of our debt."
China bashing is the little black dress of presidential politics: It never goes out of style. Tomorrow night you should expect to hear the candidates excoriate the Middle Kingdom for such completely un-American practices as subsidizing its politically connected businesses, manipulating its currency, and aggressively seeking favorable markets for its products.
How did Obama address the supposed problem of a trillion dollars in Chinese-held debt? As of the most recent Treasury Department report, China held…$1.1 trillion of U.S. public debt.
Granted, that's a relatively smaller portion of a total debt that was about $10 trillion in 2008 and is more than $16 trillion today (China's declining appetite for American public debt being another friendly warning from our second-biggest trading partner that the United States has chosen to ignore). But we're guessing that's not the solution voters thought Obama was proposing.
Next: Make the banksters pay! (Part I)