When I heard a particular question posed to Barack Obama Tuesday night, I thought I might see Mitt Romney throw a knockout punch, but if I were scoring the second presidential debate like a championship boxing match, I would have to award the decision to President Obama.
In boxing, as in war, he who attacks must vanquish; he who defends must merely survive.
Were this not a challenger trying to unseat a champion, I would have scored this debate differently.
But, by my scorecard, Mitt Romney (although he certainly had his moments, and is no chump) not only failed to consistently show the kind of aggression required of a challenger, he ignored at least one clear opportunity to take a decisive shot.
That missed opportunity was in response to a question by a man who identified himself as Kerry Ladka. I was surprised that the question was even permitted, given the media bias we have come to expect; Mr. Ladka's question was clearly intended to put President Obama on the spot. Mr. Ladka rather pointedly asked why additional protection, which had been requested by our diplomatic staff in Benghazi (who clearly felt threatened) had not been provided prior to the murderous terrorist attack there on September 11, 2012.
President Obama totally and brazenly dodged that question, instead framing his response around actions taken after the attack, and adopting his oh-so-stern, almost comical "tough guy" posture, vowing that he would personally see to it that those responsible were brought to justice.
Thinking about Obama acting tough reminds me that my whole boxing metaphor is a bit of a stretch, in view of the fact that Barack Obama has always struck me as a lightweight who's never even been in a fistfight, let alone ever won one. When he surveyed the gulf oil spill in 2010 and remarked to reporters that he was there to find out "whose ass to kick", I remember thinking, "This guy has not only never kicked anybody's ass, I doubt he's ever even had his own ass kicked!"
Nevertheless, I couldn't wait for Romney to nail Obama on having dodged the question, and then to press that advantage and take Obama to task for his abject failure to deploy additional protection to our diplomatic mission and its personnel.
But it didn't happen. Romney was like a boxer who is given an opening to deliver a knockout punch and just stands there. He not only failed to take the shot, but he followed Obama's lead and limited his own remarks to what had transpired since the attack! He echoed Obama's formulaic elegy for the "four brave Americans who lost their lives" without ever holding Obama's feet to the fire for failing to take action that might have saved those very lives.
Instead of Obama being sent reeling, I was the one who was stunned. And when I got over being stunned, I was still disappointed, and I remain so.
So, on my scorecard, Romney lost points not only on effective aggressiveness, but also on ring generalship. To let one's opponent control the style and pace of the encounter is a mistake in just about any kind of adversarial experience.
But Hey, I'll still vote for Romney. Mitt gets my vote just for not being an Alinsky-ite and a Marxist (not that he'll ever call his opponent those things). And maybe he'll do better in next week's rematch.