CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The president decided to skip debate number one. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney delivered a dishonesty fest, a tour-de-force of truth tweaks, complete with full-twisting, no splash, never-before-attempted, Olympic caliber falsehoods.
"I don't have a $5 trillion tax cut," the former governor of Massachusetts lied. In fact, Romney's plan is to reduce federal income tax by 20 percent, and to eliminate the estate tax and others, with the result that $5 trillion in taxes will be cut over 10 years. Romney was asked which services would then be taken away. Medicare? Social Security? Medicaid? Mitt named two cuts -- Obamacare and Big Bird, which don't come within six area codes of being enough to offset the $5 trillion.
Mitt claimed, "The president has put in place as much public debt -- almost as much debt held by the public as all prior presidents combined." No, when Obama took office in January 2009, the national debt was $10.6 trillion. Obama has added about $5.3 trillion, most of it necessary to clean up the messes of Bush-Cheney, trickle-down, de-regulation.
Then, to set off the Weasel Words Alarm System, Gov. Romney said to the president, "I want to take that $716 billion you've cut and put it back into Medicare." Reality: Obama's Medicare plan cuts payments to insurance companies, hospitals and nursing homes, but does not cut a single service to your mom and pop who are on Medicare.
Obamacare, Romney claimed with a straight face, ". . . puts in place an unelected board that's going to tell people ultimately what kind of treatments they can have." Wink, wink -- a death panel. But the Affordable Care Act says that the advisory panel cannot make "any recommendation to ration health care . . . or otherwise restrict benefits or modify eligibility criteria." That statement is what is known as a law.
Thus, Gov. Romney won the first debate on style points, if you don't count his near pathological levels of dishonesty.
At the second debate, the President decided to show up. Obama described the $7 trillion that the government somehow has to find, just to stay even, if Romney's plan takes place. Romney was unwilling, or plain unable, to say which of your tax deductions he would eliminate in order to make up the lost income to the government. Will Mitt do away with your deductions for the money you give to your church, or the deduction for what you spend on home mortgage interest, or college costs for your kids, or your health costs? Who knows?
But the topper of debate number two was Romney's insistence that Obama had taken 14 days to term the Benghazi embassy attack an act of terror. The "gotcha" part of Mitt's brain visibly oozed with whichever neurotransmitter mediates arrogance. Too bad there isn't an "I blew it" center within his neo-cortex because, for a fact, the president had called the attack a terror incident in just 24 hours in the Rose garden, with lots of reporters and TV cameras present.
Debate three was all about foreign policy, an area in which Romney has no experience and, evidently, little interest. The president reviewed an Etch-A-Sketch binder full of Mitt's flips on issues like whether we ought to take out bin Laden, whether we ought to be doing those drone strikes, whether to leave Iraq, whether to set a date to depart Afghanistan, whether to go after Gaddafi and more.
When Romney wasn't doing that, he was agreeing with the president. As Joe Biden put it, it was unclear whether Romney was there to debate the president or to endorse the president.
To save himself, Romney trotted out the threadbare and fully debunked fiction that Obama had gone all over the globe "apologizing" for the United States. I have read Mitt's list of apologies. They are not apologies, by any definition.
The president summed it up pretty well when he turned to Romney and said, "Everything you've said on foreign policy has been wrong."
Wyatt is a Gazette contributing columnist and a Marshall University professor.