master debaters

President Obama: ‘I Was Just Too Polite’

Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama (R) pats Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney on the back after the Presidential Debate at the University of Denver on October 3, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The first of four debates for the 2012 Election, three Presidential and one Vice Presidential, is moderated by PBS's Jim Lehrer and focuses on domestic issues: the economy, health care, and the role of government.
Hiya Mitt! Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

For the past week, increasingly nauseous Democrats have tried to figure out why, exactly, President Obama was so terrible in his first debate. Was it a lack of preparation? The altitude? A million dollars’ worth of weed? Finally, on the Tom Joyner radio show this morning, Obama offered his own take on what went wrong: He was just being “too polite.”

I mean, you know, the debate, I think it’s fair to say I was just too polite, because, you know, it’s hard to sometimes just keep on saying and what you’re saying isn’t true. It gets repetitive. But, you know, the good news is, is that’s just the first one. Governor Romney put forward a whole bunch of stuff that either involved him running away from positions that he had taken, or doubling down on things like Medicare vouchers that are going to hurt him long term.

… And, you know, I think it’s fair to say that we will see a little more activity at the next one.”

Of course, Obama’s issues in the first debate went far beyond his inability or unwillingness to forcefully rebut Mitt Romney. He was too subdued, too unfocused. His speech was too halting; his thoughts too convoluted. His second-term goals were too unclear. Romney’s devastating “47 percent” remarks were too absent. So-called “politeness” was just the tip of the iceberg. But “a little more activity” would be a start, particularly if that involves looking up from the podium every once in a while.