It's hard to say which is more cringe-worthy:
Later that night, he spoke of taking his wife out the night before for a late celebration of their wedding anniversary, postponed because the debate fell on the actual anniversary date. "There was some speculation as to whether [the anniversary] had an impact on my performance," he said.
That could have been a reference to the
There's a history of incumbent presidents losing debates to fresher-faced challengers. Many even go on to win the election, such as
But dismal numbers this week, particularly those from the Pew Research Center showing that Obama handed Romney 12 points virtually overnight among likely voters, suggests that Obama's job is far from secure.
That could change, of course.
It's not the broad-spectrum failure that goes along with not being able to pass legislation or jump-start the economy into full-speed growth. Nor is it the personal, localized failure associated with not being able to quit smoking or being a terrible bowler.
No, this is a special breed of failure, involving not just embarrassment but humiliation, a failure in which there is no one to blame but yourself because you're the one who put yourself on that stage. It's the failure that comes from bombing.
The president bombed. Like a stand-up comic whose audience heckles him off the stage mid-routine, he bombed big time. Given his pedantic speaking style, his downward gaze and his utter lack of enthusiasm, he might as well have tapped the mic and asked the signature bombing question: "Is this on?" Given the excoriating tweets, the clucking commentators, the gob-smacked
For all his flaws and mistakes, Obama has managed to live his life with very few screw-ups, at least by political standards. He appears to be almost maddeningly free of personal scandals. His risk-averse, highly calculated approach to decision-making has given him a reputation for playing it safe rather than making a splash.
But consider this: The fact the president's performance wasn't merely mediocre but truly, deeply bad could actually work in his favor. That's because there's something beautiful, even liberating, about bombing. It's a rite of passage, a painful, character-building learning experience. There is no successful comic who hasn't bombed. There is no musician who hasn't tried out a new song, only to watch half the audience get up to go to the bathroom. To err is human, to bomb is to feel superhuman — when you make a comeback.
So maybe it's time for Obama supporters to stop whining and learn to love this particular bomb. Though if he falls flat again, even a Hulk costume might not be a bad idea.