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Hudson and Fournier: Catholic Countdown to Election 2012: Day 32. Debates and the Role of Government

By Deal W. Hudson and Keith A. Fournier
October 5th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Those who say these Presidential debates do not matter are simply wrong. The immediate effect of President Obama's poor performance and Governor Romney's stellar performance was immediately evident. Debates do matter and this particular debate may have turned this race around for the former Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney.

DENVER, CO (Catholic Online) - In the wake of the strong showing of Governor Mitt Romney in the first debate of the 2012 Presidential race, the Washington pundit class is still parsing and pontificating about what it all really means.

We are now rounding the bend of a 30 day countdown to one of the most important elections in US history. We offer some thoughts on what it may mean. 

Those who say these Presidential debates do not matter are simply wrong. The immediate effect of President Obama's poor performance and Governor Romney's stellar performance was immediately evident.

The media was filled with a myriad of focus groups and polls showing an immediate shift in the dynamics of this race. Expect this to continue. In fact, this ups the ante for the debate between the Vice Presidential candidates scheduled for October 11, 2012.

Expect a repeat performance. Paul Ryan will show his extraordinary grasp of the issues which matter most - and the Vice President will, well, be himself.  

People who say debates do not matter remind me (Keith) of lawyers who say Supreme Court and Appellate arguments don't really matter. They are also wrong. They have obviously never argued in an Appellate Court.

Debates do matter and this particular debate may have turned this race around for the former Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney.

Even the staunchest allies of the President's reelection campaign have admitted that he lost that crucial first debate. Some have offered excuses and reasons, including one of most odd, from a former Democratic Vice President, blaming the President's poor performance on the rarified air in Denver.

However, the assessment was nearly unanimous.

Romney was confident, well prepared, energetic and well spoken. The President was lethargic, defensive, and surprisingly ill prepared.

The debate covered economic issues, educational concerns and even delved into the health care crisis. But, it was a quick interlude, when the moderator asked for the candidates' views on the role of the Federal Government that the philosophical differences between the two men emerged.

President Obama did not answer the question. Or, one could say charitably that he was all over the place in his comments.

However, Mitt Romney was crystal clear. Here is an excerpt.

"LEHRER: Two minutes, Governor, on the role of government - Your view?

"ROMNEY: The role of government: Look behind us (The candidate pointed to the Image of the US Constitution and Declaration of Independence) - The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The role of government is to promote and protect the principles of those documents."

"First, life and liberty. We have a responsibility to protect the lives and liberties of our people, and that means a military second to none. I do not believe in cutting our military. I believe in maintaining the strength of America's military."

"Second, in that line that says we are endowed by our creator with our rights, I believe we must maintain our commitment to religious tolerance and freedom in this country. That statement also says that we are endowed by our creator with the right to pursue happiness as we choose. I interpret that as, one, making sure that those people who are less fortunate and can't care for themselves are cared by -- by one another."

"We're a nation that believes that we're all children of the same God and we care for those that have difficulties, those that are elderly and have problems and challenges, those that are disabled. We care for them. And we -- we look for discovery and innovation, all these things desired out of the American heart to provide the pursuit of happiness for our citizens."

"But we also believe in maintaining for individuals the right to pursue their dreams and not to have the government substitute itself for the rights of free individuals. And what we're seeing right now is, in my view, a -- a trickle-down government approach, which has government thinking it can do a better job than free people pursuing their dreams. And it's not working."

"And the proof of that is 23 million people out of work. The proof of that is 1 out of 6 people in poverty. The proof of that is we've gone from 32 million on food stamps to 47 million on food stamps. The proof of that is that 50 percent of college graduates this year can't find work. We know that the path we're taking is not working. It's time for a new path."

This underlying difference between these two candidates over the role of the Federal Government and the sources of our rights and liberties is key to understanding what is really at stake in this election. It concerns  a struggle over the very idea of the American experiment in ordered liberty and its future. 

Finally, this is the time when Voter Guides multiply. For Catholics, other Christians, people of faith and people of good will who care about those rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness mentioned by Governor Romney in his response, we recommend a particularly good one offered by our friend and Pro-Life Champion, Fr. Frank Pavone, through Priests for Life.

It is entitled "Where do the Candidates Stand on Key Issues" and can be found here.

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