Point of View Columns

What Obama Should Have Said

Sorting through the wreckage and rubble of President Obama’s performance at the first presidential debate one is likely to run into a lot of second guessers and Monday morning quarterbacks. But even a skilled and accomplished public speaker like Barack Obama is entitled to a bad night.

Having said that and with all due respect, here are a few suggestions for President Obama regarding what he should have said and what he needs to say in the two debates that remain.

1. Mr. Romney, you have stated quite clearly that among the things on your “Day One” agenda is the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Please look into the camera and explain to the millions of American women and girls who depend on Planned Parenthood for basic healthcare why you think this is a good idea. And, Mr. Romney, while you are at it, please explain to these millions of mothers, daughters, wives and partners what alternative they will have once you have defunded Planned Parenthood.

2. Mr. Romney, you have been quoted as saying that 47% of the American people do not pay taxes, are dependent upon federal aid and lack personal responsibility. Here is your opportunity to tell the 47% – which includes Social Security recipients, troops defending this country in Afghanistan, children under 18 and the working poor who simply do not make enough money to pay income tax – here is your opportunity to explain why you have demeaned and diminished these Americans who do work or have worked. They may not have made as much money as you, but they have worked just as hard if not harder than you.

3. You have asked me how, in the midst of an epic global and national financial crisis, I could spend two years in an effort to gain passage of the Affordable Care Act. Here’s my answer – it is impossible for a country to have a healthy economy if its citizens aren’t healthy. The United States has the best medical technology in the world, but its health delivery system is stuck somewhere in the mid-twentieth century.

But there is more, Mr. Romney. Your underlying question seems to be, “What was the rush?” Would you tell over 40 million uninsured American citizens that they should wait for medical coverage? Would you tell the millions of Americans with pre-existing illnesses who now have coverage that they should wait? Would you tell the millions of Americans who would have faced certain bankruptcy if Obamacare had not removed the lifetime cap on medical expenses favored by insurance companies that they should wait?

And, Mr. Romney, exactly how would you replace Obamacare on your imaginary Day One? You have stated that emergency room care is a useful alternative to the comprehensive care that will be provided to all Americans by Obamacare. I am certain that you would not want emergency room care to be the source of primary health care for your family. If it isn’t good enough for your family, how is it good enough for the American people who currently can’t afford what you and I can afford?

4. Mr. Romney, ever since your father made a comprehensive disclosure of his tax returns in 1968, every major presidential candidate has followed suit. Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Robert Dole, George W. Bush and John McCain have all done so, but not you.

You have spoken about your business experience until you have turned red, white and blue in the face. As the former CEO of Bain Capital you know that you would never, ever have hired a CEO of one of the companies in the Bain portfolio without doing a thorough background check. That background check would include key financial information – tax returns, the presence of offshore accounts, etcetera.

You never would have hired a CEO with accounts in the Cayman Islands or Switzerland without knowing the reason for the existence of these accounts and the amount of money in those accounts. Failing to do so would be the equivalent of corporate malpractice.

You are now applying to the American people to be the CEO of a multi-trillion dollar operation known as the United States of America and you won’t divulge this important information to the American people – the same information that you would demand of any key employee, the same information that you demanded of your running mate Paul Ryan and the same information that you provided to John McCain.

Mr. Romney I am not suggesting that you have anything to hide. But you are acting like someone with something to hide. Your disregard of this legitimate and time honored American political tradition strikes many as arrogant, it just seems wrong to me.

This is what President Obama should have said. This is what he needs to say during the next two debates.