Let me thank President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney for reminding me of Bobby. Bobby’s not here any more, but we grew up together and he gave me one of the most unforgettable laughs of my life.
I was on the high-school wrestling team; and why not? I was over six feet tall with arm and leg length virtually unending – they called me “Spider” – and I only weighed 135 pounds. All alone, I outnumbered all my opponents! One observer thought in a match I looked like a giant squid wrapped around a fire hydrant.
One night I faced a tough opponent from High Point. It went back and forth, but eventually I won on points. There I sat in the locker room still trying to catch my breath and nurse my bruises. All of a sudden Bobby stormed into the locker room and said, with great disappointment, “I thought you were going to wrap your legs around him!” I knew what he meant. With adroit use of your legs you can pin an opponent so only his shoulders are on the mat while the rest of him juts straight up like a flag pole. That’s guaranteed to delight the home crowd. I did it the dull, sweaty unspectacular way. But I did it – on points!
My victory, though, didn’t lift Bobby as much as my failure to “wrap my legs around him” depressed him.
And that’s exactly how I feel about Mitt Romney’s performance in the final debate against President Barack Obama.
For days I could think only about the opportunity Romney had to pin Obama’s shoulders to the mat and leave him vertical and helpless, literally with no hope of a coherent answer. It was Libya. For days I was patiently explaining to everybody the difference between winning on points and a knockout if we’re talking boxing; the difference between one touchdown and a rout if we were talking football; and the difference between check and check-mate if we’re talking chess. I licked my chops and made them bring on more chops in anticipation of what I was sure would be the most towering moment in Mitt Romney’s entire political life; indeed, the most unforgettable moment in our history of presidential debates. I even sent my office staff into irrepressible yawns comparing what was about to happen to Obama to Germany’s battleship Graf Spee in World War II.
In 1940, the German “pocket battleship” Graf Spee, which had sunk nine British ships in the Atlantic Ocean, was damaged in the South Atlantic and put into Montevideo, Uruguay, for repairs. Uruguay was neutral. If a warship of a nation at war enters a neutral harbor for repairs, it may not remain more than 72 hours. If it remains longer, it’s interned for the remainder of the war. The Graf Spee had no choice but to sail right into British gunfire. The Nazi captain scuttled his ship.
And so it was last night with Obama. He’d spun the most overblown contradiction over the slayings in Benghazi in presidential history. All Romney had to do was stick in the pin and side-step the blast. Obama claimed he’d called the Benghazi murders “a terrorist act” since Day 1 in the Rose Garden. Really? In that case why did Susan Rice appear on five TV shows five days later claiming it was a mob that got out of hand because of an insulting anti-Muhammad video? Why did Obama mention that video six times at the U.N.? Why did Jay Carney and the entire administration keep on insisting on the “mob-video” for two full weeks?
Suppose the president decided to drop his claim from Debate 2 that he’d called it a terrorist attack on Day 1. We now know the CIA station chief for Libya had called it a terrorist attack immediately, and the State Department apparently followed the catastrophic action step by gruesome step in real time. There was no mob.
Even contradictions that stark could be allowed to disappear if the president could have remained in “Montevideo harbor” (i.e. the Oval Office) and let others take the ridicule. But this was debate time. The president was forced to appear. More chops, please!
And from Romney: nothing, zero, nada. He ignored the whole thing.
Contradiction is a polite word. The Obama administration had crafted a flimsy edifice of nothing but lies. There may as well have been a neon sign flashing, “I am nothing but a lie. Touch me and I will implode.”
And Romney ignored the whole thing.
Pro-Romney players like Pat Buchanan said with satisfaction after the debate that Romney preferred to “look presidential.” I still want to throw the piano through the plate-glass window.
Do all these unlicked chops of mine go into the freezer, the fridge or the garbage?