Why Barack Obama lost Science Debate 2012

On Tuesday, I linked to the results of the 2012 Science Debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. I chose to focus in on one of Romney's answers, where he acknowledges that climate change is real, but tries to excuse himself from doing anything about it. At Slate, Laura Helmuth takes a different tack—and one I agree with. Romney has a lot of bad ideas for science policy, but he (or whoever wrote his answers) put a lot more care and effort into Science Debate than Obama did. Obama is the better candidate for evidence-based science policy, but you wouldn't know it from reading Science Debate.


  1. Romney also used every single question as an opportunity to attack his opponent, rather than simply stating, clearly and succinctly, their position and plan. 

      1. Stating specific goals, citing actual legislation, and outlining how to reach those goals isn’t an “empty talking point”, no matter who you’re supporting.

        1. The problem is you’re listening to his words instead of looking at his party’s past actions. His statements in this “debate” ring hollow when held to the light of his party’s platform (and his party’s history).

          “Investing in teachers” is a euphemism for turning over our public education system to private corporations.

          “Encouraging innovation” is just code for slashing taxes for the rich.

          “Updating outdated regulations” simply means “deregulating.”

          I could go on and on, but you’re probably right. Maybe a better word for “empty” would be “misleading” or “bald-faced lying” talking points.

          1. When it comes to Mr. Romney, I absolutely agree with you — those phrases definitely reflect his party’s past actions. I was referring more to the data and goals from the President, which rings much more honest and straightforward.

    1. Pretty much every political analysis that I’ve read, including those from other Republicans, has said that Romney and Ryan have managed to avoid any mention whatsoever of their goals, strategies, objectives, platform, etc.

  2. I noticed the same thing. I decided not to share the answers with anyone because Romney did a better job answering, but his answers were not satisfying. Too bad.

    1. Romney did a better job telling his audience what they want to hear. Regardless of the fact that his party’s platform espouses policy opposed to some of the inferences we may draw from his statements.

      For example, he suggests “investing in the best health monitoring,” but his party decries any increase to non-military spending. He suggests he’s concerned about climate change, but his platform is designed specifically to minimize government regulation wherever it interferes with private sector profits.Hopefully his audience is smart enough to see through his twisted rhetoric and take a look at his actual platform.

      Regardless of what comes out of his mouth, his past actions and his party platform reveal a candidate who values profit over progress.

  3. So Romney attacks science and his opponent and therefore wins? BRILLIANT!

    And by “put more thought into it” we’re really saying, copy/pasted from the party playbook. I guess Mitt’s science stooge gets paid by the word.

    Also, calling this a “debate” is very misleading. It was technically a survey sent to two respondents. (I’m not scolding, BB, it’s obviously the organizers who chose that title.)

    1. The organizers have been trying to get the candidates to actually debate these issues. In 2008 and this year BOTH candidates turned them down. The fact that this isn’t an actual debate is on the candidates, not Science Debate. 

      And you’ve got the analysis wrong. I don’t think Mitt won that because he attacked science and his opponent. I thought he won it because, unlike most of Obama’s answers, his talking points actually had substantial policy prescriptions. Too many of Obama’s answers were content-free platitudes.

      1. Sorry, Maggie, I think you have the analysis wrong. Just because Romney includes policy prescriptions doesn’t mean we should swallow his lines. At the end of the day, his party’s platform is about private profit above all else. It’s folly to view these responses through any other lens.

        edit: the choice quote from Romney at the RNC speaks for itself: “President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”

        1. Dude, I’m not saying you should swallow Romney’s lines. I’m not saying you should vote for Romney. I’m saying Obama did a piss-poor job of demonstrating his commitment to science here. 

          1. Obama says: Look at my track record in supporting science. Especially in comparison to past Presidents. I was a bit too busy encouraging the actual advance of science and accepting its truths to provide you with eye candy.

      1. Yeah, I find it really worrisome. After all, it isn’t even politically motivated junk science, fresh yet-to-be-debunked junk science, or under-the-radar junk science. This from a guy who wants to be thought of as a well-informed technocrat.

  4.  Romney gives waffle answers on climate change…& that is answered lower in the questions, where he discusses that his plan for the middle class is to focus on domestic energy production.  Read there: frak the water table, drill offshore everywhere he can & strip the coal from them thar’ hills.  He doesn’t care about environmental policy because CHA-CHING.

  5. I’m sorry, putting a lot of care and effort into denying science and treating nature as just another interest group does not count as a “win.”

    It’s just an overly elaborate fail.

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