Friday, October 5, 2012

Stop playing the prevent defense

Football fans know that sinking feeling. Your team is ahead. Suddenly, they stop playing the way they got ahead and play instead to run out the clock. It’s called the “prevent defense.” It’s supposed to prevent the other team from scoring. Fans know that the prevent almost always prevents the team that uses it from winning. 

President Barack Obama, in Wednesday’s presidential debate, adapted the prevent defense to politics. His lack of aggressive debate tactics allowed challenger Gov. Mitt Romney, down in the game by a handful of points, to pull out a win.

The president’s senior staff, in those talking head interviews that always follow debates, seemed shocked that Romney, a man who has flipped and flopped his way across the American political scene for years as he pursued the presidency, changed his mind once again. 

Romney argued during the debate that he did not propose the huge tax cuts that have been a centerpiece of his campaign. Indeed, he claimed to be hurt that Obama or anyone else could possibly believe he is in favor of budget-busting tax cuts. 

Professorially, Obama pointed out the discrepancy and that Romney has provided no tax policy details. The political version of rushing the passer would have been to demand the actual numbers from the man standing in front of him, even at the risk of appearing angry or rude. 

Despite what looks like a win if he runs out the clock until November, the president should take the risk of playing more aggressively, not just to make debate points but to help voters see how very different the country would be under a Romney presidency than his own.

The prevent defense is for losers.

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