Obama, Romney Clash in Exciting First Debate

The first debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney was so exciting that after 15 minutes, Nielsen TV ratings determined that almost 39 percent of the audience at home was still awake. That’s a record for presidential debates, beating the previous record of 36 percent set at the memorable 1992 Clinton-Bush-Perot debate.

Obama and Romney faced off at University of Denver, with Jim Lehrer of PBS serving in the dual role of debate moderator and punching bag. In case you missed the debate –- or fell asleep in the middle of it –- here is a condensed transcript.

Lehrer: “Gentlemen, welcome to you both. Let’s start with the economy and jobs. How would you go about creating new jobs? Mr. President, you go first.”

Obama: “Thank you, Jim. There are a lot of points I want to make tonight, but the most important one is that 20 years ago, I became the luckiest man on earth because Michelle Obama agreed to marry me and so, I just want to wish you, sweetie, a happy anniversary.”

Romney: “The president has his facts wrong again. Michelle Obama did not agree to marry him –- Michelle Robinson did. And I was already the luckiest man on earth. Ann and I were married 43 years ago – before the president even knew how to spell ‘anniversary.'”

Lehrer: “I said ‘jobs’ gentlemen –- what would you do to create jobs?”

Obama: “Well, Jim, let me begin by saying that without Michelle, I would not be where I am today –- standing before you to talk about jobs. I love you, sweetie.”

Lehrer: “Thank you, Mr. President, but …”

Obama: “Wait, Jim, I haven’t finished. You know, four years ago we went through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. But over the last 30 months, we’ve seen 5 million jobs in the private sector created. The auto industry has come roaring back and housing has begun to rise. And my marriage to Michelle has never been stronger.”

Lehrer: “Governor Romney, two minutes.”

Romney: “Thank you, Jim. My plan has five basic parts. One, get us energy independent, North American energy independent. That creates about four million jobs. Number two, open up more trade, particularly in Latin America. That’s two million jobs. Number three, crack down on China if and when they cheat. That’s three million jobs. Number four, make sure Americans spend less time on Facebook. That’s 10 million jobs. Number five, get rid of Twitter. That’s six million jobs. So I plan to give America 25 million jobs. The president plans to give America 25 million excuses.”

Lehrer: “Mr. President, please respond directly to what the governor just said.”

Obama: “Governor Romney’s central economic plan calls for a $5 trillion tax cut, on top of the extension of the Bush tax cuts, so that’s another $2 trillion, and $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military hasn’t asked for. That’s $9 trillion. I don’t know if the average American understands what $9 trillion is, but that’s more money than Governor Romney, in his entire lifetime, has spent on Brylcreem.”

Romney: “First of all, I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut – I have a $5 zillion tax cut. That’s a big difference. Second of all, under the president’s policies, middle-income Americans have been buried. They’re being crushed. Just imagine: a family of four, trying to make ends meet on just $250,000.”

Lehrer: “Thank you, Governor Romney. Now let’s move on to the federal deficit, the federal debt. How would you go about tackling it?”

Romney: “What things would I cut from spending? Well, first of all, ‘Obamacare’ is on my list. I apologize, Mr. President. I use that term with all respect.”

Obama: “I like it. And you are a Scrooge, Governor Romney. I use that term with all respect.”

Romney: “Thank you. I like it too. Another thing I’m going to get rid of is the subsidy to PBS. I’m sorry, Jim. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you too. But don’t worry, Jim. I’m going to create 25 million jobs. I’m sure there’ll be one for you. And Big Bird too.”

Obama: “Jim, can I respond to that?”

Lehrer: “You have five seconds.”

Obama: “Thank you, Jim. Five seconds isn’t a lot of time, so I will just say this: Michelle, I love you, sweetie. “

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If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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