WASHINGTON WATCH ROUNDTABLE: Presidential Debate Recap; Pres. Barack Obama’s Performance In The First Debate; Romney’s Zingers (VIDEO)

Roland Martin and the Washington Watch roundtable discuss the first presidential debate, Romney’s zingers and the impact of the September jobs report on the 2012 election.

This week’s Washington Watch roundtable features Keli Goff, political correspondent for TheRoot.com; Deborah Simmons, senior correspondent for “The Washington Times”; Joseph Williams, political reporter and contributor for The Grio.com; and Joe Madison, Sirius XM’s radio “Black Eagle.”

MR. MARTIN:  Welcome to “Washington Watch.”

There were two stunning performances at the debate in Denver on Wednesday night.  Mitt Romney was stunningly good.  Pres. Barack Obama – stunningly bad.  As we’ve been saying all along, in spite of what the polls are saying, this election is not over, and the debate this week was an example of what can go wrong for Pres. Obama.

We’ll talk about the debate in a moment; but first, a strong jobs report came out on Friday, and it was good news for the President and America – and he sorely needed some good news this week.  And so do we.

The economy created 114,000 jobs last month.  The unemployment rate dropped down to 7.8 percent, the first time it’s been below 8 percent in nearly four years.  Black unemployment dropped to 13.4 percent from 14.1 percent the month before.  And we’re talking about that today along with the debate and other issues with our “Washington Watch” roundtable:  Keli Goff, political correspondent for TheRoot.com; Deborah Simmons, senior correspondent for “The Washington Times”; Joseph Williams, political reporter and contributor for The Grio.com – glad he brought his pocket square this week; and Joe Madison, Sirius XM’s radio “Black Eagle.”

All right, folks.  First of all, y’all look like a choir!


MR. MARTIN:  Y’all look like a quartet.  I mean look atcha, all lookin’ the same.  So, nice coordination here.

MS. KELI GOFF:  We planned it.  We left you off the call.

MR. MARTIN:  Thank – thank God, ’cause I –

MS. GOFF:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  — I don’t do “Pete” and “Repete.”


MR. MARTIN:  All right.  Let’s get right into it – the debate.  Wednesday night, folks.  Quite interesting.  Clearly, Mitt Romney was practicing, was well prepared.

Now, check this out, because before the debate, we heard he was preparing and practicing zingers.  And we all expected the lines, just like Pres. Ronald Reagan – “There you go again.”  But Romney’s zingers were a little bit different.  They were focused on sound bites.  They were succinct, and they went directly at Pres. Obama.  So, check this out.


MR. MITT ROMNEY:  Well, President, you’re – Mr. President, you’re absolutely right, which is that – that – with regards to 97 percent of the businesses are not – not taxed at the 35 percent rate; they’re taxed at a lower rate.  But those businesses that are in the last 3 percent of businesses happen to employ half – half of all the people who work in small business.  Those are the businesses that employ one quarter of all the workers in America.  And your plan is to take their tax rate from 35 percent to 40 percent.

First of all, the Department of Energy has said the tax break for oil companies is $2.8 billion a year, and it’s actually an accounting treatment, as you know, that’s been in place for a hundred years.  Now –

PRES. BARACK OBAMA:  It’s time to end it.

MR. ROMNEY:  A- — and – and in one year, you provided $90 billion in breaks to the green energy world.  Now, I – I like green energy as well, but that’s about 50 years’ worth of what oil and gas receive.  You say “Exxon” and “Mobil.”  Actually, this $2.8 billion goes largely to small companies – to drilling operators and so forth – but, you know, if we get that tax rate from 35 percent down to 25 percent, why, that $2.8 billion is on the table.  Of course it’s on the table.  That’s probably not going to survive [if] you get that rate down to 25 percent.

I agree.  Education is key – particularly to the future of our economy.  But our training programs right now – we[’ve] got 47 of them housed in the federal government reporting to eight different agencies.  Overhead is overwhelming.  We[’ve] got to get those dollars back to the states and go to the workers, so they can create their own pathways to getting the training they need for jobs that will really help them.


MR. MARTIN:  Now, of course, we have our segment later, “The Biggest Damn Lie,” and – trust me – it will feature Mitt Romney from the same debate.

MS. GOFF:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  But the bottom line is in this debate, he kept coming and coming and coming.  He was assertive.  He was aggressive.  I felt the President was that way in the first 15 minutes and after that, sort of dropped off.

MS. GOFF:  Well, I think that if anyone were watching this who knew nothing about American politics, the best way that this debate could be summarized is, “Which one of these men look like they just woke up refreshed, and which one of these men looks like they need a nap?” because that’s sort of what the President looked like:  exhausted.  He – it took him a long time to even come to his thoughts.  I mean that – he had a tough time even getting his message out, which was what was really surprising.  I mean I have people in my family who love and adore this president who said he looked like he was asleep through it.

MR. MARTIN:  And, folks, trust me.  I was at a debate party in New York, and when it was over, I mean a number of people came up to me, and they said – hardcore supporters.  I had people who were texting me.  I had folks who were on Twitter, and they were going, “What did I just see?”

MS. DEBORAH SIMMONS:  What you just saw, if you watched that debate, or the clip that you’ve just played, is a president that embarrassed much of Black America, and I’m going to tell you why.  We have the – know of the stereotypical, derogatory terms about “handkerchief heads” and all of that stuff.  Pres. Obama did not stare down his challenger.  That was embarrassing to me and a lot of people I know and a lot of people among our race, because he looked as though he was not looking directly at “the master.”

OFF CAMERA:  You’re saying – [crosstalk] –


MS. SIMMONS:  That – I – I’m saying –

OFF CAMERA:  [Crosstalk] – deferential.

MR. MARTIN:  Joe and Joe?

MS. SIMMONS:  — I’m saying what?

MR. JOSEPH WILLIAMS:  You’re saying he’s being t- — he was being too deferential?

MS. SIMMONS:  Absolutely!  You’re scared to stare at your challenger?  He – he handled –

MS. GOFF:  He didn’t come acro- —


MS. SIMMONS:  — he handled ha- —

MS. GOFF:  — as afraid.


MS. GOFF:  He didn’t come across as afraid.  He came across –

MS. SIMMONS:  He handled –

MS. GOFF:  — as exhausted –

MS. SIMMONS:  — Hillary Clinton much better –

MS. GOFF:  — ’cause I don’t know –

MS. SIMMONS:  — four years ago –

MS. GOFF:  — but I don’t know if – [crosstalk] –

MS. SIMMONS:  — than he handled Mitt Romney.

MS. GOFF:  — but I don’t know if anyone’s heard.  There was a crisis going on in the Middle East.  I mean the man’s busy.

MS. SIMMONS:  That doesn’t matter!

MS. GOFF:  I’m not saying –


MS. SIMMONS:  But he’s President!

MS. GOFF:  — I’m not – [crosstalk] –

MS. SIMMONS:  You can’t excuse him –

MS. GOFF:  — but he looked –

MS. SIMMONS:  — for that, Keli.

MS. GOFF:  — exhausted.

MS. SIMMONS:  He’s President.  He[’s] got –

MS. GOFF:  He looked exhausted.

MS. SIMMONS:  — to be able to walk, chew gum –

MS. GOFF:  I agree with you –

MS. SIMMONS:  — and use both his –

MS. GOFF:  — but – but – but –

MS. SIMMONS:  — fists at the same time.

MS. GOFF:  — I don’t think being –

MR. MARTIN:  Joe – Joe Williams.


MS. GOFF:  — tired – tired is being –

MR. WILLIAMS:  I also –

MR. MARTIN:  Joe Williams.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — I also –

MR. MARTIN:  I – I – hold on.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — don’t think –


MR. WILLIAMS:  — I also don’t think that this one debate is a predictor.  I also don’t –

MS. SIMMONS:  Oh, no!

MR. WILLIAMS:  — but I also –

MS. SIMMONS:  I don’t either.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — don’t think – I think that might be a bridge too far to say it’s a – it was an “embarrassment.”  Certainly –

MS. GOFF:  Well, I’m Black, and –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — it was a disappointment.

MS. GOFF:  — I don’t agree.  So, yes, it is a –


MS. GOFF:  — “bridge too far.”  [Chuckles.]

MR. WILLIAMS:  I mean – and I think – [crosstalk] –


MS. GOFF:  [Crosstalk] – was going to say that.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — I think it’s a disappointment and I think that it was a frustration for a lot of the supporters, but I don’t think you’re going to:  a) see a repeat of that, and b) I don’t think it was necessarily a damaging or crippling –

MS. SIMMONS:  But at –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — blow.

MS. SIMMONS:  — that moment in time –

MS. GOFF:  Or – [crosstalk].

MS. SIMMONS:  — that’s what we’re talking about – not what will happen –

MR. WILLIAMS:  We’re talking about –

MS. SIMMONS:  — in the future.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — a – we’re talking about –

MS. SIMMONS:  I’m talking about at –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — a missed opport- —

MS. SIMMONS:  — the moment in time.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — we are talking about a missed opportunity.  But I will –

MS. SIMMONS:  And we’re making up –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — submit –

MS. SIMMONS:  — and people are making up excuses –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — I will –

MS. SIMMONS:  — why he missed it.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — submit – we are –

MS. SIMMONS:  The air up there.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — but, see, you know –

MS. SIMMONS:  The air down –

MR. MARTIN:  Joe –

MS. SIMMONS:  — here.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — what?  [Crosstalk] –

MS. GOFF:  [Crosstalk] –


MR. MARTIN:  — Madison, got a question.  Joe Madison.


MR. MARTIN:  Joe Madison.

OFF CAMERA:  Come on, man.

MR. JOE MADISON:  People –

MR. MARTIN:  One second.  Joe Madison.

MR. MADISON:  — people had all kinds of opinions.  I’ve heard the same opinion expressed on my show that you expressed.  I also heard a lot of metaphors to the “rope-a-dope,” the “rumble in the” –

MS. SIMMONS:  Um-m-m-m.

MR. MADISON:  — “jungle” – that –

MR. MARTIN:  And he’s setting him —

MR. MADISON:  — I – I –

MR. MARTIN:  — up for the next event.

MR. MADISON:  — I heard that this was planned, that he was setting him up for the next debate.  There are as many different opinions about what happened.

Look.  We have the former vice president saying the altitude s- — it was altitude sickness.

MR. MARTIN:  Vice President Al Gore.

MR. MADISON:  Yes.  So, here’s – here’s – here’s the bottom line.  What – what really it is for me.  It’s over.  Let’s move on.

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MR. WILLIAMS:  Move on.

MR. MADISON:  Okay?  It’s like –

MR. MARTIN:  Because coming up this week is a vice presidential –

MR. MADISON:  Right, but –

MR. MARTIN:  — debate –

MR. MADISON:  — but – but –

MR. MARTIN:  — and – trust me – V.P.

MR. MADISON:  — but –

MR. MARTIN:  — Joe Biden –

MR. MADISON:  — but let me – but let –

MR. MARTIN:  — is looking to –

MR. MADISON:  — me make –

MR. MARTIN:  — fight.

MR. MADISON:  — but let me make an interesting observation.  He should ha- — it was the President that showed up at the debate.  It should’ve been the candidate that –


MR. MADISON:  — showed up, because the very next day –

MS. GOFF:  That’s right.

MR. MADISON:  — at the University of Wisconsin, he had the – [snaps his fingers] – liners coming.

MS. GOFF:  That’s right.

MR. MADISON:  How can you go af- – not go – not go after Wall Street, but shut down Sesame Street?  How can you fire Big Bird?  How can you not know that there’s a tax advantage to taking jobs offshore?  He had all the answers.

What most presidents fail to realize when they’re in debates:  leave the presidency at the –

MR. WILLIAMS:  Behind.

MR. MADISON:  — White House –

MS. SIMMONS:  [Applauds.]

MR. MADISON:  — and let the candidate show up at the debate.

MR. WILLIAMS:  But, see, you also have to understand that first debates – initial debates – are no predictor about success in the –


MR. WILLIAMS:  — general election.

MS. GOFF:  Right.


MS. GOFF:  [Crosstalk] – 2004 – [crosstalk].

MR. WILLIAMS:  We had –

MR. MARTIN:  2004, Pres. Bush –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — Two Thousand –

MR. MADISON:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  — got destroyed by Sen. John Kerry.

MR. WILLIAMS:  He got wiped up, and John Kerry – we’re talking about him as the “guy who never was,” the guy who had the potential to get there.

MS. GOFF:  And, FYI, the guy who prepped this president for the debate.  [Chuckles.]  So, I don’t –

OFF CAMERA:  Just saying.

MS. GOFF:  — know what –

MR. WILLIAMS:  But, see –

MS. GOFF:  — that says about this, but, well –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — I think that preparation for the debate was, perhaps, a bit overrated.  Number one –

MS. GOFF:  I dis- — well –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — well, numb- —

MS. GOFF:  — Rob Portman got –

MR. WILLIAMS:  — number –

MS. GOFF:  — Romney ready.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — one, Romney had –

MS. GOFF:  Rob Portman got Romney ready.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — Rob Portman got Romney ready, but Romney’s been ready for five –

MS. GOFF:  Me-e-eh.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — six, seven years.  You have to acknowledge that he went through a – a series of debates during the Republican primary season –

MS. GOFF:  Right.

MR. WILLIAMS:  — that, in my –

MS. GOFF:  Not – [crosstalk].

MR. WILLIAMS:  — opinion, were lackluster.

MS. GOFF:  But when you look at the overall – when you look at Romney in debate tapes from years ago, he wasn’t as good.  You’re right that having the practice during the primary makes a difference, but also having a really good coach

MR. MARTIN:  I per- –

MS. GOFF:  — who will fight you.  Romney –

MR. MARTIN:  — I –

MS. GOFF:  — said that he wanted to kick Rob Portman when –

MR. MADISON:  But – but wait –

MS. GOFF:  — Rob Portman was –

MR. MADISON:  — well, wait a minute –

MS. GOFF:  — finished with him.

MR. MADISON:  — now.  Even Pres. Obama’s own staff people, the people who were – who were with him when he was candidate Obama –

MR. MARTIN:  — right.

MR. MADISON:  — they always have said – they’ve written this in books – he’s not a good debater.

MS. GOFF:  Debater.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

MR. MADISON:  They’ve always said that.  But you[’ve] still got to bring your A game.

MS. GOFF:  That’s right.

MR. MADISON:  I mean that’s the –

MS. GOFF:  That’s right.

MS. SIMMONS:  Right.

MR. MADISON:  — that’s the bottom line.


MR. MADISON:  He didn’t –

MS. SIMMONS:  And he –

MR. MADISON:  — bring –


MR. MADISON:  — his A game.

MR. MARTIN:  — I – I got –

MS. GOFF:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — hold on one second.  I[’ve] got to go to a break, but I personally think – I personally believe Pres. Obama needs his own Bundini Brown.

MR. WILLIAMS:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MADISON:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  He need a hype man!

MS. GOFF:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  He need –

MR. WILLIAMS:  A hype man.

MR. MARTIN:  — he needs somebody walkin’ behind him like, “Get ’im!”  “Get ’im, Champ!”


MR. MARTIN:  He need a hype man!

OFF CAMERA:  That’s right.

MR. MARTIN:  He needs –

MR. WILLIAMS:  [Crosstalk] – Jay-Z needs – [crosstalk].

MR. MARTIN:  — somebody sayin’ –

MS. SIMMONS:  [Crosstalk] – but isn’t that –

MR. MARTIN:  — “Rumble, young” –

MS. SIMMONS:  — what the entire –

MR. MARTIN:  — “man.  Rumble!”

MS. SIMMONS:  — [crosstalk] – administration needs?  A –

MR. MARTIN:  He need –

MS. SIMMONS: — hype man!

MR. MARTIN:  — a Bundini Brown!

Mr. President –

MR. MADISON:  You may be – you may be right!

MR. MARTIN:  — Mr. President –


MR. MARTIN:  — put – find you a Bundini Brown.  Put ’im on the payroll, and when you get ready for a debate, back there put on some Tupac an’ say, “Let’s go!”

MR. MADISON:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  “Let’s go!”

He need a hype man.  [Chuckles.]  All right.

We’re going to continue the conversation when we come back.


MR. MARTIN:  And l- — [chuckles] – Joe – [chuckles] –

MR. MADISON:  It’s just the image of that, man.  [Laughs.]

MR. MARTIN:  Think about it.

MR. MADISON:  [Laughs.]

MR. MARTIN:  Hype man!