What happened tonight?

Where was the president? Head down, scribbling while Romney was speaking, hardly ever looking at him. Obama looked tired, unprepared. Was it because he’s been top dog with no one to challenge him for the last four years? Because he’s had no debating practice since 2008? Romney, on the other hand, was on fire, dominating the debate, including the moderator, Jim Lehrer, who couldn’t hold him back.

Why didn’t the president challenge Romney, when the ex-governor reversed himself and misrepresented his plans? To take just two examples, Romney asserted that Obamacare would take $716 billion from Medicare, which is true: most of the money would come from payments to hospitals, doctors and private insurance companies. What Romney didn’t mention (of course) and Obama didn’t point out is that Ryan’s budget cuts the same amount, the same $716 billion, from Medicare. 

Romney denied that his plan would result in lower taxes for the very wealthy, an an assertion that has been debunked by fact checkers.  Obama didn’t do the math for the public: reducing income-tax rates by 20 percent by closing loopholes and extending the Bush tax cuts would not only lower the taxes of high-earners, it would blow up the deficit, increasing it by $5 trillion over 10 years unless he raises taxes on the middle class.

A very frustrating experience, watching the president take a beating without a whimper.

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