IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Matthews: Obama missed key opportunities at first debate

Let me finish tonight with last night's disaster.You get nowhere in life by not realizing what's done is done.President Obama was not prepared for his huge deba

Let me finish tonight with last night's disaster.

You get nowhere in life by not realizing what's done is done.

President Obama was not prepared for his huge debate with Governor Romney. This isn't about left, right, good, or bad. It's about coming to work to work.

His challenger did. He took charge. He took command of that stage, issuing orders to moderator and rival alike. He owned that platform, owned all within the sound of his voice. It was impressive, powerful.  It must have been horrible to feel the smothering, all-enveloping sufficiency of the thing. With Romney in the room, there didn't need to be anyone else. 

So I'm not here to slam Obama for a hard night. My concern—and that's what it is—is his readiness to skip the politics of this campaign. There's no excuse for a democratic leader to think himself excused from politics—and today that means mastering the 24-hour back and forth, the war room stuff that gets you elected, protects you from being destroyed either on the way to public office or once there.

Simple question: Did the President know he was allowed to mention—in fact, champion—his saving of the American auto industry? Did he know he was allowed last night to interrupt that pissant conversation about PBS funding to say, "Excuse me, let's talk the big stuff. I rescued the American auto industry and the hundreds of thousands of jobs working for it. You, sir, were willing to have it go bankrupt."  

Did Obama know he could interrupt his rivals expressions of concern for Social Security folk with the news that his rival tells his wealthy backers behind closed doors something very different: how he sees people who rely on Social Security as parasites.  

Did Obama know he could interrupt Romney's weeping for Medicare with a timely reminder that he, the man standing there with him, wants to give 80 year-olds "vouchers" and send them out to fetch a health insurance policy. Who's going to give them that? Old age and being elderly is no time to hit the health insurance market. It's a time of life when you should reap the just benefit of having paid into Medicare your entire working life, not some terrifying moment of "every man and woman for themselves."

One last pair of questions: Did the president know that Mitt Romney just said that we don't let people die in their apartments; we take them to the emergency room, that that is his health care plan. Did the president know that Romney had said that people who didn't have continuing coverage shouldn't get covered for pre-existing conditions, that it was simply their fault for not having paid up all those years?

Well, the whole thing could have gone a whole other way.