Ben Stein's Diary

A Very Discouraging Performance

On the most important questions, Mr. Romney meandered. 

By 10.23.12

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Monday
I flew from LAX to Dallas today on a super nice American Airlines 777. The flight was pleasant until I ate some kind of nuts that the flight attendants passed out and I had a very poor reaction. Endless hiccoughing, terrible esophageal cramping, extreme feelings of panic and general discomfort. I tried herbal tea, ginger ale, mint lifesavers. After about 40 minutes it all died down but it was a scary time. It follows on having dizziness and chest pain last night. I don't like it.

My hotel room here in Dallas is simply magnificent. It even has a good-sized piano. I would call it a grand piano.

I laid down on my bed to watch Debate The Third. It did not make me happy.

Gov. Romney was served up the juiciest ball right over the plate when Mr. Bob Schieffer asked him about Libya. Instead of saying --

"Mister President, you and your people lied about it from day one. You were asked – begged -- for more security by our consulate in Benghazi. You turned it down. When you were repeatedly warned about violence on the anniversary of 9/11, you ignored the warnings. When the attacks came, you lied about it and kept lying. You tried to pretend it was a 'spontaneous' mob episode when you knew it was al Qaeda. Fox News reported it was al Qaeda right away. Mobs don't travel with mounted anti-aircraft cannon. Mobs don't have mortars. But you kept lying about it over and over again. The day afer the ambassador was killed, you were so broken up about it that you flew to Vegas for a fund raiser with your rich Las Vegas pals.

"You live in a fantasy world where we have beaten al Qaeda. But it's a fantasy world. Major Hasan, the Fort Hood murderer, was al Qaeda or close and you still have not had the honesty to call those murders at Fort Hood terrorism. Even though the killer was screaming "Allah-hu akbar," you still call it workplace stress killing. Who do you think you're fooling?

"You covered up the Black Panther voter intimidation at the polling booth in 2008. You have covered up that your green energy schemes are just a slush fund for your cronies. You are a warm and likeable man, but will you now admit your administration is all about coverups?"

-- Governor Romney did not say anything like that. Heart-breaking.

Later on, when discussing the military budget, Pres. Obama unloaded a ton on condescension manure on Gov. Romney, about how Romney didn't know there were such things as submarines and aircraft carriers. Why didn't Gov. Romney call him on that condescension? Presidents are not supposed to call their opponents idiots.

When Mr. Obama told that whopper about how Romney wants to spend more than the Pentagon even asked for, why didn't Gov. Romney say, "That's a flat lie. The Pentagon asks for what you command them to ask for. But they have said repeatedly that they cannot defend the nation with the cuts you are ordering."

But Mr. Romney just sort of meandered around saying basically nothing except that he likes small business.

It was all discouraging. But then I had an upbeat thought. Maybe, just maybe, Gov. Romney has polling data that tells him that his momentum is so strong that he cannot lose if he just avoids controversy. Thus, he gave soft answers that turn away wrath, and Mr. Obama comes across as angry and condescending. Maybe. But maybe not. Maybe it was just a bad night for Mr. Romney.

I do know that Mr. Romney was ill tonight. He looked extremely unwell, has a bad sore throat, and obviously had trouble focusing. As a friend asked, "What happened to the guy in the first debate?" Maybe it's all too much for me to figure out.

After the debate, a somber dinner with a relative a few years older than I am.

He is ill in many, many different ways, and my heart breaks for him. He is still a superb conversationalist, but definitely not well.

I remember him as a six-year-old mischievous boy in a lavish home in upstate New York where his family were in a successful food business. At one point he was rich from the oil business. Then everything came crashing down. Now, like the good fellow he is, he carries next to his heart photos of his beloved, departed dogs.

Dogs are everything to us humans. There is simply nothing better in life than lying in bed with our dogs. When I look over at my Julie Good Girl next to me in bed, I want to cry with happiness. Let the politicians compete. I want my dog.

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.