Obama and Romney Clash Over Government’s Role
Somewhere in the wonky blizzard of facts, statistics and studies thrown out on stage here on Wednesday night was a fundamental philosophical choice about the future of America, quite possibly the starkest in nearly three decades.
As President Obama and Mitt Romney faced off for the first time, their largely zinger-free styles may have disguised a fierce clash of views not only over taxes, spending and health care, but over the very role of government in American society in a time of wrenching problems.
On one side was an incumbent who, while recognizing that government is not the solution to all problems, argued that it plays an essential part in promoting economic growth and ensuring fairness for various segments of the population. On the other was a challenger who, while recognizing the basic value of government, argued that its greatest goal was to get out of the way of a free people and unleash the American entrepreneurial spirit.
“Governor Romney has a perspective that says if we cut taxes skewed towards the wealthy and roll back regulations, that we’ll be better off,” Mr. Obama said. He asked: “Are we going to double down on the top-down economic policies that helped to get us into this mess or do we embrace a new economic patriotism that says America does best when the middle class does best?”
Mr. Romney fired back with an indictment of Mr. Obama. “The president has a view very similar to the view he had when he ran four years ago, that a bigger government, spending more, taxing more, regulating more — if you will, trickle-down government — would work,” he said. “That’s not the right answer for America. I’ll restore the vitality that gets America working again.”
There was little of the overt nastiness that has characterized the campaign this year. Instead, the debate was perhaps as direct an articulation of the profound schism in this election as has been heard over the course of the campaign. The candidates spent much of the 90 minutes here at the University of Denver defining it in narrow policy details that may have bled some of the passion out of their arguments and made them sound smaller than they were. But at its core, the debate brought home a divide over domestic policy greater than any since President Ronald Reagan and Walter F. Mondale faced off in 1984.