The ABC's of the Presidential Debate: From Awkward Laughter to Binders to Zingers


Good morning, fellow binderfolk! Hope you were able to get some sleep after last night’s Presidential debate, despite the fact that you know now that Mitt Romney has been personally stalking you for several years. So, let’s take an alphabetical journey through what we learned.


Town hall format debates are awkward as hell. The candidates are just kind of puttering around up there like 1970’s game show hosts trapped in a Sea World-style exhibit, staring at the carpet, knuckles whitening as they grip their microphones. The audience members who ask questions are often visibly nervous and have upsetting hairstyles. And the occasional direct barbs between the candidates read a little like the episodes of The Voice where the contestants are having a duet fight.


And, only two letters into the alphabet and not long into the debate, Mitt Romney gift wraps and delivers the event’s most meme-able moment.

As the story goes, when Mittens Romney was governorbot of Massachusetts, he told his staff that he wanted more women in his cabinet. But there weren’t any qualified applicants! So instead of just hiring all dudes, like he’d always done, Mitt urged his minions on in a relentless search for women. They followed them to the bus stop. They found out where they liked to get coffee. They watched them read books in the park. They sent love poems to their email, elaborate edible bouquets to their offices, and dead birds to their boyfriends. Mitt Romney ate, slept, and breathed women. BINDERS FULL OF THEM.

Except the story is a big crock of piping hot homestyle bullshit. The real story of the binders is that before the 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial elections, a group of 40 or so interest groups in the state formed a coalition to find women qualified for upper level jobs in the state government. Leading the charge was the bipartisan Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus, not Mitt Romney’s made up ah-hyuck aw garsh, where are all the ladies? antics. On Mitt Romney’s first day in office, he was presented with the list of women the coalition found. So not only was it a weird thing to say, it was a weird thing to say that was also a lie.

Veracity of the Binders story aside, by the end of the debate, Romney’s story had spawned,, and my personal favorite, Binders Full of Women, the Tumblr.

C is for CROWLEY

We knew Crowley had the stones to ignore both campaign’s cowardly moderator guidelines, but we didn’t know to what extent she’d inject herself into the debate. She spent a lot of time being being steamrolled and interrupted by both candidates, but during some hot Barack-on-Mitt sparring, she interjected in a way that arguably turned the debate for Obama. What she did was state a fact, which was contrary to what Mitt Romney was saying, but Republicans are spinning that moment as telling of her secret liberal agenda.

D is for DORK

According to CNN, Mitt Romney had to practice sitting on the bar stool-style chairs because he has never sat on a bar stool before. Because he is a dork.


President Obama’s closing remarks were obviously rehearsed political brain frosting like almost everything in these debates, but at least it was the sort of rehearsed political brain frosting that got people excited about voting for him in 2008.


Ladies and gentlemen, my new favorite gif.

G is for GOD

In his closing statement, Mitt Romney brought up his close relationship with God. “We’re all children of the same God,” he said. Oooh, which one is it, Mitt? Because I’ve always thought of Kali as a sort of mother-figure — that would be totally awesome if we turned out to be related.

H is for HILLARY

Hillary Clinton’s admission of culpability for the Libya attacks marked the first time a government official has taken responsibility for anything since that guy apologized to the families of the victims of 9/11. But Obama insisted last night that it is he, not Hillary, with whom the buck stops.

This is the political equivalent of arguing over paying the check at a restaurant. I’m wrong! No, no. I’m wronger! No no no, it is I who is wrong. A Midwestern Standoff.


When a dark haired, olive complected woman named Lorraine Osorio asked how the candidates would deal with law abiding undocumented Americans, Mitt Romney sensitively referred to them as “illegals.” At least he didn’t talk about “self-deportation” this time.


My feelings on Mitt Romney’s sons have evolved from “My, what a handsome bunch of strapping men!” to “What a creepy bunch of mini-Mitts.” Case in point: this is Josh Romney’s actual face during the debate last night.



Audience member Katherine Fenton struck lady voter gold last night when she asked the candidates the question that finally got them talking about what we’ve been waiting to hear from them — equal pay, which ended up spawning an awesome response by the President about how abortion and birth control are economic issues. Here’s his response, in part,

A major difference in this campaign is that Governor Romney feels comfortable having politicians in Washington decide the health care choices that women are making. I think that’s a mistake. In my health care bill I said insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody who is insured because this is not just a health issue, it’s an economic issue for women. It makes a difference. This is money out of that family’s pocket. Governor Romney not only opposed it, he suggested that employers should be able to make the decision as to whether or not a woman gets contraception through her insurance coverage. That’s not the kind of advocacy that women need. When Governor Romney says that we should eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, there are millions of women all across the country who rely on Planned Parenthood for not just contraceptive care, they rely on it for mammograms, for cervical cancer screenings. That’s a pocketbook issue for women and families all across the country, and it makes a difference in terms of how well and effectively women are able to work. When we talk about child care and the credits that we’re providing, that makes a difference in terms of whether they can go out there and earn a living for their family. These are not just women’s issues. These are family issues, these are economic issues, and one of the things that makes us grow as an economy is when everybody participates and women are getting the same fair deal as men are, and I’ve got two daughters, and I want to make sure that they have the same opportunities that anybody’s sons have. That’s a part of what I’m fighting for as President of the United States.

Fucking finally.

L is for LIBYA

Pundits are saying that this is the moment when Romney lost it— he accused the President of refusing to call the Libya attacks an act of terror, when in fact the day after they happened, the President referred to them as an “act of terror” during a speech in the Rose Garden. And Candy Crowley provided the live fact check.

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I think it’s interesting the President just said something which is that on the day after the attack he went to the Rose Garden and said this was an act of terror.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: That’s what I said.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack it was an attack of terror. It was not a spontaneous demonstration?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Please proceed.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that. It took the President 14 days before he called it an attack of terror.
MODERATOR: Let me call it an act of terror. He did call it an act of terror.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?
MODERATOR: He did call it an act of terror.

Then the audience applauded.


A good barometer for fans of the President unsure of how to analyze : DID CHRIS MATTHEWS FREAK OUT? DID RACHEL MADDOW SEEM DEPRESSED AFTERWARD? And the answer is no. No, this time Chris Matthews did not freak out. Rachel Maddow seemed serious, but cheerful. LIBERAL DISASTER AVERTED.


While answering a question about keeping assault weapons off of the streets, Mitt Romney offered an unorthodox, but predictable prescription to solve America’s crime problems: let’s not pass any new gun laws. Instead, let’s get unregulated women off the streets. When single parents (“single parents” is dog whistle talk for “single mothers”) exist in a state of unmatrimony, you see, they raise children who grow up to shoot dozens of people in movie theaters. If only women would get married, all of the problems would be solved!

During his stern Ward Cleaver lecture about how American gals shouldn’t bring children into circumstances that statistically lead to crime — single parenthood, poverty, etc — what he didn’t say said a lot more than what he actually said. The irony of the Romney’s weird, meandering solution to the gun problem was that it didn’t register that defunding Planned Parenthood and outlawing most abortion would likely lead to more children being born to unmarried women. Does Mitt Romney have a plan to personally visit each and every one of those women and try to bully them into giving their children to a nice, Mormon family?

O is for ORNERY

My stars, but was Mitt Romney ever ornery last night.

P is for PINK

OMFG Both Ann Romney and Michelle Obama wore classy, stylish dresses in almost identical shades of pink. I’m not sure what it means, but I suddenly feel very aware of breast cancer.


Last night’s questions were asked by a group of pre-selected undecided voters. Which is why I’m surprised there weren’t more questions about how to put on pants or how to eat without accidentally stabbing yourself in the face with a fork.


Don’t worry, ladies. If Mitt Romney is President, he’ll make sure that your boss lets you be home to make dinner for your kids. He knows what it’s like for employers to hire women. You’ve gotta let them get to their god-ordained servant duties, or it all goes to shit! From the debate transcript,

Now one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort. But number two, because I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school.
She said, I can’t be here until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o’clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.

To Mitt Romney, that’s what workplace equality means — the ability for women to continue to do household chores while working a full time job. We can only assume that if elected, Mitt Romney will replace the Lily Ledbetter Act with the Make Me A Sandwich Act.


The night’s second most memorable phrase, behind the “binders full of women” quip, was when Obama referred to Romney’s economic plan as a “sketchy deal.”

Now, Governor Romney was a very successful investor. If somebody came to you, Governor, with a plan that said, here, I want to spend $7 or $8 trillion, and then we’re going to pay for it, but we can’t tell you until maybe after the election how we’re going to do it, you wouldn’t take such a sketchy deal and neither should you, the American people, because the math doesn’t add up.

T is for TAXES

Thank fucking God we didn’t spend 90 minutes listening to two guys harp about taxes.


One of the Romney campaign’s biggest talking points up until a week and a half ago was the endlessly repeatable tidbit about the unemployment rate being over 8%. Now that it’s sitting pretty at 7.8%, you’d think Mitt Romney would have just kind of breezed over it, right? But he brought it up anyway, claiming that employment was really more than 10%, which made him sound a little Trumpy.

V is for VAGINAS

During the first Presidential debate, the candidates didn’t waste any of their precious man-breath dealing with trifling women’s issues. And unsurprisingly, that bugged a lot of people. This time around, a female moderator and several female questioners asked questions that related directly to women’s issues.

The candidates, audience, and moderator used the word “women” thirty one times last night, and the word “woman” was used three times. They talked equal pay, women’s health, contraception, family economic issues, and even (albeit bizarrely) single parenthood. They talked about women so much that some jerks commented that spending time discussing women’s issues was akin to “pandering.” (Not like they’re 51% of the population or anything). Now if only they’d give a ghost of a thought to LGBTQ issues or the rights of immigrant, native, and other disenfranchised American women, we’d be in business.

W is for WHINING

Mitt Romney is a big whiny baby. When the debate started spinning away from him, rather than getting himself under control like a grown up, he argued with the debate moderator about the rules like a 5-year-old mad that his mom won’t let him get a piece of candy.

Unsurprisingly, the audience wasn’t charmed by Angry Boy Mitt; if you were following the debate on CNN, that crawling line below the screen that registers immediate reaction to candidates took a sharp turn downward when Romney got petulant. Here’s a shot one blogger captured as Romney barged in again.


Because X is always for XYLOPHONE. Or X-RAY.

Y is for YOUTH

The opening question was from a nice, depressed-sounding young man who wanted to know if he’ll be able to support himself after he graduates from college. Obama was all, flowers flowers flowers THE FUTURE and Romney was all flowers flowers flowers THE FUTURE. Also, didja think about maybe borrowing some money from your parents?

Z is for ZINGER

Last night was strong on zingers, but not from Romney. Looks like someone needs a new joke book.

Josh Romney gif via Buzzfeed

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