NOW with Alex Wagner | October 04, 2012
>>> there is no hiding from the split screen . throughout last night's debate, president obama seemed to for get he was on camera, standing down at his lectern, taking notes instead of looking directly at governor romney . t his performance blew up the performance. less looking down, making nodes you look like your hanging your head in shame, and more eye contact. look at mitt like he's a nut. here with a critique and debate for the next one, master thespian , james lipton . always a pleasure to have you on set. i'm eager to hear of what you made of both perform 's last night. but let's start with the president's?
>> may i start with romney ?
>> go for it.
>> roll right over alex.
>> the washington of romney rolled over the moderator last night? the thing about -- i came to first because i had writ ain't piece for the "new york" magazine, how to act human, giving romney advice. since then i've tried to pursue him, but that's not easy. he's elusive.
>> he keeps recasting himself, recasting himself. i've tried to flail it down. before last night's event i had come to the conclusion i finally had typecast him, because he can't play a character role, he's not a good enough actor. this is a conclusion i came to. that he is that boss who makes lame jokes at which we are compelled to laugh at peril of our jobs.
>> and --
>> i don't know any bosses like that.
>> last night he more or less erased that image with the significant cooperation of the president, he presented a brand-new, as you said, and different romney relishing the occasion, filled with facts, right or wrong, true or false, but filled with them, and delivered with great conviction and with energy. unfortunately for the democratic campaign, another president obama showed up. and this president was particularly visible and evident and revealing in the sprsplit screens. split screens are dangerous.
>> you're thinking, you're waiting, somebody else is talking. and as others have described it, i won't belabor it, he looked down, away, he looked uncomfortable, sometimes he looked at the moderator, beseechingly as if to say, get to me, for god sake, because something's going wrong here.
>> showing clips of mitt romney and the split screen looking at the president while he was speaking. did you find that to be an effective device?
>> very effective. look, since -- this is not politics but performance, when an actor is dealing with a partner on stage, that's when it's happening. a partner on the stage, two people on that stage, and romney dealt with his partner. he addressed the president. he spoke to the president. obama seemed significantly to avoid him while he was offscreen, while he was waiting to speak, and even when he spoke, he was speaking -- i don't know to whom he was speaking, maybe the audience or the moderator, but he was speaking offcamera, he had an opportunity to speak to the camera, which is to speak to us, or speak to romney , those are the only two people on that stage with him. those are his partners and he avoided them both studiously. what a beginner's mistake for a great politicians.
>> yeah. you would see him pivot, the line of sight , he's shifting back from jim lehrer to the camera to mitt romney , hugo.
>> i wanted to comment on romney 's split screen sort of expression, as obama was talking. i thought it was incredibly good. i was trying to read it. he has a frown, condescension in there, but it felt meaningful. and i was thinking, that's the expression you have when you're firing someone that you like. you want to go in and be like, you know, i really like you but you haven't libbed up to my expectations.
>> which is what they're trying to channel.
>> something that i would gather romney has personal experience in. so, it really -- very consistent. romney 's expression was basically that throughout almost the entire debate, when obama was talking.
>> the other thing, and this has been noted, a sense of happy warrior that romney was channelling and that you know, we've said the president seemed tired but he didn't want to have to go through this. i thought it was pronounced in the opening moments of the debate, i wonder what you thought, when the president started talking about michelle and their anniversary but it was romney who owned the joke. let's play that sound. if we have it. maybe we don't have it. we don't have it. so, basically, romney says, obama comes on stage, says 20 years ago i became the luckiest man honor they because michelle obama agreed to marry me. happy anniversary . next year we won't be celebrating in front of 40 million people. mild chuckle. romney , congratulations mr. president on your anniversary. i'm sure this was the most place you could imagine here with me. it was a great line from romney , not known to be funny.
>> from the start, i think he picked up. he was able to work than extraordinarily confident fashion. he came in against tight, as mr. lipton indicated he owned that moment, owned that stage. he wanted to own obama with all of those troubling consequences, and he did so, i think, because he presumed that he would tell his facts, he would tell his truth, he would do it with vigor, and you can study every master, you connect emotionally, articulate your viewpoint and people believe in perception of your command. last night he was unquestioned in terms of his supremacy.
>> that was significant. while romney was freely contradicting all of the previous romneys, he was unchallenged. unchallenged by the moderator. and unchallenged by the president. that, i thought, was extraordinary. i couldn't believe it. i kept waiting for the president to give answers that anyoneny one of us at this table and anyone watching the program could have given. they were obvious answers.
>> including mitt romney .
>> yes, yes, i agree.
>> mr. lipton , going forward, what tact do you think the president needs to take? clearly there was a calculation he was not going to punch down, he needed to be above the fray but everyone's calling for more passion, more of the indignation of half-truths put by mitt romney .
>> in my world you can't invent passion. passion is something you possess possess, the way ted kennedy possessed, great actors possess it. it's not something you can pretend. that was romney 's problem before this debate last night. now, oddly enough, it's the president's problem. and i think most significantly the questions that obama did not ask, and the responses he failed to make, qualify for a wonderful french expression [ speaking french ] which means staircase wit . the great retort you think of as you left the party and on your way down the stairs, full of it last night.
>> and the rally.
>> reprice si. yes, but then it's late. there aren't 60 million people watching the rally. i think what obama absolutely has to do is to prepare himself very carefully and to go after his opponent the way his opponent went after him. but romney is vulnerable. he said things last night that the world may or may not know are false.
>> and it's the job now, i think, of the democratic party and of the president to point that out, point it out continually, and to bring it to the front and the fore in the next debate and look at his opponent and to look at the american people and say, this is wrong and this is what is right. he's capable of that.
>> and no more. [ speaking french ]
>> what mr. lipton said is an important strategy.
>> i'm keeping with the french thing. [ speaking french ]
>> you know something? the -- there was an expression, john green leaf, the great poet said, for all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, it might have been. that's what happened to the president of the united states and that's must not happen again. when i was writing plays, the most important moment of your play, the last two minutes before the audience goes out to intermission because that's all they'll remember. that is where, oddly enough, the president fumbled the ball most formbly and momentbly.
>> he can't have. he shouldn't have. all of us are saying that. [ female announcer ] ready for a taste of what's hot? check out the latest collection of snacks from lean cuisine . creamy spinach artichoke dip, crispy garlic chicken spring rolls . they're this season's must-have accessory. lean cuisine . be