The Debates: Frankly, I'm surprised that Maher and Washington were so shocked on why President Obama performed poorly in the debates. Are memories that short? Because it was clear in the 2008 election cycle that Obama was not a good debater. He skated through because Clinton had a string of bad luck and McCain was a decidedly below average debater. This is what I remember most from that past election's debates:
Obama had pretty much the same style during these debates. He's not animated. He takes too long to formulate an answer. He looks down a lot. He speaks haltingly and hesitantly, as if he were trying to measure every word, and it shows. What the audience sees is an apparently lackadaisical effort.
The press let him get away with it too. They treated him with kid gloves during 2008 (just google "journolist 2008 obama") and continued to do so after he was elected President. He's not used to being severely challenged. And he was extremely lucky to fight Clinton to a draw in 2007.
In comes Romney in 2012, and there's no denying that the guy is extremely intelligent, very well spoken, and came in with the same type of energy and enthusiasm that belies his corporate consulting background. The difference was palpable and that's why everybody said Romney won. Because it would be blatantly biased to say otherwise.
You have to come to the conclusion that either a. people rarely express their real thoughts in public (I'm sure there were a number of Democrats who were extremely nervous going into the debates precisely because of the reasons I outlined above) or b. people have extremely short and inaccurate memories. Obama was never a good debater. Get over it. He'll be more "animated", "energetic", and "involved" in the 2nd and 3rd debates but he'll still be fighting uphill.
Republican Strategy: The pre-panel interview guest was Frank Luntz, a veteran Republican pollster and you could tell right away that Maher had an extremely grudging respect for him. Maher hates guys like Luntz because they are the strategists who manipulate stupid people into voting for a candidate that they "shouldn't" vote for. It's a feeling best summarized as the attitude behind "What's the Matter with Kansas?"
Of course, this ignores the very same dynamic with Democrats and segments of their own base. Low information voters (I hate how this term keeps popping up in liberal circles) vote for both parties and both parties do things to court them. There's a reason why the DCCC always puts up a black candidate in urban districts where the plurality of the electorate is black. There's a reason why they wanted Caroline Kennedy to run for a vacant Senate seat in New York.
To pretend one party is full of people who just know better is just plain wrong. The principal difference between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party is the makeup of their elites. Republican elites are businessmen and church leaders. The Democratic elites are lawyers, journalists, and rich people whose jobs aren't mentally or physically strenuous but pay really well so they feel subconscious guilt about their wealth.
There are dog whistle phrases used in both parties. Let's not try and pretend otherwise.
Global Warming: Washington said something to the effect of "even if global warming's effects might not be as severe as predicted, shouldn't we err on the side of caution?" Well the problem is that erring on the side of caution is economically ruinous. Higher energy costs means higher costs across the board. It takes cheap energy to run the modern economy. And the unwashed masses are not going to be happy with 8 dollar per gallon gasoline (the average price in Europe), 20 cents per kwh for electricity, and higher prices for consumer cyclicals and durables.
This is something that I wish Maher would actually talk about: his actual proposals. Let's pretend for a minute that the green lobby had its way. What is its way? The only problem with that is that it opens up those policies to criticism and that's the classic problem with the elites in the Democratic Party: they always complain about a problem but they never do anything about it. "And yet..." is the driving force behind the modern Democratic Party.
Affirmative Action: Make no mistake, the Supreme Court (probably via a 5-3 split decision, although I'm hoping it could be 6-2) is going to strike down Affirmative Action with its ruling on Fisher v. University of Texas. But when Washington defended Affirmative Action and spouted a bunch of platitudes on the wonders of (all kinds of) diversity, it just sickened me.
Affirmative Action seeks to remedy historic injustices (and just give a leg up to disadvantaged minorities in general) by giving something to somebody who didn't deserve it. I agree that we should help disadvantaged people, but I wouldn't do it based on the color of their skin. And I wouldn't "help" them in the manner that Affirmative Action does.
The key to the upper middle class in America is a good education. And a good education doesn't start at college. It starts in our K12 public schools. Most disadvantaged minorities attend public schools that are absolutely terrible. And that's where they fall behind.
If we want to help disadvantaged kids, let's do it where it matters the most. That means allowing kids access to the best primary and secondary schools. Instead of cramming poor blacks and Latinos into poor urban schools, allow them to attend the school of their choice via a voucher system.
We should be preaching equality of opportunity. Not equality of outcomes. We achieve the former by leveling the playing field. Not tilting it in a certain direction for arbitrary reasons.