Welcome to the first presidential debate of 2012. I'm your host and moderator, Jim Lehrer of PBS. Most of you will go from not knowing who I am to hating me within the next 90 minutes. I'm OK with that as long as both Big Bird and I still have jobs tomorrow.
Today's format will be in multiple segments on different topics that impact American businesses. And because most of America will judge the debate on silly things like who has more energy and which candidate smiles more, all the questions are going to be about the American business of professional sports.
Remember, your answers must be kept to two minutes, unless you want to go longer, and then by all means I won't stop you. And please, do not worry about being truthful or specific in any way. We are measuring passion and a term I like to call "presidentiality" tonight, not facts.
First question, for you Mr. President, is now that the MLB playoffs are set, what team do you think will win the World Series?
Obama: Well...um…look...first I'd like to thank you, uh, Jim. And I'd like to thank the great folks here in, uh, Denver. I'd like to also thank my beautiful wife, Michelle, for being, uh, here. It's our wedding anniversary today, and I know she'd rather be home, uh, watching old Bulls games on NBA League Pass right now. You know I would, uh, too.
Now back to your question. Look...I'm a White Sox fan and, hopefully for the next four years, if the American people would be so kind to re-elect me, I would like to continue pretending to be a Nationals fan.
But, uh, Jim, I think the A's are going to do it. It's the American dream on the field in Oakland. Hard-working, overachieving young Americans working together for a common goal. When they wanted to outsource their biggest job to Cuba, that did not come without serious financial tariffs that will help small businesses grow, if you consider Cuban defectors who can play a mean outfield a "small business." Did you know Donald Trump is a small business? We are all small businesses, Jim.
Romney: If I could just interject to correct the president. People are not small businesses, they are corporations.
Obama: I talked to Bob Melvin after the Athletics won the division and I said, "Bob, well...uh…look...you may be the manager of the A's, but you did an A-plus job this year, my friend."
You know what he said to me? "We just want to keep working." We should all feel that way.
Lehrer: Mr. President, you went over your two minutes, but that's OK because it allowed me to take a brief nap. Governor Romney, same question.
Romney: As you know, as governor of Massachusetts I became a big Red Sox fan. I have to admit, I'm not as much into baseball as I am some of the more equine American sports like polo and dressage.
I was told the Red Sox narrowly missed the playoffs this year under Bobby Valentine—a great American leader, by the way—so I will have to find another team this year, preferably in a swing state.
As luck would have it, I was born in the great state of Michigan, so I will be pulling for my hometown Detroit Tigers.
Of course, Jim, if they lose, then I'm not against rooting for whichever remaining team is most popular.
Obama: Can I just say one thing? The Oakland A's are like the American middle class of Major League, uh, Baseball. We need to keep our middle class working as long as we can. Or at least into early November, if at all possible.
Romney: We should all be rooting for the middle class. Of course, I think the best way to support the A's would be to lower the luxury tax for the Yankees next year so they can afford to pay the A's best players more money without having to pay penalties or taxes.
I want to cut out the loopholes, so teams in New York and Boston and Los Angeles can get back to helping those in Middle America by overpaying their teams' best players as freely as possible.
That would help everyone.
Lehrer: In 30 seconds or less—or as long as you need—who should win the AL MVP?
Romney: You know, I've been accused of memorizing debate zingers, but I sure was glad to see Miguel Cabrera hit all those dingers!
Obama: (Shakes head)
Romney: Jim, as you know, I'm from the great state of Michigan, a swing state, so I would cast my vote for Miguel Cabrera. The Triple Crown is an amazing accomplishment that hasn't happened since Affirmed won it in 1978. I used to run a hedge fund that managed the property he lived on until we had to force the stable into bankruptcy.
A magnificent animal, truly.
Obama: Jim, look. This race is about math. This is simple arithmetic. Miguel Cabrera had the most home runs and RBI and the best batting average in the American League. Mike Trout had the most runs scored and was better in almost every advanced statistical category this country's sabermetricians have been able to develop under my administration.
Not to mention, Trout's defense is far superior to that of Cabrera, and speaking of defense, did you know Governor Romney wants to install a tax plan that will cost Americans more money than our entire defense budget?
(Twenty-seven minutes later...)
To answer your question, Jim, I wish they could both win it.
Lehrer: The NFL referees went back to work this week. Should the NFL have done more to get them back sooner?
Obama: Jim, look. Anytime we can get Americans back to work, that's a good thing.
Should it have been done sooner? Of course, but change takes time. Look at the last four years. I haven't done close to half of what I thought I would get done in the last four years. But those things will get done in the next four years for sure. Just imagine if the referee lockout was being handled by Congress; we would be suffering through three or four years of gridlock, not three or four weeks. We should be happy for that.
I wish I could get things in Washington resolved just three weeks behind schedule. We haven't even gotten the carpet in the Oval Office replaced from the Bush administration because I can't get Congress to approve it. You should see the stains on that, uh, carpet, Jim. Seriously, if you came in with one of those, uh, body-fluid black lights they use on crime shows, you'd want to, uh, vomit.
If Roger Goodell would like to switch jobs for a few days, I would love that. I would even be fine with just swapping offices.
Roger, if I lose this election, can you call me, please. Big, uh, sports guy here.
Romney: I'm all for Americans getting back to work too, Mr. President. But I'm a firm believer in what helps big business helps small business too. The more money the NFL makes, the more money the rest of us can make.
I spoke to a man in Appleton, Wisconsin, this week, and he told me he lost five thousand dollars because of the referees making a bad call in the Packers' match with Seattle. We need more of that. We need more Americans in the middle class who have the disposable income to throw away on frivolous things like sports gambling. That can only help the economy grow.
Now, I'm not going to get into specifics on how my plan can help all Americans, but I know that the more Americans we can help, the better. Because America is great, and so is football. The NFL is football, right?
Lehrer: Well, sadly we have run out of time. My six questions will have to be left to three, and I didn't even get to how health care can assist former NFL players with concussion issues or any questions about Tim Tebow.
I hope I didn't do a bad job.
Obama: You did a great job, Jim. I...uh...apparently didn't. At least if you followed along on Twitter, which is obviously what I was doing when I constantly looked down and chuckled to myself, I did a, uh, pretty terrible job. Some of those, uh, tweets were hilarious. Real knee-slappers, uh, Jim.
Lehrer: I don't know what Twitter is, so I will open it up for final words. Governor Romney won the coin toss back stage and elected to defer. President Obama, you are up first.
Obama: Thank you, Jim, and thank you to the American public for watching this, uh, debate. I'm always happy to talk about sports whenever I can. In fact, I've already filled out my next four NCAA brackets just in case I don't win re-election in November.
Sports are a big part of the American way of life. I'm excited for the NBA to return. Did you hear they are fining people for flopping? We should try that, eh, Governor?
I'm anxious to talk with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman this week to get the hockey work stoppage resolved as soon as we can. We need to get more Americans back to work, and if that means getting even more Canadians, Russians and other Eastern Europeans back to work too, that's OK.
But this isn't just about what's wrong with sports. What about what's right? Jim, we are so safe as a country that we now play college basketball games on our aircraft carriers.
Think about that for a moment, Jim. We are so safe after I killed Osama Bin Laden that if re-elected, I will legislate the entire NCAA tournament be played on decommissioned military war ships. I can't wait to fill out that bracket, uh, Jim.
Oh, and go Bears!
Lehrer: Governor Romney, you get the last word if you please.
Romney: Thank you, Jim, and thank you America for taking the time to listen to this debate.
As you know, I love sport. My wife's horse was an Olympic athlete. I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners.
I truly love sport, so I was excited to have this debate. I hope my energy was up tonight. I hope none of you realized how bloodshot my eyes get after 90 minutes under these hot lights. Seriously, Jim, can we get some softer bulbs next time?
I hope I threw in enough zingers to get you talking at your water coolers tomorrow—and by water coolers I mean the water spigot behind the gas station, because most of you no longer have jobs or homes anymore under President Obama.
I truly love sport. I was devastated when the United States lost the Ryder Cup. America hasn't seen a collapse that bad since President Obama's policies ruined the housing market.
I kid, of course. I'm a big kidder. But not too big. I'm whatever kind of kidder the American public wants me to be.
Jim, we talked about a lot of important topics tonight. Work stoppages, labor disputes, determining the value of men, horses—a lot of important stuff.
I just want the American people to know that I'm here fighting for them. I want to create a better world for all Americans, especially those who own sports franchises or race cars. They are my friends, so if we help them, we can help everyone.
(Important note: Politics are serious business, which is why some days it's great to sit back and enjoy writing and talking about sports. This is one of those days, so just have fun with this in the comments and stay civil, please. For the real debate transcription, click here, and bury their comments section with partisan pabulum.)