“Well, we’ve gone through a tough four years.” That line from Tuesday night’s presidential debate wasn’t particularly surprising. It was, after all, exactly what one would expect Mitt Romney to say about President Obama’s tenure in office. What was surprising was that it wasn’t Romney who uttered those words. It was Obama.

There was no love lost in this debate, which was a feisty, prickly affair. Mitt Romney certainly had his moments, but at times he seemed perhaps a bit too eager to try to coax people to vote for him, rather than laying out his case with the confidence that he showed in the first debate and assuming that, by doing so, people would vote for him. Maybe after a strong fortnight in the wake of that debate, he was a touch too anxious to close the deal.

However, in just one line, Obama aptly summarized his own presidency and made clear why his reelection bid is going to be an awfully hard sell with the American people. Those eight words sounded like something that one would expect to hear in a challenger’s attack ad, not from an incumbent president’s own mouth.

Moreover, the context didn’t make them sound any better. An undecided voter said to Obama, “Mr. President, I voted for you in 2008. What have you done or accomplished to earn my vote in 2012? I’m not that optimistic as I was in 2012. Most things I need for everyday living are very expensive.”

Obama immediately began his reply as follows: “Well, we’ve gone through a tough four years. There’s no doubt about it.”

In other words, I haven’t done or accomplished anything to earn your vote in 2012, and you’re right not to be as optimistic as in 2008, because it’s been a rough four years with me at the helm.

This wasn’t the only curious remark that Obama made during the debate. In response to the first question of the night, from a college student who feared he wouldn’t be able to find work in the Obama economy, a key part of Obama’s answer was to emphasize the importance of “green energy” crony capitalism: “[W]e’ve got to make sure we’re building the energy source of the future, not just thinking about next year, but ten years from now, 20 years from now. That’s why we’ve invested in solar and wind and biofuels, energy-efficient cars.” It’s hard to imagine more encouraging words for any young man or woman who’s about to head out into the real world to look for a real job.

When asked about the dramatic spike in gas prices during his tenure, Obama said, “[W]hen I took office, the price of gasoline was $1.80, $1.86. Why is that? Because the economy was on the verge of collapse, because we were about to go through the worst recession since the Great Depression.” Obama seemed to imply that having gas prices more or less double during his presidency was a sign of the economy’s renewed vibrancy. This one must have left more than a few voters left scratching their heads.

Later, the architect of an infamous 2,700-page (attempted) government takeover of American health care said, “You know, 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.” (No one can accuse this president of lacking chutzpah.) This from a man who has let his secretary of Health and Human Services decree that Catholic women — and other women, and men (Catholic and otherwise) — who want to choose health plans that charge basic copays for birth-control pills, sterilization, and the abortion drug ella, just like for heart medicines or cancer treatments, can no longer do so. With rare exceptions, such plans are now banned from coast to coast, courtesy of the authoritarian streak of politicians in Washington — specifically, of the politician who currently heads the executive branch.

Obama did, however, shed additional light on his economic philosophy. After saying that he “fundamentally disagree[s]” with Romney about what spurs economic growth, Obama declared, “I think what grows the economy is when you get that tax credit that we put in place for your kids going to college. I think that grows the economy. I think what grows the economy is when we make sure small businesses are getting a tax credit for hiring veterans who fought for our country. That grows our economy.” In other words, what really “grows the economy” is tax credits — money funneled through Washington and selectively returned, minus significant overhead, to (some of) the people.

Well, if nothing else, this presumably helps explain why the Obama “recovery” still feels like a recession. Between that and — far more importantly — the myriad attacks by this administration on Americans’ liberty, we have indeed “gone through a tough four years.” But if Obama gets reelected, the next four would be even worse.

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