It produces an old Monty Pythonesque picture--a one-armed Barack Obama jousting with Mitt Romney on one leg as crippled caricatures of themselves.
In parallel interviews, the candidates are caught in campaign clichés, denying vulnerabilities while trying to avoid further injury.
Asked about the vagueness of his tax reforms and exactly which deductions and exemptions he would eliminate, Romney will say no more than “Congress and I would have to work together.”
The interviewer persists: “And the devil's in the details, though. What are we talking about, the mortgage deduction, the charitable deduction?”
Romney: “The devil's in the details. The angel is in the policy, which is creating more jobs.”
Similarly, the President goes evasive and wishful when asked how he would get Republicans, who have blocked everything he proposes, to make deals in his second term.
“When I first came into office, the head of the Senate Republicans say, ‘My number one priority is making sure President Obama's a one term president,’” he replies. ”My expectation is, my hope is, that that's no longer their number one priority. And I'm hoping that after the smoke clears and the election season's over that that spirit of cooperation comes more to the fore.”
Well, yes. On his campaign plane before the 60 Minutes “debate” is aired, Romney whines to reporters that the President is “trying to fool people into thinking that I think things I don’t,” a difficult task in the light of the GOP contender’s multiple stands on every issue.
Barack Obama tries to avoid appearing whiny but thereby makes it harder for voters to understand why he hasn’t accomplished more in the past four years.
They can both take those attitudes into the first actual debate next week, but will voters get a clearer picture of what’s going on? Or will they see two bleeding Monty Python caricatures ignoring their wounds?