William Shira | Horrifyingly Hilarious
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 17:10
Presidential debates are a series of sparring matches between two rhetorical gladiators thrown in front of cameras and an audience. It forces them to interact with one another in a proper public fashion. According to most accounts, liberal or conservative, Obama got his ass kicked in round one. Chris Matthews was in such bad shape after his breakdown on MSNBC that he was recently found naked running through the wilderness screaming, “It’s over! It’s all over!” But, watching the debate, there was something about Obama’s calm smirk and intensive note-taking while Romney spewed that made me pause and recall a different brawl.
Mohammed Ali’s boxing strategy that he used in the Rumble in the Jungle on October 30, 1974 is one reason he is considered an American legend and George Foreman has been relegated to selling home kitchen appliances. The fight took place in Zaire. It pitted Ali, hungry to regain his title after his suspension for refusing to fight in Vietnam, against the juggernaut George Foreman. Foreman had previously made mincemeat out of the only two boxers to defeat his challenger. For some the outlook was so bleak for Ali that they refused to even go to the fight.
Ali caught Foreman off guard early in the first round with a surprise right-handed punch, and the behemoth quickly began to retaliate with one massive blow for every pair of Ali’s rabbit punches. The second round was different: Foreman dominated. Every exchange took place on the ropes. Ali put up just enough of a defense to keep the referee from coming in and taking mercy. Blow after blow struck but Ali kept covered and survived. He caught Foreman’s face when he could, making it even puffier than usual. But Foreman couldn’t be taken down by a few headshots. This brutal dance on the ropes lasted for the next five rounds.
By the time the eighth-round bell rang, Foreman was spent. He wasn’t used to a fight that would last more than a few rounds. This was uncharted territory, and it required more stamina. Ali came out on fire. He had rested against the ropes with his arms as a cage in front of his face and vital organs. The tables turned. Now a weak Foreman was up against the ropes and Ali began a beating of his own: big right hook, three blows, then a left hook to the jaw and a hard right right in the kissah. Goliath was down. Ali was once more the heavyweight champion. His secret tactic was to appear he was losing while Foreman exhausted himself, and then pounce: Rope-a-dope.
Obama must have an incredible amount of respect for Mohammed Ali, as he has adopted his strategy to the political arena. Don’t count him out. A recent Gallup poll shows his lead has grown back to 5 percent. Romney may have won if the judging standard is aggressiveness. But there are other criteria. One report counted 27 myths in the 38 minutes Romney spoke. He also turned Big Bird into a fine rosemary and basil roast to serve at his next fundraiser. Obama’s passivity was a tactic: make the governor speak as much as possible. Then the president has more ammunition to attack Romney with in the coming town hall and foreign policy rounds: the rope-a-debate. After all, Romney did recently call for involvement with Syria.
The more Romney speaks, the worse he does. All Obama has to do is pounce in the second debate, throw a finishing combo in the third, and he has a knockout on Nov. 6.
William Shira is a senior majoring in peace and justice studies. He can be reached at William.Shira@tufts.edu.