RICHMOND

Although the hubbub created by the first presidential debate has died down somewhat, I am still pondering the impact created by the two debaters and three other characters, one fictional, one factional and the other patriarchal. This refers to President Barack Obama, challenger Mitt Romney, Big Bird, Jack Welch and Jim Lehrer.

The consensus of commentators after the debate was that Romney had handed the president his derriere. Romney was your geeky high school debater so full of energy and superiority that he dominated the 90 minutes, getting away with, as one commentator put it, spouting "27 myths" in 38 minutes.

Some of his statements were so bizarre that President Obama had innumerable opportunities to call him liar, liar, pants on fire, but Obama was so busy looking at the top of his rotunda that he missed any and all the chances for karate chops.

The media has gone nuts proclaiming that the debate returned the impetus for the campaign to Romney, citing how he and his chums had regained the edge in the competition and the Democrats either should get out of the way or they would be run down. What got me while listening to Romney was how he kept shooting himself in the foot but kept jumping around on the other one. The man came out and confessed what he meant to do if he became the leader of the free world and its environs, which includes all of us. How anybody whose yearly income is less than $250,000 could even contemplate voting for the Romney-Ryan agenda is beyond the limits of all reason. No, he bellowed at Obama, I will not increase taxes for the one percent. I will lower taxes for the middle class. I will not change the Medicare benefits for those who are already retired or will be retiring in a few years but after that it is up for grabs. Sixty-five is too young to retire anyway. Maybe 70 should be the optimum age. My plan will make allowance for people with pre-existing conditions. And for kids who want to stay on their parents' insurance plans, I am promising the public everything but will not give you the details until I am in office.

And then he attacked Big Bird and public television and as much as told Jim Lehrer that if he hadn't already partially retired, Romney would see to it that he never worked again. And Lehrer, like Obama, just sat there and smiled while Romney stood there with that weird semi-smile on his face and basked in the knowledge that for the first time since the campaign started he was scoring points.

As for Lehrer, he went home that night and vowed to return to his semi-retirement status if possible and never let himself be talked into a political gig again.

The next day, however, the gods struck back by dropping the unemployment rate to 7.8 percent. Most of the Republicans cried foul which meant that Obama could gather his dander together and collect an unbelievable number of donations. The little people were showing how big they could be.

And right here is where John Francis Welch Jr., known familiarly as Jack to his millions of friends, decided to have a little fun on Twitter.

"Unbelievable job numbers," he wrote. "Chicago guys will do anything can't debate so change numbers." And that's what ignited the firestorm. There was extreme dudgeon on both sides, but even some of the Republican politicos acknowledged that the gathering of those numbers is too complicated for anyone to fiddle with the results.

One of the biggest dudgeoners was host Chris Matthews of the MSNBC show "Hardball." You could tell from the interview that he was unseemingly provoked, quizzing Welch on what experts he had talked to before he wrote his tweet. Welch, bald pate gleaming even shinier than mine, answered equably that he had conferred with no one, confessed to not possessing any evidence to the contrary but that the numbers defied logic.

Now let me tell you something about Jack Welch. He has acquired enough money and power over the years to make any outrageous statement he wants.

This is true of Romney and all the billionaires that surround him in a greenback phalanx. When they tell what they consider a joke, all of the people around them laugh. The laughers may not think it is funny, but they laugh and laugh. Their careers and welfare depend on it.

Jack Welch thought his tweet was funny; we were supposed to laugh. I'm not laughing.

Are you?

Milton Bass is a regular Eagle contributor.