Did you hear the great roars of enthusiasm rising through the air around 10:30 pm (EST)? The debates are over and the appropriate song for this moment would be Barry Manilow’s “Looks Like We Made It”!
All joking (and sighs of relief) aside, America has gone through another cycle of Presidential Debates to help us choose our next leader. Debates are one of the best ways Americans have to analyze each candidate and see how they stand up under pressure and how they think on a variety of topics in an unscripted forum.
Ironically, on the same day as the 1962 debate, President John F. Kennedy announced that U.S. spy planes had found Soviet missile bases in Cuba– thus the “Cuban Missile Crisis” was born. It’s interesting that our final Presidential Debate took place on the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s announcement, when once again Americans were gathered around their televisions to hear their the presidential candidates discuss our current foreign policy strengths and weaknesses.
This debate was, in some political analysts minds, a “must win” for President Obama. Unfortunately, I’m not sure the President got the win he was looking for. Both candidates stayed true to form in their polling status, remaining incredibly close in “points” and many are saying the debate ended with more of a tie than a distinct winner.
President Obama began the evening strong on his points. In the first question regarding Libya and whether it was a policy failure, Obama aggressively went after Mr. Romney saying the governor’s strategy for Libya and the Middle East “has been all over the map”. This accusation was made after Romney had stated he felt America couldn’t “kill our way out of this mess” (referencing the killing of Osama Bin Laden) and added, “We need a comprehensive strategy.”
Various times during the debate Obama made sure to highlight points where he and Romney agreed on policy; these were the times when the president used Romney’s agreements to his advantage. At one point in the discussion on Syria, Mr. Obama said that Gov. Romney didn’t have good ideas “because we are already doing what we are supposed to be doing” and the President seized another opportunity to say some of Romney’s opinions about our troops were “wrong” and “reckless”.
It was moments such as these that Obama appeared stronger than Romney. However, many of Mr. Obama’s comments didn’t spark confidence in his foreign policy abilities. Regarding Syria’s leader President Assad, he simply said “his days are numbered” without mentioning any solid plans for the future.
Romney firmly stated that one of his main goals in the Middle East would be to “get the Muslim world to reject extremists.” This comment translated a respect for the people in our country who truly want peace and was a moment in which Romney appeared strongest, laying out a plan on how to progress in the Middle East.
When asked what America’s role in the world would be, Romney spoke of being defenders of freedom and working toward freedom of speech and free/fair elections in other countries as well as human rights. Romney said, “America must be strong and lead” and “We have to have a strong military and we have to stand by our allies.”
President Obama’s response to the question of America’s role caused me to scratch my head a bit. Obama began by saying “America is stronger now than it was when I entered office” and added, “Our alliances have never been stronger”.
You almost wondered which country he was discussing.
This was the point where our national economy, as well as education and jobs, entered the conversation. Obama tried to tout a positive economic record by stating, “We cut our oil imports” and “We have developed clean energy” then declared that Governor Romney’s plans “don’t reduce the deficit”.
With a response that diverted the discussion to domestic issues, you wonder if the President really does know our role in the world.
Regarding our military budget cuts, there was a change in the tide (and a slew of “News Alerts”) when the subject of military budget was discussed. When talking about the upcoming January 2013 sequestrations, Obama’s response was, “Sequestration will not happen”.
I thought he either made a huge blunder or he has cracked and by the end of the debate the Obama campaign was giving clarifications on behalf of the President’s comment.
From this point on, President Obama began to appear petty, un-presidential and downright disrespectful toward Mr. Romney. Trying to demean and discredit Mr. Romney’s knowledge of the U.S. military and its needs, Obama went into a sarcastic monologue of how our military now has “things called aircraft carriers, where they land planes on them” and “we have these ships that go under water.” Obama mentioned the military no longer uses “horses and bayonets.”
By the way, Chris Wallace at Fox News said a Marine had Tweeted that our military actually does still use bayonets. Wallace commented, “Maybe the President doesn’t know what the military uses.”
Another area that was disconcerting for the President was Israel. Romney showed better leadership on this topic by having distinct plans for dealing in and with the Middle East, rather than appearing to rely on charisma.
The candidates were asked if an attack on Israel “was the same as an attack on the United States” and if both candidates would stand beside Israel.
President Obama said, “I will stand with Israel if they are attacked.” Romney also said he and America would stand by Israel, but he added that he would also have a well laid out plan to understanding our mission in Iran. Obama’s response was that “Iran would have to deal with a united world” and him.
It was a well-played opportunity for Mr. Romney to remind the nation that when President Obama took his “apology tour” after his inauguration, he skipped visiting Israel. (This statement caused Conservatives everywhere in America to cheer for Romney…)
Obama defended himself by saying he went to Israel when he was a candidate. I personally would have liked Mr. Romney to say something like, ‘Being a candidate and visiting Israel is different than when you actually have the job…”
Obama’s tone throughout the debate went from strong in the beginning to pithy and curt at the end. Even my teenager thought he was sounding “desperate” with some of his jabs.
As he had done in previous debates, Obama continued his cutting remarks of Romney’s overseas investments. Whenever he and Romney disagreed on what had been said in the past, Obama inserted his comment of “check the facts” as he did in the last debate.
In his closing speech, Obama restated how he wants the wealthy to pay “a bit more” to fund his aspirations of reducing the deficit and he ended by saying he will “always listen to your (America’s) voices.”
Governor Romney’s closing message was about a future with “peace” and a “good economy”. He mentioned the “Greatest Generation” and how we should continue to carry the values that have brought success to America.
Most importantly, Mr. Romney asked for the job. President Obama didn’t.
When you look at the debate in its entirety, there wasn’t anything new that was said and realistically it could have all been done in thirty minutes. It was the last chance to solidify the base and potentially pull some of the undecided into a candidate’s camp.
So now it’s up to us—we’ve all got to get out and vote on Tuesday, November 6th.