Horses and Bayonets on the Morrow
In debate the first, Alpha Romney showed up and stylistically, if not factually, defeated a sleepy Obama. In debate two, electric boogaloo, Romney and Obama both came to the knife fight with guns a-blazing.
Last night, in debate number three, Alpha Obama went on offense against a stammering, sweaty Romney who, at times, seemed as if Sarah Palin had helped with debate prep. When Obama criticized Romney’s incoherence on various foreign policy matters, Romney whined, “attacking me is not a plan”. It was repeated at least twice, and sounded weak, sorrowful, and pathetic. Obama’s cross-examination of Romney on his prior inconsistent statements was effective and decidedly well-hinged.
For instance, at the first debate, Romney had complained that the 2014 deadline to leave Afghanistan was something he agreed with, except insofar as it telegraphs to our enemy that all bets are off after that. It’s a disingenuous weasel answer, and one that Romney completely abandoned last night, instead claiming to back the 2014 date. From TPM, Obama:
You said that first we should not have a timeline in Afghanistan, then you said we should. Now you say maybe or it depends. Which means not only were you wrong, but you were confused and sending mixed messages to our troops and allies.
In 2008, Romney said we shouldn’t move “heaven and earth” to get Osama bin Laden, and that we should first ask Pakistan for permission. Obama recounted meeting the daughter of a 9/11 victim, which reaffirmed to him that moving heaven and earth was exactly the right thing to do; “worth it”,
“[Y]ou said we shouldn’t move heaven and earth to get one man,” Obama said. “If we would have asked Pakistan for permission, we wouldn’t have got him.”
“I’m glad that you recognize al Qaeda is a threat. Because a few months ago when you were asked the biggest threat facing America, you said Russia,” Obama said. “The Cold War has been over for 20 years. But governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.”
Later Obama said directly to Romney, “You indicated that we shouldn’t be passing nuclear treaties with Russia, despite the fact that 71 senators, Democrats and Republicans, voted for it.”
Romney repeatedly claimed to be the candidate of peace – he rebutted the elimination of Osama bin Laden with “we can’t kill our way out of this mess“. Romney tried to attack Obama from the left on this, and everything about it reeked of phoniness. The guy who has John Bolton on his foreign policy team isn’t the McGovernesque peace candidate. On Iran, Romney actually suggested that some unnamed “world court” indict Ahmadinejad for genocide. That’s nice, but the United States has nothing whatsoever to do with the International Criminal Tribunal. And how does that jibe with the Republican anti-world-government, anti-UN, US must do everything mantras? It’s a desperate ploy by a desperate candidate.
If, at the foreign policy debate, Romney can get no traction on his Libya attacks, he’s lost.
Throughout the night, Alpha Obama was the calm, rational, factual counterpoint to Romney’s rushed stream of consciousness. He also gave Romney nary an inch to repeat falsehoods or reinvent history. Obama pre-empted Romney’s predictable attacks about Israel with yet another “Libya moment”. One of Romney’s clumsiest attacks was to accuse Obama of weakening our military by pointing out that the Navy has fewer “ships” now than it did in 1916(!). Obama snarkily obliterated that argument, and it was a highlight of the night – a “you’re no Jack Kennedy” moment.
Funny aside – someone on Facebook mentioned that Fox News “fact-checked” the assertion that the military doesn’t use bayonets anymore by pointing out that Marines have them. Except for the fact that the President said “fewer”, not “none”. Now we’re fact-checking deliberately false fact-checking.
But except when they veered to domestic policy issues that are swing-state friendly, it was astonishing just how much Romney agreed with every foreign policy thing Obama’s doing, or has done. He liked everything! Romney was reduced to using long strings of words to say he’d do exactly the same thing, only perhaps louder or faster.
In their closing arguments, Obama pivoted back to hope and staying on a path to move forward, rather than back. Romney did his best Reagan impression, but ended up sounding and looking more like a more WASPy Billy Fucillo, who really wants to see you in this purple Hyundai with low miles and EZ-terms.
In response to Romney’s accusation about an “apology tour” where Obama purportedly ignored Israel. This was quite the Libya moment. Please proceed, Governor:
Closing with hope :