The final 2012 presidential debate was held last night. Again, the winner is not the American people. Here are some thoughts and clips from the transcript at The Washington Post.
First up, Governor Romney:
ROMNEY: … also help the Muslim world.
And how do we do that? A group of Arab scholars came together, organized by the U.N., to look at how we can help the — the world reject these — these terrorists. And the answer they came up with was this:
One, more economic development. We should key our foreign aid, our direct foreign investment, and that of our friends, we should coordinate it to make sure that we — we push back and give them more economic development.
Number two, better education.
Number three, gender equality.
Number four, the rule of law. We have to help these nations create civil societies.
Sounds great, Mitt. I only wish you would support those things in America, too.
OBAMA: Governor Romney, I’m glad that you recognize that Al Qaida is a threat, because a few months ago when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia, not Al Qaida; you said Russia, in the 1980s, they’re now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.
That would have been a great line, but he stumbled over it. I know, I know: He’s the president, not a stand-up comedian. Luckily, for him many people have been paraphrasing it and making it sound much better. He improves with the next line.
OBAMA: 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.
The problem is, 1) that’s what most hard-core conservatives really want, and 2) Obama is making a big assumption that undecided voters know enough about the referenced policies of those periods to be justifiably horrified.
ROMNEY: Well, of course I don’t concur with what the president said about my own record and the things that I’ve said. They don’t happen to be accurate.
You’re right: the things you’ve said have not been accurate. That’s the crux of your campaign strategy.
ROMNEY: I’m not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia, or Mr. Putin. And I’m certainly not going to say to him, I’ll give you more flexibility after the election. After the election, he’ll get more backbone.
A point for Governor Romney. That’s a well-placed reference to an Obama gaffe that can easily be used to scare people.
On the Syria question, both men agree that we should be careful how we set up our future puppet regime, and that direct U.S. military action seems to be off the table.
OBAMA: You know, one of the challenges over the last decade is we’ve done experiments in nation building in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and we’ve neglected, for example, developing our own economy, our own energy sectors, our own education system. And it’s very hard for us to project leadership around the world when we’re not doing what we need to do…
That’s a nice move inserting this into the foreign policy debate. Now, if only they’d let you put that principle into practice.
ROMNEY: Let me step back and talk about what I think our mission has to be in the Middle East and even more broadly, because our purpose is to make sure the world is more — is peaceful. We want a peaceful planet. We want people to be able to enjoy their lives and know they’re going to have a bright and prosperous future, not be at war. That’s our purpose.
And the mantle of leadership for the — promoting the principles of peace has fallen to America. We didn’t ask for it. But it’s an honor that we have it.
But for us to be able to promote those principles of peace requires us to be strong.
Here’s the first major reference to Romney’s vision of American Exceptionalism. It has been debunked here. I see that he adopts the “promote world peace through strength” approach. It makes you think he has a giant clone army being assembled somewhere.
ROMNEY: We need to have as well a strong military. Our military is second to none in the world. We’re blessed with terrific soldiers, and extraordinary technology and intelligence. But the idea of a trillion dollar in cuts through sequestration and budget cuts to the military would change that.
No, it wouldn’t. Even with a trillion in cuts over 10 years we’d still be spending the most by far. Link.
ROMNEY: And, finally, we have to stand by our principles. And if we’re strong in each of those things, American influence will grow.But unfortunately, in — nowhere in the world is America’s influence greater today than it was four years ago.
Wrong again. So he’s saying George W. Bush was a more trusted leader around the world than Barack Obama?
OBAMA: America remains the one indispensable nation.
Here’s Obama blowing the American Exceptionalism dog whistle. Now, both candidates use the idea that “to lead the world America needs to be strong at home” in order to dive into a tangential discussion about domestic policy issues. I understand why they did so. This is the last debate, and they’ll never have this many eyeballs on them at once for the rest of the campaign. Of course, they want to make a last pitch on some of these issues. However, here the moderator, Bob Schieffer, failed. He made one feeble attempt, but they both easily ran over him. He should have stepped in immediately, with “Yes, we all agree that America needs to be strong at home to lead the world, but lets stay on the topic of how each of you will use that leadership.” Done and done.
They move on to the issue of overall military spending, and Romney justifies further increases by talking about other cuts he could make. Obama seems to have a level-headed approach.
OBAMA: But when it comes to our military, what we have to think about is not, you know just budgets, we’ve got to think about capabilities. We need to be thinking about cyber security. We need to be talking about space. That’s exactly what our budget does, but it’s driven by strategy.
Does anybody else see that this statement has President Obama opening the door to the militarization of space? This seems worthy of clarification.
Here’s another newsworthy clip from Obama.
OBAMA: Bob, I just need to comment on this. First of all, the sequester is not something that I’ve proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen.
It seems like he will be committed to making a deal concerning the so-called fiscal cliff. He is determined to protect the military spending. What about everything else?
Next, President Obama takes Governor Romney to school about how to administer a modern military and shows his experience doing so:
OBAMA: But I think Governor Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works.
You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.
And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting slips. It’s what are our capabilities. And so when I sit down with the Secretary of the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we determine how are we going to be best able to meet all of our defense needs in a way that also keeps faith with our troops, that also makes sure that our veterans have the kind of support that they need when they come home.
Next, the candidates take turns telling us how much they love Israel, and how scared they are of a nuclear-armed Iran. Governor Romney gives us this nugget:
ROMNEY: I’d make sure that Ahmadinejad is indicted under the Genocide Convention. His words amount to genocide incitation. I would indict him for it.
Are we sure he’d keep this response to words he doesn’t like would stop at the border? This President Romney could return us to the days of the Sedition Act.
ROMNEY: And of course, a military action is the last resort.
I remember George W. Bush saying the same thing.
Next, Romney repeats the Obama apology tour myth. (I wonder if you can find those tour T-shirts on eBay). Obama finally figures out how to fight back some, though he still refuse to use the word ‘lie.’
OBAMA: Nothing Governor Romney just said is true, starting with this notion of me apologizing. This has been probably the biggest whopper that’s been told during the course of this campaign. And every fact checker and every reporter who’s looked at it, Governor, has said this is not true.
And when it comes to tightening sanctions, look, as I said before, we’ve put in the toughest, most crippling sanctions ever. And the fact is, while we were coordinating an international coalition to make sure these sanctions were effective, you were still invested in a Chinese state oil company that was doing business with the Iranian oil sector.
This marks the end of my blow-by-blow analysis. This carefully-choreographed, joint photo op has taken up quite enough of my time already.