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Jeff Frederick
Jeff Frederick
The Politics of Principle

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October 23, 2012

Round 3

In case you’re interested, my thoughts on the last Prez debate… if you are, my apologies for getting this out so late. Been crazy day.

My friends aren’t going to want to hear this, but the President won last night’s debate by controlling it in a way similar to the way Romney controlled (and won) the first debate.

Obama was aggressive, commanding, confident, and stayed on offense the whole night

– and just like in football, that’s how you win the contest. The President sounded very credible, which was only compounded by his seemingly intimate knowledge of Romney’s foreign policy positions. And, all this was in spite of the split screen (which didn’t do him any favors). Of course, Obama has often sounded good – problem is, he hasn’t followed through.

That all said, Romney wasn’t horrible – just less good than many of us hoped. He certainly held his own, but played it safe. Way too safe. Yet, if Romney’s mission last night was to present himself as a plausible alternative to Obama on foreign policy, I think he achieved that goal. He knew his stuff and certainly passed the commander-in-chief-test. But this was a debate, and you can’t keep yielding your time to your opponent by asking him questions and waiting for an answer (we saw this in prior debates too). And, it’s a little hard to differentiate between a Romney foreign policy and the President’s when one frequently argues that Obama’s foreign policy is a failure while simultaneously agreeing with a good portion of it. It’s a nice gesture to give your opponent some credit, but Romney was doing it on every other response (or so it seemed).

Both gentlemen did well when the discussion turned to domestic policy, but Romney shined most brightly when covering economic issues. That is clearly his strongest suit. I hope undecided voters who’s biggest concern is the economy took note.

Obama, surprisingly, did well on the Israel question; Romney did better. Although, Obama’s description of his trip to Israel was fantastic. On this answer and others, he very effectively talked about regular folks he’s come in contact with – again, very similar to the way Romney so effectively did this in the first debate. Iran was also a strong subject for Obama (who would have guessed that pre-debate?).

Libya should have been Obama’s major weakness in this debate. Problem is, Romney only glossed over it – and when given no less than two perfect openings to hit Obama on his handling of the Benghazi attack, Romney never even brought it up.

The greatest U.S. national security threat question was also set up perfectly for Romney, but he only gave a quick answer and then changed the subject. By the way, the correct answer was the debt. Neither of them gave that answer. If the question was the greatest international security threat: a nuclear armed Iran. My humble opinion.

I’m not one of those that thinks that minor slips of the tongue or tongue twists are that notable or important, but Romney did occasionally contradict himself. For example, he made the point that we can’t just simply go kill all the bad guys, but then not too long after, he said we’ll go kill them all. Huh(?) is right. As an aside, Schaeffer’s verbal “catch Obama’s bin Laden” slip up was kind of funny.

Romney had an very effective hit when bringing up Obama’s planed reset with Russia. Obama had a lot of effective hits, but my favorite was his line about this not being a game of battleship. Obama also very effectively used (and repeated) his “nation building at home” line. Romney really needed a refrain like that.

As much as I like politics and all the red meat this debate produced, I was disappointed that the foreign policy discussion was so limited and contained (in the “foreign policy debate”). There a lot going on in the world. Yes, some of it was brought up, but a lot of it wasn’t. The most glaring example was what’s going on in the European Union right now. That can have a far bigger impact that most of what was debated last night – and it ties straight into our economic challenges here at home.

A couple random notes:

  • Obama mentioned our military and the military of France in the same sentence. That just seems a bit insulting, no?
  • Obama’s constant hanging “and…” is driving me nuts. I’m quickly becoming an advocate of Obama being required to use a teleprompter.
  • I missed the rule for these debates that says Obama gets minutes more speaking time than Romney, but it happened in each of the three debates.



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