Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dabate III - Yawn...

Maybe I had my hopes up too high, but I expected more from this debate.  Prior to September 11th, 2012, foreign policy couldn't have been any more boring a topic for the average American.  Bob Schieffer hit the candidates with a softball version of the Libyan debacle right out of the box and once again, Romney bunted.  I believe the first time Romney failed to engage the President on the assassination of our embassy staff was an oversight.  I'm not so sure this time.  In fact, I believe it was a calculated measure on Romney's part.  I believe Obama wanted to engage Romney on the topic and Romney knew any response with the slightest hint of aggression would be viewed with distaste from the public.  While this might prove to be a smart move over the next two weeks, I wish Romney had at least labeled the Obama Administration's handling of the attack as the incompetent debacle that it is.

The rest of the debate was pretty dull by comparison to their previous clashes.  Romney clearly looked more comfortable.  His demeanor was stable through the entire ninety minutes and he maintained his usual smile from start to finish.  He behaved presidential and demonstrated that he would not have his feathers ruffled by a political opponent.  President Obama was a different story entirely.  His intense stare, tightened lips, and turning back and forth were difficult to ignore.  I have to admit I get a kick out of the "how dare you" look the President gives off when he's being challenged.  The President's condescending comments about horses and bayonets was not only unstatesmanlike, it was incorrect.  Our Special Forces operators in Afghanistan have been conducting their operations on horseback for years and our Marines still train with and carry bayonets.  He could have taken the high road and used a better analogy, but he didn't.  We all know that everything this president does and says (absence of teleprompters notwithstanding) is carefully scripted.  His appearance of condescension is to me a prime example of Obama's diplomatic demeanor and why our adversaries view America as a weakened nation.

I felt like Bob Schieffer handled this debate at least as well as Jim Lehrer handled the first one.  He allowed the candidates to engage, but reeled them in when he needed to.  Unlike Candy Crowley, Schieffer left the interruptions to the President.

I would love to be able to call a clear winner here, but objectively speaking, it really appears to be a draw.  Romney rode the wave of his momentum from the first two debates into this one and played it safe, tempering a reported hawkish reputation towards war and relating the issues to the economy whenever he got the chance.  He clearly exemplified a knowledge of the world affairs questions posed to him by Schieffer.  Obama needed a knockout punch to stop Romney's momentum and that just didn't happen.  He stood by his decisions and actions as President over the last three years without backing down.  The conventional wisdom dictates that since Romney isn't the President, a draw gives him the win.  It should be noted that conventional wisdom isn't always wise; it's just conventional.

The post debate polls were very interesting.  The respondents to the Frank Luntz polls claimed the President won on the foreign policy issues, but that Romney won on the economic issues.  However, most of them emphatically stated that the economy was far more important to them than foreign policy and added that we can't influence the world abroad if we don't have our affairs in order at home.  So maybe it all comes down to the old Clinton campaign motto:  "It's the economy, stupid!"  We shall see in two weeks.