The Third and Final Presidential Debate

An Ass and a Dumbo

As the circus reaches its pinnacle, we arrive in Boca Raton, Florida for the final US Presidential debate of 2012 and the final push.

This debate was to be focused on foreign politics and policies and the response to a more heavily-armed Middle East. Did it stay that way? Did it heck.

While the moderator in the first debate was lacklustre and ineffective, the moderator for the second was accused of interjecting too much so it would be a fine line to walk for the third moderator, CBS’ Bob Schieffer. The route he took: let ‘em ramble! At times the candidates would pivot the question off to what they wanted to discuss. For Obama, he wanted to talk about how Romney had never been Commander-in-Chief and patronised the former governor to death over his military policy – more on this later. Meanwhile, Romney was still flogging his “Five-Step Plan to a New America”, mentioning his budget cuts as often as possible.

The planned focus of the debate was to discuss the changing Middle East and continuing threat of global terrorism emanating from that region. Romney was quick off the mark to ‘congratulate’ Obama for killing Bin Laden and then summed up all of the opponents America (and the western world) face in that region. Next, Obama was keen to show that since 2008 he has killed Bin Laden, taken al-Qaeda apart and led the world in steadying Libya with calm and reasoned response, not another war. He then rounded on Romney, saying that his foreign politics were “all over the map” and that he was not safe to be Commander-in-Chief.

The tone from Romney then shifted away from war. In the previous debate, the candidates had played a game of “I’m not George Bush” and here again Romney was keen to get out of the shadow of ‘Dubya’ by saying that he wants Muslims to throw off al-Qaeda themselves – without US intervention. He promised help via economic aid, education and a rule of law and gender equality (by lending them some binders I assume). He was also worried that Mali was now run by al-Qaeda and Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood who have, in the past, had links to Ayman al-Zawahiri the current al-Qaeda leader.

Romney was keen to talk about Mali, as though he had only just heard of it and Obama jumped at the chance to point out his frailties as a foreign policy leader. Though he may have over done it. You know when you watch Saturday Night Live and they have a skit based around a very weak pun? Something like ‘Hindsight Man’. This skit then plays past being funny (~2 or 3 minutes) and continues until it’s painful and embarrassing (>5 minutes). That was Obama’s retort. He pointed out that even though he was banging the “Middle East is bad” drum tonight, Romney had said only weeks previously that Russia was America’s number one geo-political threat. Obama’s actual response: “The 1980s called, they want their foreign policy back”. Ow! Romney got slammed, but Obama wasn’t done there: “as do the fifties with your social policy and the twenties with your economic policy”. Slightly less funny. Then when Romney mentioned he wanted a bigger Navy as it is now the smallest it’s been since 1916, Obama hit out with a childish “Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets. We also have new technology like things called aircraft carriers, which have planes landing on them, and submarines, which are ships that go under water”. Bit of an ass, Mr President, we are now well into the unfunny 5 minutes.

But there was much the two agreed on. They both agreed on Libya; on Syria – the response should be sanctions and with no military intervention; they agreed on the need for Egypt to be supported as it toddles off to democracy and they both agreed that talking domestic policy was more interesting. Romney highlighted what former Joint Chief, Mike Mullen, had said – that “the national debt was the biggest threat to our national security”… then he mentioned the Five-Point-Plan. They both rounded off by saying that Iran was evil and should be stopped and that sanctions against it are working – see the plummeting Iranian currency for more proof.

So more agreement than disagreement from the boys in power. It seems that on a foreign basis there is nothing to separate them – both favour a calmer, gentler America, mostly because war is expensive when bought on a credit card. And this will be just want Romney wants. When you stack them together voters will say that economically, Romney is better as the former CEO of Bain. Socially, Obama is better as he understands minority values. So what else is there to separate them? Foreign policies. Who is better? Neither; maybe Obama can edge it as he ‘killed’ Bin Laden, but what is in a single bullet?

Here in the UK in 2010, we had an election where three parties faced off. The incumbent, Brown; the challenger, Cameron; and the rank outsider, Nick Clegg. In the lead up to the debates, Clegg began gaining ground in the polls and talk was that he might stage an upset. Cameron and Brown both reacted by coining the term “I agree with Nick”. By agreeing with your opponent you level up to his position without having to say it yourself (reducing the risk of a dangerous, out-of-context sound bite). Seems Camp Romney have seen this and are watering Obama down to an equal. Will it work? We will see in a fortnight.

Next week Moxey will return with another article looking at the odd side of the elections – including the petrol station 7-11’s influence, why Obama is routing for the Redskins and how much the Americans are spending on Halloween.

Don’t forget to visit on the 6th of November for live election night coverage

3 Responses to “The Third and Final Presidential Debate”
  1. Good summary of the debate. Is it ok to say they are boring? Well, they are.

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