Barack Obama came to the last presidential debate ready for a fight. But he didn't get one. Romney seemed more interested in talking to moderator Bob Schieffer than engaging Obama in a scuffle.
That relaxed strategy didn't hurt Romney very much. At worst, the debate was a draw, which will only serve to seal the tightness of the race.
Though Romney kept stepping back from his punches, Obama didn't tire of throwing them. Apparently Romney not only kills his sacked employees' wives he also takes glee in outsourcing jobs to China and (in a new line of attack from Obama) invests in an Iranian company. Obama was unloading all the opposition research that he couldn't cram into the previous debates.
Obama's posturing as the tested executive versus a neophyte challenger looked pretty silly. "One thing I have learned as commander-in-chief," he started off one bragging answer. In another, he said Romney had never "actually executed" a foreign policy decision. This is big talk from a community organizer whose only foreign policy experience prior to 2008 was, to paraphrase Pat Buchanan, having eaten at the International House of Pancakes. His Libyan debacle vindicates Hillary Clinton's ad that he can't be trusted with a ringing phone at three o'clock in the morning (little did she know that she would be the one making the calls), or three o'clock in the afternoon for that matter, which was around the time he learned that his ambassador had gone missing.
Apparently trying out a jujitsu move, Romney just let the Libyan matter pass. This left Obama with a number of talking points to unload on his own, one of which, ludicrously enough, was that Libya is better off today than it was four years ago. Obama droned on about "ten of thousands of Libyans marching for America." Right. Obama said that his foreign policy is "keeping America safe." It couldn't even keep his ambassador safe.
An uninformed listener to this debate, full of rosy, "people tend to vote for peace" platitudes and empty uplift, would have no idea that popular jihadists have been recently torching U.S. embassies, killing U.S. diplomats, and replacing American flags on consulates with black flags of radical Islam. "There is no doubt that attitudes about Americans have changed," said Obama. Yes, for the worse.
Romney, determined to appear bipartisan, didn't really challenge the nonsense that the Arab Spring has made the world safer. The replacement of unpopular dictators like Mubarak with popular ayatollahs and militias certainly hasn't made American embassies any safer. But to Obama radical Muslims in North Africa and the Middle East have the "same aspirations" as Americans. Apparently they too toss and turn at night worrying about class sizes for their little Osamas. Not even the killing of his ambassador makes him hesitate before regurgitating this drivel from his Cairo speech that "reset" America's relationship with the Muslim world.
America's foreign policy is going so swimmingly that Obama says it is time "for nation building" here at home. What does that say about his first term? It implies that he razed the place and now has to rebuild it. This is not a very reassuring task to assign to an incumbent.
The emptiness of Obama's more-of-the-same schemes was transparent. Somehow he is going to turn America's economy around by increasing the budget of the Department of Education. "We have reformed education," he said. How exactly? By making his Chicago crony Arne Duncan education secretary? Duncan's idea of education reform as superintendent in Chicago was to propose the first gay and lesbian high school in the country. It was going to be called "Social Justice High School," but the idea was so stupid that the Chicago board refused to fund it and the plan was dropped.
Obama skimps on nothing, save ships, which he likened in the debate to "horses and bayonets." At the same time, he wanted to sound bellicose, promising that "Iran will not get a nuclear weapon" in his second term. Given the durability of his promises about reducing unemployment and debt, the Iranians probably aren't quaking at that one.
Obama did come up with a novel line of attack against Romney: he compared one of his "critiques" to one leveled by Joe Biden. Now that is a put down. Obama prefers to take all the credit for the glorious policies of his first term, starting off one line with the words "This nation" and then correcting himself and saying "me."
There was a droning, slightly desperate tone to Obama's answers. Out of curiosity, Schieffer asked Romney suddenly, "What is your position on drones?" Unfortunately, he wasn't referring to the president.
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