Here are my thoughts on the third and final debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney. The debate took place at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida and was moderated by Bob Schieffer of CBS’ Face the Nation.
Although the debate centered on foreign policy a good part of it veered off into domestic matters and both candidates reiterated off their main talking points from the first two debates.
This was the least effective of Romney’s three debates. Romney was certainly aiming to be presidential. Apparently, he took Quin’s advice and used the word “peace” multiple times throughout the debate. But Romney is still the challenger and I don’t think he effectively challenged the malarkey (for lack of a better word) put forward by Obama.
To start with, Romney made no effort to challenge the Obama’s administration deception with regard to the attacks in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. Instead, Romney spoke generally about finding ways in which the Islamic world could reject extremism. It might be a good academic exercise but doesn’t work when debating a demagogue.
Nor did Romney find much disagree with concerning Syria. At the very least, he could have mentioned that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton referred to Assad as a reformer. He also found little fault with President Obama’s policy in Pakistan and his use of drones.
While Romney was more assertive with Obama concerning Iran, his critique was imprecise. Twice during the debate Romney made a point of stating that Obama was silent concerning the fraudulent Iranian “elections” of 2009. Obama was able to deny Romney’s statement. What, in fact, Obama said was that it was “not productive” for him to be “seen as meddling in Iranian elections.” It was a missed opportunity.
Romney was able to distinguish himself from Obama where it concerned Israel. While both Obama and Romney said they would stand with Israel if it were attacked, Romney specified what the United States would stand with the Jewish state miitarily. Obama did not spell out what standing with Israel meant.
But for the most part when Romney did challenge Obama, the President had an answer for him. Look, Obama was his usual imperial self. He must have used the words “I” and “me” close to a hundred times during the debate. It was also hard to believe Obama when he said that he would make the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt respect the rights of women and religious minorities or that our relationship with Israel is as strong as ever without laughing derisively. Obama also made snide and snarky comments about Romney’s investments and interrupted Romney on multiple occasions. But he also effectively defended his policies in a way that he hadn’t in the first two debates.
Towards the end of the debate, Obama tried to have another “check the transcript” moment when Romney was explaining his support of a managed bankruptcy of the auto industry. Fortunately, Bob Schieffer wasn’t having any of it and didn’t play along. Schieffer was a definite improvement over Candy Crowley although he certainly challenged Romney far more than he did Obama on matters such as Pakistan, drones and if the Israeli PM called the White House to say it was going to bomb Iran. On the last question, Romney said that such a scenario would not take place. Still, in a season of bad moderators, Schieffer was the best of the bunch.
My guess is that this was least watched of the three presidential debates. After all, if you weren’t watching Monday Night Football between the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears you were probably watching Game 7 of the NLCS between the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants. So I don’t think this debate will change the trajectory of the election.
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