Life / Politics

Final Debate Review. Mitt’s Missed Opportunities.

First of all, I have to say that Bob Schieffer was the best moderator of the season. I had only one issue with him all night, but it was minor. His questions were great, relevant and at-times provocative. He stood up to the alpha males and kept refocusing things on foreign policies as much as they would allow.

Here’s a link to the video feed.

I was going to try to write a debate-encompassing post, but it was too unfocused and rambling. Instead this post will be about the times I though Romney should have responded better to criticisms or Obama’s positions. I have felt that throughout the campaign season, President Obama has been setting up perfect opportunities for Mitt Romney to capitalize on, but that these have largely gone unexploited. Here’s my list from tonight.

1. The president has mentioned on several occasions that he’s keeping Americans safe. There is nothing technically wrong with this claim, but Romney is missing a chance here.
The response I was waiting for: Mr. President, keeping Americans safe should include our soldiers overseas. Our deadliest months of conflict have been under your administration and your withdrawal plan. At what point do you plan on re-visiting your policy? (

2. As a slam against Romney, Obama attacked Mitt’s support of going to Iraq on the basis of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
What Mitt should have said: You criticize my dependence on the intelligence available at the time, and somehow try to make it seem like that means I am less qualified for this job. However, you chose Hilary Clinton to be Secretary of State–to advise you on foreign affairs and oversee diplomacy with other countries. Secretary Clinton voted for the Iraq War Resolution and defended her vote because of the available intelligence at the time.  (

3. Cleary Obama’s strategy tonight was to paint Romney as a flip-flopper, which most conservatives have criticized all along. Anyhow, regarding foreign policy, Obama said that Romney needed to be clear on his foreign policy. He directly followed this up by saying that he’d given Syria a timeline (which hasn’t been enforced)
The chance:  Mr. President, you just said that the commander-in-chief need to be clear…An unenforced timeline is not a clear message on the international stage.

4. The talk of power vacuums is always interesting. Both candidates talked of making sure that new powers which arise are “friends” to America. Nobody discusses how. Anyway…
Strong Romney response: Like the Muslim Brotherhood?

5. Obama made the claim that companies are attracted to places with the most qualified candidates.
Response Romney probably couldn’t give…but should have: Bull. They go the places that will help their profit margin. Clearly, you aren’t used to keeping an eye on the Bottom Line.

6. When Obama disputed the term Apology Tour, Mitt actually lived up to my hopes and pointed out specific examples, and later revisited it when discussing how the President has been “projecting weakness.” This also lead to Romney’s best sound-bite of the night: “America has not dictated to other nations, but freed them from dictators.” I’m not 100 percent behind the claim, but it’s a nice sound bite.

7. Obama gave a great sound bite of his own only moments later when discussing the execution of Osama bin Laden and his death being worth “moving heaven and earth.” Romney wouldn’t have been able to argue that in any winnable way, however he could have responded to it since his time was up next.
To the point: The death of Osama bin Laden was cathartic, and a fulfillment of a decade-long promise. He was an evil man who deserved to be brought to justice. However, a president must also ask himself, ‘Does this make us safer?’ Did it improve relations with Pakistan? Did it result in a decrease in terrorist activity? I’m not saying he shouldn’t have been taken out, but did the death of one man make America safer?

8. A point of clarification: Obama kept saying Romney was calling for military increases that the military was not asking for, but Romney stated clearly that the Navy said they need 300-something ships to be effective but are working with 200-something. I do not have all the information on this, but I would like to know what the military would have to say about it.

Closing Statements
I’m only giving my general impressions here. Quotes aren’t necessary since this thing will be talked to death for the next week.

Obama was charismatic, but he needs to stop blaming Bush. Some of the “failed economic policies” he refers to were put in place by Clinton and presidents before. (Specifically banking policies which lead to the bad mortgages.) Plus, he’s had 4 years. Ownership would be nice eventually.
When the president mentioned the road and bridge investments, all I could think about was more “bridges to nowhere.” I’m not saying he was wrong or that it’s a bad plan (not saying it’s a good one), just thought it was interesting that those phrases struck such a chord with me.

Romney did a great job pointing out the projected debt, and making promises…but fell into a familiar trap of not saying how he intends to accomplish anything.
I thought it was brave to take on food stamps considering the 47 percent debacle.
To the chagrin of many hard-core conservatives, he does actually have a great record for bi-partisanship which would be a nice turn, and I’m glad he brought it up.
His little phrase that got me side-tracked was his talk of working with “good Democrats” and “good Republicans.” I just can’t help but wonder what he plans to do with the “bad ones.” Anyway, his closing statements–his appeal to the people was very Reagan-esque in all the best ways.

The moderator’s ending quote was cute. It went something like “My mom said, ‘Go vote. It makes you feel big and strong.” I love this sentiment because that is exactly how voting makes me feel.

Please comment, but be warned, I will delete unnecessary nastiness.

2 thoughts on “Final Debate Review. Mitt’s Missed Opportunities.

  1. I think BOTH men had big missed opportunities, as they both seemed unwilling to take the really big shots in this, their final debate. If the POTUS really wanted to draw some blood, he would haven mentioned Romney’s Europe trip in which he managed to piss off every foreign leader he met and alienate his entire staff. If he was trying to take it to Romney, he would have called him a liar and a cheat for claiming to hate China so much while routinely sending his businesses there to improve their profits.

    On the other hand, I think it’s pretty obvious the POTUS won anyway. The only line you’ve mentioned here I take issue with is the bit about the Navy. I haven’t seen any information indicating that the Navy has asked for more ships. But, I could be wrong, so if you come across anything, let me know, I’d be interested to see. Here is something I DO know: The US has the largest NAvy in the world. To give an example, we currently have 11 active-duty aircraft carrier fleets (featuring a carrier, battleships, support vehicles, submarines, etc). This is, by far and away, more than any other nation on earth. By comparison, China has 3 aircraft carrier fleets, and England has 5. I don’t think it’s correct or accurate to indicate that our Navy isn’t one of the most dominant forces in the world, and Romney was hoping the appearance of weakness would take the place of actual weakness.

    I’d also argue that the bit about president’s needs to be clear is sort of ironic, given Romney’s terrible inability to give a specific answer to anything. For example, when he was asked how he could cut 5 trillion in taxes and add 2 trillion to defense spending (which is the opposite of fiscal responsibility) Romney gave the most vague answer of the night:

    MR. ROMNEY: “The good news is, I’ll be happy to have you take a look. Come on our website, you’ll look at how we get to a balanced budget within eight to 10 years. We do it by getting — by reducing spending in a whole series of programs. By the way, number one I get rid of is “Obamacare.” There are a number of things that sound good but, frankly, we just can’t afford them. And that one doesn’t sound good, and it’s not affordable, so I get rid of that one from day one; to the extent humanly possible, we get that out. We take program after program that we don’t absolutely have to have and we get rid of them.”

    Not a single specific program, other than Obamacare of course. Not. A. Single. One. And since the military doesn’t even WANT the 2 trillion dollars, I can’t help but wonder what Romney is smoking, and how I can get me some.

    Now, Romney was right to his the President on Syria and on Afghanistan, and I would have liked to see questions about higher body counts in Afghanistan, but I think the dance-around would be pretty easy “We’re bringing that conflict to a close, getting the troops out of harms way as our enemies have increased their attacks….choosing better strategy involving drones…..etc”

    Finally, a word on the “Apology Tour.” I have always thought that at times the POTUS over reaches or over extends himself when it comes to his rhetoric. He tends to speak in grander terms than he is capable of, and his soaring rhetoric doesn’t always match what is immediately doable. But this “Apology Tour” stuff gets me a bit riled. America has, in fact, dictated to other countries. America has abolished the armies of Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam and South Korea. America installed dictators in Panama, Iran, Chile and Argentina and has placed puppet governments in the past in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, Colombia, you name it. For the President to indicate that America has, at times, over stepped and behaved wrongly is responsible, honest and decent. It shows a recognition of the mistakes of the past and does nothing to weaken or lessen the possibility to action in the future. But when Conservatives say that Obama was apologizing for America abroad, I always have the following thought:

    ‘No shit, he’s apologizing. Have you seen what we did to some of these people?’

    That’s pragmatic leadership, the ability to rev up drone strikes and increase killings of Al-Qeada leaders while also telling the world you see where America has gone wrong, and you are willing to hear the world when fixing it. Anything less is child like and Romney displayed an unfortunate simplicity in every argument, implying the only way to be strong and free is to swagger onto the world stage with a big gun and dictate a “my way or the highway” attitude to the rest of the world, which is precisely what keeps getting us into these messes.

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