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Monday, October 22, 2012

Foreign Policy Debate: Romney's Coming Out Party

Foreign Policy Debate:
Romney’s Coming Out Party

Tonight’s third and final Presidential debate focused primarily on foreign policy.  The topics discussed ranged from Libya and the Middle East, to Iran, to China, to America’s role in the world.  All in all, it was an excellent night for Mitt Romney.
The night started rough for President Obama, but not as rough as it could have been.  It took him a good half hour to really get comfortable.  After that, the President did well in the debate.  Both men were in command of facts and seemed knowledgeable.  It gave viewers a good chance to see the distinctions in their approaches.
There were a few lines that stood out to me.  Romney made a comment early on that set an important tone, when he said to Mr. Obama, “Attacking me is not an agenda.”  It spoke to the tone of the debate to that point.  Obama was attacking things that Romney said, or his proposed agenda.  Romney, by contrast, laid out an agenda and in distinguishing himself from the President, highlighted areas in which Mr. Obama’s record has been weak.
Romney also briefly brought up Obama’s assurance to Russia that he will be “more flexible after the election.”  I think that is actually a terrifying comment that has gotten far too little notice, and it was important that Romney mentioned it, though I thought it deserved more attention during the debate as well.
The only comment the whole night that set me off at all was during the President’s closing statement, when he “promised to always listen to [the American people’s] voices.”  Considering I spent my Saturday afternoon at a religious freedom rally precisely because Mr. Obama has already broken that promise, I had a hard time taking him seriously.
When it came to substance, both men were very good.  Democrats will declare an Obama victory and Republicans will declare a Romney victory.  I see the evening as a clear win for Romney, and here’s why:
Foreign policy was the one area left where Mr. Romney was potentially vulnerable.  But tonight he was intelligent, on point, and most importantly, Presidential.  Though I wouldn’t say Mr. Obama looked un-Presidential, Romney topped him in that area.
By showing the country that he is capable of being Commander-in-Chief, he scored a big win as far as the election goes.  I thought early on that Romney made a big mistake by letting Obama off the hook with regard to Libya and the continuing fiasco surrounding it (God rest the souls of our departed).  But actually, that may have worked in his favor.  News is coming out daily about Libya, and by laying out his agenda without rehashing attacks on the President, it made him appear more stately.  Mr. Obama seemed to keep throwing jabs at Romney, while the governor responded and then pressed ahead with a vision for going forward.
Mr. Obama did a fine job defending his record, and he also sounded reasonable and intelligent.  But current events aren’t on his side, and the fact that Romney appeared to comfortably fit the part of Commander-in-Chief makes it hard to imagine the debate will change things in Obama’s favor.  On the contrary, though I expect the race to remain a dead heat, if anyone helped his cause tonight, I think it was definitely Mr. Romney.