Class was in session Monday night in Boca Raton, Fla., as President Barack Obama delivered a lesson in how to conduct foreign policy to an underachieving student in challenger Mitt Romney.
This was the third and final presidential debate, hosted at Lynn University, and focused entirely on foreign policy.
Much like the second debate, Obama came out from the beginning energized and with a game plan that was executed with authority and precision.
Romney wasn’t horrible, but he could do little more than hold on with his fingernails in answering each question.
He was like a student that crammed the night before a big test using only CliffsNotes. He provided broad outlines, but lacked a depth of knowledge required to adequately discuss these complex foreign policy matters.
From leaving reserve forces in Iraq, placing sanction against Iran for their perceived nuclear build-up, troop departures in Afghanistan, and the handling of political unrest in the Middle East – Obama demonstrated a more cogent understanding of the global implications at hand, and that the plans he executed were not only correct but also successful.
You could see the heat Romney was feeling having to be seated at a table with such a competent counterpart, and a moderator in Bob Schieffer, who refused any of Romney’s attempts to run past time deadlines or re-answer questions after Obama had bested him.
After the first 30-minutes Romney was sweating like a Tom Turkey the day before Thanksgiving. It was pouring down the sides of his face.
As it was quickly apparent how fragile his footing was in this arena against the president, it became a “me too” night for Romney. He tried to sound more hawkish on issues by contradicting the president but ultimately Romney had nothing further to offer than what the Obama administration was already doing.
Romney also put his considerable flip-flopping skills on display again as he backtracked from a position on Afghanistan he had held for the past 18 months. Previously Romney had criticized Obama for setting a hard deadline for troop withdrawal in our nation’s longest war, now two weeks before the election he magically agreed with the president.
“You said that first we should not have a timeline in Afghanistan, then you said we should, now you say maybe or it depends, which means not only were you wrong but you also were confusing and sending mixed messages both to our troops and our allies,” said President Obama. “What we need to do with respect to the Middle East is strong, steady leadership, not wrong and reckless leadership that is all over the map.”
It went like this much of the night for Romney as he tried to evolve his positions from the saber-rattling extremist views he held through the primary and into the general election, to now running hard to the moderate middle as election day draws near, in an attempt to convince soccer moms in Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Iowa that he isn’t some right-wing radical.
Meanwhile President Obama coherently and concisely explained how over the past four years he has made America safer by building up cooperative friendships throughout the world that have allowed for crippling sanctions to be placed on Iran, led to the death of Osama bin Laden, and removed dictators from power like Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi.
Admittedly, as a challenger Romney is not in a position to make foreign policy decisions, but he has traveled internationally as a candidate and embarrassed himself there. In fact every instance where Romney has tried to assert his leadership on a foreign policy matter he has been incorrect and later had to modify his position.
“I’m glad that you recognize that al-Qaeda is a threat, because a few months ago when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia, not al-Qaeda; you said Russia,” said President Obama. “And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because the Cold War has been over for 20 years. But governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and economic policies of the 1920s.”
Again this showed how Romney’s statements change depending upon who is in the room or what the polls show.
Any fool can talk about bombing Iran, but like with Bush and Cheney after they unilaterally elected to invade Iraq, there are long-lasting implications, financially and politically. Not to mention the lives of American soldiers would be on the line as well.
It is not beyond consideration that Romney and the Republicans might look upon Iran as an attractive target, which would reap profits for their industrial complex buddies, provide a political distraction, and delay bringing all our troops home at once, since that would necessitate finding them jobs.
Once again Obama was the only candidate that spoke about caring for our veterans after they returned home. The Republicans talk a great game about supporting the troops until they come home injured and are of no use to them anymore.
The debate turned to domestic affairs in regard to how having a strong economy and a lower debt would re-position America to be more competitive internationally.
Where Obama caught Romney was on the auto-industry bailout. There was no defense for Romney’s well-publicized position that he would have allowed Detroit to go bankrupt, without federal guarantees to keep them open. Obama infused the industry with cash, saved those jobs and now the automakers are solvent.
The president signaled that jobs, research, and education are what will allow America to prosper into the future, and keep its position as an innovative leader. That requires a commitment.
Romney has a vapid five-point plan that cannot be fulfilled. His tax and budget strategies, as best can be identified since he refuses to disclose how they would work or be funded, show a Romney administration that puts education, research and health care on the back burner, by stripping their funding.
Romney essentially played a prevent defense all night. He knew he couldn’t win this debate so he dropped back to play it safe, rarely engaging the president, in hopes of not making any huge mistakes.
Romney bluffed. He gambled that American voters pay too little attention to penalize him for vacillating on so many significant policy positions.
This becomes a character issue. I do not believe Mitt Romney, nor do I trust what he says.
It would be one thing if we had transparency with Romney. But he still will not adequately answer when he left Bain Capital. He refuses to disclose additional years of his tax returns, which would validate his explanation and let the public know how much he bets against America by investing in foreign countries or offshore tax shelters.
His tax plan and budget policies don’t work mathematically, and he will not fully detail how he plans to fund them.
He is blatantly hiding these answers and panders to special interest and the wealthy behind closed doors – infamously writing off 47 percent of Americans as “takers.”
Yes the economy still needs improvement, but it has consistently grown stronger under Obama’s stewardship.
This was a commanding performance by President Obama in showing how he has rebuilt America and has it back on a righteous path.
Romney keeps singing that same old song wealthy Republicans love – that folks at the top don’t have to play by the same rules as everyone else. In 10 days we can say to these robber barons that yes the rules do apply to them by re-electing Barack Obama.
Multiple Choice Mitt is too sketchy and too reckless.
America is better off now than it was four years ago, and President Obama deserves another four years to finish the commendable work he has already begun.