Monday, October 22, 2012

Quick & Dirty Views on the Obama/Romney Debate: Round Three

Tonight's third debate between President Obama and Governor Romney had a different feel that the others, to my eyes and ears. Less contentious, overall - perhaps neither that that truly fighting was appropriate during a discussion on foreign policy. Nobody wants someone with an itchy trigger finger.

It had the feel of a job interview more than either of the previous rounds, with the President firmly in place, and Gov. Romney looking for every opening to usurp his position. Interestingly, on much of the foreign policy in place, the two seemed to agree on actions taken in general, which led to some interesting strategy.

Head to Head

Romney - Agree where it makes sense, even to the point of deflating the President's power point of taking out Bin Laden by conceding the point before it could come up.

Obama - Reiterate record, and point out opponents history of not wanting to move heaven and earth to capture Bin Laden. Related a touching story about a 15 year old reaching closure with her father's death, who she last spoke to when she was four, and he called from the World Trade Center.

Romney - Insist that he would be stronger even on current policies, and suggest that the President didn't act fast enough.

Obama - Suggest Romney was 'wrong and reckless' in his approach, implying the Governor didn't have the experience needed to have a finesse approach.

Romney - Painted America, and the president, as weak in the eyes of the world, in terms of foreign policy and strength of alliances, our military, and the economy.

Obama - Insisted we were stronger than ever in the eyes of the world, that Romney didn't understand our military position, and that Romney's economy would strengthen China more than the United States.

Romney - Repeated that 'the world is four years closer to a nuclear Iran' and that while he agreed with sanctions in place, insisted they were not strong enough. Mentioned '10,000 centrifuges spinning Uranium' that didn't exist before.

Obama - Described a weak and crippled Iran, a partnership of countries dedicated to keeping them weak until they backed away from nuclear. Didn't address centrifuges.

Romney - Mentioned the President's 'Apology Tour' quoting the president as saying the U.S. had been dismissive in the past, as well as his seeming indifference to Israel. Stated he would strengthen our relationship with Israel. When asked, confirmed he would stand with Israel were it attacked, but didn't want to address a hypothetical about Israel attacking Iran.

Obama - Called the 'Apology Tour' the biggest whopper of the campaign, and positioned it as a way of building relationships. Recalled his trip to Israel as a candidate as 'not a fundraising event', implying Romney's visit WAS, and that he used his time to tour the country and get in touch with what it's place in history and the present world was. Also stated he would stand with Israel in warfare directed towards them, but didn't address hypothetical.

We'll Talk About the Economy if We Want Too!

Governor Romney was the first to bring up the economy, claiming our weakened financial state showed weakness to the world, and used it as a segue to discuss his five point plan for economic success.

The President responded in kind, again insisting Romney's plans kept changing, weren't fully disclosed, and would create more debt. .

They again disagreed on Romney's stance that auto companies should be allowed to go into managed bankruptcies.

Overall, it was a repeat of the same economic rhetoric we heard in the first two debates. Perhaps it needed to be brought out simply to give them a wider opportunity to disagree, since they essentially agreed on most aspects of foreign policy.


The attack on our embassy in Libya came up first, but didn't seem to be nearly as fiery as the last debate. Both men said their peace, and it wasn't really brought up, that situation specifically, the rest of the evening.

Governor Romney, instead of going on the attack about what he has termed a failure in Libya, used the opportunity to bring up problems throughout the world, as he continued his attempt to weaken the President's image of a policy-maker. He also offered a multi-step plan to strengthen nations we're bringing democracy to, suggesting many areas are in 'tumult'

Pres. Obama, took a firm stance again as Commander-in-Chief, and reiterated that he would go after those who killed our countrymen. Then he segued into what he perceived as friend-building throughout the world, while saying his opponent was all over the map on his foreign policy, beginning his effort to bring Romney's foreign policy experience into doubt.


Both candidates felt China could be a strong partner, but Obama led with 'adversary that can become a partner', while Romney implied China was a potential partner first, and we had enough leverage to bring them in line. Both want China to play on a more even economic field, with Romney making a strong commitment to categorize them as a 'currency manipulator' and work to prevent them from stealing our technology and intellectual property, going into a story about a valve manufacturer discovering identical copies of their product, down to the serial number, sent to be repaired under warranty.

In a quick volley, the President said Romney sent jobs to China, and his economic plan to create tax breaks for companies sending jobs overseas would result in more jobs than ever going overseas, and cited Romney's record of opposing sanctions in a recent legal action against China flooding the U.S. with 'cheap tires'.

Big Hits?

The President had some quotable lines:

- Wrong and reckless
- He also brought up Romney's statement that Russia was our biggest threat, suggesting the 1980's wanted their foreign policy back. (Editor's addendum: In a sweeping attempt to indict his opponent, he stated "you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s")
- Replying to Romney's statement about our weak military, and smallest Navy since 1916: 'we also have fewer horses and bayonets' and suggesting the Navy is different than before, not a game of Battleship.
- While not directly referring to 'Romnesia', a popularized term in the last week, he did say that Romney was 'airbrushing his record'
- When Romney suggested people go to his website to get more insight into his economic plan, Obama rebutted 'We've been to your website, several times, and don't see much'

Romney was also sharp, but seemed determined not to create more soundbytes comparable to 'Big Bird' and 'Binders Full of Women'.

- He had clearly done his homework, bringing up situations around the globe in very specific terms, from Egypt to Libya to North Korea to Mali.
- Pounded into the audiences minds the notion of 'Four years closer to a nuclear Iran' and repeatedly used the term 'tumult' to describe world political situations.
- Highlighted his financial and budget-balancing successes in business, the Olympics and government, insisting he could do it as President.
- Took a strong stance against the president of Syria, insisting he must be ousted.
- Mentioned several times that the President 'attacking me isn't a strategy for the future' - an idea that echoes his VP's comments that a candidate in trouble resorts to attacking his adversary vs. touting his own ideas.

Closing Statements

President Obama had first draw, restating his stances on the economy, education, a strong military, and the theme of nation building at home that would benefit veterans. He again suggested we had two paths, back to failed policies, or 'Forward' to a more prosperous future. His final push was that we would bounce back as a country based on our character, sounding for all the world like someone saying 'trust me, we'll make it work'.

Governor Romney looked more presidential than ever, continuing to imply the President was weak in the eyes of the world - the overall mission, it seemed, of his debate. He stated he would bring strong leadership and create a safe country. As Obama promised in 2008, he declared America could come back by going 'across the aisle', and suggested we were 'broken' but could still be the hope for the world, and carry the torch for a better future.

The Moderator

Bob Shieffer, from CBS News, proved the most able of the three moderators to date. He offered pointed questions, kept the candidates moving, and both candidates seemed to show him more respect than given to either Mr. Lehrer or Ms. Crowley. He stayed calm but firm, and masterfully bridged the candidates from question to question.

So Who Won?

Both shone brightly tonight as speakers. There were fewer instances of talking over one another, though the President tried several times to break in as the Governor seemed determined to make up the minutes he lost in the second debate. The Governor wouldn't let Obama in, and occasionally talked over Bob Shieffer. Pres. Obama also battled for time, and often started going overtime with the words 'let me say this because' and would continue for up to a minute or more.

It was filled with Obama saying 'You said/did this' and Romney saying 'No I didn't' or 'That just wrong'. Each candidate continued to insist their economic plan would work while the others would not - the President on the strength of Romney's lack of specifics and bad math, and Romney on the strength of his experience vs. the weakness of the President's record.

On the strength of foreign policy, I'd give the win to the President. The Governor simply didn't have enough new ideas to add to the discussion. On the strength of the closing, Gov. Romney appeared crisper and more confident than the President. If all America remembers are the final few minutes, the debate goes to Romney.


It's certainly been interesting analyzing these debates. Both have improved since their first meeting, as speakers, and as candidates. Will these debates matter? Will the polls matter? It's tough to say. Go out and vote - whether you think it matters or not, you can only be certain it will not matter if you don't.

Click to check out my review of the First Debate, and/or the Second Debate.


  1. Nice job on the comments. I like how you avoided the bias so many others (i.e. everybody else) add to their analysis. Great points and I appreciate the recap!

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