Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Final Debate -- Three Little Words

Final Debate: The Decisive Draw

On October 22 The Gallup poll had Romney up by six points prior to the debate; Romney had the momentum and was gaining in all of the battleground states.  This was, therefore,  a must-win debate for President Obama.  He was desperately hoping that Governor Romney would make some kind of grave faux pas in the their debate last night on foreign policy.  Obama has, after all, been President for the past four years.  He has steered the ship of state.  He has had full access to our intelligence services.  Obama has a reputation as a foreign policy expert while Governor Romney is more of a novice when it comes to foreign policy.  This should have been an easy win for Obama.

It did not turn out that way.  Romney more than held his own when it came to foreign policy.  He spoke with knowledge and assurance about the principal foreign policy hot spots throughout the world.    He found common ground with President Obama on a surprising number of issues.  He seemed Presidential.

Are you, dear reader, old enough to remember the "good old days" when partisanship in the USA was supposed to stop at the water's edge?  FDR fought World War II with an able Republican Secretary of War -- Henry Stimson.  Truman initiated the policy of "containment" of the Soviet Union which was continued under Eisenhower and then passed to Kennedy, etc.  During the Reagan years the bipartisan consensus on foreign policy eroded and during the Presidency of George W. Bush it nearly vanished entirely.

Last night we witnessed Governor Romney's attempt to resurrect a bipartisan American foreign policy.  There was widespread agreement between Obama and Romney with regard to most major foreign policy issues.  Both want out of Afghanistan by 2014.  Both candidates support the "surge" or "escalation" in Afghanistan; a policy which Commander Kelly, by the way, deems to have cost much and accomplished little.  Both support sanctions against Iran and find the prospect of Iranian nuclear weapons unacceptable.  Both seem unwilling to commit American military forces to Syria (e.g. implementation of a No Fly Zone) or anywhere else unless as a last resort.

Right from the outset, it appeared that there was a "gentleman's agreement" between both candidates not to press the issue of Libya which could have given the appearance of exploiting a tragedy for political benefit.  Perhaps that is just as well.

Romney needed to reassure the electorate that he is not a warmonger and that he is not George W. Bush.  Romney is a successful businessman who sincerely longs to preside over a period of peace and a return to prosperity.  Obama also wants to pull back our force commitments around the globe.  They are both essentially dove candidates.  Personally, I feel it would have been wiser for both candidates to not explicitly take any option off the table with regard to Syria or Iran -- though I recognize that such a policy would have poll-tested disastrously for either candidate.

Obama went over to the attack on numerous occasions.  This made him look peevish and frankly Un-Presidential.  While he may may scored numerous points in the course of the debate -- which included a well-rehearsed sentimental rhapsody on avenging 9/11 victims -- his tone was off-putting. After Obama pointedly told him, “every time you've offered an opinion, you've been wrong,” Romney responded: “Attacking me is not an agenda.”

Romney may not have won the debate outright, but he fared well enough to continue his momentum to a victory on November 6.  Romney will not so much have won the election as Obama will have lost it.

How did Obama lose it?  Pundits have already begun to ask the question, "Where did Obama go wrong in his bid for re-election?"   How could a "like-able" incumbent blow his chances?

First, the President relied upon a flawed strategy in his race.  His campaign focused on attacking Romney with irrelevant charges (he makes too much money, doesn't pay enough taxes, Bain Capital outsources jobs, etc.).  His campaign then moved from the wildly irrelevant to the hysterically shrill charges epitomized by Biden in the Veep debate and embraced by Obama's tone in the second and third Presidential contests.  Now we are in the endgame of this election and the Obama campaign is rapidly moving into its political death spiral phase where recrimination will dominate.

Second, Obama's greatest enemy in this campaign has surely been...Obama.  He is not a natural politician who loves the rough and tumble of the game of politics.  For whatever reason, his heart has not really been in this campaign.  In his recent Alfred Smith dinner speech he declared with utmost sincerity that, win or lose, this would be his last political campaign.  Again and again, he has committed political Seppuku with horrendous self-inflicted verbal gaffes. Consider his comment in Roanoke Virginia on  7/1/4/12 when he said, "If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.”   With that one comment he managed to antagonize all business owners, all those who aspire to owning a business and all those who are gratefully employed by an American business.  Others may point to Obama's reiteration of Jon Stewart's unfortunate remark regarding Benghazi -- "If four Americans get killed, it is not optimal".

My favorite Obama self-sabotaging moment, however, took place last night in this their final debate.  In discussing the administration's support of the Arab spring in Tunisia, President Obama used three very telling words.  Obama said, "This Nation. Me."  http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-TV/2012/10/22/Obama-This-Nation-Me. In just three words, Obama managed to channel the spirit of Louis XIV, "L'etat, c'est moi (I am the state)."

"L'Etat C'est Moi"  Louis XIV

With those three words what might have been merely a "draw" was transformed into a debacle for Obama's re-election hopes.  If you live in a battleground state expect to see this message -- "This Nation. Me." repeated endlessly on TV and radio until election day.

This is why I love Presidential debates.  The voters are able to see how these candidates for the highest office in the land perform under pressure and, despite all the coaching and debate prep, often surprising truths about character are revealed.

Last night, Obama's narcissism (President "Eye Candy") was on full display.
Governor Romney presented himself credibly as a politician who can reach across the aisle in a bi-partisan fashion to get things done in Washington.  Obama, on the other hand, came across as supercilious and condescending.  No wonder Republicans and many in his own party have found it impossible to work with him!  To vote for Obama in 2012 a voter must prefer Obama AND GRIDLOCK; for that is what we would have received in an Obama second term.

Commander Kelly concludes with a prediction, "Ohio might have voted for President Obama; Ohio will not vote for Louis XIV".   

1 comment:

P Scott Cummins said...

Another great post! Have you presented at the Henry Jackson Society near Lincoln's Inn/King's College? The irony never fails me, that he is almost forgotten in his home state, but a dynamic organization in London bears his name...