Foreign policy debate fails to move needle
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
At Monday night’s debate, Mitt Romney passed the test and showed that he would be a successful commander in chief. Foreign policy had long been a stumbling block for Romney, but he fixed that problem and then some.
It was widely viewed that while Barack Obama won the debate, he didn’t do so in a decisive enough way to move the needle as much as he needed. Further, several people in the media, including CNN’s David Gergen and Fox’s Chris Wallace, brought up that Obama came across as if he was the challenger in the debate, and Romney was the incumbent. Obama was largely seen as the more combative and negative of the candidates, and he was attacking Romney’s agenda much more than he was defining a budget of his own. This was pointed out by one of Romney’s best lines of the night, “Attacking me is not an agenda.” This isn’t a good position for Obama to be in this late in the game, and I think it’s clear at this point that he recognizes that.
Obama did manage to get another silly one-liner in that is clearly the “Big Bird” and “binders” of this debate, in “bayonets.” His comment about bayonets, part of a response to Romney about modernizing the military, represents another pointless non-sequitur that is dominating the discussion of the debate.
Romney had mentioned that the navy and air force had their forces cut significantly under the Obama administration, and Obama had claimed very sarcastically that the reason we have a smaller navy was because it was an outdated force in our military, and for the same reason we have fewer horses and bayonets. Bayonets are actually still widely used in the marines, and bayonet manufacturers were not happy with Obama’s derisive tone toward them. Again, this is hardly a real issue of the campaign, and a needless distraction from the important problems this country is facing.
Obama also made use of the now very tired phrase “nation building here at home,” which irks me to no end. The line has been used far too much on both sides of the political aisle, but it is largely meaningless. When we talk about nation building overseas, we are talking about building basic structures of government, democratizing dictatorships and changing the hearts and minds of that country’s citizens to be more open to free, fair government.
All that needs to be done in the U.S. is tinkering around the edges. Our nation is already built, it just needs a new paint job. To say that what we need to do here in the U.S. is anything like nation building is absurd, and belittles the scale of the task at hand in these other nations.
The one thing that was very conspicuously missing from the debate: Libya. It was the first question, but it was barely touched on in the answers to the question, and was never brought up since it. I suspect neither Romney or Obama wanted to talk about it. Romney was likely scared of repeating his mistake from last week’s debate, and Obama certainly didn’t want to remind voters about the colossal mistakes made there either.
In general, Romney did a good enough job that he won’t end up sacrificing any of his momentum, but Obama still needs an October surprise to regain a consistent lead.
Keene is a junior majoring in political science, economics and public policy. He can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.