One For The Road

14 days until Election Day, and last night was the last of the 4 debates (3 between Romney and Obama, 1 between Biden and Ryan).  And, even if you are not a foreign policy person, this was left a lasting impression, or at least it should have.

First, as is my custom, let’s look at what the polls taken in the immediate aftermath of the debate said.  Neither were much of a surprise.  CBS had President Obama winning 53% to 23%, while CNN had Obama winning 48% to 40%.

The biggest takeaway for me from last night’s debate was that Mitt Romney just seemed to either be clueless or lacking confidence in the subject matter.  For a candidate who, in the past, has stopped just short of calling for us to bomb Iran on Inauguration Day, he was timid at his best last night.  While he tried and tried to steer the topic back to domestic policy, Romney seemed way out of his element when talking about foreign policy.  He seemed content to agree with and applaud the President for pretty much everything he has done since taking office.  Pulling troops out of Iraq?  Great job, Mr. President.  Timeline in Afghanistan?  We are right there with you, Mr. President.  Giving the order to take out Bin Laden?  Kudos, sir.  These, and many other topics, are ones that Romney has disagreed with the President consistently recently.

President Obama did more than hold his own last night.  He defended and explained his foreign policy very well.  Honestly, it seemed like he dominated the debate last night.  It was like watching the Washington Generals take on the Harlem Globetrotters.  Mr. Obama had a response for everything Romney tried to nail him on.  Sanctions for Iran?  Mr. Romney was in agreement with the President.

In what was probably my favorite moment of the night, Romney tried to nail Mr. Obama about the current level of ships in our Navy.  Romney tried to say that Mr. Obama was all for reducing the size of the Navy because there are fewer ships these days (something like 285 or so, which is a lot less than the 680 our Navy had during Vietnam, by the way).  Below is President Obama’s response:

“You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”

I absolutely loved that moment.  Basically, President Obama was giving Mitt Romney an education about our military.  It is not necessarily the number of ships in the fleet, but the quality of work that they do.  It would seem to me that it is better to have 285 or so highly effective ships in the fleet than to increase that number while possibly decreasing effectiveness.  Our Navy is the best in the world without a doubt, and they are not going to improve because they have more ships.  Our Navy, and our military as a whole, will continue to lead the world as long as we continue to lead in our military technology development.  Mitt Romney got schooled.

At the conclusion of the debate, as is the custom, the families of each candidate came on stage.  That is always an odd moment to me with them all happily chatting away with each other like they are at a cocktail party.  Before the debate, I was sure that Tagg Romney was in the audience, and would be ready and willing to charge onto the stage and flip the table over when President Obama called out his dad; luckily that did not happen.  After the debate, I watched closely to see if Tagg would be cautious in approaching the President, given that he had threatened him last week.  The two did meet and shake hands, and I would love to know what was said.  In my head, President Obama said something like, “Tagg, be careful when you threaten me because I hear Gitmo gets hot in the summer.”  That is most likely not what he said, but it is probably what I would have said.



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