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Archive for Monday, October 22, 2012

Analysis: Obama, on the attack, finds subdued Romney

October 22, 2012

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— President Barack Obama came ready Monday for a fighting finish, deriding Mitt Romney as reckless and overmatched in world affairs. Instead he found a subdued challenger who was eager to agree and determined to show he was not a warmonger.

Romney starkly moderated his tone and his approach in the closing debate. Playing it safe, he tried not to unnerve undecided voters who are wary of another U.S.-led war, or to upend a race that remains remarkably tight with two weeks to go.

No moment was more telling than when Romney had a clear opening to respond to Obama’s lecture that he was wrong and irresponsible on foreign affairs. He responded by giving his five-point plan for fixing the economy, leading to a bizarre exchange that took the debate wildly off topic.

It showed how much the commander in chief was in his comfort zone, where the challenger regretted that he was not in his.

The last debate turned into a mirror of the first one, when Romney had been the aggressor and Obama was intent not to fiercely challenge him. Even in trying to outline differences with Obama, Romney often started by agreeing with him. Suddenly, it was Romney the Republican who was talking about supporting economies abroad, while Obama the Democrat warned against nation-building.

From drones to Afghanistan to Syria, Romney and Obama spoke in agreement on goals, if not strategy.

The president’s biggest vulnerability — last month’s deadly assault on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, and all the unanswered questions that surround it — barely surfaced. Romney seemed to pass on the opportunity to assail Obama’s leadership and shifting messages on the attack.

Obama accomplished portraying himself as a world leader, facing a former governor who he said had offered positions that sent a mixed, and unsettling, message to allies and the American people.

He did so at times mockingly, but faced little fire in return.

“I know you haven’t been in a position to actually execute foreign policy, but every time you’ve offered an opinion, you’ve been wrong,” Obama told Romney.

He needled Romney the businessman for complaining that today’s Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917, trying to hold Romney up as ignorant and unfit for the job.

“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.”

Romney’s clearest points were to try to turn Obama’s most aggressive moments against him, and to outline a more comprehensive strategy for combatting the extremism that has roiled the Middle East and North Africa. Even then, his tone stood out. Politely.

“Well, of course I don’t concur with what the president said about my own record and the things that I’ve said,” he said. “They don’t happen to be accurate. ... Attacking me is not an agenda.”

With the race extremely tight and several states hanging in the balance, Romney sought to show he was reassuring, poised and in essence, presidential.

Yet he seemed to lose some of the edge that gave his campaign a bump in the first debate.

Trying to capitalize on the mood of voters, Obama has campaigned as the leader who ends the wars, not the guy who begins new ones. Romney tried to combat that by saying, for example, that he would not get the United States involved militarily in Syria even though he wants to find a way to arm the opposition.

Yet millions of viewers at home were often left to discern exactly how much Romney and Obama differ in a world of diplomacy that is enormously difficult and nuanced.

Before the debate, Romney aides said they believed viewers would, above all, be looking for Romney to demonstrate leadership and confidence. His answers often appeared driven to show he understand the regions, players and challenges at play instead of undermining the president’s positions on them.

The moderate Romney was dominant.

On Afghanistan, for example, Romney said he also would bring troops home by 2014. Often, though, Romney would agree in principle before saying he would have executed differently.

Romney congratulated the president on killing Osama bin Laden, for example, but then said, “We can’t kill our way out of this mess.” He agreed that sanctions were hurting Iran, but then said he would have initiated them sooner than Obama did. Romney also said he agreed with Obama’s decision to stop supporting Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak — “I supported (Obama’s) action there” — but said he would have been more “aggressive” in trying to encourage democracy.

After a whole year in which foreign affairs has been the undercard of the campaign fight, it got its moment with the stakes right where they should be — high.

The presidency is about the world even during inward-looking times. Currency standoffs with China, nuclear showdowns with Iran and military tensions around the globe affect the economy and security of the United States.

The debate season ended with Romney looking like he wanted to get off the stage and back on the economy. That, ultimately, is where this election will be settled.

Comments

Bob Forer 2 years, 2 months ago

Mormon believe that God the Father used to be a man on another planet, that he became a God by following the laws and ordinances of that God on that planet and came to this world with his wife (she became a goddess), and that they produce a spirit offspring in heaven. These spirit offspring, which includes Jesus, the devil, and you and me, are all brothers and sisters born in the preexistence. These preexistence spirits come down and inhabit babies at the time of birth and their memories of the preexistence are lost at the time. Furthermore, faithful Mormons, who pay a full 10% tithe of their income to the Mormon church through Mormon temples, have the potential of becoming gods of their own planets and are then able to start the procedure over again.

It is indeed mind boggling that when given the choice between one of their own and a Mormon, around 1/2 of all Christians will be voting for the Mormon. What next? Atheists and communists in the White House?

My, my, I didn't realize that about half of all Christians are bat$hit crazy.

somedude20 2 years, 2 months ago

I hear that the planet Kolob is nice this time of year

SnakeFist 2 years, 2 months ago

You posted the same comment to a different article. U.S. soldiers don't use their bayonets for anything other than opening MREs. The bayonet is no longer a weapon, its a tool. Romney's strategy is to buy more bayonets to ensure our troops are well-armed, when what we need are more drones and missiles. Try to keep up with the changing world, JoeGumby.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 2 months ago

Obama's performance in the last two debates indicates that his lackluster performance in the first debate was a form of forensic "ropa-dope."

jafs 2 years, 2 months ago

Maybe.

But why bother? It seems to have made the race a lot closer, and cost him points.

I had a funny thought that maybe he did it on purpose to spur contributions, and energize his base to get out, help people register, etc.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 2 months ago

"But why bother?"

Because the "debate bounce" that really matters is the one that happens closest to the election-- the only poll that really counts (although the results of that poll vary greatly depending on who's doing the counting, as we well know from Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004.)

jafs 2 years, 2 months ago

But there's no need to perform so badly in the first debate, in order to perform strongly in the next two, right?

jonas_opines 2 years, 2 months ago

Honestly, and I only saw clips, didn't see the whole thing, he mostly looked ill to me. He looked a little grey in the face.

If it was strategy, it was a bad one. It lost him something of a cushion.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 2 months ago

Given the riskiness of a rope-a-dope strategy, your explanation is certainly the more plausible.

chootspa 2 years, 2 months ago

Nah. People like to claim he's playing 5D chess sometimes, when really he's just having an off day. I don't think he'd have lost that many points on purpose. Early voting started in some states before he started the second debate. It would have been a foolish strategy.

Gary Anderson 2 years, 2 months ago

Wow...I wasn't going to vote because I thought Obama was ahead...thanks for letting us all know every Obama vote counts! Think I'll go make a donation too...thanks again!

Seth Peterson 2 years, 2 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

paulveer 2 years, 2 months ago

S-Page, would you like to wager who will win the election? How about the loser has to shut up for a day? No posting for an entire day on the day after the election, and no going back and posting on stories first posted that day. I pick Obama to win. Are we on?

Lets raise the stakes: If Obama wins, you may only refer to him on this site as President Obama for the next 4.5 years. If Romney wins, I will only refer to him here as President Romney.

Put up and/or shut up.

paulveer 2 years, 2 months ago

I'm not interested in changing personal user names. I'm just interested in the loser giving respect, on this board, to the winner's president of choice.

Let me know.

Seth Peterson 2 years, 2 months ago

Awww, I pointed out that you're spreading misinformation and intentionally trolling and being dishonest, so they removed my post. Truly with as often as they let you comeback and post what you post the service agreement means very little (plus none of my posts violate it).

Anyway; original point: more accurate and in depth study from FiveThirtyEight gives Obama a 7-3 favorite to win the electoral college and retain his presidency.

Keep suggesting removal - it's fairly ironic from someone who has been banned more than a dozen times.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 2 months ago

So what's that make Romney-- the last fart of said ship?

Ceallach 2 years, 2 months ago

What was that odd cobra-stare Obama used through 95% of the debate? I understood it's use the first couple of times, but then it seemed to become locked in place and looked more than a little contrived and well, silly. I wonder who told him that was a good idea?

Ceallach 2 years, 2 months ago

Must be. The first and last debates were disappointing to me. Its so hard to watch a debate with only one participant.

verity 2 years, 2 months ago

I get confused with all the disappearededs and phoenix risings going on recently, but it doesn't take long to figure out which commenters to just scroll right over.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 2 months ago

Looks like KG's latest incarnation has been disappeared, as well.

blindrabbit 2 years, 2 months ago

As an old Navy salt, I agree the size (number of Navy ships) has decreased over the years, although now slightly more than Dubyas final term. But why: Several reasons: (1) Current ships are much more mulidimentional than the old types in service, even as recently as VietNam when we had 500+, (2) During the time of high ship numbers, all auxillary types (tankers, ammos, supplys, refers, icebreakers, etc.) were staffed by naval personnel and counted in the total. Now, these types are crewed primarily by civilian crews and not counted in total numbers; but his does mean that their capability is lost. As an example, during VietNam the U.S. Navy had at least 15 ammunition ships in active duty, now none, all are crewed by civilian crews with Navy commanders, and not counted in the total. (3) Propulsion types now in the modern Navy are more reliable, easier deployable and easier to refuel, therefore need for less ships. Nuclear and gas turbines are more modern and faster than steam reciprocatings, oil fired steam producers and diesels (4) Also, a bone to pick with Romney's comments, even though he addressed the military needs, not one mention about the needs of the military personnel; maybe one of his softsided son's should have spent some time there and he could have better related.

Armstrong 2 years, 2 months ago

Seems like Ben Feller is the pen name for Rachel ( I have the worlds largest hands ) Madcow

blindrabbit 2 years, 2 months ago

Ceallach: The cobra like stare the you attribute to President Obama during the 3rd debate has more significance than you realize. If you have ever watched a cobra charmer, the corba moves it's head and stare in relation to the shifting movement of the charmer. Although, I cannot relate to Romney being a "charmer" he definitely is a shifty character. Flip flopping, exasketching, pandering to the TeaParty, NeoCons and the high money types of Adelson, Kochs, CitizensAmerica and Rove indicates that he has a tough dance to coreograph. I'll give Romney the credit, he certaintly leared from the champion flip-flopper Jon McCain, a guy who never was on the loosing side regardless of his original position on any issue.

James Minor 2 years, 2 months ago

John McCain was a true flip flopper. Ole Mitt is a waffler and a used car salesman saying anything to get you to vote for him. But, I will give Johnnie credit even though he picked Sara Palin who is dumber than a waffle iron, she is nice to look at!!!

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