Opinion: Romney’s calm approach wins debate

October 27, 2012


— OK, OK. I’ll give you the context. Obama was talking about “when Tunisians began to protest, this nation, me, my administration, stood with them.” Still. How many democratic leaders (de Gaulle excluded) would place the word “me” in such regal proximity to the word “nation”?

Obama would have made a very good Bourbon. He’s certainly not a very good debater. He showed it again Monday night.

Obama lost. His tone was petty and small. Arguing about Iran’s nuclear program, he actually said to Mitt Romney, “While we were coordinating an international coalition to make sure these sanctions were effective, you were still invested in a Chinese state oil company that was doing business with the Iranian oil sector.” You can’t get smaller than that. You’d expect this in a city council race. But only from the challenger. The sitting councilman would find such an ad hominem beneath him.

That spirit led Obama into a major unforced error. When Romney made a perfectly reasonable case to rebuild a shrinking Navy, Obama condescended: “You mentioned ... 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.”

Such that naval vessels are as obsolete as horse cavalry?

Liberal pundits got a great guffaw out of this, but the underlying argument is quite stupid. As if the ships being retired are dinghies, skipjacks and three-masted schooners. As if an entire branch of the armed forces — the principal projector of American power abroad — is itself some kind of anachronism.

“We have these things called aircraft carriers,” continued the schoolmaster, “where planes land on them.”

This is Obama’s case for fewer vessels? Does he think carriers patrol alone? He doesn’t know that for every one carrier, 10 times as many ships sail in a phalanx of escorts?

Obama may blithely dismiss the need for more ships, but the Navy wants at least 310 and the latest Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel report says that defending America’s vital interests requires 346 ships (versus 287 today). Does anyone doubt that if we continue, as we are headed, down to fewer than 230, the casualty will be entire carrier battle groups, precisely the kind of high-tech force multipliers that Obama pretends our national security requires?

Romney, for his part, showed himself to be fluent enough in foreign policy, although I could have done with a little less Mali (two references) and a lot less “tumult” (five).

But he did have the moment of the night when he took after Obama’s post-inauguration world apology tour. Obama, falling back on his base, flailingly countered that “every fact checker and every reporter” says otherwise.

Oh yeah? What about Obama declaring that America had “dictated” to other nations?

“Mr. President,” said Romney, “America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators.”

Obama, rattled, went off into a fog beginning with “if we’re going to talk about trips that we’ve taken,” followed by a rambling travelogue of a 2008 visit to Israel. As if this is about trip-taking, rather than about defending — versus denigrating — the honor of the United States while on foreign soil. Americans may care little about Syria and nothing about Mali. But they don’t like presidents going abroad confirming the calumnies of tin-pot dictators.

The rest of Romney’s debate performance was far more passive. He refused the obvious chance to pulverize Obama on Libya. I would’ve taken a baseball bat to Obama’s second-debate claim that no one in his administration, including him, had misled the country on Benghazi. (The misleading is beyond dispute. The only question is whether it was intentional, i.e. deliberate deceit, or unintentional, i.e. scandalous incompetence.) Romney, however, calculated differently: Act presidential. Better use the night to assume a reassuring, non-contentious demeanor.

Romney’s entire strategy in both the second and third debates was to reinforce the status he achieved in debate No. 1 as a plausible alternative president. He therefore went bipartisan, accommodating, above the fray and, above all, nonthreatening.

That’s what Reagan did with Carter in their 1980 debate. If your opponent’s record is dismal and the country quite prepared to toss him out — but not unless you pass the threshold test — what do you do?

Romney chose to do a Reagan: Don’t quarrel. Speak softly. Meet the threshold.

We’ll soon know whether steady-as-she-goes was the right choice.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


KEITHMILES05 5 years, 7 months ago

Romney was "calm" because he came across as disrespectful and argumentive and outright lying in the other debates. He showed he is woefully lacking in understanding foreign policy. Just another wafffffooooowww of a column wanting a multi-millionaire to lead this country.

weeslicket 5 years, 7 months ago

"If Obama wins the election on Nov 6, will articles of impeachment be brought on Nov 7?"

probably. four years of obstinant disregard for the nation's well-being can't possibly be enough.

weeslicket 5 years, 7 months ago

the etch-a-sketch candidate was clearly shaken again during the third debate.

beatrice 5 years, 7 months ago

Well, it is hard to get stirred up when your main debate tactic was to look at the President and say "I agree." I haven't heard so much agreement with the President's foreign policies since I stopped once on MSNBC.

Romney is desperate to now appear as a moderate for independent voters, in the same way he was desperate to appear as a conservative during the Republican primaries, in the same way he was desperate to appear as a liberal when he ran for governor. He is the most transparently phoney politician to run for major office we have ever seen. He will say whatever he thinks his audience at the moment wants to hear. If he become president, it would be interesting to see which Romney would show up. (My guess is super conservative, anti-women's rights, supply-side economic, pro-wealthy above all others Romney would be in the White House, since that is the Romney who ran Bain.)

Obama won the third debate in a big way, and it will likely carry him into a second term. If he gets a second term, it will be interesting to see how Republicans in Congress act once their primary goal of making him a one-term president is no longer an option.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 7 months ago

ummmm...you might want to check in with http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/ Before your knee starts jerking, even tho it is affiliated with the New York Times, Nate Silver who does the analysis has proven to be the best political prognosticator out there, using groups of polls and doing advanced statistical analysis to chart the campaign progress.

And his charts actually show that Obama has not only stopped the slide that began with the first debate; his numbers are inching up steadily again, with Romney's sliding, and this is particularly true in the battleground states.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 6 months ago

Jonas, you're pretty funny calling Nate Silver a hack. He's just happened to correctly predict the outcome of presidential voting in 49 out of 50 states last time around and correctly predicted all 35 Senate race outcomes.

Just maybe it's because instead of blindly holding onto the Gallup Poll as the Truth, Silver uses the Gallup PLUS seven other national pollsters, and 16 state polls to come to his conclusions. Gee, sounds a bit like scientists using all of the data available to come to the conclusion that climate change is real and it is being exacerbated by human activity, doesn't it?

Ken Lassman 5 years, 6 months ago

I have indeed read the National Review article, that right leaning advocacy magazine, and even while they challenged Silver's detailed assumptions, they concluded that Silver may still be correct in his conclusions. Not exactly the same conclusion as your calling him a political hack. Furthermore, go back to Silver's blog and you'll see that most of the NR critiques are outdated, supplanted by new data collection. In case you haven't noticed, Silver updates his calculations daily, even multiple times, and the trending isn't exactly running Romney's way.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 6 months ago

Jonas, Time DID tell, didn't it? Looks like Nate Silver is on his way to predicting correctly with every state. Political hack indeed.....

beatrice 5 years, 6 months ago

What are you doing pointing him to fivethirtyeight? Anyone who wants to live in a world that hangs on the Gallup poll doesn't want to deal with what others are saying. Let him think Romney has this wonderful lead. It will only make the truth of Nov. 7 that much sweeter.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 6 months ago

I dunno, I guess I don't get that much joy out of saying "I told you so." I prefer to give them the information ahead of time so that when things turn out differently than they expected, maybe they'll have the tools to begin to check out why on their own.

beatrice 5 years, 6 months ago

DC, it isn't about saying "I told you so." Rather, I say what is the point of telling someone something when they are obviously standing with their hands on ears going "lalalalalalala" the entire time?

beatrice 5 years, 6 months ago

And if you tap your red shoes together they will magically transport you home.

The electoral college favors Obama.

tomatogrower 5 years, 7 months ago

All I heard from Romney is that he wants the US to be the biggest and the baddest. We'll be so strong that no one will mess with us. Of course, look what happened to "Bad, bad Leroy Brown." There's always someone out there wanting to challenge the biggest and the baddest.
Well the two men took to fightin' And when they pulled them from the floor Leroy looked like a jigsaw puzzle With a couple of pieces gone

And he's bad, bad Leroy Brown The baddest man in the whole damn town Badder than old King Kong Meaner than a junkyard dog

beatrice 5 years, 6 months ago

tg, Leroy Brown? Thanks for reminding me that I'm old. : )

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

And it's obvious that you don't understand the mega-sized deficits created by military spending that's greater than the next dozen or so countries combined (most of whom are our allies.) Or that the belligerence in using that bloated military for colonial adventures to subsidize the extractive activities of mega-corporations comes with a tremendous blowback that dropped the twin towers, has killed more than 6000 Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, and most recently four State Dept personnel in Libya.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

JFK was dead by then. In the 50's (before JFK,) the top rate was indeed 90%.

Gregory Newman 5 years, 6 months ago

that imperialism crap doesn't fly any more. Everyone over there knows that the CIA, MI6 and Israel's MOSSAD is always trying to buy out their leaders thru treason for oil and other natural resources. Thats why it is chaos in the streets. Don't think one second we are weak? We have 16 missiles in each sub that can carry nuclear warheads but it would only take one to destroy the world. Nobody is going to fall for that cowboy Reagan dung any more. You better be worried about that EB-5 visa that wall street and the Koch bros want to push.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

-- Mitt Romney Plays Grim Reaper of Jobs in Ohio with Scary Lies about Jeep By: Sarah Jones --- October 26th, 2012

--- At an event in Defiance, Ohio Thursday evening, Mitt Romney got his Halloween on early by playing the Grim Reaper of jobs when he told a complete falsehood about Chrysler moving Jeep to China and taking Americans job with them. Chrysler said that a “careful and unbiased” understanding “would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments.” That’s our Mitt.

--- Romney took “a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats” Thursday when he said, “I saw a story today, that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China. I will fight for every good job in America, I’m going to fight to make sure trade is fair, and if it’s fair, America will win.”

--- Did you catch that? He saw a “story” alright, and just like Fox, he figured he’d “some people” reality by not bothering with it at all.

--- The truth is that Chrysler is not moving its Jeep production from America to China. As Chrysler said today, “Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China.”

--- Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. It’s simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world’s largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation….

--- Business Week backs up Chrysler, “Chrysler currently builds all Jeep SUV models at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. Manley referred to adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China.”

--- In case Mitt is still confused, “Chrysler Group announced that it will invest $500 million at the Toledo Assembly Complex (Ohio) for the production of the next generation Jeep® SUV in 2013. As a result, the Company will add a second shift of production or about 1,100 jobs in the third quarter of 2013.”

--- It looks like Romney was hoping to deflect and distract from Bainport on the evening when Sensata workers were threatening a walkout after being harassed and threatened by managers at the Bain owned plant. The Bain owned Sensata is shipping American jobs overseas to China after forcing the American workers to train their Chinese replacements in spite of being a profitable plant.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

What Romney forgot to tell the audience.

--- "Mitt Romney Made Millions from the Rescue of Detroit" as 25,000 GM jobs went to China

--- " Investigative reports reveal how Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made some $15 million on the auto bailout and that three of Romney’s top donors made more than $4 billion for their hedge funds from the bailout.

--- As part of a massive government bailout, U.S. taxpayers paid $12 billion to save auto parts maker Delphi Corporation. Out of that taxpayer money, three billionaires and their partners took in a profit of over $4 billion. One big winner, with a profit of over 4,000 percent, were the billionaires’ silent partners, Ann and Mitt Romney. The Romneys made at least $15 million, and as much as $115 million.

--- Our investigation began in Africa in the Congo. This is Greg Palast reporting. We are hunting for a vulture, a so-called vulture fund financier, this man, Paul Singer. Singer’s vulture fund seized $90 million out of foreign aid given the Congo, which could have been used to end a cholera epidemic. Singer’s vulture tactics are now outlawed in England and all over the world, but not in the U.S.A., certainly not here in Detroit, where we found Singer’s vulture fund feasting on the corpse of another victim, the once-world-leading Delco auto parts division of General Motors.

--- DELCO AD: Power that can’t get old before it’s sold. Delco dry charge battery, made by the Delco-Remy Division of General Motors.

--- So far, Romney and partners have pocketed over $4 billion. Then the billionaires gave Romney a million dollars each for the Republican campaigns. Nevertheless, Romney accused Obama of conflicts.

--- Documents reveal that a government bailout check was in fact cashed by none other than Ann Romney. It says that Ann Romney had a hunk of Mitt’s vast fortune in Elliott Management, Paul Elliott Singer’s vulture fund. Working our way between the limousines in front of his office, we wanted to ask Mr. Singer about his special financial deal with the Romneys. But he turned us down. The Romney campaign refuses to tell us exactly how much they made from the bailout, nor reveal their 2009 taxes.

--- ANN ROMNEY: We’ve given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and about how we live our life.

--- To cover up their payday and avoid taxes, the vulture funds have moved the headquarters of Delphi from Michigan to Jersey—not New Jersey, but the Isle of Jersey off the coast of France, a notorious tax haven.

--- Of the 25,000 UAW members at Delphi, every single one lost their job. Delphi once had 29 factories in the U.S., now just one. Today, GM still gets its parts from Delphi, shipped from the plants that the Romney hedge funds have moved to the People’s Republic of China.

-- Continued and is juicy.

Gregory Newman 5 years, 6 months ago

What are you gonna do when Mitt kicks in that EB-5 visa? Beg Chinese nationals that will live over here for work in one of those 276 free-trade zones? Obama has not lied about anything. Congress has the purse strings and they never liked him so they said no to everything except to a healthcare bill they profess that they don't like. Yea he could have signed the jobs bill as an executive order but then the Repugs would have said hes a dictator. You don't get it Wall street and the Koch bros. want immigrants.

beatrice 5 years, 6 months ago

If calm wins debates, then Obama won the first debate by a landslide. You don't get much calmer then when you are asleep.

Romney on President Obama's foreign policy: "I agree."

So do I, which is one of the reasons Obama has already received my vote for reelection.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 6 months ago

BFD, Mr. Grumby. That follows close on the heels of the Salt Lake Tribune endorsing Obama, doesn't it?

jafs 5 years, 6 months ago


And he won.

So their track record is pretty good, then.

Your point?

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 6 months ago

Along with...let's see..the New York Times, the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Kansas City Star, the Chicago Tribune (Hey! At least Obama got his home town to endorse him!). Heck, even the Arizona Daily Star endorsed him. I guess Jan Brewer's chest poking doesn't mean much in Tuscon.
I think the Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times endorsement was the funniest. They said, "With Obama, we know what we're getting." I think you can infer the "At least" at the beginning of the sentence.

Cait McKnelly 5 years, 6 months ago

Just out of curiosity, what are you going to do if that doesn't happen? Take to the streets?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

JW seems to be futzing with the forum code today. Reply button is currently disabled, and the thumbs up button is now giving a "thank you for your vote" screen.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

Now it's working again, and no "thank you for your vote" screen.

beatrice 5 years, 6 months ago

Obama came into office and had to do everything possible just to keep us from falling into another Depression. So yes, I agree, it would be stupid to go back to the policies that got us in the economic mess in the first place.

Obama 2012

Armstrong 5 years, 6 months ago

Actually if the dumb people want to stay home and sit this one out it's ok by me. Remember Obama fans vote on Nov.7

beatrice 5 years, 6 months ago

Armstrong, you are so desperate that you are now lying about when people should vote? What an anti-American, pathetic and repugnant post.

Armstrong 5 years, 6 months ago

No bee, if I was anti-American I would be a liberal.

beatrice 5 years, 6 months ago

No, lying about the date in which people are to vote is repugnant and anti-American. Anyone wanting to subvert the electoral system through lies is pathetic.

Pastor_Bedtime 5 years, 6 months ago

Deliberately and repeatedly lying about the election date. Nice. Would holier-than-us Romney care that you're lying on his behalf? Probably not, considering the other underhanded tactics Republicans are desperately trying in attempt to prevent Americans from excercising their right to vote. Remember this, folks ~ we vote on the 6th (or earlier, like many of us already have). And on the 7th, we will rest, task accomplished.

beatrice 5 years, 6 months ago

Another example of a conservative LYING in the desperate hope that it will help his cause.

beatrice 5 years, 6 months ago

Even resorting to personal attacks now. How cute.

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