Monday, October 22, 2012

Debate response

... Will be after midnight, as I watched the debate away from home.  Stay tuned

It was an interesting debate, with each contender clearly pursuing a different, correct strategy.  Romney needed to go 90 minutes on a stage with the Commander-in-Chief and emerge with some modicum of respectability, so he tried to be non-confrontational and agreed with the meat of just about everything Obama said.  Obama had to make sure Romney failed, and he came out swinging from the get-go.   It's also next-to-impossible for a Republican to move to the right of Obama, who expanded the war in Afghanistan, attacked Libya and has a secret list of people he intends to kill with drones.

As Romney's demonstrated throughout these debates, he's willing to abandon previously stated positions if he thinks it's politically expedient.  He was quick to agree with Obama on several issues, forcing Obama to point out the differences between what Romney was saying and what he'd said before.  Romney tried to portray Obama as only criticizing Romney, not putting forth his own agenda.  But Obama has been carrying out his agenda for the past four years, and Romney agreed with huge swaths of it.

There was a fascinating exchange about military spending which illustrated the weaknesses of both men.  Obama rightly attacked Romney's ridiculous claim that our navy now having fewer ships than we had in 1916 is evidence of a deteriorating military, pointing out that changes in tactics, strategy and technology have allowed a smaller number of ships to do the job more effectively.  "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."

Obama should have stopped there, or perhaps gone on to discuss the inconsistency of arguing for massive military spending while claiming we don't have the money to continue Medicare or fix bridges.  But he instead patronized Romney, saying "We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines."  Like his "you're likable enough, Hillary" mistake from '08, Obama came off looking smug and condescending.  It weakened what could have been a critical attack.

Romney had a strange moments, like his claim that Iran's "only route to the sea" is Syria.  Iran doesn't border Syria; Iraq's in between.  Also, and slightly more importantly vis-a-vis Romney's claim, Iran itself borders the sea.  Candidates have brain-farts occasionally, but I have no idea what Romney might have been thinking on this one.

Ultimately, I think Obama did enough damage to win the night.  I wonder if there are still enough undecided voters out there to make a difference in the polls.  Or the outcome.  Just 14 days to go!

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