What a Difference Four Years Makes

The presentations by the candidates in last night’s presidential debate should have removed any doubt who has the foreign policy strengths.  Obama made distinctions that Romney could only agree with.

In 2008 Barack Obama’s critics said that he was an “empty suit” compared to John McCain on foreign policy.  Though it was an ugly assessment it had great merit at the time.  Obama ‘s national political experience was fairly nascent in 2008 and his foreign policy savvy was almost non-existent.  Had the country not been so determined to shuck the failures and abuses of the Bush administration, which by default fell on any GOP candidate for President, this foreign policy weakness could have lost it for Obama.

Fast forward to last night’s foreign policy debate with Mitt Romney and you see a Barack Obama who has mastered not only the language of a foreign policy expert but who has a broad and in-depth understanding of the matrix that is critical in setting policy here and abroad to sustain a position of leadership in global affairs.  Gone was the “empty suit” that many accused him of being in 2008.  Yet when Mitt Romney clearly displayed a similar weakness last night, as he has this entire campaign, supporters raved how well he displayed a “leadership” image.

Style, not substance, all of a sudden became a ringing endorsement for the crowd that always liked to point out how the GOP had the foreign policy creds.  And it was this approach that apparently seemed to be the card that the Romney campaign wanted to play based on the political spin put out by his operatives following the debate.  During the debate many conservative commentators were lamenting Romney’s performance.

David Limbaugh asked on Twitter, “Why do these advisers tell Mitt not to go for the jugular? Why?  Laura Ingraham was essentially doing the same – Romney using kid gloves ag[ain] — WHY?!”   The ever vivacious S.E. Cupp thought that “Obama is making laughable, easily argued points. But Romney’s not effectively arguing them.”    I find it presumptuous for anyone to say there is any “jugular” there.  Even Romney’s attacks on Libya are falling apart.

Afterwards conservative pundits were trying to portray Romney as “restrained” while painting Obama as agitated and overly aggressive.  Some of us thought we saw the reverse of a Presidential debate #1 and yet conservatives now view the candidates differently.  Looking presidential was more important than attacking your opponents weaknesses.

Try as he did to come off as a poised leader, Mitt Romney was often flustered in how to respond to foreign policy details posed by President Obama

Comments were similar by Romney supporters who went to the blogs to present their views on who they thought won.  It was an obvious defense for a man who had now become the empty suit of the campaign.  His ideas were neither fresh nor pertinent.  His cold-war state-of-mind seemed to think an Iran with nuclear weapons was our greatest national security threat (something they are years away from by the way) yet who had told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer back in March this year that Russia was “without question our number one geopolitical foe”  On this, Obama had perhaps one of the best one-liners of the night.  “The 1980s called, they want their foreign policy back.”

What was clear about the Romney strategy last night was that since he was a light-weight compared to the President on foreign policy, his goal became, which many say he achieved, not to get entangled in details he has no knowledge about.  His one strength was to try to connect a weak economy with a weak foreign policy effort.  But the President was ready for him on this issue to.  Obama pointed out how Romney leans towards sending troops back into Iraq and appears too eager in suggesting that boots on the ground may be required in Syria and Iran.  “After a decade of war, I think we all agree, we need to do some nation-building here at home,” the President told the audience in his closing statement.

Tying Romney to a cold war, militaristic approach nullified, I thought, any attempt on Romney’s part to assure many voters, especially women, that he would not be quick to send our sons and daughters back into harms way.  This point could have been driven home more vividly had Obama pointed out that the members of Romney’s foreign policy team are essentially the same who helped define the “preemptive strike” doctrine of the Bush/Cheney era.

[On] July 12, Governor Mitt Romney [was] attending a GOP fundraiser hosted by former Vice President Dick Cheney at his home in Wyoming. It’s fitting, really, since Romney has called Cheney a “person of wisdom and judgment.”

[When Romney was considering] possible running mates, it’s worth remembering that he pointed to Dick Cheney as the “kind of person I’d like to have” working with him.

Out of Romney’s 24 special advisors on foreign policy, 17 served in the Bush-Cheney administration. If Romney were to win, it’s likely that many of these people would serve in his administration in some capacity — a frightening prospect given the legacy of this particular group. The last time they were in government, it was disastrous.    SOURCE   

Perhaps Romney’s performance last night did present itself to many as a calm leader who would not cave under the stress of global conflicts.  This is indeed a quality that exudes leadership.  But knowledge and decisive action speak louder than appearances.  Obama has demonstrated this capability, along with a cool-headed demeanor, and was convincing as commander-in-chief in last nights debate.  Once Romney opened his mouth it became apparent that he was more concerned about having his feelings hurt by Obama while coming across as agreeing more with the President than as someone who has any bold new approach for addressing crises around the world.

If it were appearances we were going for instead of knowledge and certainty then this image of Romney would be appropriate

Horses and bayonets’ is the hot new meme

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12 responses to “What a Difference Four Years Makes

  1. It is funny how Obama can never do the right thing to the GOP. The first debate he was lackluster and that represents his lack of leadership. This time he was aggressive and animated, but that’s not the sign of a good leader. Too bad! He has proven himself in my eyes. Is he perfect? NOOO! But I hope he gets another four years to prove his leadership skills. By the way, horses and bayonets is trending on twitter and it is in mostly a sarcastic tone. Great post, LB!

  2. I came away with the feeling that Mitt Romney is a pathological liar and will say anything to get elected no matter the facts or what he’s said previously. A major character flaw which the religious right seems to overlook. Also, he’s basically just an ass-hole.

  3. Pingback: Leadership Thought #412 – Obama’s Substance Over Romney’s Style « Ed Robinson's Blog·

  4. it was fun to see the right all pissy because he wasn’t right enough. But it showed without any doubt that he has no interest in foreign policy, it’s just an annoying problem that he has to get over to win the coveted job he wants.

  5. I’m definitely with Hansi on this one. Pathological liar who will say anything to get elected. People seem to be buying his BS, which makes me nauseous. I’ll donate my pennies to the Obama campaign and pray. Pray that this country will see Romney for the liar that he is.

    • If I were a believer in prayer Sheryl I’d give it everything I have. Instead I’m going to have to volunteer my time and money to the cause and hope that is sufficient. :-)

  6. Yes, Romney stayed on the sidelines because he had only recently learned the names of Mid-eastern countries and their population numbers. Though “Iran being Syria’s direct line to the sea” showed some creative geography, I doubt many caught that. Romney’s lack of clear direction and detail that evening is frightening. It’s clear that he’d leave the foreign policy stuff to his Bush-Cheney cronies. Or, to Ryan, who appears to be off on another page entirely. Snap out of it people. Foreign policy is economic policy. We need a leader who can manage both and that’s Obama.

    • Early voting started here Monday so I have cast my ballot. In all the years I have been early voting I don’t think I have ever seen the polls so crowded as I did yesterday. I think that is a good sign though. Obama’s concern should be about getting out the vote and we are seeing signs of that here, though Texas is hardly a battle ground state.

  7. During the Republican Primaries Romney looked like the only sensible one in the bunch…. now that he stands alone…he looks…..well, like an idiot… or even worse… a corporate CEO that would prefer to make decisions behind closed doors without ever explaining himself. And rather than ‘Binders full of Women” we already know WHO is on the Obama team. I I will stick with Hilary and Joe Biden and Obama…… screw Romney.

    • I know there is still a lot of disappointment out there with many because wages and jobs have not risen back to those days before the economy began to collapse in 2008. But thinking that somehow Romney has a silver bullet that will correct what GOP policies have wrought is an indication that some voters have not studied the facts as much as they bought into the hype in the 30-seconds ad spins.

      I have one young friend who will be voting in his first presidential election and says he doesn’t like either candidate but naively stated that he feels Obama had his chance and blew it and thinks Romney should have a crack at it. This is coming from the future generation who thinks everything can be fixed in short order and may not realize that one man alone can neither break nor fix an economy that has gone so wrong.

  8. While long, painful and requiring the use of brain cells (something most American voters hate doing) this article I came across thanks to Spinny Liberal

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/greed-and-debt-the-true-story-of-mitt-romney-and-bain-capital-20120829

    really strips away the bullshit and gets to the heart of the matter in great detail.

    Simply put, Mitt Romney is the poster boy for modern capitalism. It is not about producing goods & services and forming mutually beneficial “social contracts” like it was in his Dad’s time. It is about SAYING ANYTHING to seduce your victims into completely one sided, often lethal, deals. Or failing that, basically just ass-raping them.

    Under Romney, Bain helped to usher in a sociopathic new business culture that:

    - saw customers as patsies to be taken advantage of.
    - used bribes to turn company executives against the interests of the very companies they ran.
    - saw the government as something to manipulate for personal gain at the expense of the nation.
    - transformed humans into human resources to be exploited and stripped mined like coal.
    - made billions without adding ANY value to society or even the economy.
    - contained no morality whatsoever and, at best, closely resembled mafia tactics.

    His “success” came primarily at the expense of others.

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