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.
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.