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April 16, 2014

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The final debate

Newspapers from around the country analyze the meeting focused on foreign policy

Advantage: Obama

From an editorial in The New York Times:

Mitt Romney has nothing really coherent or substantive to say about domestic policy, but at least he can sound energetic and confident about it. On foreign policy, the subject of Monday night’s final presidential debate, he had little coherent to say and often sounded lost. That’s because he has no original ideas of substance on most world issues, including Syria, Iran and Afghanistan.

During the debate, on issue after issue, Romney sounded as if he had read the boldfaced headings in a briefing book — or a freshman global history textbook — and had not gone much further than that. ...

At other times, he announced that he had a “strategy” for the Middle East, particularly Iran and Syria, and really for the whole world, but gave no clue what it would be — much like his claim that he has a plan to create 12 million jobs and balance the budget while also cutting taxes but will not say what it is. At his worst, Romney sounded like a beauty pageant contestant groping for an answer to the final question. “We want a peaceful planet,” he said. “We want people to be able to enjoy their lives and know they’re going to have a bright and prosperous future and not be at war.”

He added that the United States “didn’t ask for” the mantle of global leadership but was willing to wear it. We wonder what Ronald Reagan would have thought of that.

Romney’s problem is that he does not actually have any real ideas on foreign policy beyond what President Barack Obama has done, or plans to do. ...

Obama hit Romney hard on his ever-shifting positions on world affairs, including comments he made in 2008 disparaging the idea that killing Osama bin Laden should be a priority. “You said we should ask Pakistan for permission,” Obama said. “If we had asked Pakistan for permission, we would not have gotten it.”

Romney’s closing statement summed it all up. He said almost nothing about foreign policy. He moved back to his comfort zone: cheerfully delivered disinformation about domestic policy.

Advantage: Romney

From an editorial in the Dallas Morning News:

The 2012 presidential race understandably has focused on the economy and the ways in which each candidate would rejuvenate it. The Dallas Morning News recommends Mitt Romney for president largely on the strength of this issue: His focus on tax reform and the overhaul of entitlement programs is crucial for America’s domestic challenges, particularly reducing the national debt.

Likewise, an improved financial picture will bolster America’s standing in the world. As Henry Kissinger put it, a strong foreign policy is predicated upon a healthy domestic economy.

Only as America’s economy improves will Washington gain strength in dealing politically, financially and, yes, militarily with foreign challenges.

Those challenges — Afghanistan, Libya, Iran, China and Iraq — were among the topics raised in Monday’s mostly civil debate, one in which both candidates put a high priority on appearing presidential. ...

Some may wonder why the candidates went far afield into economic issues. But Romney rightly kept making the link between domestic and foreign policies, including on international trade. He did a good job explaining how expanding markets in regions such as Latin America can help our home front. The president has been a weak leader on the trade issue; America must work more closely within the global economy so we can avert another international collapse.

The differences between the two candidates on foreign policy are less stark than with domestic issues. But in their final debate, Romney effectively made the case that America can maintain a lead role on the global stage only if it gets its economic house in order.

Advantage: It’s a draw

From an editorial in the Kansas City Star:

The final 2012 presidential debate wound to a close with another “new” Mitt Romney appearing, this one pushing a “peace” agenda, sounding conciliatory and endorsing much of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy positions.

Obama effectively emphasized his experience in improving world relations and his record of ending the war in Iraq, preparing for the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan and supporting many nations convulsed by revolutions in the Arab Spring.

Romney, as the challenger with no foreign policy experience, had no major gaffes. He appeared strongest when he was off foreign policy, hitting home on high unemployment, underemployment and rising poverty. Both men strayed from the foreign policy topic repeatedly, returning to the economy issue and their stump speeches.

Obama, however, hit hard at the Romney plan to increase military spending. Romney offered little defense of what appears excessive. And Obama deflated Romney’s criticism of fewer naval ships, chiding his opponent that warfare has changed over time, with fewer bayonets, too.

Little time was spent on drone attacks, a major feature of the Obama administration’s pursuit of terrorists and one worthy of more discussion.

With the election close, the debate likely didn’t push either into clear “winner” territory.

Romney escaped without raising fears of looking like a gunslinging president. Obama continued to appear thoughtful and reasonable, and that should help him continue to rebuild momentum that he lost after his lackluster first debate.

Advantage: It’s a draw

From an editorial in the Chicago Tribune:

Before President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney debated, a new Washington Post/ABC poll showed how treacherous a world this is — for candidates. Obama’s once-commanding lead over Romney on foreign affairs had dropped to 3 percentage points (49-46). His lead on handling terrorism was 1 point (47-46). His advantage as commander-in-chief? Also thin (48-45).

The findings, in line with other surveys, made this another crucial debate in a series like none before it: Either man could emerge from this near-tie.

Those who thought Romney would look more belligerent than knowledgeable saw none of that. But they also saw a president who projected confidence in his management of the U.S. role in world affairs. At several points, the challenger didn’t challenge: He didn’t draw the huge distinctions with Obama that he has on economic issues at home. On topics from Afghanistan to Pakistan to China to the use of drones, the two offered consonant themes. ...

A discussion on America’s global role separated the candidates ... a bit. Romney essentially argued that by avoiding stronger leadership roles, the United States risks being buffeted by events rather than molding them: “Nowhere in the world is America’s influence stronger than it was four years ago.” But Romney had trouble spelling out by what steps he would more forcefully assert U.S. leadership. Obama challenged Romney’s credibility — “I know you haven’t been in a position to execute foreign policy” — a reminder that only one of these men has had the responsibility for the last four years of representing this nation to the world and protecting this nation from harm. ...

This magnificent series of debates ended with agreeability and relative calm: two candidates, assuring Americans that each of them would be careful about extending U.S. military might around the world. Obama and Romney wanted to convey that each would avoid blundering into new wars. Both made convincing cases.

Advantage: Obama

From an editorial in the Los Angeles Times:

Monday’s presidential debate featured a forceful and articulate defense of Obama’s foreign policy. That was no surprise. What was surprising was that it came from Romney.

That seemed to annoy the president — who was prepared to rebut his opponent’s previous, more bellicose pronouncements. But the ever-shifting Republican nominee tacked even closer to the moderate middle than he did in the debate devoted to economic policy.

Once Romney intimated that he might keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan past NATO’s 2014 deadline. No more. Now he agrees with Obama that it is feasible to transfer combat responsibilities to the Afghans by that point. On Iran, Romney emphasized economic sanctions rather than the threat of a military attack, effectively endorsing Obama’s approach. On Syria, Romney disappointed some of his neoconservative supporters by forswearing direct U.S. military intervention or the establishment of a no-fly zone. There was no call for returning U.S. forces to Iraq, though Romney continued to accuse Obama of bungling negotiations aimed at keeping a small residual force there ...

Yes, there were nuances of difference. Obama says the United States won’t allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon while Romney described the red line as “nuclear capability.” And Romney dusted off his canard that the president had conducted an “apology tour” through the Middle East. To be clear: Obama has not apologized for American influence; every time Romney says otherwise, he reinforces the many reasons to distrust his honesty.

Even Romney’s rhetoric was less blustery in the debate than it has been on the campaign trail. A viewer who hadn’t tuned into the campaign before Monday night might have wondered what all the shouting was about. Both candidates support withdrawal from Afghanistan, a careful courtship of Syrian opposition forces, the continued targeting of suspected terrorists by drones, and the leveraging of military aid to induce Egypt and other nations where Islamists are ascendant to respect the rights of women and religious minorities. Both want to engage China in trade but press it to play fair.

If Romney believes in a centrist foreign policy, which he hadn’t until Monday night, it would argue for his candidacy. But if that vision is attractive — and it is — why not stick with the president who is already pursuing it?

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  1. A draw in the foreign policy debate in Boca Raton was a win for Governor Romney. Why? President Obama, good or bad, is the Commander-in-Chief. He's got the job already. He inherently has the edge going into the debate. Governor Romney has to prove that he can do the job. A debate draw means Governor Romney can and President Obama didn't. Therefore Governor Romney wins with a draw.

    CarmineD

  2. I already know President Obama and his administration are very, very strong on foreign policy. They have proven it time and time again in the past four years with cool, calm, collected and rational decisions.

    Not so with Romney. I find Romney particularly reprehensible in one area alone.

    In this debate, and one time previously (the convention), he failed to mention veterans.

    This leads me to believe that Romney believes to his very soul that we (I'm a retired U.S. Navy Veteran) are garbage, that we suck up taxpayer money, that the only time he gives a crap about us is when we're on the tip of the spear out there on the front lines, but when we come back to the United States, we are of no use to him.

    Everyone screams, oh, blame it on Bush, blame it on Bush, it's unfair, that's Romney, not Bush. If this is the case, why does he act like Bush, no, strike that, even worse than Bush, when it deals with foreign policy and disregard for our military, using them SOLELY for political purposes? Hell, even 17 out of his 24 so called boy wonder foreign policy experts are essentially Bush rejects.

    With Romney, he is always banging the drum, cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war tough talk crap all the time. And this is his FIRST and FOREMOST option. He don't believe in negotiations nor diplomacy. Sounds like Bush to me.

    He has failed in foreign policy and especially regarding veteran affairs.

    I'll say it again, all indications show the veterans of this great nation are trash to him. Only time he'll mention them is for political advantage purposes. Other than that, he could care less if we live or die. You are broken and in need of medical help after serving on the front lines? Romney says tough, you're on your own. You want some extra benefits? Tough, you're a waste of humanity, get another job, you're on your own. You want a cost of living allowance raise on your retirement? No, tough, you're sucking from the Government nipple, you're garbage, you're costing us money, why don't you just go ahead and die and save people money....

    Sounds extreme, but this is EXACTLY how this abomination called the Tea/Republican Party thinks. They are about moh money, moh money, moh money, moh money, MOHHHHHH MUNNNNNEEEEEEEEEEEE only. Not people.

    President Obama shows he values my life more than Romney. I'm not cannon fodder. And President Obama don't treat me as such. All indications show he values our military, both active, inactive and retired. He's on our side.

    That's good enough for me.

    Obama/Biden 2012!

    Romney/Ryan 1040s! Cough 'em up. Let's see what you're hidin'. You too, Ryan. Quit washing and drying already clean pots and pans and dig up some tax returns for us to see....

  3. Jeffery:

    If you add the percentage who scored the debate in Boca Raton, Florida as a win for Romney with those scoring it a draw, the win goes to Governor Romney.

    When a candidate running for president scores a draw against the president in a debate on foreign affairs, it is a clear win for the opponent and a clear loss for the incumbent. Why? Simple. Foreign affairs is the weakest suit for an opponent and the strongest suit for the incumbent. The incumbent should win by a huge margin. If the incumbent can't [win by a huge margin], and a substantial percentage of the debate viewers score it a draw [as is the case with the debate in Boca Raton], it's a victory for the opponent and a loss for the incumbent.

    Romney-Ryan win the White House on Nov 6, 2012. Obama-Biden go packing. Obama to the teachers' lounge and Biden as his teacher's aid.

    CarmineD

  4. Colin:

    On September 19, 2011, the US Senate, under the tutelage of dirty harry, citing its high costs, SHELVED the Veterans Jobs Corps bill. If passed it would have provided ONE BILLION DOLLARS over 5 years to hire VETERANS for PUBLIC SAFETY and OTHER GOVERNMENT JOBS.

    CarmineD

  5. You need to check that, CarmineD. That bill you talk about contained stuff that no sane, rational thinking person would ever vote for. You are saying the bill only contained information pertaining to veterans, but the truth of the matter is that the Tea/Republican infection that contributes to this most useless 112th Congress loaded that bill down with stuff that would ensure it would fail. All in order so they could point fingers at the Democrats and say, look, look, THEY made this bill fail, not us, THEM.

    Nice try in attempting to re-write recent political history, CarmineD. Not gonna work though.

  6. Mea Culpa: Should have typed 2012 not 2011.

    CarmineD

  7. Veterans job corps bill shelved after falling short in Senate vote

    ByLeo Shane III
    Stars and Stripes

    Published: September 19, 2012

    Veterans and their family members attend a job fair at Naval Support Activity Bethesda, Md.

    Shannon Burns/U.S. Navy

    WASHINGTON -- The Senate shelved a veterans employment bill Wednesday after Republicans raised concerns the measure could add to the national deficit without offering real help for out-of-work veterans.

    The bill fell two votes short during a procedural motion, with every Senate Democrat backing the bill along with five Republican senators and two Independents joining them. Democrats and veterans advocates had been lobbying for its passage, and called Republican opposition to the proposal shameful.

    "At a time when one in four young veterans are unemployed, Republicans should have been able, for just this once, to put aside the politics of obstruction and to help these men and women provide for their families," said Senate Veterans Affairs Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash.

    The legislation would have funded a proposal by President Barack Obama to create a veterans jobs corps, spending $1 billion on programs and grants to put former servicemembers to work as police officers, emergency response personnel and park rangers.

    Last week, Democratic leaders inserted several Republican-backed provisions into the legislation in an effort to generate widespread support for the measure, including rules requiring states to recognize military experience in their hiring processes, establishing national credentialing rules for veterans and expanding post-military job training programs.

    But House Republicans have stated their opposition to the president's jobs corps plan, and Senate Republicans before the vote blasted Democrats for increasing spending under the guise of helping veterans.

    According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the unemployment rate for veterans this year has hovered just below the national rate of around 8 percent. But finding jobs for younger veterans has been more difficult, with 10.9 percent of the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan era unemployed last month.

    Wednesday's vote ends any chance of passing the legislation before the November elections. Senate staffers said the measure could be brought up in the lame-duck session, but the legislative schedule for those remaining weeks is already crowded with budget bills.

    Last year, Congress passed sweeping veterans jobs legislation that created new vocational rehabilitation services, a new mid-career retraining program for veterans and tax credits for businesses that employ former servicemembers.

    It was one of the few pieces of legislation make it through Congress, which has been mired in partisan gridlock for the last two years.

    [email protected]
    Twitter: @LeoShane

  8. "Carmine also lied about the Veteran Jobs cops Bill."

    Jeffery: I quoted the article verbatim from the Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper to the US troops here and around the world.

    "There was no Job Corps Act in 2011 --- only 2012 and the links above establish beyond any doubt that Carminey lied."

    Jeffery: You missed my post within minutes of the one you mention. Here it is again. Go back for yourself and reread.

    Mea Culpa: Should have typed 2012 not 2011.

    CarmineD

  9. Jeffery:

    WRT the sacking of our Consulate and murders of 4 Americans including a US Ambassador, first in 34 years, you will recall on September 12 here, as President Obama was in Nevada for a fund raiser, I said it was a terrorist attack well known to all. You parroted the White House spin: It was the video about the prophet.

    Fox news and the reporters who have covered this story for the last 32 days will probably win a pulitzer. The mainstream media has reluctantly done so [covered the unfolding Benghazi events] thanks in large part to Fox news.

    I said this was a land mine for the Obama reelection. It has proved to be just that. Final chapter on Nov 6. Stay tuned.

    CarmineD

  10. "Keep dreaming grandpa..."

    Every night when I sleep sonny boy.

    CarmineD