MITT WINS DEBATE SEASON
…Romney did enough things right to keep the momentum going his way. The former Massachusetts governor’s tone was nearly perfect and he abandoned the hard neoconservative line that had concerned more traditional conservatives like myself. …President Obama showed superior knowledge to his challenger on almost every question raised involving foreign policy. But I found his tone, at times, to be jarring for a sitting commander in chief. I would roll my eyes at cable news pundit who used the line “The 80s called and they want their foreign policy back.’ But that line is cringe-inducing from a president. …Still, President Obama clearly won the debate last night . I’m just not so sure this morning that his performance in Boca will ensure this commander in chief another four years.
THE FINAL PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE
NEW YORK TIMES
During the debate, on issue after issue, Mr. 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, Mr. Romney sounded like a beauty pageant contestant groping for an answer to the final question.
HEATED IN FLORIDA
NEW YORK TIMES
Obama repeatedly reminded television viewers that he alone was familiar with the responsibilities of the commander in chief. He clearly wanted Romney’s experience as a mere governor to sound, in comparison, like a job running a curbside lemonade stand. …Foreign policy is not at the top of voters’ concerns, so both candidates demonstrated a comic eagerness to build an oratorical bridge from Tripoli to Toledo, Ohio, the debate becoming a contest of how frequently each candidate could beat a path from northern Africa and the Middle East back home. Thus they sparred over education, food stamps, Obama’s unbalanced budgets, Romney’s unspecific tax plan and even Solyndra. We weren’t in Libya anymore.
ROMNEY: DREAMER, OR WARMONGER?
NEW YORK TIMES
Is Mitt Romney a neoconservative? Or an isolationist? Is he a hard-eyed realist? A democracy-spreading dreamer? Or a strutting warmonger? …His calculation, on purely political terms, seemed to be that it didn’t matter. He was rather obviously treading water throughout the debate, though he avoided drowning. Knowing that foreign policy is not high on the list of swing-state concerns, he simply hoped to have a series of pleasant and gravity-free responses to President Obama’s withering critique of his previous positions. The problem is that it really does matter. A consistent and deeply held set of foreign policy principles is vital to the success of a presidency; other countries will exploit an erratic course like Mr. Romney’s even if American voters don’t pay attention.
ROMNEY’S BAFFLING STRATEGY
Usually when a candidate plays it as safe as Romney did tonight, you’d assume that candidate was in the lead. Could it be that Romney thinks he’s ahead…and his chief objective was to do no harm? At times it felt like Romney was auditioning to be Obama’s secretary of Commerce in his second term – a reasonable Republican who basically thinks the president is right on most foreign policy issues but thinks we could nonetheless find ways to boost the economy a bit. …For all the momentum Romney’s shown in recent weeks, I thought he still needed to shake things up in order to win. This was the last chance he had to shake things up. He obviously didn’t think he needed to. One of us is clearly wrong about where this race stands. We’ll know soon enough.
OBAMA WINS DEBATE
This year, in the race for the White House, the debates have really mattered. The issues, not so much. The most substantive clash, in terms of the economic issues that voters say they most care about, was not between Obama and Romney. At Centre College in Kentucky, Vice President Biden and Paul Ryan talked about jobs, economic growth, deficits and entitlements. They outlined sharp differences in how the two parties see the nation: Biden championed community and compassion; Ryan, individual initiative. The presidential encounters, by contrast, have been largely about style and presence — who was aggressive, who seemed presidential, who looked his opponent in the eye, who showed a sense of humor, who interrupted whom.
COMMANDERS IN CHIEF
WALL STREET JOURNAL
The downside of Mr. Romney’s caution is that he offered policies that he might not be able to sustain if he does win on November 6. On Syria, he promised no U.S. military action when events might well require it to protect our allies and prevent a larger war. On Afghanistan, he hewed so tightly to Mr. Obama’s 2014 timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops that he more or less rebutted himself when he described the continuing threat to Kabul from terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan. Most disappointing was his continuing insistence that he will label China “a currency manipulator” on day one so he can then levy tariffs. … This is bad enough as trade and monetary economics, but Mr. Romney may also be backing himself into a political corner.