In the Arena

The Third Debate: Obama Wins on Style and Substance

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President Obama won the foreign policy debate, cleanly and decisively, on both style and substance. It was as clear a victory as Mitt Romney’s in the first debate. And Romney lost in similar fashion: he seemed nervous, scattered, unconvincing — and he practiced unilateral disarmament, agreeing with Obama hither and yon … on Iraq (as opposed to two weeks ago), on Afghanistan (as opposed to interviews he’s given this fall), on Libya and Syria and Iran. He didn’t have a single creative or elegantly stated foreign policy thought and, indeed, seemed foolish at times, using the word peace about as often as George McGovern in 1972 (not that McGovern was foolish, but Romney has run so hot and aggressive on foreign policy that he seemed a sudden convert to transcendental meditation or Yoko Ono’s secret consort). Romney did have some strong moments — but they were, once again, on the domestic economy. And Obama didn’t have a single weak or unconvincing moment.

This was not only a strong debate for Obama, it was a clever one. He mentioned Israel three times as our greatest ally in the region before Romney mentioned it once. It was especially convenient that we are conducting joint military exercises with Israel this week, exercises that had been delayed from last spring at Israel’s request (and after Matt Drudge and other weasels blamed Obama for delaying them at the time). I thought Obama’s “zinger” about Romney favoring the “foreign policy of the ’80s, the social policy of the ’50s and the economic policy of the ’20s” seemed transparently precooked, if true. But the President’s strongest moment — also precooked — came when he noted Romney’s frequent assertion that Americans have the smallest Navy since 1916: “We also have fewer horses and bayonets,” Obama said. “We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.” There were some commentators who thought this was too sarcastic or condescending. I didn’t.

The fact is, Romney’s foreign- and national-security policies have been a steaming heap of nonsense from the start. It was telling that Romney didn’t attempt his line about “throwing Israel under the bus” and Obama “wanting to return to 1967 borders” tonight. He did not do that for a reason: because it is a lie. Obama would have come right back at him, saying, “Governor, you know my position is a return to the 1967 borders with mutually agreed-upon land swaps. Why do you insist on misrepresenting me?” (Once again, Obama’s position is not only consistent with that of every American President since Nixon, it is also consistent with the stated position of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.)

I’ll have more to say about this skein of debates — and about our Israel-centric foreign policy — in my print column in a couple of days, but I did want to mention this: I was flipping around the channels, watching the talking heads afterward and saw Chris Wallace — an estimable journalist, in most cases — do something really Fox News reprehensible. He mentioned that a Marine had tweeted that Obama wasn’t in touch because Marines still use bayonets. True enough, but does Wallace really think that bayonets are nearly as important as they were 100 years ago? They certainly haven’t been in my experience in war zones over the past 30 years.

(MORE: Obama, Romney Spar on Mid East Policy in Final Presidential Debate)

And meanwhile, Romney made the sort of mistake that makes Marines cringe: early on in the debate, he called our troops overseas “soldiers.” That drives Marines up a wall. The Army consists of soldiers. The Marine Corps consists of Marines. Both exist under the umbrella of American troops or forces serving overseas. This distinction has been so noxious to the Army that in recent years, it has capitalized its troops — Soldiers — to match the Marine code. I would guess that Fox News may have gotten a few e-mails about that, unmentioned by Fox.

This may seem petty, but it is part of the other-than-reality-based world of RushFoxland — like the alleged Apology Tour that wasn’t. That world, so far as foreign policy is concerned, came crashing down tonight.

MORE: The Election’s Real Foreign Policy Issue: War with Iran

563 comments
garythecableguy
garythecableguy

Now doesn't that just really suck, Everytime Obama wins a debate Romney gets the bounce

CitizenCurby
CitizenCurby

Of course Odrama won....he cured cancer; he settled all the middle east problems; the economy is booming; no one has any problems because Barack Obama is on the job....ha ha ha ha ....no matter how many times the leftist progressives say it....it always is dead wrong....

markyramonego
markyramonego

Chris Wallace spilled the off-stage conversation between Romney and former US President Bill Clinton while Obama confers with Hillary (interesting theories too): http://shar.es/cCOO9

Pa_Mo
Pa_Mo

You do know that apologies occur without the use of the words "I'm sorry," right? In his own words:

http://youtu.be/Ryc3uhrU1cA

Or how about this one, which cost the U. S. over 70K$:

"The Apology Tour Continues: Obama, Clinton Say “Sorry” to Rioting Pakistanis"

http://tinyurl.com/8fkryhd

CharlesScamardo
CharlesScamardo

So know we know the DEAR LEADER knew within 2 hours that it was indeed a terrorist attack and who claimed responsibility. The lies and the cover up continues.

Drveruju
Drveruju

Obama did not have any competition.

It would have been a different story had the rest of the candidates for the office been allowed to debate.

Gill Stein would have run circles around both of these bought and paid for puppets.

beagoodfellow
beagoodfellow

Obama wins on style and substance? It must be nice living in la-la land. Come November 7, you'll need a reset on your reality void.

nettilee
nettilee

I can't get past the comment made earlier about the expend-ability of Pakistani children as compared to the importance our own. Who would say this out loud? Suddenly Joe is less impressive.

kobe56
kobe56

I also heard about what Joe Klein said on Joe Scarborough's show yesterday morning. You, Mr. Klein, are a revolting individual with absolutely no morals or decency. You epitomize the decay in our media and our government - a vapid talking head who spews out whatever nonsense is provided to him by his party. It's amazing to me - if you're a member of our media, you just pick whether you want to be on the red team or blue team (and don't worry, you can always change later, so long as you stay within that dynamic) and then spend your career mouthing their talking points and slogans.

Better their four year olds than ours? Are you f'ing serious? The reason we despise "terrorists" is because they remorselessly justify the killing of innocent people. What makes you any different than Anwar Awlaki? I, for one, refuse to grant you any more leniency. You are a supporter of terrorism (and that's exactly what it is as defined by the US government - the use of indiscriminate violence to achieve a political goal). And it's just so fitting that on the same day you made your repulsive comments, you put out this worthless article and tisk tisk Romney over terminology. That is what our political debate has boiled down to. Don't question the fact that we have to continue policies that produce terrorism, just listen to our stupid horse-race coverage.

You and yours can go to hell, you shameful excuse of a human being.

BillPearlman
BillPearlman

Joe Klein thinks Obama won, what a shock

HudsonValleyTim
HudsonValleyTim

So much for Romney's economic prowess...

"Bob Lutz, the vice chairman of GM at the time and an outspoken Republican himself, said the loan guarantees Romney talks about would not have made a difference due to the cash crunch at the time."The banks were even more broke than we were. Who had the money?" he told the Detroit Free Press in February. "Loan guarantees don't do any good if the banks don't have any money."Without financing, both companies would have had to close. And even if they had survived, they could be struggling today rather than reporting record profits and strong sales. Many of their suppliers would have also been forced to shut down, and that could have caused bankruptcies at other automakers such as Ford Motor (F, Fortune 500), which would have been unable to build cars without their supplier base."

Perhaps Bain would have been able to turn a buck on the creative destruction of the auto industry, but it would have been at the expense of the "Big Three",and the myriad of businesses (large and small) who support them. 

RoccoJohnson
RoccoJohnson

I used to enjoy reading Klein's articles but I just find him unbearable any more. He's completely gone the way of Chris Matthews, who used to be a good, well-respected journalist, who kept his partisanship at least partially at bay. Both of them now have become sycophantic polemicists to the point of embarrassment. Watching Matthews come unhinged after the first debate, begging Obama to watch the intelligentsia at MSNBC, of whom Matthews obviously considers himself, was embarrassing. It's amusingly ironic to listen to Joe Klein rant about FoxNews when he himself has become nothing more than a raving anti-Fox opinion journalist. Klein has gone from writing insightful and illuminating stories on a variety of subjects to now merely reciting Democratic talking points. It's hard to tell if he's writing about the Obama campaign, or if he's actually working for the campaign.

My take on this final debate is the same as the previous three, if you're an Obama man you're going to believe, (probably rightly so,) that Obama won the debate, and if you're a Republican you'll think Romney won. Let's face it, all Romney had to do was look presidential, and not screw it up. He was obviously prepped, and as a centrist, I think he came off pretty okay. That doesn't mean I'm voting for him, only that I think he succeeded in what he needed to do. I thought Obama did well also, but my knock against him is that he interrupted a lot, and he leered creepily at Romney far more than he should have. He was obviously prepped, as well, to look assertive and strong, he just oversold it a bit. My dig at Romney is still that he refuses to give enough details. He's saying just enough to get elected, and little enough to not be held to task later.

I really don't think foreign policy debates matter that much in the end, in that once a candidate wins an election they assemble an experienced, seasoned team of foreign policy experts for their national security team. Obama, during the campaign in '08 offered up his own naive and uninformed foreign policy ideas, only to have to adjust them once he was elected—once he was made privy to all of the classified information no candidate has access to. It's the same for most presidential candidates, most of whom aren't foreign policy experts.

vageiger
vageiger

Your comments on drones on morning joe were despicable, purely and clearly despicable.  We save our 4 year olds by killing thieirs.  Disgusting.  there is no justification for killing 4 year ols kids with drones, none.  None.  NONE.  How you live with yourself is beyond me.  And, no, don't go there, If I was President and faced with that kind of decision.... etc.... If I was President and told a four year old would die in a drone attack I would not approve it.. PERIOD.  And Neither should Obama.  It is murder, MURDER.  Hope you are happy defending murder, it means you have no credibility on any issue involving how the US treats people in other countries.  So just STFU!!!!!

CVBB
CVBB

And I remember when Obama ran 4 years ago, he knew everything about foreign policy... except he didn't! The comments regarding the number of ships was stupid. (this is not a game of battleship, count the pieces) Who is going to patrol the straights, support our troops and lets not forget our little friends around the ivory coast! Everytime one gets held up, it takes days to get a ship to them because we are a little short.

DavidStrayer
DavidStrayer

Romney demonstrated convincingly that his familiarity with foreign policy was learned by cramming a few days before the exam.  On the campaign trail, he has rehashed neoconservative talking points as though they hadn't been thoroughly discredited during Bush-II's term.  And then he essentially acknowledged that he knows so little about foreign policy that he had to revert to domestic issues in order to be comfortable.

It's true that elections are rarely determined by foreign policy issues.  It's also true that Americans very much want a leader who knows what he's talking about and can represent the country creditably.  Romney fits neither description.  

amarjeet
amarjeet

Romney stance on Middle East and Israel are not workable and lasting. He lacks in-depth vision and solution of Middle East problems. Even where there are no Israel in Middle East; other countries problems are there. It is only Obama who can present solutions to them with their thousands of years rule & exploitation of people & other resources for elite class. Democracy form of governance has to be introduced in this region with great force & thrust conceptual & political. With manufacturing in America, more exports could be done to these countries to influence by American technology & excellence which resulted only in democracy with human rights & equality of genders in society & professional sectors. It is not an easy task but has to be done for US security as their political & emotional turmoil is spilling over to America which is a security threat to America. 911 elements & Times Square elements came from same or similar circumstances. There is no other way to eliminate terrorism except with social contacts, trade & commerce that provides public contacts & awakening at people level.

amarjeet
amarjeet

Obama had always been remarkable despite Republican Congress drag on his proposals & budget It is fortunate that Obama came after G.W.Bush to revert America back from economic disaster which was overdue with war pursuits & new emerging challenge of terrorism from Muslim world of Middle East. Romney is no match to Obama who has divine & democratic strength of concepts. His decision are very intelligent, well considered & balance which very few have. Obama rebuilding America vision of future American people is marvelous. God bless him with great success.

TimeSucks
TimeSucks

Soon, this magazine will also fold it's print edition and then their writers will be truly seen for what they are... blabbers in the ether, like you and I. 

CharlesScamardo
CharlesScamardo

The DEAR LEADER looked like petulant teenager being scolded by the ADULT. 

Gallop: Romney 51% DEAR LEADER 45%

Rassmussen: Romney 50% DEAR LEADER 45%

ernestofersa
ernestofersa

Mr. Klein's analysis is excelent. You can tell by watching the debate that Mr. Romney has no deep background knowledge but just keeps repeating some sentences he learned during his debate training. For a concise credible foreign policy there is just one option : President Barack Obama. The true partners of the USA will appreciate his clear positions, his credibility will ensure more stability.

Brightside
Brightside

If you watched the debate you can see who won Romney on knowledge, gentleness and strong presence. Obama was stiff, angry and smug.  CNN is a joke for reporting...they love Obama and wouldn't know a fact from fiction if it was shoved in their face.  That's why their ratings are in the pits stop.  Media doesn't matter any more they are all so bias..it is stupid.  You people need to wake up and see what is happening in America with our  press, journalist and the liberal people taking over America.  Obama will lose this time because people are sick of the press and their adoration for him. 

thetruth
thetruth

Joe Klein is extremely biased and loose with the facts in his propaganda.  Bythe way, two-thirds of Americans thought Mitt Romney won the first debate whileonly a very slim margin thought Obama won the third debate (both polls courtesyof CNN).Obama,why did you speak so many untruths in the third debate again?According toFACTCHECK.org you told the following untruths:President Obama erred when he accused Mitt Romney of saying during the 2008 campaignthat“we should ask Pakistan for permission” before going into that countryto killor capture terrorists. What Romney said was that he’d “keep ouroptionsquiet.”·Obama wrongly accused Romney of not telling the truthwhen Romney said “you and Iagreed” some U.S. troops should be left in Iraq.In fact, the president triedand failed to negotiate an agreement to keep3,000 to 4,000 support troopsthere; Romney said he would have left 10,000 to30,000.Obama said unemployment among military veterans is lower than for thegeneralpopulation. That’s true for veterans generally but not for veteransof the Iraqand Afghanistan wars.Obama said unemployment among military veterans is lower than for thegeneralpopulation. That’s true for veterans generally but not for veteransof the Iraqand Afghanistan wars. Obamawrongly claimed Romney called Russia the “biggest geopolitical threatfacingAmerica.” Actually, Romney called Russia a “foe” and not a “threat.”He said“the greatest threat that the world faces is a nuclearIran.”

kenhbradshaw
kenhbradshaw

I must of watched a different debate.  I thought Romny was calm and reasoned.  I have problems with the concept of winning and losing.  The question is who better positioned themselves for November.  I think Romney did exactly what he needed to do.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@CharlesScamardo - No we know a group claimed responsibility for the attack just like dozens of groups and individuals claim responsibility after every attack. Nothing more nothing less. However using the term DEAR LEADER only lets us know you for the partisan troll that you are.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Romney is a clueless opportunist surrounded by delusional Neo Cons. Thanks but no thanks.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Here is an even bigger shock. So does the rest of the world.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

They matter because we can see Romney lie to our faces. He talks peace and moderation and yet surrounds himself with Neo Con war mongers like John Bolton and Dan Senor.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

The only reason that Romney wants to spend 200 Billion more a year on the Military is that he has packed his advisory council with defense contractor lobbyists who all want an even bigger payday for their firms. The US navy currently has more firepower than the combined fleets of Russia, China and the EU. We also have 12 of the worlds 22 carriers.

Fla4Me
Fla4Me

@CVBB We spend more on the military then the next 17 nations combined.  If you want more ships you pay for it.

DavidStrayer
DavidStrayer

@CharlesScamardo 

You are welcome to believe whatever fantasies you wish.  Rasmussen (you should spell right) intentionally skews its polls so that Democrats are discounted.  Gallop's poll is far off the national average.

Nonetheless, go ahead and believe.  The tooth fairy may yet come.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

The dear leader? Last time I checked if you want to start your post like a brain washed child you will be treated accordingly. The only way the Republican win is if they steal the election via voter fraud or voter disfranchisement.

jilli.brown
jilli.brown

@CharlesScamardo   Now for the numbers that really matter...the electoral map (as of Oct. 23, 5:06 pm ET)

Obama 253

Romney 191

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

@CharlesScamardo Cling to those comforting polls.

Pollopa
Pollopa

Pant wetting about the press is really way past getting old.  Your guy lost to a much better debater, a much more informed CIC, and a much more concise, measured and confident POTUS.  Sorry you can take that whine and shove it. Willard is a loser, and it will show just how bad of one he is in two weeks.

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

@thetruth No, actually Willard said Russia is our greatest geopolitical foe. I'd love to hear him explain that little pearl of wisdom.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

And yet none of the world leaders want to see Mitt elected. And his circle of advisers is detested by the US and Israeli intelligence folks which can be seen by how they set him up with the Benghazi line of questioning in the second debate.

Pollopa
Pollopa

Spoken like a true loser.

His sweatng to the oldies was on view for the whole world.  Guess you thought he needed to lose some weight, because that's all he managed to do in more ways than one in this debate.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@paulejb1 The intelligence community set Mittens up for failure by letting his Neo Con advisers think he had gold before the second debate and he ended up with a handful of manure instead.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@paulejb1 Isn't that what I said all along Troll? Now wait till the mainstream media gets the green light to go after Issa for his treasonous actions.

CitizenCurby
CitizenCurby

and Odrama is the competent one?  ha ha ha ha 20% unemployment....1 in 6 living in poverty.....gas up $2 since he took office....the bar is set wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy too low.

Meister
Meister

@DavidStrayer It's Gallup. You embarrass yourself when you chide someone for misspelling a name, and then commit the same mistake.

jilli.brown
jilli.brown

@mantisdragon91   You're exactly right.

A BBC World Service poll in 21 countries finds sharply higher overseas approval ratings for President Obama than Mitt Romney, 50% to 9%.

Only Pakistan's respondents said they would prefer to see Romney win November's election.

jilli.brown
jilli.brown

@mantisdragon91 @paulejb1   And, in light of not having complete and credible information, a smart and reasonable presidential candidate would have held his tongue instead of jumping the gun to make a political statement.  It's not the intelligence communities fault - it's the lack of intelligence on romneys part that is at fault.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Of course Pakistan residents would prefer Romney. Than they can go back to harboring Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives like they did under Bush.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

I actually believe that certain elements within our intelligence services fed Romney's advisers false intel as a way to make the look like the idiots that they are. Romney and Bolton and Senor give the intelligence community nightmares, since at least the last two have proven in the post that they think they are smarter than the intelligence community and will happily create fiascoes in the name of following a failed ideology.