Tonight marks the third and final presidential debate of the 2012 election season, and so far, the score is 1 to 1.
Mitt Romney won the first debate on Oct. 3, even though he appeared (to put it charitably) as woefully uninformed. Romney won purely on style — he was aggressive. And much of the reason he was pegged winner was that Obama failed to call the challenger out on his bad grasp of facts or deliberate distortions.
President Barack Obama made sure he didn’t let that happen the second time around, on Oct. 18. He lectured the challenger like a veteran professor putting a smarmy college freshmen in his place.
Tonight’s debate is supposed to focus on foreign policy and world affairs. And it represents the most dangerous turf so far for the Republican.
To put it mildly, Romney is unskilled in that arena, and he’s left a lot of what passes for his “vision” to some neocon has beens who spent years getting this country into unnecessary wars and otherwise screwing up our foreign policy to just about the greatest extent imaginable. Such as former UN Ambassador Jon Bolton.
Just consider what Prof. James J. Hentz, chair of the Virginia Military Institute’s Department of International Studies, wrote on today’s ope-ed page. It was a reaction to an Oct. 8 foreign policy speech Romney gave at the military college in Lexington.
“Increasing defense spending, as Romney proposed, misses the point. If the increased budget is used to fight current wars, there will be less money to invest in preparing for the future, money for research and development. This choice cannot be made in a strategic vacuum, to say nothing of being made as part of a tactical political ploy. Do we want to continue to fight one, two or more wars in the Middle East? Or, as the question should be posed from a strategic point of view, do we want to lead?
Romney showed himself a shrewd tactician (an attribute that probably made him successful in business). The lack of strategic vision, however, was staggering. His prescription seems to be that we should continue to fight the last two wars. Obama’s strategic vision states those wars are over, and that it is time to prepare for the future.”
Hentz nailed it. If anything, Romney’s speech “showcased his lack of a strategic vision.”
The central theme of that speech was that under Obama, the United States has abdicated its position as leader of the free world. Expect Romney to make that charge repeatedly tonight, and to offer as evidence the recent deaths of four Americans in Libya.
But is it true?
The dollar is still the world’s reserve currency. U.S. military might is still unequaled by any nation or group of nations. The last president started two unnecessary, lengthy and treasury-draining wars that did nothing to improve our standing in the world. Those cost the lives of many, many more Americans.
Obama’s biggest foreign-policy fault (and it is one) is that he hasn’t gotten us out of Afghanistan fast enough. Romney wants to stay their longer, and he seems to want to go back into Iraq, and perhaps Syria.
Still, Obama has learned more about foreign policy in four years than Romney will ever learn. And that’s what we can expect to see on display tonight.