published Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Opinions: Times, Free Press editorials on final Obama-Romney debate

President Barack Obama speaks as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and moderator Bob Schieffer listen during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pool-Michael Reynolds)
President Barack Obama speaks as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and moderator Bob Schieffer listen during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Fla. (AP Photo/Pool-Michael Reynolds)
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Times Opinion: Romney fails, Obama wins


Though nothing like either of the first two debates, Monday's presidential debate was surprising for other reasons: Mitt Romney largely agreed with the direction of President Obama's policies in virtually every area of foreign policy. He also dialed back the hectoring, aggressive interruptions and rhetoric that made him appear such an overbearing bully in the first two rounds. Still, Romney failed to make the sale for his candidacy.

 He simply couldn't endorse Obama's policies and successfully argue, in the same breath, that they were wrong. He never got past that contradictory hurdle. Though he frequently tried, he couldn't convincingly say that Obama's foreign policies — in Iran, Syria, Libya, Iraq and other Middle East hot spots muddling through the turmoil of the Arab Spring; or in Israel, or Afghanistan — had failed to reflect effective leadership or a cogent overarching policy, when in fact he was agreeing with Obama's strategies.

 Nor, in his alternative argument, could Romney yet pin the economic effects of the deep recession that Obama confronted when he entered the White House — the worst recession in 80 years — on Obama's recovery policies. The most Romney could say, and he said often, was that he could do better going forward.

That convenient promise is not nearly enough to persuade reasonable voters that Romney's rhetoric is credible or believable, especially when he still cannot say how his math for far deeper tax breaks ($6 trillion in all) and spending promises ($2 trillion more for the Pentagon) squares with his other promise of deficit reduction over the next 10 years. He still failed to say, for example, how we would avoid putting new taxes on the middle class — through, say, ending credits for mortgage interest and student loans — if he keeps his promise to apply his 20 percent tax cuts to the nation's top 1 percent, who already own more than a third of the nation's wealth.

In was in this vein, however, that the debate, ostensibly on foreign policy, kept returning to domestic economic policies and issues. About the only clue Romney gave to show how he actually cut spending was his statement that he would turn Medicaid over to the states entirely.

 That's a uniquely troubling promise. The federal government now pays two-thirds of Medicaid's cost to pay for health care for the very poor and for two-thirds of the nation's nursing home care for many middle-class elderly people. State governments pay the other third, and its one of their most costly programs. State governments already administer Medicaid as well. Romney plans to slash federal Medicaid spending by nearly a third, and thereafter provide states a fixed block grant, which means states will further slash the program.

 Between voucherizing Medicare, cutting Medicaid for the poor and for nursing homes patients, and eliminating Obamacare, which if implemented would provide wage-indexed subsidies for affordable comprehensive health care for all uninsured Americans, it's easy to see the brutually harsh circumstances Romney envisions for America. Less health care, and more trickle down, Bush-style tax cuts for the ultra rich, the crowd Romney hangs with.

 Obama's policies are, and have been, immensely more fair, and far more durable and constructive for an economy that depends on the middle-class doing progressively better, and on education, worker training and investments in new technologies and infrastructure. Romney talked about how he would challenge China's currency manipulation and low-wage job strategies, but his record with his private equity company, Bain Capital, shows that he and Bain have been funding investments in China that helped Chinese companies take American jobs. 

 Obama rightly made the case for sticking to his current foreign policies, which have united dozens of countries in burden-sharing; and to his current education and job policies, which have produced more than 5.2 million private sector jobs over the past 32 months.

 If last night's debate stood as a referendum on Obama, then Obama won. If it stood as a sales pitch for election of Romney, then Romney clearly lost.

Free Press Opinion: Romney's convincing case


This election's third and final presidential debate sat like a minefield in front of Mitt Romney. It was his opportunity to sneak through and realize the opportunity to take the election down to the wire with a reasonable chance of winning, or make a wrong move and realistically end his hope of becoming president.

After taking command of the economic policy discussion following the first debate and swinging the momentum of the election in his favor, Romney demonstrated that he was more capable of guiding the United States economy out of its malaise over the next four years than President Barack Obama. What was still unproven, though, was how prepared Romney would appear to address questions regarding the diplomatic and commander-in-chief aspects of the job compared to someone with on-the-job training.

As a result, this debate wasn't actually about foreign policy — there's not a dime's worth of difference between Obama and Romney, anyway. Their almost identical answers on strategies regarding Iran, Afghanistan, Libya and Israel, for better or worse, proved that.

Instead, this debate was a test for Romney to prove whether he could appear knowledgeable and reassuring about foreign enemies and domestic threats, whether the American people would trust him with the lives of the members of our armed forces and, ultimately, whether he came across as “presidential.”

The president has access to daily issue briefings, the greatest foreign policy minds in the world and up-to-the-minute intelligence updates that simply aren't available to a challenger. As a result, it wasn't reasonable to expect that Romney could “win” this debate — whatever winning a debate means, given that the nature of assessing a debate is subjective and perverted by biases and party loyalties. On Monday night, Romney only needed to hold his own, prove that he was knowledgeable and prepared, and leave Americans with the feeling that he would make a trustworthy commander-in-chief. On each of those counts, Romney unquestionably passed with flying colors.

Over the past month, Romney has done what few expected. He has turned this election from a very likely blowout, into a barnburner. After Monday night, barring unforeseeable gaffes in the next dozen days, it is now possible — if a few states fall just right — for Romney to become the President of the United States.

***

The foreign policy debate may have been a boon to Mitt Romney's presidential chances, but it undoubtedly left many viewers and voters struggling with two realizations. First, with the economy in the tank and so many people fighting to make ends meet, foreign policy just doesn't matter this year like it has in elections past. Second, it's a good thing that voters aren't choosing a candidate based on their foreign policy platforms because both candidates offer extremely similar — and largely disappointing — outlooks on foreign policy and national defense.

Both men evidently need a refresher on the United States Constitution. Article 1, Section 8 empowers Congress, not the president, with the regulation of “commerce with foreign nations” and declaring war. Both candidates were more than happy to discuss possible military action and economic sanctions. In reality, however, the president's powers regarding either show of aggression is extremely limited. It would be nice to hear a president, or presidential candidate, admit that fact for a change and pledge to adhere to the constitutionally defined limits on his power, rather than attacking countries and developing economic sanctions without congressional authority.

It was also troubling to hear both Romney and Obama lay out their plans for the future of Syria and Egypt as though it's the responsibility of the United States government to determine the leaders, economic structure, laws and policies of these two independent countries that sit half a world away. It's arrogant and inappropriate for the president and potential president to debate how best for another country to go about its business.

Obama and Romney would have voters believe there is a tremendous difference in the way they see America's role in the world. In reality, they both have the same vision: America should continue to be an intrusive international security guard — at least in countries that have important national resources or pose a threat to Israel.

That role manifests itself in drone attacks and missile strikes that kill innocent civilians in countries that don't directly pose a legitimate threat to America. It results in trade sanctions that don't impact the evildoers they are meant to punish, but instead harm the poorest people in the affected countries, causing anti-American backlash. Worst of all, it results in the deaths of American servicemen and women who put their lives unnecessarily at risk.

This final debate only served as a reminder that those disturbing truths about America's foreign policy won't soon change regardless of whether Romney or Obama is president.
2012 Third President Debate
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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
hambone said...

Mitt has a terminal case of Ronmesia !

October 23, 2012 at 6:34 a.m.
ordinaryguy said...

I harken back to 1980...President Obama was in the same position as President Carter...no one gave Reagan a chance, and what happened? BLOWOUT...same thing will happen on November 6, hide and watch...The same people that continually condemn Romney for his wealth are the once that still worship at the altar of the Kennedy family...very strange indeed

October 23, 2012 at 11:18 a.m.
JustOneWoman said...

ordinaryguy said... I harken back to 1980...President Obama was in the same position as President Carter...no one gave Reagan a chance, and what happened? BLOWOUT...same thing will happen on November 6, hide and watch...The same people that continually condemn Romney for his wealth are the once that still worship at the altar of the Kennedy family...very strange indeed

It is not strange, you just aren't getting the big picture. It is not the wealth, it is what he does with the wealth. You know, like having Americans train their Chinese replacements like at Sensata. Another company moved to China that Romney will profit from.

October 23, 2012 at 12:55 p.m.
tipper said...

Probably the most contradictory statement I have heard from Romney concerns the $2 trillion for the military. Romney stated that we need to build more warships and planes. Now, the $2 trillion of taxpayer monies would no doubt create jobs. About 30 minutes later, Romney said that government does not create jobs. It's obvious by Romney's own statements that government DOES create jobs. The question is do we want to create jobs in the military sector building ships and planes that represents more of the military philosophy of the 20th Century, or do we want to spend $2 trillion on infrastructure, education, job trianing, cyber security, and future renewable energy? For more than 10 years the military industrial sector has had its heyday in making billions on war. Now that both Romney and Obama agree that government CAN create jobs for Americans, where would our tax revenues best be used to handle the needs of what we now face in the 21st Century? I agree with the military leaders who say we don't need all those funds to operate a less conventional mlitary system. When will Romney and the Republicans get it?

October 23, 2012 at 2:32 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

JOW, your response to ordinaryguy was very similar to what I would have said. Conservatives like to cling to the stereotype that all liberals hate/envy wealth and success, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is not whether a person is wealthy or not but how they act towards other people, regardless of class level, and whether they have empathy or not. JFK and FDR were both extremely wealthy and in fact were born into their wealth, but they were endowed with a keen sense of awareness of what it was like to be an average working class person and they had a compelling need to work for social justice for ALL Americans. Romney lacks even the least shred of empathy and he wears his sense of entitlement on his shirt sleeve. It's not his wealth but his arrogance, his obvious pandering to his fat-cat cronies, and the degree to which he is so hopelessly out of touch with mainstream America that make him so despicable.

October 23, 2012 at 3:05 p.m.
nucanuck said...

Not in my lifetime has a candidate for President shown such broad political out-reach as Mitt Romney. Early, Romney worked hard for the vote of the far Right. Just after the convention, Romney courted core republican votes and in the third debate, Romney courted the peacenik left.

Romney shows the flexibility to appeal to almost all voters.

If we only knew which Mitt Romney would govern.

October 24, 2012 at 12:31 a.m.
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