First, let me say what I suspect many of you are feeling this morning: THANK GOD THE DEBATES ARE OVER. They are behind us, out of the way, and now we can focus on the critical two weeks before voters go to the polls and cast their ballots in the Presidential election. While I’m happy Mitt Romney decisively won the first one, and won on the key points that mattered in the second (the economy and the deficit), and Paul Ryan held his own against a rude and disrespectful VP, as I have said before I am generally not a fan of debates as they become all about one liners, zingers, and flubs for people who do not (but should) judge a candidate based on their life’s work rather than just what they say in 60 second bits during a debate.
Which brings me to the third and final debate from last night: Post-debate polling shows Obama “won” on points but everything else is unclear. A CNN poll indicated that there was virtually no change from undecideds in terms of whether or not this debate was a game-changer for them. The liberal Public Policy Polling outfit had “insta-results” from ALL “swing states” within 30 minutes of the debate that declared Obama “definitively won” across all groups, which I found highly suspect and, frankly, don’t find credible considering the short amount of time they had to compile all that alleged information. A Fox News focus panel of undecided voters gave Romney high marks on his grasp of the economy last night, and Obama high marks on foreign policy, which I found baffling. In short, people were all over the map and I don’t think this debate really changed many, if any, minds one way or the other.
What I also found baffling was why Romney wasn’t more hard-hitting on Barack Obama, especially on the issue of Benghazi. If on NO OTHER ISSUE he should have nailed the administration to the wall for their sidestepping, incompetence, and lies on this one because it’s fresh in the minds of the American people. But it didn’t happen. Romney’s strategy last night seemed to be to “look presidential” without coming off as overly aggressive in attacking the Commander in Chief. That may have played well with some people but it did not do much for me. This President is NOT going to be held to account by the mainstream media before the election on Benghazi, and the various hearings held by Congress will not get to the bottom of the issue due to admin stonewalling and lies. So last night was really the last true opportunity for Mitt Romney to lay out his case against Obama unfiltered on the Benghazi issue but he didn’t. Oh well. He did emphasize the US’ need for a strong relationship with Israel, which was important.
In contrast to Mitt Romney’s attempt at looking Presidential, the President himself came off as wildly juvenile, combative and defensive – he misled and lied frequently as usual – and his contemptible comments in particular on military funding and the “bayonets and horses” sneer will hopefully sink his chances of winning Virginia and in other state where the military plays a significant role in the economy.
That being said, what will go largely unnoticed by the MSM in their attempts at plumping the pillow and clearing a path for Barack Obama in the final days before Election Day 2012 is that this President made a huge flub last night on the issue of “geopolitical foes.” Here’s the transcript of this segment of the debate (bolded emphasis added by me):
[GOV. ROMNEY] But what’s been happening over the last couple years as we watched this tumult in the Middle East, this rising tide of chaos occur, you see al-Qaida rushing in, you see other jihadist groups rushing in.
And — and they’re throughout many nations of the Middle East.
It’s wonderful that Libya seems to be making some progress, despite this terrible tragedy, but next door, of course, we have Egypt. Libya’s 6 million population, Egypt 80 million population. We want — we want to make sure that we’re seeing progress throughout the Middle East. With Mali now having North Mali taken over by al-Qaida, with Syria having Assad continuing to — or to kill — to murder his own people, this is a region in tumult. And of course Iran on the path to a nuclear weapon. We’ve got real gaps in the region.
MR. SCHIEFFER: We’ll get to that, but let’s give the president a chance.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Governor Romney, I’m glad that you recognize that al-Qaida’s a threat because a few months ago when you were asked, what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia — not al-Qaida, you said Russia. And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.
What’s key here is that there are two things Romney was talking about, which FactCheck correctly pointed out here in scoring this point for Romney: geopolitical foes and national security (physical) threats. Romney corrected Obama in response by noting that when he called Russia a geopolitical foe that he did NOT exclude Al Qaeda and Iran from being a threat and in fact warned that Iran getting a nuclear weapon was the greatest national security threat:
GOV. ROMNEY: But I’ll respond to a couple of the things you mentioned. First of all, Russia, I indicated, is a geopolitical foe, not —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Number one —
MR. ROMNEY: Excuse me. It’s a geopolitical foe. And I said in the same — in the same paragraph, I said, and Iran is the greatest national security threat we face. Russia does continue to battle us in the U.N. time and time again. I have clear eyes on this. I’m not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia or Mr. Putin, and I’m certainly not going to say to him, I’ll give you more flexibility after the election. After the election he’ll get more backbone.
Unfortunately, the “fact checkers” at Politifact wrongly scored this point to Obama, and I repeatedly pointed out to them last night on Twitter (which I appreciate Jim Geraghty writing about this morning) that they completely took the geopolitical foes/threats argument made at the debate out of context. Technically they were correct in terms of Obama saying at one point “geopolitical threat” but Obama was clearly trying to mix national security threats with geopolitical foes, implicitly stating that he thought the two were one in the same! The transcript makes it very clear. First, Obama mentioned “threats” in the context of Al Qaeda, then tried to call Romney out on the Russia is geopolitical foe comments he made earlier this year, which is a completely separate issue. Russia is a country that presents strategic geopolitical challenges to us at useless world bodies like the UN and is therefore a foe. Al Qaeda is a global physical national security threat to PEOPLE both here at home and abroad.
The POTUS does NOT understand what geopolitical means! And he doesn’t know the difference between a national security threat and a geopolitical foe. I tweeted to David Axelrod last night to ask the President in their next strategy session where Al Qaeda the country was on the map.
Does a President who can’t tell the difference between a national security threat and a geopolitical foe really deserve to have his hand anywhere near the nuke button? I don’t think so!
Anyway, like I said – I’m the debates are behind us. Priority One from now until election day for us all will be to amplify the fact that Barack Obama has had four years to “change” America for the better, as he promised, and he has done just the opposite – and does NOT deserve another four years to “fix” the numerous mistakes from his first administration.
Buckle up, gang – very bumpy ride ahead to the finish line. But we can do it!