I’ll cut to the chase on some thoughts from Monday night’s final presidential debate of the 2012 campaign.

I’m no Mitt Romney supporter, that’s pretty clear if you’ve followed this blog very long.  But if I were Romney’s mother, and my boy was so convinced he was doing the right thing when he talked about the United States having fewer Navy ships now than we did in 1916, and my boy got slapped down the way Barack Obama did to Romney with a simple line — “Well, we also have fewer horses and bayonets than we did in 1916” — I’d be rushing up to the stage, giving my boy a big, tearful hug, and shouting about how Obama was nothing but a bully.

You almost had to feel sorry for the Republican challenger, it was such a thorough takedown by Obama that seemed to show a touch of naivete on Romney’s part to think that modern wars that are fought and won more on intelligence and precision and surgical strikes can be fought and won more through massive methods going back to World War I.

It was interesting that Romney didn’t have a comeback for that.  That’s pretty much how it went for him in a debate dedicated to foreign policy issues, where Romney’s weakness was more glaring.

On the September attacks in Libya which saw four Americans — including a diplomat — being killed, Romney said, “We can’t kill our way out of this mess” in the Middle East, and we need a comprehensive strategy to reject Muslim extremism.  Obama noted that Libyans had already been rejecting the violence against the U.S. consulate soon after the violence occurred, and strong, steady leadership is needed, not “reckless leadership that’s all over the map.”  It was the first of a number of times when Obama used the words “all over the map” to describe inconsistencies in the challenger’s statements on various policies, both foreign and domestic.

On many questions, Romney failed to differentiate himself from much of what is already being done to handle hot spots such as Iran except to say that sanctions there needed to be toughened, only to have Obama respond that the sanctions already in place against Iran are already serving to cripple its efforts to build a nuclear weapon.

Romney’s weakness on foreign policy showed in the ways he deflected questioning at times on foreign relations and tried bringing the discussion to domestic issues.

Moderator Bob Schieffer at one point asked Romney a very direct question about where he was going to get the money to build up our military if he’s going to slash so many budgets.  Romney’s answer was to get rid of “Obamacare” and other government programs.  Obama responded that Romney is proposing $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military’s not asking for, with $5 trillion in tax cuts and closing tax loopholes without saying where.

That led to Romney talking about the U.S. having fewer Navy ships than we did in 1916, followed by Obama’s “horses and bayonets” reply, saying that Romney doesn’t understand how today’s military works.

Romney said he would tighten sanctions on Iran, and increase pressure on them to keep them from attacking Israel, but Obama talked tough on Iran himself and said that the U.S. would stand with Israel if it were to be attacked.  Romney played the “apology tour” card, and Obama hit back hard there as well with Romney having no comeback.

It was almost like a reversal of how it looked between the two in the first debate, this time with Obama being the confident aggressor and Romney being off his game.

The Republican challenger was in over his head in an area which has not been his strong suit, and it showed in his performance.  Obama showed the benefits of experience in foreign policy that he’s already gained, and he handled himself well when Romney tried shifting the debate to domestic arguments.

This debate wasn’t as close as the last one.  Obama clearly won the day.

2 thoughts on “The third presidential debate: Of “horses and bayonets”

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