Readers’ thoughts on the third debate

Since I’ve posted several entries on the debate (“Romney on the Mideast”, “Romney’s plan”, “Will Romney’s non-combative posture work?”, and “Know-it-all Obama shows himself ignorant”), I am posting all readers’ responses in this one entry in order to make the discussion easier to follow.

James P. writes:

Whether or not Romney’s non-combative plan works in the sense of enabling him to get elected, this should be a clear signal to all traditionalists and conservatives that Romney will not attack liberalism by word or deed if he is elected. Liberalism will do what it did after the 2000 election—lick its wounds, relentlessly attack the Republican President without fear of effective reprisal, and plan for its future return to power.

LA replies:

Yes. And note the resemblance to the Bushes, elder and younger. As I’ve often observed, both of them would only show strength and aggressiveness when their back was to the wall. As soon as the emergency was passed, they reverted to impotent arm-waving (the elder) or back-rubbing their liberal enemies (the younger). Prior to the first debate on October 3, Romney’s campaign was in the doldrums, Obama was ahead, and Republicans were deeply discouraged. Romney knew he had to do something different. So in the first debate he adopted a strong and aggressive manner completely unlike his usual self. It worked. His aggressive performance transformed the campaign and even put him slightly in the lead. But now, as a result of his very success, he has reverted to his (and most Republicans’) default mode: complacency, unaliveness, and non-aggressive niceness toward the liberal Democratic foe.

Kidist Paulos Asrat writes:

I think Obama looked a little manic last night. I’ve written about “a hard glint in his eyes.”

But I agree, despite his loss of weight and his gray hair, he looked stronger than Romney, who missed the presidential gravitas with his odd smile. [LA replies: But did you notice that about half-way through the debate Romney began dropping the smile and having a more serious, sober look on his face, with just the slightest trace of a smile. When he did that, I said, “That’s the way he should look.” A fellow debate-watcher said, “He’s learning.”]

Here’s a pretty good side-by-side from the debate of Obama’s glare and Romney’s attempt at strength.

As in your post, I agree with you that Obama did not look “small or angry.” But, I don’t think his demeanor suggests a leader of the First World. He might be a leader, but I don’t think for Americans. [LA replies: Good point.:-) ]

Terry Morris writes:

What you’re saying in the last several entries regarding Romney’s choice of strategies for the final debate is, more succinctly put, that he was playing not to lose, rather than playing to win.

I think it has the potential to work given that he apparently gained so much ground in the first two debates, particularly the first. Whether it will work or not is something we will not know until November 7. But even if it does prove to be the winning strategy, it is nonetheless, in my view, a cowardly strategy, and therefore one I cannot endorse.

David B. writes:

Ben Stein agrees with you. He gives his version of what Romney should have said on Libya and other things.

Thucydides writes:

Clearly Romney did not want to engage in sharp controversy over foreign affairs and thus risk elevating any issue that might divert focus from the economy. Probably he also feels that non-belligerence in foreign affairs will play especially well with female voters.

Twice Obama tried the tactic of “flooding” Romney with criticisms, six or more at a time, in the hopes of getting him hopelessly bogged down in detailed defense. Romney handled this masterfully with a general denial, plus the statement that “attacks on me are not an agenda.”

Regarding Luntz’s focus group, they indicated by a show of hands that they had overwhelmingly voted for Obama in 2008. Someone accurately described the Luntz group so-called undecideds (the ones in the group after the second debate) as being in fact disillusioned Democrats. The striking thing was that while the current group strongly supported Obama on foreign policy, they completely accepted the idea that Romney could do wonders on the economy and jobs, which was their primary concern.

If the focus group members are at all representative of worried and unsatisfied Democrats (and how could any except strong partisans not be worried?), then Romney appears to have made his sale to the undecideds and the middle.

Paul K. writes:

The line about horses and bayonets was obviously a pre-planned zinger. However, as you point out, the army and Marines still do issue bayonets, as the modern bayonet doubles as a utility knife which is a necessary part of their kit. The fact that this didn’t occur to Obama indicates that his familiarity with the military is no greater than Romney’s, even while he was sarcastically trying to prove otherwise.

Allan Wall writes:

Great point on the use of bayonets by the British Army. Also, the U.S. Army uses donkeys in Afghanistan, they are very useful as pack animals in some of the terrain there.

Joseph C. writes:

I watched most of the debate last night. While I think Bob Schieffer did a good job moderating, there was one glaring omission. Over the course of 90 minutes, not once did I hear the words “Mexico” or “border security” mentioned in a debate on foreign policy, to say nothing of “Fast and Furious.” Was this a deliberate omission? Does Mr. Schieffer not think that our relationship with Mexico is worth discussing?

Max P. writes:

Adding to your point about Obama not knowing bayonets are still used, here is some proof that the Army still uses horses.

An official account of Operation Enduring Freedom at the U.S. Army History website describes our usage of horses in combat in Afghanistan in 2001. A description and a couple of photos about a quarter of the way down this history page show U.S. Army Special Forces riding into battle on horseback.

Alternatively one may google “Special Forces on horseback” to view some interesting images.

Malcolm Pollack writes:

You wrote:

Romney knew he had to do something different. So in the first debate he adopted a strong and aggressive manner completely unlike his usual self. It worked. His aggressive performance transformed the campaign and even put him slightly in the lead. But now, as a result of his very success, he has reverted to his (and most Republicans’) default mode: complacency, unaliveness, and non-aggressive niceness toward the liberal Democratic foe.

There is another, more hopeful interpretation available (though it may very well be a false hope): that Mr. Romney’s pivot to the center, and his non-aggression in the final debate, is a purely tactical move—and that once he has taken the White House he will govern significantly to the right of the position he has staked out in these last two weeks. He knows, after all, that by moving toward the center he will lose few voters to his right—where else can they go?—and he probably imagines that by doing so, by seeming as unthreatening as possible, he can peel off significant numbers of disenchanted (and I mean that word in its original sense) Obama voters. It seems to be working.

That said, I think that it’s very clear that even if this is so, it’s completely unrealistic to imagine that Romney will ever govern as anything resembling a realist regarding our policies in the Middle East, and our attitude toward Islam. But then again, it’s also completely unrealistic, so far at least, to imagine that any politically viable candidate for President would do so. The only choice we get here and now is between Romney and Obama, and just getting Obama out will have to be sufficient unto the day.

As a lifelong martial-arts practitioner, I think that Mr. Romney fought this debate well: parrying well enough, clinching when necessary, and then stepping back, whenever openings presented themselves, to land some heavy blows. All of this has to be having a cumulatively fatiguing and demoralizing effect on his opponent, who surely thought at the beginning that this wouldn’t be much of a fight.

LA writes:

In a CBS poll, 53 percent of respondents think that Obama won the debate, versus 23 for Romney. Does this mean that Romney’s non-combative approach has failed? Not necessarily. I point again to that Frank Luntz focus group: they overwhelmingly said that Obama won the debate, even as they were overwhelmingly supporting Romney. As some pundut pointed out recently, people have become very sophisticated in these matters. They understand that “winning the debate” is a kind of technical accomplishment which is distinct from presenting oneself as the better candidate for president.

A reader writes:

You said that Romney’s criticism of Obama for not pushing forward the peace process suggests that Romney as president will try to get the peace process going again.

But Mother Jones put out a video where he was speaking about the Israeli-Palestinian situation to the same group of donors to whom he made the “47 percent remarks.” He said that he didn’t see any sort of agreement occurring in the discernible future. Given that it was a candid setting and he spoke in much more detail on the subject than he normally does, I would assume those are his real thoughts on the matter.

LA replies:

That’s interesting. You could be right.

On the other hand, the audience he was addressing has been described as a group of wealthy Republican donors in Florida. Such an audience would contain many Jews. So it’s possible he made the anti-peace process remarks with a view to appealing to them.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 23, 2012 12:06 PM | Send

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