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Romney Bombs, Obama Kills

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Last night, America watched as President Barack Obama and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney traded barbs, zings and more than a few bayonets as they confronted each other in the third and final 2012 Presidential debate, focusing on foreign policy. Occasionally. At times, the spectacle seemed as if the candidates were trying to trick all of America into watching a third debate on domestic policy. In any case, when international affairs were given their due attention, the President was on his game and Romney was on the ropes.

Going into this debate, it went without saying that the President would likely have the upper hand. He has, after all, been President for four years, overseen two wars, ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden and the toppling of Moammar Gadhafi, and deployed a secret robot army to hunt down literally the worst people in the world. Mitt Romney’s only political experience has been as the governor of a state that doesn’t even touch another country. Unless you think of Rhode Island as a foreign nation. And I do.

It was not only understandable that Romney would come into this debate with a weaker foreign policy resume, but it was also foreshadowed by his embarrassing answer during last week’s Hofstra debate on the issue of Obama’s conduct following the Libya attack. After such a blunder, it was to be expected that Romney’s handlers would have made sure that their candidate was better prepared to go toe-to-toe with Obama on what most polls show to be the President’s dominant subject. And to their credit, Romney avoided major embarrassment during this bout, but nevertheless, Obama emerged the clear victor.

The first few answers were fairly tame, from both candidates, but when the discussion turned to terrorism, the President unleashed on Romney, saying, “I’m glad that you recognize that Al Qaida is a threat, because a few months ago when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia.” This was quite a zing from Obama, but it’s also more than that. Romney has consistently tried to raise the specter of the Cold War in this campaign, wherein the United States is always at dire and consequential odds with a large nuclear power, whether it be China, Russia, or the hypothetical “Nuclear Iran.” This is an old way of thinking, and one that distracts from the real dangers that lurk in this new globalized world, such as international terrorism. The President has had some notable successes in combating terrorism, and finished off his wake up call to Romney by saying, “You know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”

Continuing his critique of Romney’s outdated thought process, the President took issue with the former Governor’s continued attacks on alleged reductions in military spending by the Obama administration: “You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed.” Once again, a great zing for Facebook, Twitter, and Jon Stewart to capitalize on, but also full of substance. Our military budget is too bloated, and much of our military hardware either rusts in storage lots or never sees combat. This is because too much of the military budget is being spent on equipment that was originally intended for use against the Soviets. Think about it; we’ve had two Red Dawn movies and not one Soviet boot has ever landed on American soil.

The reality is that there are no Soviets, Iran is not “nuclear,” and China is too economically tied to the United States for war to be conceivable in the near future. The reality is that 9/11 was not a hiccup. Neither was the Benghazi attack. And neither is the drone program. This is the new face of warfare, but at least we have a President that seems to know how to fight it. It’s hard to say the same thing about Mitt Romney, a man who said it wouldn’t be “worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars” to kill Osama bin Laden. Half of the time, Romney seems to be ill-informed and ill-prepared on matters of foreign policy, as he was during his Libya answer in the last debate. The other half of the time, Romney seems to be living in a pseudo-historical fantasy world of international affairs, just as he did in this debate.

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