Last night's final debate between Pres. Obama and Gov. Romney was an odd affair, to say the least. As I wrote in a comment elsewhere, Romney has been everywhere telling the world what a failure the President has been. He's insisted, like much the rest of the American Right, that Pres. Obama goes around the world apologizing for the United States. Last night, he agreed with much of the President's approach to foreign policy (with some notable exception that I'll get to), which makes me wonder: Is he going to be an apologetic failure, too?
While some of the debate certainly concerned itself with important matters of foreign policy, I was struck by a few things. In response to Pres. Obama's answer to the first question, Romney said that "we can't kill our way" out of various foreign policy problems. I pictured John Bolton, Romney's top foreign policy adviser, with his mustache catching on fire. Considering Bolton's seemingly bottomless desire to go war any- and everywhere, having Romney sit on that stage and say that we can't kill our way out of problems must have been like kryptonite or something.
Also early in the debate, the matter of sequestration arose. President Obama was categorical: Sequestration will not happen. For those not paying attention, sequestration is the name given to legally binding automatic cuts in all federally funded departments, the result of Congress' failure to arrive at some kind of agreement on spending cuts and revenue increases after the debt ceiling increase vote in late summer last year. While reassured somewhat by the President's statement, color me unimpressed with the whole matter. To pretend this isn't a worry for those whose job it is actually to oversee how military appropriations are spent is to ignore reality in a very dangerous way. It may well be the case that any across-the-board spending cuts won't pass, or the President will veto them and they'll die an ignominious death; all the same, it seems a very dangerous game, to say the least, while we still have thousands of American troops in battle in Afghanistan.
I have to admit I was more than a little saddened by Romney approving Pres. Obama's UAV air war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere. It might have been nice to hear someone stick up for the Constitution and say, you know, it's Congress's job to decide when we're at war and how to go about fighting that war. Even if he didn't mean it, which I'm sure he wouldn't, such a bow in the general direction of Constitutional government would be nice.
Isn't it odd that at a debate that was supposed to be about foreign policy, most of the talk seemed to be about blowing stuff up, or buying more stuff to blow stuff up, or which weapon platform blows stuff up better? And some folks wonder why the rest of the world is nervous.
While Romney certainly came across very poorly last night, it might have been nice to have a more thorough discussion of things like sequestration, the DoD budget in realistic terms, our real relations with countries rather than the paranoid fantasies of an Iranian threat or a Chinese threat or a Russian threat or some other threat (a Belgian threat, maybe? Would certainly be original). There wasn't a single word about Africa, the creation of an African Command and what role our troops on the ground are playing on that continent. Shoot, the President didn't even tease Gov. Romney for failing to mention our troops in Afghanistan during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.
All in all, it was an odd event. Saying President Obama "won" is a bit like saying that at least one of the clocks in Dali's famous painting has the correct time.