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Posts Tagged ‘debate’

Romney Stumbles on Foreign Policy

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

The final presidential debate focused disproportionately on the Middle East. Four of the six segments were on the Middle East, just two on other topics (one about the U.S. role in the world, the other about China). Egypt was mentioned 11 times, Libya 12 times, Iraq 22 times, Pakistan 25 times, Syria 28 times, Afghanistan 30 times, Israel 34 times, and Iran 47 times. In contrast, the European crisis got no mention, nor did India, Germany, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, or Australia.

Barack Obama has a weak record in the Middle East, but one would not learn this from the debate, where Mitt Romney praised Obama’s achievements (“It’s wonderful that Libya seems to be making some progress”), agreed with Obama more than he disagreed, and rarely pointed out his failings. Presumably, Romney took this mild approach to establish his likability, competence, and suitability to serve as commander-in-chief.

When asked about Egypt, Romney digressed to the need for a strong U.S. economy. When asked about American’s role in the world, he touted the achievements of 4th graders in Massachusetts during his governorship. Perhaps his recurring emphasis on the economy will win over the elusive undecideds, but it left this viewer frustrated.

The Libya topic was Romney’s great surprise and his missed opportunity. Asked a softball question about the mistakes made in the aftermath of the attack on Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, he talked about better education, gender equality and other worthy goals – but ignored the opportunity to establish that the Obama administration is not only inept but engaged in fabrications. Most agonizingly, Romney congratulated Obama for taking out Osama bin Laden without noting that this did limited good, for Al-Qaeda still had the ability to attack and kill Americans in Benghazi.

In terms of policy, Obama made statements about Iran worthy of note: “As long as I’m president of the United States Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. … A nuclear Iran is a threat to our national security, and it is a threat to Israel’s national security. … We are going to take all options necessary to make sure [the Iranians] don’t have a nuclear weapon.” Oddly, Romney replied with a detailed program of actions (such as indicting Ahmedinejad under the Genocide Convention) but did not make parallel statements of intent.

Like senators who vote leftwards for six years but then campaign as moderates during election season, Obama presented himself in this and the other debates as profoundly different from the president he has been. Someone not versed in his ideology and his record would not realize his distaste for a powerful United States. He sounded like a nationalist, making punchy patriotic statements (“I said if I got bin Laden in our sights I would take that shot”), speaking with a smooth eloquence, and showing himself at ease and in control. The question is, how many people will be fooled by this performance? (October 22, 2012)

Oct. 23, 2012 update: Having been criticized by some for my response to the 2nd debate, it might be useful to explain what I am and am not doing in these analyses.

* Although sympathetic to Romney, I am not flacking for his campaign. I write to express my sincere opinion and assume that readers want that from me.

* My opinions focus on the Middle East dimension of the debate, rather than its possible impact on the presidential race. Perhaps this debate stopped Romney’s momentum, perhaps it did not; that is not my topic.

Originally published at DanielPipes.org and the National Review Online, The Corner October 22, 2012 and updated on October 23. 

Daniel Pipes

Romney’s Plan to Lose the Little Contest and Win the Big One

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

As I was watching the battle proceed before my astonished eyes, with Mitt Romney touting so many of the President’s policies and actually confirming what so many of us know are half truths mixed with wishful thinking, if not outright lies, it occurred to me that someone back on the Romney bus decided not to win last night, but to shoot for a different target. The more the conversation unfolded, the more I understood how such a strategy could have been conceived.

It comes down to keeping your eyes on the prize. You’re the come-from-behind candidate, you’ve won a decisive opener and either won the second debate by points or lost by points, depending on who’s writing the review. You’re tied in the national polls, but still behind in most swing states. Now comes the third debate, and it’s about foreign policy, which means the president has all the best cards, because he understands foreign policy, because his record is mixed—not a complete disaster—and because he killed Bin Laden after you said it wasn’t worth the effort (it really wasn’t, but who’s listening).

The only way to win this debate would have been by attacking the president brutally, confronting him on every fact, cutting into every statement he makes, causing him to lose his footing and to look like a fool. It could be done, and I’m sure many of you watching at home were heckling the living daylights out of Romney for not grabbing all those golden opportunities – but I think he was smart not to. I think the guys on the bus were right. Because Romney could easily have come across as a mean spirited Nixon-like figure, beating on the poor president.

By staying away from the rough and tumble of the first debate, Candidate Romney reached a status equal to that of the man next to him on the split-screens: they both looked ready for office. And that was huge.

Remember, both candidates were really playing for the relatively narrow sliver of independents in swing states. Romney is pushing hard there, gaining on Obama in Pennsylvania, which used to be considered a sure Democratic state only in August and even September. He is ahead in Florida, but he’s still behind in Ohio. Romney has to take Ohio – and he won’t take it by winning on points in a foreign policy debate. He can win Ohio by looking so presidential, you could imagine him on a U.S. postage stamp.

That’s what the guys on the bus told their boss to go for tonight, and, with some hesitation, he followed their orders. It makes no difference now whether or not the pundits will say (as they have done already) that this was a win for Obama. Because there’s one thing Obama couldn’t deny his opponent tonight – respectability. No matter how Obama tried, he couldn’t push Romney so far out to the right he would lose his appeal to the independents.

Bob Schieffer of CBS News started with Libya, and Romney described the troubles associated with the Arab spring. We’ll have to develop a new, comprehensive strategy to combat the negative changes in the Middle East, he suggested.

You would have expected him to start right off the bat with a tirade about how both the president and Ms. Crowley have lied in the last debate about the spirit of what Obama had said regarding Benghazi. But, in retrospect, Romney’s taking the high road was a good strategic step.

Obama recounted his record as president, keeping Americans safe, decimating Al Qaeda, ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He compared the liberation of Libya without boots on the ground to the costly other two wars, saying Libyans now support America. He accused Romney’s strategy of being “all over the map.”

Romney attacked some of Obama’s delusions, but never even got close to a body blow.

Schieffer asked Obama about Syria. Can we influence events there?

Obama mentioned that the U.S. has organized the international community in saying Assad has to go. The U.S. has mobilized sanctions, isolated the government, mobilized humanitarian aid and supported the moderate forces within Syria.

Seriously? We are supporting the Syrian moderates? Those moderates who are taking out whole city blocks with their car bombs? Is the president actually suggesting there are good guys and bad guys in Syria?

Then Obama said that, ultimately, Syria will have to determine its own future. The U.S. is cooperating with Israel and Turkey, its two friends who are next door to Syria. And he opposed giving heavy weapons to the opposition, as he claimed Romney had suggested.

Yori Yanover

Er, No, Obama Didn’t Win the Debate

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

We’ve reached a watershed here, where we either live in our own heads affirming reality, regardless of spurious inputs from demagoguery or sentiment, or we give up on reality and let demagoguery and sentiment take over at the decision table.  Did the president pull off a performance last night, in terms of sounding passionate and full of conviction?  To some extent, yes.  Does that mean he won the debate, or even achieved a draw with Romney?  No.

The mainstream media immediately launched a volley of positive soundbites about the president’s performance, but frankly, they were going to do that anyway.  As long as Obama didn’t collapse on the stage, they were going to say he had his mojo back.

The problem is that in order to sound passionate and full of conviction,Obama had to belt out a remarkable string of untruths.  Besides repeating the same tired lies about Romney’s policies that his campaign has been flogging for the last two months, the president simply lied – there’s nothing else to call it – about the trend of drilling permits under his administration (Romney is right; permits have been slashed).

Obama insisted to Romney that he had called the Benghazi attack terrorism on day one, when in fact, he had not.  He lied about the Arizona immigration-enforcement law, repeating a lie the Democrats have persisted in since the law was being debated in the Arizona statehouse.  The law is carefully and explicitly written to prohibit ethnic profiling stops by law-enforcement officers.  Immigration-status checks can only be done in connection with a stop on another, unrelated basis, such as a traffic stop.

Obama did try to assume the moral high ground on Libya with a riff on Americans’ safety and his responsibility, but it was a cringe-worthy performance from the man who waited until after the Benghazi attack to bring diplomatic-mission security up to a normal standard, and who professes, 36 days after the attack, to still be waiting to find out what happened.  If he really doesn’t know, he’s the only one who doesn’t.  His position that we’re still waiting to assess the attack isn’t judicious; it’s absurd.  Mentally substitute George W. Bush for Obama in this scenario, and try to imagine the MSM giving Bush the benefit of the doubt for 36 days and counting.

I had my concerns about Romney’s performance last night, if only a couple.  Probably the biggest was that he tended to put his most powerful material at the end of each statement, and got cut off just as he was articulating it.  The response to the woman who asked about keeping jobs in the US was a case in point: Romney made a rather convoluted case about China as a currency manipulator, and only after dealing with that arcane topic mentioned that if we want to keep America job-friendly, we have to stop regulating ourselves into an economic coma.  He got cut off saying it; that should have been his opening point.  The American people can dosomething about that.  And whether or not the point about regulation resonated with that particular questioner, it would resonate far and wide among other Americans.

Romney is typically succinct and direct on the economy, and he should apply that style to everything he says in a debate.  He would have made the point about Obama’s own passive investment in China much better by simply stating it outright, rather than repeating the same question to the president – “Have you looked at your pension lately?” – until it began sounding like a second-grader’s taunt.  Just make the assertion, already.  “Mr. President,your pension is invested in China.”  That simple – and, without the weird build-up, slyly devastating.

But rhetorical glitches aside, Romney had substance last night.  He whaled it out of the park on energy and immigration, and came off as genial and presidential.  Interestingly, the Frank Luntz panel saw the same thing.  The MSM’s assessment this morning that the president staged a comeback in this debate is information about the MSM, not about the candidates or the debate.  It’s like they’re narrating some invisible drama that no one else can see.

I don’t think Romney dominated last night’s debate as he did the first one.  But neither did I see the debate as a draw.  Only if it counts as successful communication to use demagoguery to create itch-scratching images for your own base did Obama’s performance equal Romney’s.  Obama’s statements would have had little appeal outside his own base.  And indeed, so many of them were simply false that, to my mind, it requires assuming that your fellow Americans are fools, to think that his communications were probably more effective with them than they were with you.

J. E. Dyer

So What Did Obama Call the Benghazi Attack?

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Since the debate there’s been a lot of analysis as to whether the President designated the attack on the U.S. embassy in Bengahzi, Libya, an act of terrorism.

Throughout most of his speech on September 12th, Obama did call it an “attack” and then later in the speech after discussing the attacks of September 11th, 2001, he said:

Of course, yesterday was already a painful day for our nation as we marked the solemn memory of the 9/11 attacks. We mourned…. As Americans, let us never, ever forget that our freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it…  No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.

So it wasn’t clear that he was referring to the Benghazi attack as a terror attack or whether he was speaking about the 9-11 attacks or both. The New York Times reported this morning that on Sept. 13th, at a campaign speech, Obama had said:

And we want to send a message all around the world — anybody who would do us harm: No act of terror will dim the light of the values that we proudly shine on the rest of the world….

As they didn’t give the context of the statement, we are left to trust them that he was talking about Benghazi.

Then for about a week, administration officials described the attacks as part of a protest-riot against the the U.S. over the “Innocence of Muslims” video which got out of hand. As Romney attempted to point out during the debate, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice called it “a spontaneous, not premeditated attack response” which was attended by “some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons.” (Here’s a link to a catalogue of quotes from the administration about the attack from the Times).

CNN points out that when he was on “the View,” Obama was asked about how Hillary Clinton had called the attack an act of “terrorism” and whether that was the case. Obama responded saying, “we’re still doing an investigation….”

This looks like a case of semantics overshadowing the main point. Obama did not believe the attack was an act of terrorism. He and his administration’s initial reaction was to play down its significance of the attack. Remember, this is a President who banned the use of the term “War on Terror” in his administration. That’s the point Romney is making and that’s what the discussion should be about.

***

Here’s a good explanation of what the President was referring to when he said “act of terror” in the Rose Garden:

And here’s the debate’s moderator Candy Crowly explaining what she said:

Daniel Tauber

Crowley: Obama’s Teleprompter Substitute

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

We can now fairly assume that both Democrat and Republican analysts concluded that President Obama’s weak performance in the first presidential debate could be attributed to the absence of a teleprompter. The president’s reputation — earned or unearned — as a golden orator cannot be upheld without this prop. So, to level the playing field — as he is fond of saying — he was provided with a flesh and blood teleprompter in the shape of Candy Crowley for the second debate.

It was a Catch 22. If Mitt Romney had pointedly objected to this glaring intervention he would have been seen as the bad sport who shouts at the referee. The same goes for post-debate commentators. You’re not supposed to grumble about the conditions, it makes it look like your guy didn’t hold his own.

From my observation point here in Paris in the middle of the night, the whole setup was skewed. Forgive me if I don’t know the inner workings of the election committee that supposedly ensures a fair fight but I am wondering how in the world they could organize a Town Hall debate composed of 80 undecided voters. Does anyone know how the voters proved they were undecided? Was there a competition to eliminate the less undecided in favor of the truly sincerely undecided? Did they have some kind of test to root out the secretly decided? And how about intelligence? Are the undecided automatically inarticulate or was there another filter that excluded citizens capable of pronouncing a sentence of more than five words containing more than one idea? Why did they all look like props?

I have witnessed dozens of town hall style debates on French television and, trust me, they are never reduced to such first-grade level. When a person intervenes in this kind of discussion, one can perceive something behind the words — call it substance or context or a foundation — that indicates a thought process and life experience that crystallized in a given statement or question. Not so last night. It sounded like a first grade teacher had handed out the questions, matching them up to Johnny, Mary, Alvin, Chris and Rosina on the basis of some silly notion of identity.

Where is this election committee coming from? What is this kindergarten concept of objectivity? Put together eighty people who say they are undecided and all the questions will be equally fair and advantageous to each candidate. Close your eyes and take one moderator from any TV channel — oh my goodness, it’s Candy Crowley from CNN and she’s a woman — and, because she is called the moderator she will moderate.

As if that weren’t enough, Candy Crowley intervened from the very first exchange, like a mother prompting her little boy who forgot his spiel or maybe doesn’t want to brag about his accomplishments. The pattern was set: each candidate would give his answer to the (elementary) question, Candy would call on Barack and throw him some talking points, he would take the cue and do a little performance, and when Mitt Romney tried to do his rebuttal Candy would say that’s enough, let’s go to the next question.

This is a moderator? Why is there only one? If the reality principle had prevailed over the objectivity fallacy there would be two partisan moderators, as well-behaved as the candidates, capable of keeping tabs on each other without getting into a fistfight. A second moderator would have pinned President Obama down on, for example, Fast and Furious. Ms. Crowley let him slip out of it with a homily on good schools and equal opportunity.

Which brings us to Benghazi. First, the question was pathetic. The questioner made a point of saying that it came from a brain trust. How long had these big brains powwowed before coming up with the little bitty question: Is it true that requests for additional security at the Benghazi consulate had been ignored? That’s all the brainies wanted to know? What followed was to democracy what the Benghazi fiasco was to sovereignty. The teleprompter-moderator — who knew the questions in advance — and had apparently reviewed and memorized President Obama’s September 12th Rose Garden talk, intervened to swat down Governor Romney as he looked the president in the eyes and said “You called it an act of terror?”

She grabbed the ball from Obama’s hands and slam dunked it! And the audience applauded. Why in the world did they applaud? I thought they were undecided ergo objective. Why didn’t they emit a collective gasp in horror at Crowley’s totally unacceptable intervention in the debate? Had they too memorized the speech? And forgotten everything said by the president and his men and women since then?

I viewed the video this morning. It prefigures the spin that followed. The incident is called a tragedy not a terror attack. The president criticizes those who denigrate a religion, not those who murder an American ambassador. He pretends that Libyan forces helped, tried to protect, brought the personnel to a safe house, and brought Ambassador Stevens’ body to the hospital where he died. He promises to find out who did it and bring them to justice. In other words, it was a crime not an act of terror. Later, referring to the 9/11 commemoration ceremonies, he claimed that no act of terror against the United States goes unpunished. This was a reference to the elimination of Osama bin Laden. When the president had said what would be his last word before flying off to the fundraiser, a journalist called out: “Was it an act of war?”

But the president wasn’t taking questions.

So it will be up to American voters to answer that one.

Originally published at the American Thinker.

Nidra Poller

What’s Important to America?

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Here on vacation  I woke up in the middle of the night to watch the second debate. I had not seen either the first one or the VP debate, though I saw and read clips. I thought I would be bored; I wasn’t. I hoped I would be impressed – I was…by Mitt Romney.

Obama is a known quantity, struggling again to run not on his record, but on words again. I don’t believe he should be given that grace again. Romney isn’t asking to be judged by his words, and that is refreshing. He wants us to look at what he has done in his life – built a successful business, raised a successful family, governing successfully for his state.

Obama lied. I listened to his suddenly claiming from the start that Libya was a terrorist attack. He said that the day after the attack, before flying off for his next fundraising trip in Las Vegas, that he had condemned the Libyan Consulate attack as a terrorist action and said the U.S. would hunt down those who had perpetrated the crime. That’s not what he said at the time. In fact, it was many lies and two weeks later, before he admitted it was, without question, not the movie but terrorism.

The fact that Candy Crowley tried to help the president out should, justifiably, be ashamed. If there was a loser in last night’s debate, I think it was the moderator. She had the chance to be fair; she wasn’t. She had the chance to truly shape a debate of the people; she chose questions that were what she wanted and asked her own questions.

The president lied about licensing for federal lands. It’s been proven that Romney was, again, speaking the truth and the president was lying. Why were lies allowed?

I had heard this would be a debate focusing on foreign policy and I was interested to hear what Obama thinks about Iran and Israel. It wasn’t covered and I’m still not sure why. Israel was mentioned only once – by Romney in an accusation that Obama has not been supporting Israel. Obama did not respond, did not say anything about Israel. Iran, a major threat to my country, was not mentioned at all.

Again and again, I listened to the questions and I watched Obama. The simple fact is that after being absent at the first debate, as most people felt he was, there was no question that he would do better – and he did. But I don’t think it was enough.

The simple truth is that few are likely to change their vote based on this debate – but hopefully, people will take the time to swim through the lies. Again and again, I turned to my husband and said – well, that’s nice, if only that was the question.

Again and again, the questions came back to what seems to be the most important issue for America – the economy. I heard plans from Romney; I heard words from Obama. When he did speak of plans, I kept wondering why he did not implement those in his first four years. He accused the Republicans of blocking his plans – he is always quick to blame others for his failures. But for the first two years, he had the full support of a Democratically-controlled Senate and House for the first two years he was in office. The Republicans couldn’t have blocked him from doing anything…no?

I found the president to be filled with words…words aimed at creating a picture that he has failed to create in four years. Why should he be given another four? Worse, why would we want to put in a lame duck president at this critical time, who won’t be able to run for another four years and therefore will do whatever he wants.

In short, putting Obama in the White House is just not an option…at least for me, and hopefully not for the majority of Americans.

Visit A Soldier’s Mother

Paula R. Stern

Reflections on the Second Presidential Debate

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

This evening’s presidential debate, the second between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, featured some very sharp disagreements over facts that almost no viewers can judge (such as the licenses issued for drilling in federal lands) and agreement on the topics where viewers have strong opinions (such as capitalism).

Perhaps this debate will move those few undecided voters in Ohio, Virginia, and Florida, but it leaves the rest of us judging the debate according to which candidate we’d rather have as a dinner companion. Put differently, Romney missed an opportunity by not discussing larger issues but letting himself get mired in details.

Obama got away with saying that he had characterized the attack on the Benghazi consulate as a terrorist incident because the moderator confirmed his point; in fact he misrepresented the facts when he said “The day after the attack, governor, I stood in the Rose Garden and I told the American people and the world that … this was an act of terror.”

Reince Priebus, the Republican party chairman, instantly seized on this inaccuracy and accused Obama of lying and others are sure to follow suit. This inaccuracy will likely haunt Obama over the next three weeks and turn the Libyan fiasco into an even bigger problem for his reelection campaign. That will matter more than who “won” the debate. (October 16, 2012)

Republished from DanielPipes.org and cross-posted from History News Network.

Daniel Pipes

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