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Three Positions, One truth: The Night that the Presidency was Won
"Understanding is a three-edged sword: Your side, their side, and the truth." - a Vorlon proverb, Babylon 5.
There are three different schools of thought revolving around the final Presidential debate, which was held last night, October 22. The first school of thought was that President Obama "schooled" Governor Romney. Roger Simon wrote these very words in Politico. This is the view of the leftist partisans. There is a second school of thought that thought that Governor Romney sort of held his own against the President, who was clearly desperate to score points. However, this position holds that the Governor missed the opportunity to go for the jugular and take him to school. This represents the viewpoint of some on the right.
Then, there is the third point of view, which Krauthammer most ably expressed. Governor Romney’s goal was not to engage in some petty tit-for-tat with a clearly desperate President. Yuval Levin echoes Krauthammer’s analysis: Governor Romney came out and looked like a reasonable, calm, trustworthy President. He did not come out breathing fire and vowing to atomize Iran or anyone else, but he clearly wants to keep the United States of America strong, in order to keep the United States of America safe. The President was petty, dismissive, superior, snobbish, and treated a clearly reasonable and respectable man with utter contempt on national television for the third time. In so doing the President cheapened himself and soiled the dignity of the office that he holds, and is asking the American people to let him continue to so hold.
Conservativity sides with Messrs. Krauthammer and Levin. Mr. Obama was clearly petty, and took cheap shots designed to make Mr. Romney appear to be naïve with respect to foreign policy. However, these comments, one and all, simply revealed Mr. Obama to be a snob. The worst of these comments came when Mr. Romney complained about the lower ship count in the Navy. Mr. Obama retorted that there are also fewer "horses and bayonets" in use as well, and then talked about "these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them" and "these things that go under the water called submarines." The analogy to antiquated Army weaponry made Mr. Obama look crass and nasty, and in the process, made it sound as if ships were obsolete in the modern Navy.
As Mr. Levin ably noted, how is it that we can project our power throughout the world with fewer ships? And, I will note, two of the classes of ships where we are losing count are, ironically, submarines and aircraft carriers. This is not a game of battleship, or so says the President. However, where there is but one country on Earth with the power to protect other nations anywhere, we should not be reducing the count of capital ships. In the end, Mr. Obama made himself out to be picayune and nasty. Mr. Romney’s calm retort about the need to protect the country showed him to be fine Presidential stock.
President Obama also, when challenged by Mr. Romney on his failings as President, attempted to change the subject. Mr. Romney talked about sanctions on China’s currency manipulation; Mr. Obama countered by accusing Mr. Romney of investing in China. This puerile and flaccid attempt to demonize Mr. Romney’s financial success was one of the worst backfires of the night, probably only surpassed by Mr. Obama’s "horses and bayonets" nonsense.
What makes it even more delicious was watching Mr. Romney agree with the correct things that Mr. Obama has done, evincing that the Governor is so comfortable in his skin that he can give credit where normal people would give credit. Remember that the debates are the best fora where a challenger can show himself for who he is. Mr. Romney showed peace, comfort, unflappability, calmness, reason and confidence. What about that is not presidential? Mr. Obama showed snobbery, contempt, nastiness, desperation, fallacious logic and rudeness. What about that is in any way presidential?
Remember please that the debates are the best way for a candidate to convince the undecided voter. Massive ad spending and fawning media coverage have not caused the voter to choose a side. I speculate that this is because almost all of these undecided voters are disenchanted with Mr. Obama, and simply did not know enough about Mr. Romney to know if he deserved their votes. Now, these people have 270 minutes of Mr. Romney under pressure, into the faces of a press and President clearly against him, where he looked and acted like a President, and in fact he looked and acted like a great President!
None of this should be taken to imply that Governor Romney was a milquetoast in any way. When he criticized the President for his "apology tour" through the Middle East, he made sure to clearly note that the President omitted Israel from that trip - and that the Arab world noticed. The attack line was so wilting as to force the President into an incoherent rant about how, when he finally did visit Israel, he went to contemplate at the holocaust memorial.
By his ridiculous answer, the President made Governor Romney’s point. Had Mr. Obama at any point in that tour stopped off in Israel and visited that memorial, what a signal of solidarity would it have sent to the rabid Holocaust deniers that plague the region! Instead, Mr. Romney ably noted that Mr. Obama had put "daylight" between the United States of America and its only true ally in that part of the world. Every person who watched that debate knew that the President had it made it more dangerous for every person who lives in Israel. In so doing, Mr. Romney showed that he, and not the current President, is the only candidate capable and willing to keep this country and its citizens safe. In so doing, Mr. Romney may not have handily won the debate, but he did win the Presidency.
What we have seen of the tracking polls shows Mr. Romney increasing his poll leads. Now, he is at or above the vital 50 percent mark in both Rasmussen and Gallup’s tracking polls. I suspect that in the next two days, as the effects of this debate start to be felt, the numbers will break even more firmly for Governor Romney. Even the juiced polls are tightening as Election Day approaches. Mr. Obama’s vaunted "firewall" of swing states crumbles before our eyes, as Wisconsin and Minnesota are in play (Wisconsin will probably come in for Romney). Even the union bastion of Michigan is a toss-up!
This is why Mr. Romney was so level headed and calm. The stereotype that the Obama campaign painted of him was that of a rabid plutocrat, intent on making his cronies rich while stiffing the common man. The trouble with that caricature is that it is an accurate depiction of one candidate in this race: Barack Obama. And the people see it. October 22, 2012 should go down in history as the day that Mitt Romney ensured that he would be the 45th President of the United States of America.