This should be interesting. Nobody seems to think Romney will win or even do all that well, which is probably a decent prediction. Romney’s foreign policy is centered around white-hot attacks on Obama that nobody outside the far-right really believes or cares about, and many of them will be difficult-to-impossible to bring up in a scenario where Obama is standing right next to him, since all of them pertain more to the imaginary Obama of Clint Eastwood’s chair than the real deal. For example, if Romney accuses Obama of launching an apology tour, Obama could simply ask for the dates, places and content that Romney objected to. Since the tour never existed, Romney will have a difficult time coming up with something even remotely compelling, and he’ll be giving Obama a chance to harshly berate Romney as he did on the Libya exchange in the last debate. He’d probably lose yardage from that play is all I’m saying
I think this is a pretty good summation of what to expect:
Based on his public statements, Romney’s understanding of these issues ranges from poor to mediocre, and the more he is forced to answer in detail the more difficult things will become for him. Obama’s goal will be to draw him into exchanges that force him to do this, and the extent of Romney’s loss will be determined by how often Romney can escape from those exchanges without blundering. Romney’s goals will be to survive the evening without inflicting any major wounds on himself, and to distinguish himself from George W. Bush enough that most viewers don’t think his foreign policy would be a disaster waiting to happen.
The only remaining question is whether Romney tries to “moderate” his foreign policy statements, something he conspicuously hasn’t done in his ever-more-unctuous attempt to say anything in order to win the presidency. Sadly, voters tend to make decisions based on their gut instinct and emotional reactions to the candidates instead of any sort of factual rigor, so this has borne some fruit. But foreign policy has been notably absent in these plans, so I wonder if we’ll see any change.
I would like to add my voice to those complaining about the agenda on the foreign policy debate, which is going to be more than half devoted to the Middle East. It’s rare that a large chunk of the electorate is going to pay attention to foreign policy in any way, so why not use the opportunity to discuss important issues and places that don’t make the front page very often? Proving again that the purpose of news organizations is to exploit rather than to convey the news, the format seems engineered to force maximally hawkish stands and to create tense and “newsy” moments, rather than to illuminate the public. Spending fifteen minutes on Iran and “red lines” is incredibly unfortunate, since this issue is exhaustively covered by the media out of any sense of proportion to whatever consequences an Iranian bomb might conceivably have.
The BBC put together a handy little sheet that has the top five Republican and Democratic megadonors of the cycle. Let’s have a little fun with this, shall we? Here’s a quiz, and the answers are below the fold. Enjoy!
- Out of the top five donors on either side, how many are women?
- Under 50?
- How many Republicans on the list are in oil and resource extraction?
- How many Democrats on the list are from Hollywood?
- Does the lowest Republican on the list beat the highest Democrat on the list in terms of total donations?
- Where is George Soros on the list?
- How many of the donors reside in Texas?
- How many are over 80?
- When does it all end?
“He has the sense that things in America have been bad — and he’s right! — so he decides he wants a different president and then backfills in the rationale.”via
I have always been kind of curious about the famous 1980 debate between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, which has the historical reputation of being a completely one-sided Reagan rout that may singlehandedly have handed Reagan a close election. Since the popular historical recollections of debates seems to be very hit-and-miss (did you know that Kennedy beat Nixon by basically out-hawking him, and that Nixon was arguably more liberal on domestic issues?), I decided to go find it and give it a watch.
Here’s a link to the debate, which is not embeddable.
Anyway, it’s definitely interesting to watch it outside of the original context, and with 32 years distance. Nothing at stake, no high inflation rate, no hostage crisis. I think it’s safe to say both that Reagan’s performance has aged quite poorly, especially in terms of substance, and that Romney appears to be trying to copy it note-for-note. Some observations:
- In the first exchange, Reagan presents the (now cliched) idea that the deficit could be cut solely by tackling waste and fraud (Reagan doesn’t mention abuse, which would eventually complete the cliche). He is unable to really explain how the numbers are going to add up because they didn’t, there’s some handwaving about a five-year plan, but no real answer for how to pay for a large tax cut and new defense spending without major cutting. I guess “dynamic scoring” wasn’t a thing yet. We all know now that he wouldn’t bother to try to balance anything, of course. Hearing Reagan say almost exactly what Romney said in both debates is eerie. Also, Reagan’s answer that a deficit-financed tax cut wouldn’t be inflationary essentially proves how little economic knowledge he had–inflation is caused by too much money in the economy, which is what a deficit-financed tax cut would have (and did) cause–and his reputation wasn’t helped by when he tried to search for the figure of how much waste there was, couldn’t come up with it, and just shrugged and said tens of billions of dollars.
- It’s pretty amazing that a question on minority issues came up in a presidential debate once, but it did. Reagan’s response was hilariously perfunctory: he literally said that he would use the bully pulpit to help minorities get ahead, and that’s about it. No different from Romney’s responses on, for example, immigration or women’s issues in substance. (Carter’s answer, on the other hand, talked about his history beliefs on race, his policies, and on the ways he’d directly contributed by making minority appointments. Substance, yes, it can be shocking.)
- Reagan’s famous anecdotes make a few appearances here, and perhaps because the rhetorical technique has been worn out in the 32 years since this, they mostly fall flat. I find it hard to believe that a black man in Detroit went up to the man who opened his presidential campaign in Philadelphia, MS, and asked him to please give him some hope. It’s a pretty absurd picture, though I suppose it’s not impossible. At his best, Reagan’s “real people” anecdotes were both plausible and on point. Definitely not the former here.
- The question on the Iranian hostage crisis and terrorism generally is fascinating. Carter audibly gulps before answering the question and the follow-up, for one thing. But Reagan essentially says he can’t say anything because he doesn’t want to do anything to compromise secret negotiations, out of patriotism, and then calls for a post hoc investigation. Admittedly, the Libya “controversy” is nowhere near the same league as the Iran hostages, but there’s a similar circular argument here to Romney’s, only Reagan is more skilled at pulling it off. (Also, this is kind of irrelevant, but Barbara Walters was seriously hot.)
- On the other hand, Reagan was pretty cogent on the arms control treaty question, though the point that the treaty couldn’t get through a majority-Democrat Senate (it would have needed 2/3) hearkens to Romney’s point about how Obama failed to get through the DREAM Act despite majorities. They didn’t even have the filibuster back then to the extent it exists now.
- Reagan makes an identical point about drilling about public lands to the one Romney did. I was wondering why he kept pounding that issue because it seemed like an esoteric detail. Now we know where he got it from. (Interestingly, Reagan touts his environmental record and hits Carter from the left there–I wonder how much longstanding right-wing dismissal of environment and energy efficiency is due to Carter’s association with them.)
- Then he just flat-out lies about his history on Social Security and Medicare. Again, very Romney.
No doubt that Reagan performed better here, since Jimmy Carter has the energy of someone tired of getting punched in the face. Which I suppose he was in 1980. But it’s appalling how little Reagan gave the people he was asking for votes–guess after four years of Carter they didn’t need much from him at all. Still, seeing this now, independent of all the awfulness of the ’70s, it’s no mystery why the GOP and its standard-bearer is so contentless now. Romney is merely carrying on the glorious tradition of Ronaldus Magnus.
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