Presidential debate #3

Writing this down in real time. Anything not attributed to a candidate is my own opinion.

Romney sounds calm, confident, and collected–as a president should. Good opening statement including “We can’t kill our way out of this mess” (meaning ongoing conflicts). I agree. I hope he means it.

Oops, then Romney said we should be killing more leaders of the people we consider to be terrorists. As we can read every day, you kill one Al Qaeda leader and a few others including women and children at the same time, and more terrorists step forward to avenge their family members and friends. It’s a vicious circle.

They seem to have drifted off from Benghazi. Good. There are a lot of Americans stationed around the world, and slips occur. Four Americans were killed. That’s bad but look at the Marine barracks bombing in Lebanon under president Reagan’s watch in 1983 (29 years ago tomorrow, as it happens), “killing 299 American and French servicemen. The organization Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the bombing.” What else is new?

Obama: getting involved in Syria would be a serious step. Quite right. Romney: we should not commit US forces there but work through others. Both: Assad will be gotten rid of one way or another, without direct US military action. What? Obama, Romney, and I all agree on something?? Romney: we should have taken a leadership role on Syria without sending any American forces. Obama: that’s what we’ve been doing.

Some squabbling over what Romney said a few weeks ago on Syria (someone will fact check that), but on the whole the candidates are getting out full sentences and paragraphs.

Last year I felt our military involvement in Libya was unconstitutional (e.g., “Libya: what about Congress?” on March 22, 201. I guess neither candidate is going to touch that, but they both seem wary about another Libya. Congress has a low popularity rating right now, but I believe in the constitution and the separation of powers. I hope they both do.

Obama says Romney would take us back to the “wrong and reckless: policies of Bush and Cheney. No answer: Romney is talking about what he will do. See my comment on that at the end of my previous post, “Missionary / Military.”

OK, now onto Romney’s budget. He says it’s on his web site. Get rid of Obamacare, not affordable. Hmm…. and he wants to increase the military budget more than inflation (tracking inflation is Obama’s position, I recall). Romney would let the states run Medicare and Medicaid. What a recipe for discrimination!

Obama: the math doesn’t work. Again 5 + 2 trillion: from where? What loopholes and deductions would Romney close?? Obama worked with the military to prioritize, not just throw money at the military. Strategy, not politics. Good.

Romney is justifying more $ to the military to “maintain the safety of the American people.” Well, I don’t feel safer after the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. To me, safety is defense, not offense. Not sure if Obama will comment on that.

OK, on to “Red lines: Israel and Iran.” Is an attack on Israel an attack on the US? My view: no country is going to attack Israel. But terrorist groups would love to if they can make it look like a country. We need to be careful. Remember the Maine!

Obama: sanctions are working against Iran–the strongest ever imposed on any country. Romney has been talking about premature military action. Obama is trying to allude to Romney’s changing positions and make him look trigger-happy; Romney isn’t cooperating.

Here’s my question: can the US threaten, take sanctions against, and bomb any country it wants, just as the president claims the right to kill anyone in the world via drones or other means? I doubt either candidate will answer that one this evening.

Romney: Obama went on an “apology tour” of the world and that encouraged “the Iranian mullahs” to defy us. “It’s essential for a president to show strength.” Not really sure what he would do differently. Ask Bin Laden’s widows.

Obama: no, I didn’t apologize, that’s the biggest whopper being told in this campaign. Getting tough: when Obama was starting up sanctions, Romney was involved with a Chinese oil company that had interests in Iran.

I don’t think Romney is going to make any headway on Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan. Beating the drums of war isn’t popular with most voters right now. And he knows it.

Romney now saying Obama dissed Israel; Romney mentioned his own relation (going back to their days together at the Boston Consulting Group) with Netanyahu: not sure if that is going to make his case either. Jewish voters (according to polls, anyhow) have a range of issues and Israel isn’t at the top. Obama’s Cairo speech was a good opening to other countries who well know that we have always propped up dictatorships.

A coalition of liberal Protestant groups just called on Congress to cut off aid to Israel because of their treatment of occupied Palestine. Will anyone talk about that? We may have killed Bin Laden, but we haven’t killed his laundry list of ideas, including US attitude toware Palestine. Too hot to handle.

What if Israel called the US president to say its bombers were on the way to Iran? Romney: couldn’t happen that way; we’d know first.

Just remember: World War I started with an anarchist assassinating an archduke. The world isn’t as simple as state A v. state B any more.

Obama: “getting Bin Laden” achieved closure for 9/11 victims. Even “my current VP” had doubts (hmm, is that a coded message? I doubt it).

Romney: Pakistan has 100 nuclear warheads. Yeah, much more dangerous than Iran, in my view. Romney would condition aid on benchmarks being met. Does he mean military aid? I thought he said earlier we should give aid to help people with their education and lives.

Obama: veterans’ unemployment is now lower that in the general population. Glad to hear it; hadn’t heard that before.

Narrator is pushing the point about aid to Pakistan. Romney seems to have some background. Yes, if terrorists get Pakistani nuclear weapons, that’s big trouble. He doesn’t blame the administration for strained relations with Pakistan, though. Sounding conciliatory.

Drones: good question: Romney supports “upping the usage of that technology.” I beg to differ. I could never think that way: kill that guy over there in Yemen and whoever else is in range, whatever.”

Obama: I’ve been fighting unfair competition from China, e.g., cut off Chinese tires.

Personally, I believe in good relations with other countries, but I just don’t believe in free trade when it harms a country’s economy and people. Imports form China have killed millions of jobs. NAFTA (a Clinton product) has been very damaging to us and Latin American economies.

Romney: China is a currency manipulator, and I’ll so designate them from day 1.

Does that mean a trade war (narrator)? Romney: China doesn’t want a trade war; the imbalance suits them. What will Romney’s multinational supporters say about this, though? Obama comes back: Romney knows all about shipping jobs overseas, since he has invested in companies that do that. Back to investment in education and basic research: corporations won’t do that. US exports to China have expanded in the last 4 years.

Romney likes American cars. His plan was a managed bankruptcy, which would get rid of excess costs and debts and in that way earn government guarantees. Of course he wouldn’t have liquidated the industry. Obama contradicts him. The record will show. Oh, now we’re back to Solyndra; Romney would not let the government invest in actual companies. Well, tell Citibank about that.

Obama: Romney said he would he not provide government assistance to US auto companies even if they went through bankruptcy. No I didn’t / Yes you did. Obama: tax code should not reward companies that ship jobs overseas. Romney evades; on to a prepared riff on food stamps and debt. He even met a young woman in Philadelphia who couldn’t find work; Ann was talking to a young woman in tears.

Romney loves teachers. But let the states do education, and get the private sector rolling. Hmm, does that mean for-profit colleges? charter schools? Taxpayer money for K-12 private and religious schools? Needs elaboration.

Time to close. Obama has a plan: education, jobs, control our energy, strong research, strong military, etc. “After a decade of war, I think we all recognize we gotta do some nation-building here at home.” So true.

Romney effectively channels Reagan’s tone and sunniness. Jobs. Work across the aisle (did he forget his own party refused to work with a Dem president?). “The torch of freedom and hope and opportunity.” what happened to change?

The end. Moderator: “Go vote!” Right. Voting should be compulsory, as in Australia.

Overall: a lot of agreement, actually. If the third party candidates had been invited, they might have raised some of the themes I felt were ignored (besides those mentioned above: in what sense can and should an American president “control” world events anyhow?). After the election, Obama and Romney will sound friendly and mutually supportive, whoever wins. Obama and Bush have been cordial to each other; so have Clinton and Bush. It’s the American way.

Oh, I almost forgot who “won”? I’d say Obama, as he showed depth of knowledge and more convincing caution in relations with other countries. Romney didn’t like being tied to Bush and Cheney, but then he shouldn’t have so many neocons advising him.

Final thought: In 2000, it turned out that George Bush had spent only 3 weeks outside the US, on a golfing trip to Scotland. But he turned it around, memorably: “I may not know where Bosnia is, but I know what I believe.” Obama and Bush both spent several years living abroad (Indonesia, France). But neither mentioned it. Living in another culture seems to me good experience for being president. Well, at least neither accused the other of knowing a foreign language, whereas in 2004 John Kerry, who also knows French, was made to look somehow un-American by certain spokespersons for the other side. The more foreign experience and the more languages the better, I say!

Also to be thankful for: this time around, knowledge of foreign countries and world trouble spots seems to be an asset. We have realized that “what I believe” isn’t a foreign policy.


About politicswestchesterview

Nathaniel regards himself as a progressive Democrat who sees a serious need to involve more Americans in the political process if we are to rise to Ben Franklin's challenge "A republic, madam, if you can keep it," after a passerby asked him what form of government the founders had chosen. This blog gives my views and background information on the local, state, and national political scenes. My career in higher education was mainly in the areas of international studies, foreign languages, and student advising, most recently at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, from which I retired in 2006. I have lived in West Chester since 1986.
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2 Responses to Presidential debate #3

  1. Glad to have found your blog. Just started one a few weeks ago. Please review when you have a free moment.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Thoughtful analysis, Nathaniel!

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