Two candidates with two different objectives but one goal in mind came together at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida Monday night.
President Obama showed up determined to continue a narrative that has been eroding as of late: that America’s standing in the world has strengthened by sheer force of his personality and for having killed Osama Bin Laden.
Governor Romney’s objective was to make the case we are far less safer today than we were four years ago, precisely because of President Obama’s passivity on foreign affairs, which has led many to describe his approach as “leading from behind.”
The petulance and dismissive tone displayed by our sitting president these last two debates was what I found disturbing
- Daniel Garza
Romney also had to make sure he was clear to dismiss early on any impressions that Americans might have he would be bellicose by delivering lines like, “We don't want another Iraq, we don't want another Afghanistan. That's not the right course for us.”
The Republican candidate would go on to make repeated overtures to the American people about the heightened dangers we face today while the Obama Administration merely looks from afar. “I look at what's happening around the world, and I see Iran four years closer to a bomb. I see the Middle East with a rising tide of violence, chaos, tumult.” He added “I see Syria with 30,000 civilians dead, [Bashar Hafez al-Assad] still in power."
Gov. Romney’s strongest critique came when he made references to President Obama’s “Apology Tour” to the Middle East, and particularly when referring to the impression he made on Iran, “They saw weakness where they had expected to find American strength.”
The President shot back with a different version of the tour, but this entire repartee was effective for Romney. Although President Obama has taken on a firmer tone against nations that would do us harm since then, he did indeed offer up speeches with guilt-laden phrases about America’s past actions on that trip.
In April of 2009, he told a crowd in France “America has shown arrogance, and been dismissive, and even derisive” toward Europe. President Obama would go on to point out in a speech he gave in Egypt: "It led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals” when referring to our actions after 9/11.
“America doesn't 'dictate' to other countries, we liberate them,” Romney would assert forcefully.
Even so, Governor Romney could have shown himself to be much more aggressive on recent foreign policy incidents such as Libya, which the Administration has mishandled, but chose not to. He showed restraint throughout the entire debate, choosing to allow the President to speak without interruption and looking stately as a result. He showed a demeanor and temperament that I felt gave a sense he will strike a balance between resolute firmness and wise diplomacy when it comes to foreign relations.
And although Governor Romney did express repeated agreement with President Barack Obama, he was not shy about outlining some clear distinctions throughout the night. President Obama had no response to the Governor’s sharp comment on Russia “I'm not gonna wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia or Mr. Putin and I'm certainly not gonna say to him I'll give you more flexibility after the election.”
The President interrupted repeatedly, often spoke indignantly over Governor Romney's answers, and attacked his positions so often it provoked the governor to retort in one instance “attacking me is not an agenda. Attacking me is not talking about how we're going to deal with the challenges that exist in the Middle East, and take advantage of the opportunity there, and stem the tide of this violence.” It was a strong line, it was well delivered, and it did not sit well with President Obama - mission accomplished.
President Obama’s typical self-assuredness was in full display in this debate, and in fact, seemed to grow in confidence each time Governor Romney agreed with him – which was often. President Obama showed fight of his own, was engaged, and his four years in office gave him a clear advantage when it came to displaying a deeper knowledge of current conflicts.
His line of the night came in response to Governor Romney’s statement that the Navy was cutting back on warships. To which the President replied by explaining that just like modern warfare has made certain weaponry obsolete “We also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military has changed.”
It was a clever line dripping in disdain for the challenger that will be referenced ad nauseam for some time.
The President’s repeated rude interferences and interruptions of Governor Romney came so often, they began to annoy by the end of the night – much like Biden’s snide antics. It was a conduct that made gave him look petty, desperate and one that lacked decorum. It was, well, foreign to us.
The petulance and dismissive tone displayed by our sitting president these last two debates was what I found disturbing, and I think, many other Americans also found disturbing. Made especially true for a President famous for his steady calm and cool demeanor. It was a side of him Americans had not seen prior to these past two debates – a side that might ultimately turn them off.
In the end, the third and final debate changed nothing, and nothing that was said will prove as seismic as Romney’s huge win in the first debate. Romney ran out the debate clock and now heads into the last two weeks of the election in a dead heat with President Obama.
While President Obama seemingly improved his performance in the second and third debate, overall Governor Romney’s delivered three solid performances for a series win. Moreover, he proved himself “presidential” and more than a suitable alternative for undecided voters come November 6.
Daniel Garza is the Executive Director of The LIBRE Initiative and former White House staffer from 2001-2006.