Debate reactions: The Shape Shifter and The President

A roundup of opinion on the final presidential debate:

James Fallows: “As a matter of performance, this was as one-sided a win for Obama as the first debate was a one-sided embarrassment for him. Romney’s ill-at-easeness on nearly every subject that came up was palpable, as was Obama’s barely-contained certainty on all these issues (which burbled out mainly with the “we have these ships that go under the sea, called submarines” line)… But I know that Obama did very well this evening, and Romney put up his worst showing. The debates are now behind us. Two weeks to go.”

NYTimes editorial: “Mr. Romney tried to revive the Republican claim that Mr. Obama conducted an “apology tour” at the start of his presidency, which Mr. Obama correctly called “the biggest whopper” of a campaign that has been filled with them. And he took a dig at Mr. Romney’s recent world travels. “When I went to Israel as a candidate,” he said, “I didn’t take donors, I didn’t attend fund-raisers.” Mr. Romney tried to say that the president had “wasted” the last four years in trying to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program. But Mr. Obama said, “We’ve been able to mobilize the world. When I came into office, the world was divided. Iran was resurgent. Iran is at its weakest point, economically, strategically, militarily.” Mr. Romney tried to set himself apart from Mr. Obama on Iran, but ended up sounding particularly incoherent. At one point he said he would indict President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on genocide charges. He gave no clue how he would do that; like many of his comments, it was merely a sound bite. Mr. Obama hit Mr. Romney hard on his ever-shifting positions on world affairs, including comments he made in 2008 disparaging the idea that killing Osama bin Laden should be a priority. “You said we should ask Pakistan for permission,” Mr. Obama said. “If we had asked Pakistan for permission, we would not have gotten it.””

via: gifmovie

Josh Marshall: “Romney looked pained and rambling through most of the debate. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Romney sweat like that, literally or figuratively. And I think national security politics mainly revolves around demonstrations of strength and coherence. To put a finer point on it, dominance. On that count, Obama won hands down. I don’t expect we’ll see a decisive move in the polls. My sense is that everyone is already up out of bleachers and rushing onto the field in this election, on both sides. Not many people are still hanging back — as many seem to have been prior to the first debate. But strength and clarity wins in national security politics — not catch phrases but demonstrations and body language. Romney looked weak; Obama looked strong. That’ll help him.”

Taegan Goddard: “As the debate went on, Romney tried many times to move the international affairs discussion back to the economy where he was more comfortable. It was as if he had only 30 minutes of foreign policy talking points for a 90 minute debate. As a result he seemed to string together random thoughts which often made him sound incoherent.”

Five stages of grief for the far right:

Matt Taibbi: “Just going by the reactions from Carville and Fleischer on CNN (I’ve switched back because that’s where you go to find out the conventional wisdom) it’s already clear what the talking points will be. Fleischer talking about how this debate doesn’t matter because the public is focused on the economy, that’s a clear signal that he knew Romney fucked the dog tonight. This should be the death-blow to Romney, but I’ve said that before and been wrong.”

Kevin Drum: “Romney’s main goal tonight was pretty transparent: not to sound like a warmonger. He probably succeeded in that, but at the price of turning every attack into mush and validating nearly everything Obama said. It just didn’t seem like a good night for him. I’d give him a C+ and Obama an A-.”

Charles Johnson: “I was trying to watch the debate and deal with server problems at the same time, but it was very, very obvious that Mitt Romney was way out of his league tonight. You knew he was in serious trouble when those first beads of flop sweat started popping out on his upper lip. He was incoherent, confused, repetitious, and struggled to make simple points, and President Obama schooled him on the facts over and over; when Romney inevitably brought up the mind-bogglingly dumb right wing “apology tour” nonsense, Obama’s response was: “This is the biggest whopper that has been told during this campaign. Romney choked, big time, and the President won this debate even more decisively than the last one.”

via: gifwich

Charlie Pierce: “My god, Romney actually said that America doesn’t install dictators, ignoring the fact that we’ve had these problems with Iran for 60 years precisely because we overthrew an elected president and installed a friendly dictator whose rule was so bloodthirsty that religious fanatics ran him out, imprisoned our embassy officials, and gave Ben Affleck a chance 30 years later to direct a cool movie. Do we honestly have to count them all off? Somoza? Rios Montt? Pinochet? And, yes, Saddam Hussein. Romney sounded like he was taking history at one of those Jesus-on-a-dinosaur middle schools that “Bobby” Jindal has opened in Louisiana. And yet, this abysmal ignorance may not come to matter a damn… A discussion of foreign policy that was all about threats, real and imagined, and wars, real or speculative, and weapons, and how many of them we should build in order to feel safe in this dangerous world. (Romney actually argued that we should go back to the “two-war” strategy that we followed throughout the Cold War. Against whom in god’s name does he think we’ll be fighting the second war?)… There is no nation in its right mind that would put its foreign policy in the hands of the Willard Romney who showed up on stage here in Boca Raton on Monday night, particularly since he had so clearly abandoned everything else he believed on the subject for the purpose of fronting himself as a moderate in order to run out the clock over the next three weeks. He knew nothing and said less. But the debate will be scored as no better than a tie because, well, all the options are too miserable to contemplate.”

McKay Coppins: “Mitt Romney strained Thursday to reassure voters that he won’t rush America to war, a studied reversal from the unapologetically hawkish persona he has presented for much of the year. It was a performance that served, in many ways, as the grand finale to his monthlong march to the middle: A foreign policy debate where Romney presented himself as a new kind of peace-and-love Republican, whose softened rhetoric appeared to be defined in opposition to the hawkish — and deeply unpopular — neoconservative policies of the Bush years.”

Steve Benen: “And yet, as of last night, there was Romney, saying plainly, “[W]e’re going to be finished [in Afghanistan] by 2014. And when I’m president, we’ll make sure we bring our troops out by the end of 2014.” How does the candidate explain the contradiction? That’s the problem; he doesn’t. It’s been nothing short of remarkable to watch this unfold in recent months. First, Romney ignored the active and ongoing war, even failing to mention in it his acceptance speech at his own convention. Second, Romney attacked Obama’s war policy. And third, Romney embraced Obama’s war policy, without giving even the slightest rationale for the reversals. Indeed, just two weeks ago, Romney’s own running mate argued during his debate, “[W]e don’t want to broadcast to our enemies ‘put a date on your calendar, wait us out, and then come back.'” It’s the opposite of what Romney said last night. This isn’t some trivial issue; it’s a deadly war — the longest in American history. The fact that a major-party presidential candidate can’t speak intelligently and honestly about the conflict raises character questions, as well as concerns about basic competence.”

Glenn Beck:


David Corn: “Romney’s aim for the final debate was simple: dare to be boring. He minimized his differences with Obama, providing the president a smaller target. He was looking to get out of this without a wound—it was a gaffe-prevent defense. A senior Obama campaign official recently told me that on national security the president’s strategists want to advance one key theme: “We’re bringing the troops home, Romney wants them to stay.” That’s the best way, the Obama team figures, to move undecided voters on foreign policy. So Obama more than once made this point—only to find it bounce off the shape-shifter sitting across the table from him. Still, Romney’s unrestrained retreat from neocon bellicosity provided Obama an opening to display his national security chops. After the debate, pundits debated the cliché question: Did Romney meet that mythical commander-in-chief bar for undecided voters? He may have—by saying little, tossing his previous views overboard, and doing whatever it took to avoid displaying core convictions. That certainly is an adequate strategy for avoiding a decisive debate loss. But it’s a lousy way of becoming a leader.”

Robert Reich: “Like George W. Bush, Mitt Romney has a pronounced tendency to rush to judgment – to assert America’s military power too quickly, and to assume that we’ll be viewed as weak if we use diplomacy and seek the cooperation of other nations (including Russia and China) before making our moves. President Obama won tonight’s debate not only because he knows more about foreign policy than does Mitt Romney, but because Obama understands how to wield the soft as well as the hard power of America. He came off as more subtle and convincing than Romney – more authoritative – because, in reality, he is. Although tonight’s topic was foreign policy, I hope Americans understand it was also about every other major challenge we face. Mitt Romney is not only a cold warrior; he’s also a class warrior. And the two are closely related. Romney tries to disguise both within an amenable demeanor. But in both capacities, he’s a bully. “

via: truth-has-a-liberal-bias

John Cassidy: “Let’s start with the blindingly obvious: President Obama won last night’s debate in Boca Raton, and won it easily. According to a CBS instant poll of uncommitted voters, his margin of victory was thirty points—fifty-three per cent to twenty-three per cent—a bigger margin even than the one Mitt Romney enjoyed in Denver a few weeks ago. On the question of who would better handle terrorism and national security, the split in Obama’s favor was almost as large: sixty-four per cent to thirty-six per cent. These figures are hardly surprising. From Obama’s very first answer, when he said to his opponent, “Your strategy previously has been one that has been all over the map,” to near the end, when he said, “Governor Romney, you keep trying to airbrush history,” he was the more aggressive debater, the more polished, the more persuasive, and the more punitive”

Hilariously, after the final debate, Bill Kristol predicts that Romney will be the next president: “Romney is now on track to becoming the third challenger to win in the last 32 years—and the first in 80 years to defeat an incumbent who didn’t have a primary challenge. Tonight, Romney seems as fully capable as—probably more capable than—Barack Obama of being the next president. He probably will be.” This from the man who was Sarah Palin’s most ardent, unflinching talent scout.


Obama’s right. We do notice. Source: sandandglass

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