I hope in four years we will look back at last night’s debate as a solid one. I’m concerned that we might look back and see that America, 11 years after 9/11, was in a bubble. We might see a nuclear Iran. We will probably see new terrorist attacks on America. We are likely to see a continued drop in international religious freedom.
Neither the moderator nor the two candidates brought up much about religious freedom or many other issues. No one talked about internationally resurgent (but corrupt and demographically weak) Russia, except that Barack Obama chided Mitt Romney for paying attention to it. We heard nothing about Latin America, except when Gov. Romney brought it up for economic reasons.
Basically, both candidates reflected the American pulse: We’re worn out and not hugely interested in foreign policy. The candidates pivoted to domestic concerns at every opportunity. If Iran has a nuclear bomb and Russia shakes its bombs, our policy will be to have smaller classes in schools.
That was the debate’s downside, but those concerned about the Romney campaign can take solace in that he showed himself to be presidential. By that I mean he passed the commander-in-chief test, showing familiarity with lots of issues and calmness in dealing with them. He did not give President Obama the opportunity to portray him as a warmonger. Will that be enough for Gov. Romney to win?
Obama evidently thought he had to avoid radical pacifism, so he made statements that he might have to stand on if reelected: “As long as I’m president of the United States, Iran won’t get a nuclear weapon.” Obama also stated flat out that the $500 billion in sequestration cuts to the military, scheduled to happen if no new tax and spending deal is reached, “will not happen.”
Another Obama commitment, that he “will stand with Israel if they are attacked,” may not be as important, for if Iran attacks Israel most Israelis will be dead. Obama defended his apology tour of Muslim lands and gave Romney the opportunity to note, “America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictatorship.”
Obama at one point complained that a President Romney would do the same things the president is doing, “but say them louder.” It looks like Obama prepped for a loud Romney, but the challenger was quiet and didn’t even push hard on Libya. Opportunity lost, or necessary to avoid scaring moderates? We’ll see in two weeks.
Romney concluded by saying, “It’s a tragedy … that these last four years have been so hard.” Let’s hope in a couple of years that foreign policy debates are as boring as they were last night.