October 22, 2012

Horses and Bayonets: Obama’s Foreign Policy Victory

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After the second Presidential debate, I asked the question, “How much would Obama’s win matter?”

The answer turned out to be: not very much.

The polls have stabilized after the second debate. Since then, national polling has shown essentially a tie between President Obama and Governor Romney. However, the President has a slight advantage in the swing states (see: Ohio), and therefore ought to be considered a slight favorite to win the election.

So, will tonight’s debate change that dynamic? Let’s dive into the issues.

Mitt Romney is really… something

Look, I’ve never been coy about my political leanings. I do not pretend that I don’t support President Obama in this election, and therefore see things through a certain lens. But, I also am able to take off my Democratic glasses and try to see what sorts of broad impacts this election will have.

After these three debates, I believe it’s hard to not conclude that, from an objective standpoint everyone needs to start wondering about the negative implications of Mitt “I’ll say anything I think you want to hear” Romney winning this election.

Political truth in America is always going to be victim to equivocating politician, there’s nothing new about that. Yet, Mitt Romney’s willingness to outright lie to the American people is stomach churning.

Obamacare, the auto bailout, his tax plan, anti-choice legislation, Obama’s “apology” tour, our military’s strength, and several other of Governor Romney’s most fervent positions have either been repeatedly flip-flopped on or become outright lies.

And it’s working.

In the age of low-information voters, where most people don’t have the bandwidth to tackle complex political issues, candidates for national office can now completely obfuscate the truth – and simply tell people what they want to hear.

Even if you want low taxes and small government, we all ought to be concerned about the post-truth campaign being waged by Governor Romney, and what impact it will have on future elections.

This President is preposterously strong on defense… and zingers

In the final season of The West Wing, Bradley Whitford who played Democratic operative Josh Lyman, argues that Republicans will ‘always win on defense.’ The American people simply trusted them more.

That was 2006. Those days are over.

Governor Romney spent most of the debate trying to agree with President Obama as much as possible. His attacks were largely muted and his flip-flops flopped in President Obama’s direction more often than not.

This reflects the foreign policy consensus that has pretty much defined American foreign policy ever since the second Bush administration. What we saw tonight is a reflection that there is little public support for any strong foreign policy differences from President Obama.

Whether it’s withdrawing from Afghanistan, not attacking Iran, or fighting the war on terror, President Obama’s positions have a tremendous amount of public support.

I think Hendrik Hertzberg at The New Yorker phrased the shift in support best when he summed up the debate saying, “Mitt Romney essentially supports Barack Obama’s foreign policy in almost every particular. The question is: Whom do you trust more to carry out Barack Obama’s foreign policy, Mitt Romney or Barack Obama?”

The President’s admonishment of Governor Romney’s ridiculous notion that the total number of ships we have in our navy reflects a weakened military with his “we also have fewer horses and bayonets” line, not only did it yield an 8-mile rap battle-esqe “OHHH SNAP” response from me sitting in the otherwise quiet ILR library, it also brought to mind Zell Miller’s slam on John Kerry during the 2004 Republican convention.

In that speech, Miller admonished Kerry for supporting certain military cuts by asking “[Kerry] is the man who wants to be the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces? U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs?”

It’s truly remarkable that, 8 short years later, it’s now the Democrats who own defense.

Despite the President’s win, this debate is not going to move the poll numbers too much

I posit that one week from today, the race will look largely similar to what it currently does. The President might gain a point or two, but Americans are not voting on foreign policy this year, and while Obama won solidly, this is an election about the economy. It’s telling that both candidates still managed to address the auto bailout.

That’s why the biggest takeaway has to be that, even in a debate about foreign policy, Ohio looms largest.

Original Author: Noah Karr-Kaitin