The Foreign Policy Debate: Blog Reax II

Andrew Sullivan —  Oct 23 2012 @ 10:25am

Rick Hertzberg summarizes last night's debate:

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?

Millman reassesses Romney's foreign policy:

[I]t’s still possible that a President Romney secretly wants to engage in a massive escalation of our interventions around the world, but that just feels like a weird read of his character. What seems much more plausible to me is that Romney would just be a terrible diplomat, because, apart from resurrecting the Free Trade Area of the Americas, he has no interest in foreign policy. He treats foreign policy as a matter of domestic marketing, and he believes that the people of the United States want our country to be really obnoxious, but not actually take any serious risks.

How Douthat frames the debate: 

The question is what the audience was looking for. If they were looking for evidence that a Romney administration would deliver significantly better results overseas, then they probably came away disappointed, and Obama’s win will boost him in the polls. But if they were just looking (as I’ll admit that I was looking) to be reassured that Romney is something other than a wild-eyed warmonger, then the Republican nominee may have helped his cause tonight even in defeat.

Yuval Levin thinks Romney accomplished his objective:

It was absolutely clear that both candidates understood that this debate was entirely about Mitt Romney. Romney’s only goal was to seem presidential, and Obama’s only goal was to make Romney seem not presidential. By that measure, Romney clearly achieved his aim and Obama clearly did not. Romney did this by treating this debate very differently than the other two. He didn’t really try to score points, and he wasn’t afraid to express agreement with Obama, which he did remarkably often. 

Rich Lowry agrees:

I think Romney executed what must have been his strategy nearly flawlessly: reassure people that he’s not a bomb-thrower; project strength but not bellicosity; go out of his way to say how many Obama policies he agrees with to create a sense of his reasonableness; focus on the big picture of a world that seems out of control; get it back to the economy as much as possible; and communicate a real passion for the future. 

Ramesh Ponnuru argues along the same lines:

In addition to agreeing about Iran and Afghanistan, both candidates seemed to agree that voters don’t care about foreign policy. Both used every opportunity to move the debate back to domestic themes: We heard more about teachers than about Latin America. Obama repeatedJohn Kerry’s 2004 line about the need for “nation-building here at home” several times. The line is premised on an accurate read of the public mood, which is why even Obama’s effective attacks on Romney didn’t change the campaign’s course. Advantage Romney.

Galupo, on the other hand, thinks the debate could make a difference:

Obama beat Romney more decisively tonight than he did in the second debate, zinging Romney repeatedly for conceding the particulars of almost every issue of substance. It’s unlikely that Obama will see a bounce from this debate — domestic issues did figure in the debate, and there Romney pounced with vigor — but I do think it’s possible that Obama will blunt Romney’s momentum.

Bob Wright's view

I don't think Obama won the debate by enough to reverse the momentum that Romney has had for most of the last few weeks, but he may have finally stopped it.

Kevin Drum adds:

Republicans are spinning hard to make this sound like an Obama debacle, but if you read between the lines, conservative reaction to the debate hasn't been very positive. Romney decided — probably with good reason — that he needed to be extremely restrained tonight, and this meant that he barely mentioned any of the Republican pet rocks that keep the base so riled up.

Ed Kilgore ponders the debate's importance:

[W]hether it matters depends on your sense of where the contest stands. We don’t have the numbers yet on estimated viewership of the debate, but it was bound to be down from previous debates (that’s generally the pattern, and last night the candidates were also competing with both Monday Night Football and Game Seven for the National League Championship). I’m not a big believer in “momentum” in either politics or sports, so I don’t think Romney is going to lose votes because he lost this (or the last) debate. But nor do I find much evidence that Romney is in the lead in any durable way (if there is at present a partisan “enthusiasm gap,” it’s likely to close when the campaign reaches its frenzied ending), and was thus in any position to stand pat in a presidential debate.

And Hans Noel refuses to declare a winner:

[W]hen commentators observe wryly that everyone thinks "their guy" won, it's not ironic, and it doesn't reflect ideological or partisan blinders. It's reality. We have a panel of 130 million+ judges, and that's how those judges are voting. They will turn in their ballots on November 6. There's really no other way to call a winner that makes sense.