23 October 2012
THE THIRD PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE
It almost seems anticlimactic to summarize last night's encounter, but for the sake of consistency, I'll forge ahead. The tone was by far the most civil of the three debates, aided perhaps by the fact that Obama, Romney, and moderator Bob Scheiffer were seated at a round table. Since the discussion was on foreign policy, both contenders wanted to appear composed and presidential, an effort at which the incumbent always has the advantage. Scheiffer was mostly successful in keeping the candidates on track and within their time limits, though he himself committed the worst slip of the night when he referred to the former al-Qaeda leader as "Obama bin Laden".
Though both men were assertive, most pundits thought Obama carried the night (see image above, click to enlarge). His presentation of facts was straightforward and logical, whereas Romney appeared at times to be reciting irrelevant minutia from the encyclopedia to cover for his lack of foreign policy experience and his lack of a coherent, detailed plan for dealing with the troubled Middle East, our relations with the European Union, or our future relationship with China. It's unfortunate that no time was spent talking about the nations of Central and South America, Africa, and other developing countries.
As usual, both men took liberties with facts in order to bolster their stance. Here is Fact Check's summary for the evening.
Looking back on the series of debates, it is clear that if Obama had been more forcefully engaged during the first debate, Romney would never have experienced his surge in the polls. Even though Obama went on to win the subsequent two debates, the damage was done. If the president were selected by popular vote, the election would be too close to call. But because selection is by the electoral college, Obama still has the lead, but by a much smaller margin than three or six weeks ago. Here are today's electoral college standings as reported by the Huffington Post.
Personally, I think a gaping hole was left unaddressed, one which ultimately will be of more dire consequence than the violence in Syria or unemployment in the U.S. ~ there was no focused discussion on the environment or climate change. Indirect reference was made when green energy alternatives were mentioned, but all Americans (indeed all people globally) deserve to know specifically the degree to which each candidate is informed on environmental issues, the scientific sources of their opinions, and their detailed plans for addressing runaway carbon emissions into the atmosphere, the destruction of wilderness and wildlife, and (the root of it all) human overpopulation. One cannot isolate the economy, strife in the Middle East, jobs, education, or the environment ~ they are all linked, and all must be understood and dealt with.
A handful of battleground states aside, there are several key groups of voters who will likely decide the election. One is the ever-shifting mass of undecided voters (a group I don't understand at all ~ the choice seems so clear to me). Women and Latino voters will also be crucial in choosing our next president. Obama seems to have an advantage among the latter two groups, but he also needs to rouse enthusiasm among the large base that propelled him to victory in 2008, if he wants to assure a win. Apathy among Democrats is something that Republican candidates are counting on.
And Democrats are counting on voters remembering three Romney gaffes, one from each debate ~ Big Bird, binders, and bayonets.