Charles P. Pierce’s reaction to last night’s debate is about the same as mine. The best I can say for Romney is that perhaps he figured that if he could make it look like there isn’t a whiff of difference between the two parties on foreign policy, he’d win because of the economy. It’s not half bad as a theory, but he didn’t really execute. I don’t think anyone came away thinking that Romney and Obama are equals on foreign policy. Still, I think it would have served the country better if Ron Paul had been the moderator, if only because he would have questioned some of the assumptions both candidates and both parties are operating under. Bob Schieffer merely invited them to expand on those assumptions, chief among them being that America should try to control everything that is happening in the world all the time.
If you scratch the surface, you can see Obama making modifications to some of these assumptions, while Romney calls any deviation from permawar in Central Asia and the Middle East some kind of apology. But that Mitt Romney didn’t really show up last night. Or, he kinda did, and he kinda didn’t. One moment he sounded like John Lennon and the next moment he sounded like John Wayne. He criticized the president for acknowledging that America has allied itself with dictators and then denied that we ever allied ourselves with dictators and then praised the president for not sticking it out with fallen dictators. It was that sort of night. Romney was incoherent to anyone conversant with history, but I don’t think he was any clearer to dumbasses.
It seemed as if Romney wanted to avoid looking scary on foreign policy, perhaps to prevent a huge gender gap from opening up. But he looked scary for a different reason. He looked scary because he couldn’t hold his own on foreign policy. If that wasn’t clear from his answers it was at least clear from his demeanor.