On Monday night, two extremely wealthy men will be arguing in Boca Raton, Florida, which is nothing unusual. But this time those two men are also vying for the highest office in the land and will be televised arguing each other.
CBS’s Bob Scheiffer will be moderating this debate, one exclusively about foreign policy. I predict the night will be a rhetorical arm wrestle with each candidate trying to prove he is tougher than his opponent on Libya, Afghanistan, Iran, China, etc.
I hope I’m wrong, because that would be an unfortunate use of a debate of foreign policy. I keep current with the historiography of the British Empire, and I’ve noticed a growing number of historians in the last 10 years, Niall Ferguson chief among them, calling for the United States to quit denying the obvious and own its American Empire. We have military bases all over the world, the global economy is pegged to the full faith and credit of our Treasury bonds, and our music and movies make more money abroad than at home. Who are we kidding?
Because governmental powers are separated, the next president will not have nearly as much power to transform America as he will many other countries. I hope in this debate both sides begin to talk about countries in less absolute terms. We may currently be in the business of policing the world, but we can’t afford any more wars.
Evidently, much of the world wants Obama re-elected, so perhaps the president will be able to win over his own country by pinning Romney’s arm to the table in the debate. He certainly did so on Libya last week, the facts of the matter aside.
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UPDATE 9:36 When both candidates were actually talking about foreign policy tonight, Obama had the upper hand. The debate wasn't quite the arm wrestling match I thought it would be. Romney was still all over the map, but that also describes the American electorate. I'll post a full review shortly.
9:34 Romney talks of peace in his closing, and my dad is eager to change the channel to the Bears game. He thinks Diane Sawyer's voice is too emotive.
9:29 Bob Schieffer and Mitt Romney are both Pisces, and they both love teachers. Coincidence?
9:24 Is it possible to love Detroit too much?
9:20 I agree with what Romney is saying, but he has no way to enforce any of it. In other news, my Iraq war veteran anarchist friend seems to understand Sino-American relations all too well:
I'm sick of hearing people talk about, "Getting money out of politics." It's time to get politics out of money.
9:17 Romney: "We can be a partner with China." By labeling them a "currency manipulator"? That's like a bettor taking out a personal ad to call his bookie a jerk.
9:11 Yes, drones! Something we can all agree on! How sad.
9:09 Yes, let's talk about Pakistan. You may not know Pakistan is an acronym that was crafted after the partition of India in 1947: Punjab, Afghania [North-West Frontier Province], Kashmir, Iran, Sindh, Tukharistan, Afghanistan. It helped that "stan" means "land of" in Hindi and Persian. My psychiatrist is from Pakistan and got his medical degree there. He's a good guy.
9:07 Obama, I want to like your foreign policy. But why are Afghan lives somehow expendable when American lives are undeniably precious? I don't like where that logic leads.
9:06 That Christian anarchist father of two is on a role: "I'm glad my girls were brushing their teeth when they were focusing on women in developing ocuntries. The word 'developing' is even funnier than 'depends' in this preteen house."
9:03 Schieffer is doing a decent job keeping this debate civil. He could be a bit fiestier, but he's also 75.
9:01 My not-necessarily-Republican friend from Houston has another gem:
Someone should poster a shark, underneath "JAWBS"
I'd photoshop this, but I'm a bit busy right now.
8:59 Romney likes to just summarize problems around the globe. He doesn't dwell too long on any one issue.
8:57 Dang, Obama is whipping out his Israel credentials. Yad Vashem? No fundraisers? Dang. He's again forcing the issue of credibility. He seems very confident in his own ethos.
8:56 Is the world more united now than four years ago, or are we four years closer to a nuclear Iran? IT CAN'T BE BOTH.
8:53 I sometimes wonder how American public discourse would be different if we used archaic terms. What about a Persian nuclear threat? Are Aryan mullahs as threatening as Iranian ones?
8:52 The clock is ticking on Iran? That mean's it's time for...
8:50 The Christian anarchist father of two: "The anabaptist in me reacts negatively to the word reform no matter the context."
8:48 Romney says "with regards to" when he means "with regard to." #grammarnazi
8:44 Okay, Obama's foreign policy is tempting me to vote for him. #notreally He just seems to get it. I'm just going to chalk that all up to Hillary. Realizing she's not staying on for a second term, I guess I can't count on this good sense for the next four years from anyone.
8:43 "Sequesterization" is officially the longest word used in the debate tonight.
8:42 THIS IS A FOREIGN POLICY DEBATE. ALL WE'RE TALKING ABOUT IS THE NAVY AND THE DEFICIT.
8:40 Just when I think my dad has really had it with Obama, "Oh... my... gosh." Me: "What is it Dad?" "7-0. The Cardinals are embarassing me."
8:38 Romney wants to expand the Navy?
8:37 My friend Adam lives in Houston but is not a straight-ticket Republican:
Bob Dole transitions the debate nicely as a moderator.
8:36 Wait, why are we talking about domestic policy? This is a foreign policy debate!
8:35 I've been having a back and forth with my dad that if we really want to increase trade we'll end all sanctions and embargos. He maintains that they are politically significant to "us" and economically significant to "them" but not economically significant to "us."
8:33 Obama seems intent on having the wealthiest pay "a little bit more." Are Romney's policies wrong and wreckless? Romeny's answer:
8:31 My dad came back upstairs during Obama's retort: "Oh man... stronger than four years ago? You blew it!"
8:28 Mitt Romney wants to steer this debate on foreign policy to one about the economy and us. What is America’s role in the world? Police, evidently. My dad is turning on a different TV to watch the Cardinals game. I wonder what Romney doesn't want to stand for or by... he seems to have listed everything.
8:25 My dad, the Missouri-born regular Rush Limbaugh listener, has come home. I heard Obama talking and him saying, "Oh my gosh."
8:24 Anarchist father's daughter: "Are we Democratic or Republican?" Him: "We're Christian." Daughter: "Romney looks like a president."
8:23 Romney's views on Syria in two pictures:
8:20 I have two anachist friends. Both are Christians. One is a husband and father of two:
"Just started watching, my wife and daughters are focues on moderator's ears. Is it true that old people's ears keep growing?"
The other is an Iraq war veteran:
"I love how the black warmonger totally ignores his attempts to extend Bush's Iraq time tables in an attempt to make the white war monger's desire to keep troops in Iraq look bad."
8:19 Romney seems to want to do everything good at no cost... He's not Liam Neeson.
8:17 Obama is giving a very reasonable assessment of the situation in Syria. Methinks a Clinton briefed him.
8:14 Obama may be wrong but at least he's consistent. Romney is like a snake oil salesman right now.
8:11 Again, I'm not voting for either of these guys, but Obama just laid down the law. Romney's foreign policy is from the 1980s, social policy from the 1950s and economic policy from the 1920s. Great summary of the Republican Party, frankly, which Romney is doing his best to manifest.
8:09 Romney's strategy is straightforward: kill the bad guys. Romney says his broader policy is to combat Muslim extermism, but neither his nor Obama's policies combat that. I'm certain if Pakistan were killing random Americans with drone strikes over South Dakota, many Americans would become Christian extermists.
8:06 I'm not sure Mitt Romney has ever been funny on purpose, even though his wife maintains he always makes her laugh. Romney is giving a very skimming summary of current US foreign policy while Obama gives a death stare.
8:03 Looks like Bob Schieffer follows me on Twitter. I'm glad the candidates are sitting down. Should be good.
8:02 The audience has taken a vow of silence? You managed to fill the room with monks, Bob Schieffer?
7:59 Also, it's 2012! People should be able to phone in, text and tweet their votes for president. It works for the stars and their dancers.
7:57 Dancing With The Stars makes me wish the electoral college were embodied in a three-person judgment panel at these debates. "The Midwest awards you 8.5 votes, Mr. Obama."
7:55 I've watched each of these debates on ABC, because I don't have cable and know that NBC and Fox are biased — and that CBS is for old people. Thus, tuned to ABC 7 Chicago for the debate already, I'm struck by the similarities between Dancing With the Stars and this presidential debate. Aging socialites dying for approval employ whatever hip slang and gimmicks they can to appeal to you, the sole person who can affirm them.
7:46 Besides the obligatory rum and Coke, which has its roots in the Transatlantic Slave Trade, I'm fueling up in my final minutes with an Asian fusion stirfry. What will I be eating for dinner this time next year? Likely whatever I please, still. But if I were locked in the world of tonight's debate I would be worried: "I hope President Romney doesn't start a war that would make my dinner un-American, and I hope Obama doesn't acquiesce to the extent that this dinner is mandatory!"
The president is a Leo: A freak accident this week will endow you with the relative strength and speed of 10 wheelchair-bound men.
And both Bob Schieffer and Mitt Romney are Pisces(es?). This is definitely too convenient: Although you’ve certainly slept your way somewhere, no one would ever mistake it for the top.
7:23 IMDb tells me Bob Schieffer and Jim Lehrer started their journalism careers together in Texas. If the latter's victory in the first debate is any indication of Schieffer's performance tonight, we're in for a treat.
7:03 I Googled "Romney Bieber."
6:53 I'm preparing for this debate by watching Nicki Minaj and Justin Bieber music videos. I've concluded three things: Nicki was TOTALLY green-screened into this video; Justin looks like my youngest cousin; Romney should get a Bieber haircut.
6:47 Obama's goal tonight is to leave this image in people's minds.
6:03 Tonight's debate is being held in Boca Raton, Florida. All I need to know about Boca Raton, i.e. the Rat's Mouth, I learned from my college friend Heather who lived there. She fled. Anything else I needed to know about Boca Raton I learned from Dexter killing motivational speaker Jordan Chase, who lived in Boca Raton.
5:50 CDT I think a brief primer on globalization is necessary going into this debate.