Foreign policy is such a complex subject that Monday's debate was an opportunity to explore some critical issues. Unfortunately, the debate was reduced to talking points and some very important topics, such as drones, were barely discussed.
Moderator Bob Schieffer did a decent job of keeping the candidates in check and he occasionally pushed on some issues. I do think he missed opportunities to focus the candidates on their positions and question the reasoning behind their policy decisions.
The clear winner is Obama’s policies, but both sides will find something to be happy with at the debate. Both candidates appeared confident, but that was ultimately because they agreed on most of the major issues. Romney has kept moving center and tried tonight to paint himself as the candidate of peace. The problem with this strategy is that he appeared to completely agree with the President’s policies instead of making the differences in their strategies clear. This also meant that on foreign policy issues, President Obama really had nothing significant to prove.
One of the most uncomfortable moments in the debate, other than the unequivocal support of drones, was the “Who loves Israel more?” game. Politically, this move is understandable, but absolutely unnecessary as no president will actually distance themselves from Israel. Furthermore, this prevented discussion on an issue that needed to be discussed, Palestine. Secondly, the discussion of Iran got edged towards ridiculousness as Romney screams Genocide and promotes prosecution under the Genocide Convention. The awkward bits aside, the rest of the debate was fairly dull.
Supposedly a foreign policy debate, a significant amount of disagreement was on domestic policy. Both candidates repeatedly turned the debate towards domestic issues because they know that the majority of Americans want to hear about those policies. Even the closing statements focused on domestic issues.
Romney had an opportunity to differentiate himself and failed. This led to a very uninformative debate and failed to provide Americans with different choices. Obama was successful in pointing out that Romney’s shifting policies and managed to throw in a few zingers, “Horses and Bayonets,” which ultimately puts him ahead.
To sum the debate up: They pretty much agree with each other.
For full coverage of the debate and real-time analysis see here.