If I had to pick who came off better between the two candidates, it would be President Obama. He never really faltered with any issue and he effectively countered most attacks against Romney's main criticism that Obama was being weak as a military leader around the world. Romney was in too tenuous a position of showing that he had the leadership and strength of a war hawk but at the same time, he had to avoid the unpopular image of committing troops to any more places. His message was clouded in many areas and he relied too much on bringing up domestic issues and ignoring his foreign policy. He really was all over the place when discussing his strategies and Obama successfully called him out on it.
However, I would say that the real winner is the mainstream media. Overall, this debate was underwhelming. There were no real major gaffes and an argument can be made that both sides were the winner. This fits in nicely into the narrative that Romney won the first debate, Obama came back in the second, and the third debate was more or less a tie. Since the general public has less of an interest in foreign policy than things like social issues or the economy, this relieves the media from having to explain a certain complex foreign policy issue that might have been discussed if one candidate clearly outshined the other. But since Romney didn’t say that he could see Russia from his backyard, and Obama didn’t say that he wanted to be friends with Iran, they can just talk about how close the race is now and how close the debate was. And as I unfortunately predicted, there was virtually no talk about the economic problems in Europe, except for Romney suggesting that Obama would make us Greece in four years.
Romney did not really press Obama on Libya, and even though I think there are legitimately sound arguments that Obama could and has made on why we intervened, holding Obama to the same precedent in Syria would have been really interesting tactic especially since it is something rarely discussed in the media. The sad truth is that the atrocities in Syria are becoming at least just as violent, but most likely even more heinous, than what happened in Libya but Obama and Romney have both stressed that we will do nothing with our military to help. While I am not stating that direct military intervention is the best course, it saddens me that after we silently stood by what happened in Rwanda that this option isn’t even on the table for discussion.
Additionally, while Obama’s adoration for drone strikes is widely known, Romney’s perspective is equally if not more troubling. Romney stated that he would use “any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to this nation and our friends.” If anyone was alarmed that we used a drone to kill an American citizen without any attempt at a trial, it doesn’t seem that this practice would stop under Romney if the person in question posed enough of a threat. Again the media does not have to tip-toe around this sensitive and complicated moral issue as both men are united behind the strategy and there was no actual debate about the issue.
If I had to give one recommendation on making a candidate choice based on this election, it would be to go look at third party candidates.
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