The final debate Monday night between President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney saw both men stick close to their corners. Neither wanted to make an unforced error, neither did. There was scant that was new.
Romney was basically Obama’s shadow on Afghanistan – the only war we’re currently waging – and both candidates seemed eager to bring the discussion back home whenever possible. Each landed some blows, but they were insufficient to change the trajectory of the campaign as it enters its final two weeks.
Each had his zingers:
You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.
The President’s policies towards Iran, Romney said, have convinced its leaders that:
Hey, you know, we can keep on pushing along here; we can keep talks going on, but we’re just going to keep on spinning centrifuges. Now there are some 10,000 centrifuges spinning uranium, preparing to create a nuclear threat to the United States and to the world.
Romney partisans will conclude that their man played to a draw, tantamount to a Republican victory against an incumbent commander-in-chief. Democrats will breathe a sigh of relief that Obama seems to have shaken off the lethargy that marred his first debate with Romney three weeks ago in Denver.
One thing the debate highlighted is that the foreign-policy challenges facing the U.S. are close calls without easy answers.
A bottom line permeated the 90 minutes, although neither candidate dared say it explicitly: the American people are tired of war, of sending their sons and daughters off to interminable military campaigns without any prospect of clear victory, and of sending the bill to their kids and grandkids to pay.
You could sense that in the relatively minor national-security stakes acknowledged by the candidates, and Romney’s channeling of John Lennon.
Toward the end of the debate, moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News asked Obama what he sees as “the greatest future threat to the national security of this country?”
“I think it will continue to be terrorist networks,” Obama responded.
That’s quite a comedown from the Soviet Union of a generation ago.
In his closing remarks, Romney made clear – three times — that he wanted peace. “I want to see peace,” he said. “I want to see growing peace in this country, it’s our objective…America’s going to have that kind of leadership and continue to promote principles of peace that’ll make a world the safer place and make people in this country more confident that their future is secure.”
Should hardly come as a surprise. After all, as we now know, Lennon was a closet conservative.