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What We Learned In The Final Debate

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

             With the conclusion of the third and final presidential debate last night America has entered the final stage of the presidential election. The final shots have been fired and all that’s left to do is wait. (Unless of course you are unfortunate enough to live in one of the swing states which will be continuously bombarded with campaign commercials for the next two weeks.)

Nevertheless, early speculation on the foreign policy debate projected a big winner riding the potential support surge into the White House, however when the dust settled and all was said and done one thing remained unclear: who was the big winner?

            Overall it is difficult to say. Governor Romney was the clear winner in the first debate and President Obama’s much improved performance earned him a victory in the aggressive second debate, but the event billed as the all or nothing tie-breaker in a dead-even race seemed to me like a bit of a draw.
            If you ask me, the tide of the debate turned half-way through. Obama definitely came out stronger in the first half. During this portion of the proceedings the big issues of discussion were Libya and Syria and, while there has been some controversy over the administration’s handling of the Libya situation, it was clear that Obama was better informed on the topic (a perk of being the incumbent). Obama also seemed to have a stronger plan for dealing with the Syrian situation. Although both men condemned President Assaad and agreed that the U.S. should not get involved militarily, Romney took what is sure to be an unpopular stance by suggesting the U.S. send weapons to “trustworthy” rebel forces.
            By the end though, the debate started to lean Romney’s way. Using his advantage of being able to attack Obama’s record, Romney was able to make some very strong arguments regarding Obama’s policies towards Iran and Israel. Shortly afterwards, the topic turned to China and Romney was able to spin the conversation back into his strong territory—the domestic economy. This diversion from the anticipated topic partnered with a strong closing statement allowed the Republican challenger to end the debate he started so weakly on a very high note.
            When the candidates did decide to keep their dialogue out of the country, many of their positions were very similar. Both agreed: Iran is dangerous, Israel is our friend, China’s inexplicable currency manipulation gives them an unfair advantage in trade and economics, and it’s hard to say how involved the U.S. should get in the uprisings in the Middle East.  In fact, the biggest difference of opinion in most cases seemed to come not from what should be done, but how it should be done.
            In general Obama’s statements seemed to indicate that he favors a lighter touch in global relations and believes that nearly everything can be negotiated out on the world stage. Romney on the other hand came off as a little more aggressive. Although he did not express intent to take military against any nation, he did suggest much stronger, more unilateral measures be taken against nations like Iran and that more of a stand be made against political adversaries like Russia and China.
            Another major difference of opinion in this area was on the issue of military size. In order to cut government spending Obama has proposed one trillion dollars in military spending cuts, an idea which Romney criticized as dangerous to American security.
            While Obama stood firmly on his beliefs that the U.S. is in a better position globally than it was when he took office and that the military spending was out of control, Romney argued that Obama’s “apologies” to other nations and downsizing of the Navy and Air Force made the U.S. look weak on the global stage and invited hostile nations to take advantage of us.
            Personally, when it comes to international relations and national security I tend to be of the opinion that being a little tougher and a little more prepared is in a country’s best interests. I don’t believe in being overly pushy with our allies but I think playing hard ball with less cooperative nations can earn us more respect and when it comes to the military I think it’s best to err on the side of caution and stay heavily armed.
            Both men made very strong cases for their stances in the debate Monday night and staunch supporters of either one could potentially try to claim a victory for their own party. Whichever half of the debate people paid more attention to will, ultimately, I believe decide the “official winner” but whichever side that may end up being, I doubt this narrow contest will have the landslide impact on the polls it was anticipated to have. 

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