Monday night's debate was close enough that pundits on both sides are declaring their guy the winner. But while the pundits were filling out their scorecards, the American people were getting yet another look into the characters of these two presidential candidates, and that was not good for President Obama.
Once again, Mitt Romney came across as more presidential than the president. Where President Obama was aggressive, leaning forward, often on the attack, Romney sat tall, didn't sink down to the president's level, and remained focused on the big issues throughout. As Charles Krauthammer
put it in his post-debate commentary, "Romney went large, Obama went very, very small ' shockingly small." And in the end, President Obama ended up looking petty and small himself, like a desperate candidate with no new ideas, no vision, no option other than to take his tactics down to the lowest common denominator.
Romney's strategy throughout the debate definitely frustrated some conservatives, who were eager to see Romney strike back against the president's more aggressive approach. But Romney did a masterful job of calling the president out on his lies, which only seemed to make the president angrier and more aggressive, which played in Romney's favor.
America wasn't seeing Barack Obama, President of the United States of America Monday night, we were seeing Barack Obama the Chicago community organizer. Where Mitt Romney's demeanor was presidential, the president was nasty and divisive. He continued the trend from other debates of trying to interrupt Romney. He looked particularly petty when he complained about time, as he did during the previous debates, and the CNN time-clock showed that he had been allowed more talk time than Romney.
The pinnacle of President Obama's arrogance and condescension during the debate was his "horses and bayonets" remark. Picture the stage: Mitt Romney had just stated that he wanted to ensure our military had sufficient funding to bring the number of US Naval shipsup to the levels requested by the US Navy.
Romney explicitly stated that "The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We're now at under 285. We're headed down to the low 200s if we go through a sequestration. That's unacceptable to me." Sequestration, by the way, represents $1 trillion in cuts to our military, which President Obama signed into law in the beginning of August.
Here was President Obama's response:
First of all, the sequester is not something that I've proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen.
The budget that we are talking about is not reducing our military spending. It is maintaining it.
But I think Governor Romney maybe hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works.
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.
And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we're counting ships. It's what are our capabilities.
What President Obama is saying about sequestration is, "that bill that I signed into law but will take no responsibility for will not happen." Sequestration may not have been President Obama's idea (though there is some evidence
to contradict even that statement), but it came about as a direct result of his party's fiscal irresponsibility. The US government has gone nearly three and a half years without a budget, thanks to Obama's Democratic allies in the Senate...and sequestration is part of a bill President Obama signed into law. The only way to get out of it is for Congress to pass a new law before January 2...though President Obama boxed himself into a corner on this one by threatening to veto any replacement law that doesn't include alternative deficit reduction. Meanwhile, Harry Reid has pledged not to pass a budget until after the election.
Sequestration is the law ' it isn't something President Obama can just ignore. Obama campaign operatives took to the Spin Room immediately after the debate to try to redefine the president's comments, but the damage was done.
But the real kicker was President Obama's "horses and bayonets" comment. Who knew that "we have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines." I wonder if President Obama realizes that aircraft carriers and submarines are ships - and aircraft carriers don't travel alone, they are always surrounded by groups of support ships...it's not like the idea of having ships in the Navy is outdated. In fact, our Marines still use bayonets ' and those bayonets probably would have come in handy if the president had made the call to send some Marines in to defend the Americans who died in Benghazi on his watch.
All Mitt Romney proposed was to bring the level of US Naval ships up to the levels the Navy said it needed
, but Obama wasn't really listening ' all he heard Romney say was "Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917." To hear President Obama's ridiculous response, you would think Romney had proposed that we manufacture more muskets for the Army. I'm sure President Obama thought he was being clever, breaking it down Big Bird style for Mitt Romney, but that kind of snide arrogance is very unbecoming of a sitting President.
About halfway through, the debate took an odd turn back into domestic politics, as Romney emphasized how the importance of a strong domestic economy is to making strong foreign policy decisions. The economy has never been one of President Obama's strong points, and it didn't go well with him Monday night.
For starters, he dragged out the talking point about Romney's foreign investments, just like he did during the previous debate. Maybe he didn't realize that after the last debate, it was revealed that President Obama also has foreign investments in his retirement, just like almost everyone who has money in mutual funds or a 401k.
The president also once again tried to call Romney out on his opposition to the GM bailout, yet again falsely claiming that without the bailout, General Motors would no longer exist. Romney hit back fairly well here, citing the op-ed he wrote back in 2008 clarifying his position. This was an odd moment for Obama, who repeatedly said "Let's check the record," like he was expecting Bob Schieffer to pull a Candy Crowley and back him up. In the end, I think President Obama was banking on people not checking the record, but as it turns out, Romney wrote exactly what he said he wrote
, eloquently laying out the case back then for a managed bankruptcy through which the American auto industry could re-shape itself into a stronger future, as opposed to President Obama's plan, which gave a managed subsidy to the UAW. And, go figure, the future of General Motors has shaped up just like Mitt Romney predicted it would if we bailed out the auto industry.
But perhaps the most confusing aspect of this debate was President Obama's sudden strong and abiding love for Israel. The president was more concerned about Israel during this debate than he ever has been throughout his entire presidency, and I don't think Obama did himself any favors with his sudden shift in positions. Anyone who has been paying attention over the past four years can easily recall President Obama's speech calling for Israel return to its pre-1967 borders, and it wasn't that long ago that the White House told Benjamin Netanyahu that President Obama was too busy to meet with him the same day that Obama's campaign announced that the president would be appearing on Letterman.
All in all, the debates have shown the contrast between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama that many voters have been looking for. If nothing else, they have given voters a glimpse into who these candidates truly are. Mitt Romney really is a businessman, and while he may not have the "rock star" qualities that so many on the Left seem to be looking for, voters are recognizing that Mitt Romney has a real plan to fix the economy. Barack Obama, on the other hand, has come across as rude, petty, and immature, telling so many bald-faced lies that it's become difficult to keep track of them all. And while the president's aggressively rude attitude might continue to hold some appeal for his base, that isn't what most Americans are looking for in our President.