The final presidential debate of 2012.
From the first moments of this final presidential debate, it was clear that each candidate had come to the table with a different tactic as part of a similar strategy: President Obama continued to attack his opponent, hoping to raise Romney's ire and, by forcing a mistake, make Romney look small. Romney, for his part, went out of his way to be gracious toward the president, hoping, in comparison, to make his opponent look small, for being so critical.
That made the debate much less of a slug fest than the last one, and much more of a complex battle. I found it the most interesting contest.
Bob Schieffer was by far the best moderator of any of the debates. He didn't seem apologetic to be serving as referee, as did Jim Lehrer. And Schieffer was a big improvement over Candy Crowley who, unfortunately, came across, in debate number two, as your least favorite teacher in school.
"The 1980s are calling and are asking for their foreign policy back," was clearly a prepared line President Obama tossed out when the subject of Romney's criticism of Russia came up. I know through a source of mine that a number of Hollywood comedy writers, who support the president, are in Washington this week to write lines just like that one for the Democrats. Since I knew that, the line didn't work for me. I don't think the president needs to sound like an imitation Rodney Dangerfield. We'll know how the voters reacted in a couple of weeks.
The president also treated Romney with real disdain when the former Massachusetts governor brought up the subject of the U.S. Navy. Obama, dripping with sarcasm, lectured Mitt Romney: "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." If Romney had risen to the bait, he might have pointed out to our Commander in Chief that our Marines--all 240,000 of them--still use bayonets, and very effectively too. But Romney stepped back from a rejoinder, as if he heard the old saying in his head: "Revenge is a dish that is best served cold." He kept his cool: missing a number of chances to connect with Obama's chin.
Maybe Mitt Romney knew a lot of people in America were watching baseball and football instead of the debate. Perhaps his strategy was, instead, to avoid a bad headline for those who missed the entire thing?
For President Obama, a sitting president, to be as aggressive as he was during debate number three, has to mean he believed he had to do this--get his licks in--or lose the race. Romney's strategy was to bet the entire pot on going in the opposite direction. "Attacking me, Mr. President, is not an agenda," Romney said more than once.
I'm not sure that's true. But its a nice thought.
P.S. The federal government has nothing to do with hiring teachers. I thought I would add that, for those who noticed that Obama said he would hire more teachers.
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