Obama Vanquishes Romney With 5 Brutal Quips
In the third and final debate of the 2012 presidential campaign, President Barack Obama successfully painted his opponent, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, as out of touch and inexperienced in foreign policy. The discussion, moderated by CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer at Lynn University in Boca Raton, was a hands-down win for Obama, according to the major news media -- and even members of the right-wing media. The focus of the debate was foreign policy.
It really was that bad for Romney, who, by the end of the night looked a bit crumpled in spirit, a tad sweaty and hapless at the hands of a youthful but commanding opponent. And Obama successfully painted Romney as maybe a bit over the hill, comparing Romney’s worldview to policies from eras past, ranging from the 1770s to the 1980s, in quips that yielded the night’s social media memes, involving calvary, hair gel, and lots of gifs.
Romney entered the debate with a difficult agenda, one that demanded he reconcile the bellicose positions he adopted, in order to assure the support of the war-happy right-wing base, with his newly moderate persona, adopted in the final days of the campaign so as not to alienate swing voters, particularly women, who tend to be pretty down on war.
During the Republican primary season, Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom famously promised that come the general election campaign, Romney would reset his Etch A Sketch. In this debate, the Etch A Sketch was indeed shaken, but Romney never much got past a blank screen.
In a number of instances, he found himself agreeing with the president’s policies -- even those on which he previously drew sharp contrasts, as in his prior hardline on Iran -- while trying to differentiate himself from Obama. It turned out to be a formula for disaster on Romney’s part.
Many have made the observation that Romney will say anything to get elected. But in order for that to work, he would have to do so with conviction, and he just couldn’t muster that attitude on Monday night.
Romney seemed to go into the Florida debate with a hangover from last week’s second debate, which liberals saw as an Obama win, even if mainstream media figures did not. There, in a debate moderated by CNN’s Candy Crowley at New York’s Hofstra University, Romney was brought up short when he falsely asserted that Obama had never dubbed the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, an act of terror until two weeks after the incident. Crowley fact-checked him, the right called foul, and Romney never quite recovered. That drubbing appeared to have affected his performance in his final face-to-face with Obama, who seemed energized by the result of last week’s rhetorical contest.
For his part, Obama served up some moments of deft evasion, as when he virtually ignored a question about the controversial drone warfare his administration has pursued with gusto, and implying that his adminstration had never sought to leave a sizeable contingent of U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq, when it had.
But as untruths and evasions when, Romney repeated some familiar, debunked themes: the false accusation that Obama opened his foreign policy with an "apology tour" of the Middle East ("the biggest whopper of the campaign," Obama retorted), or the outright lie that the president promised an unemployment rate of 5.3 percent. He notably avoided the misstatement that hung him up in the last debate and, suprisingly, abandoned much of his past criticism of the administration's response to the Libya attack.
And curiously, despite the crisis that now confronts the Eurozone and voters' concerns with the state of the economy, Schieffer did not ask one question about American policy toward Europe, whose economy is inextricably linked to that of the U.S.
Here are Obama’s five most memorable lines from Monday’s debate:
1. Horses and bayonets. The progressive blogosphere was set snarkily and gleefully a-Twitter with Obama’s response to Romney’s claim that Obama seeks to gut the military. As proof, Romney offered the factoid that the Navy now has few ships than at any time since 1916. Obama replied: