8:50: The WWE put on the tag tournament finals, the CM Punk promo and the Antonio Cesaro match all in the first hour. Presumably they guessed I would be watching the debate afterwards. Kudos, WWE! Just as I tune away, you announce that Vince McMahon will show up next! THAT is when you should put Vince on the air! When I am not watching.
8:54: And I tune into Bob Scheiffer, who is probably less appealing than Vince McMahon. I forgot that this final debate featured a boring old white person as moderator. He looks like Jim Lehrer except more brittle.
9:01: Bob Schieffer, exhaling dust with each breath, explains the debate rules, and the candidates are out. Are they booing Romney? I can’t tell.
9:03: Schieffer talks about Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis, because he was there. Then he talks about the McKinley asssasination, because he was there. And now, the first question, which is about Libya, and the question is phrased in terms that are, to say the least, very favourable to Mittens. Romney thanks everybody, of course, and references the Al Smith dinner because why not. Romney explains why the Arab Spring has gone terribly wrong, and even references Mali, and then talks about Iran (which has no Arabs in it, but whatever). Romney then explains that “we can’t kill our way out of this mess,” despite the fact that he is far more pro-war than Obama, but I guess that’s not killing or something now.
9:06: Obama: first priority keep Americans safe, rebuild alliances, take out Al-Qaeda. Libya: we took leadership to organize an international coalition to liberate a country for practically no money down, no interest, and Libyans marched after Benghazi in support of us. Attacks Mitt on his strategy for being “all over the map.” Romney says his strategy is to take out the bad guys and kill them, which is also not killing one’s way out of a mess I suppose otherwise Romney would’ve flip-flopped in less than two minutes. Then he talks about helping the Arab world, which because he is Mittens means BIDNESS, and also women’s rights and the rule of law, which are very important to him and of course nobody thought of promoting those things in the Middle East before. God, this is vapid.
9:10: Obama slams Romney for the Russia comments from a few months ago, which is good, then works in some attacks on Romney’s social and economic domestic policies for good measure. “Every time you’ve offered an opinion, you’ve been wrong.” Calls out Romney for supporting the war in Iraq, wanting it to continue, attacking nuclear treaties, not making up his mind on an Afghanistan timeline… DAMMIT OBAMA MENTION ALIENATING ENGLAND. But he wraps up by basically saying Romney is a retard on foreign policy. Romney lies and says Obama’s statements about what he’s said are not accurate, presumably because he has also said other things at some other point because, hey, whatever. Romney says Russia is just a “geopolitical foe” which is MUCH better and I’m sure Russia is all “hey, that’s cool.” Romney tries to play gotcha with a status of forces agreement on Iraq and Obama and then starts lying straight-up about wanting troops in Iraq, and his lines are TERRIBLE. Obama hammers him on it and his lines are GREAT. Says he has to support Israel, because well duh, and protect minorities in foreign countries, and his lines are SKY HIGH, higher than they have been at any point.
9:16: Syria! What will we do? Obama: We’ve worked with the international community to provide humanitarian relief, and we’ve assisted moderates inside Syria, but ultimately this is Syria’s ballgame, so we’ve let Turkey and Israel take the lead in helping the opposition. We’ve done what we can, but if we get militarily involved, we have to make sure we know what the fuck we’re doing. Romney: 30,000 dead. It’s an opportunity for us! (Good lord, Romney, you dipshit, don’t put it that way.) It’s important to get Syria going the right way, but we don’t want military involvement, so we need to work with our partners to help with the moderates in Syria. THIS IS WHAT OBAMA JUST SAID BASICALLY. Except that Romney’s lines are worse, possibly because he doesn’t seem like he knows what he’s talking about. “Assad must go!” When Romney starts attacking Obama on this his lines drop. Obama: we are playing a leadership role, we’re mobilizing support for the moderate rebels. Back to Libya: we were able to stop massacres there because of the unique circumstances there, but when it came to Gaddafi, Romney said getting rid of him was “mission creep,” and he was wrong, and that’s why Libyans mostly love us right now.
9:21: Bob asks Romney what more he would do about Syria, asking about no-fly zones. Romney says he doesn’t want to use American forces; he wants things to get better! There are so many things that could get better! We can make that happen by giving them weapons! Obama: Romney just said he doesn’t have different ideas; we’re doing what we can to promote a new moderate Syrian leadership.
9:23: Bob asks if Obama regrets interfering in Egypt. Obama doesn’t because democracy and freedom, but Egypt needs to step up to protect religious minorities and women’s rights and stick to their treaty with Israel and work against terrorism and help the kids get jobs. But this also means America has to build up its own economy so we can help them with all of that. Bob asks Romney if he would have stuck with Mubarak and Romney says no, but maybe Obama didn’t force a transition in Egypt sooner, which: what. Then Romney wants to talk about promoting freedom and peace in the Middle East, which means a strong economy and then quotes Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dissing the US debt, and also the US needs to spend more money on the military, and having strong allies. Then he says the US is less strong abroad than it was four years ago, which is just a GIANT MOUNTAIN OF BULLSHIT.
9:29: Romney blathers in the next segment at length about how the economy is weak and this means America is weak, because turning the foreign policy debate into a domestic debate is the only way he wins. And then he goes back to having a strong military budget, and how Israel can’t have its feelings hurt, and then complains that the US didn’t say anything during the Green Revolution in Iran. Obama responds by saying American alliances have never been stronger – including Israel – and has repositioned America so the economy can get better and no outsourcing and better exports because this is now apparently Domestic Debate Two: Electric Boogaloo. Romney’s plan doesn’t cut the deficit and Obama’s plan will. Obama slams GWB and Cheney as Romney’s buddies. Lines are not wild about this.
9:33: Romney goes back to his Five Fingers Of Doom and cackles over opportunities in Latin America like a banana magnate. Attacks teacher’s unions for some reason. Then drops the Greece hammer, because at least I guess that’s technically foreign-ish. Obama points out that when Romney was governor of Massachusetts, small businesses were bad off because his policies were bad. Then he jumps to education policy and talks about his policies, which have created progress on scores, and he wants to hire lots of math and science teachers, then points out that Romney doesn’t think class sizes make a difference and teachers don’t help the economy. Romney demands a response on education and talks about how well students did during his tenure as Governor, because of bipartisanship and stuff. Obama points out, quite rightly, that Romney had nothing to do with this and in fact cut education spending. Romney just keeps bullshitting and gives his I’m Full Of Shit grin.
9:38: Bob wants to know where Romney will get the money for his increased military spending. Romney lies straight-up and says he’s explained how this is possible, and basically admits he’s going to cut Medicaid by turning it into block grants. His lines are awful for all of this. Obama points out that Romney’s math doesn’t work at all, YET AGAIN, because maybe this time it’ll work. Points out that the USA spends more on the military than the next ten countries combined, and he worked with the Joint Chiefs to come up with military budget cuts that would work, and also Romney is full of shit and Romney’s math is impossible. But America needs to think about military strategy, not politics: what the country needs, not just charting it by money spent. Plus, it means we get to cut the deficit.
9:42: Romney brags about how he is a BIDNESSMAN and how he didn’t lose money on the Olympics, and he balanced budgets as Governor, and he wants a big Navy, and he wants a big Air Force, and he wants America to be able to fight two wars at once, and the military budget should not be cut. Obama points out that sequestration was Congress’ idea, not his, and it just maintains the military budget. Obama: “We have less ships than in 1916: well we also have less horses and bayonets. We have these things called “aircraft carriers,” which have lots of planes on them.” Obama is just treating Romney like an idiot right now and Romney is giving him DEATH STARE.
9:45: Bob desperately wants this to be a foreign policy debate again, and asks if either candidate would say an attack on Israel is an attack on the USA. Obama says, straight-up, he will stand with Israel if they are attacked (Bob asks him again and he says it again). On Iran: as long as Obama is President, Iran will not get nukes. The sanctions are crippling their economy, their currency has plunged, their oil production is in the toilet. We will not have a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and Iran will not get the chance to give terrorists nukes. Obama points out that Romney wants “premature” military action, and sending in troops is the last resort. Romney: I’ll stand with Israel too! And Iran can’t get nukes, I say that too! I called for sanctions before it was cool and Obama took too long! I would make the sanctions even tighter! I’d get Ahmadinejad tried as a war criminal! And I would not invite Iranian diplomats over for tea!
9:50: What about these rumoured talks with Iran? Obama: that’s just a newspaper story and isn’t true. But if we did have talks, we would accept them ending their nuclear program. Points out that Romney just wants to do everything they did, but louder. Points out that sanctions wouldn’t have worked without Russia and China on board, which is why it took so long to get them in place. And Iran can’t keep offering talks and then walking away. Obama is doing Tough Talk here and very credibly: one of his strengths of the professorial style is that he sounds totally badass about this.
9:53: Romney claims that Obama went on an apology tour, and Obama has a tight-lipped Oh I Am Going To Cut You Bitch smile. The lines are not great here. Romney keeps bullshitting and says that Obama is basically wimpy and Iran feels like it can do whatever it likes, and Presidents have to be STRONG LIKE BOOL. Iran needs to be pressured. Obama: “Nothing Governor Romney just said is true.” He directly calls out Romney for lying about the apology tour. Points out again that Romney was invested in a Chinese oil company, then points out that he supported the Green Revolution as much as possible by getting the world together to slap Iran around with sanctions. Romney says “we’re four years closer to a nuclear Iran,” which I suppose is technically true because at some point in the future Iran may have a nuke, but they’re not OPERATIONALLY closer. Then Romney explains his “apology tour” by getting VERY BITCHY, and Obama responds by pointing out that he went to Israel as a candidate and didn’t have a fundraiser there (OH SNAP) but instead went to the Holocaust museum and the border towns getting missiled by Hamas. Obama says that he is credible and Romney, basically, is a putz.
9:59: Bob: What if Israel calls and says “hey, we’re bombing Iran”? Romney: I don’t wanna talk about hypotheticals, because it wouldn’t happen under my watch. But four years later and Syria is a mess and we have a trade deficit with China and North Korea still exports nuke technology, and our influence is receding because the economy is bad and we’re going to cut military spending and Israel’s relationship with us is problematic. Obama: the problem is that Romney has been all over the map, and I’m glad Romney suddenly likes all of our foreign policies because you used to be opposed to them, because you’re a two-faced sneak. Well, not that last bit, but he was thinking it. Also, Romney didn’t care about killing Bin Laden and wanted to ask Pakistan for permission to kill Bin Laden, and killing Bin Laden at least gave America closure, and also tells the world that we are serious, and we can’t test decisions for polls, but I’ll do what needs to be done.
10:03: Bob wants to talk about Afghanistan. Romney complains about the debate rules again, but no dice. What if the deadline arrives and the Afghans aren’t ready? Romney: we’ll be done by 2014, I’m sure of it. Afghanistan is going smoothly and our troops can come home. Pakistan is important, and some people feel we need to walk away from Pakistan – not you, Obama! – but some people. (Wait, what?) Pakistan has nukes and the Taliban and if it falls apart, that is bad. Obama: we are in a position to leave Afghanistan, because we remembered why we were there in the first place, so we decimate Al-Qaeda’s core leadership, and now Afghans can defend their own country. We’ll pull out responsibly and it’s time to do nation-building here at home rather than spending that money on foreign countries and wars and the like. And I want to make sure veterans get the benefits they deserve and get more certifications so they can work in civilian life, and veteran unemployment is now lower than the general population whereas it used to be higher.
10:09: Bob: America gives Pakistan $100 billion every year but they are full of bad people. Should we keep giving them moneys? Romney says yes, we need to keep giving them moneys, because if Pakistan falls apart then just anybody will get those nukes, and not even the right sort of people, you know what Romney’s talking about. (Okay, not really, but yeah, sorta.) We’ll need to work with Pakistan and help them to have a responsible government, because Pakistan is like America’s dumbass little brother who lives overseas and has a drug problem, and they ain’t heavy, they’re our metaphorical brother. Then Bob asks Romney about drones, and Romney totally supports drone strikes. Lines, sadly, are quite high for drone strikes, because people are selfish. Then Romney complains that it has been four whole years and fundamentalist Islam is not gone yet.
10:12: Obama thinks it’s important to help conservative Islamic governments liberalize and develop economically. Then points out under his watch that the USA jumped to stand for democracy in Tunisia and Egypt and Libya, and nobody has any doubts about America loving democracy and freedom, no sir. Al-Qaeda is weaker than it was, despite Romney pretending otherwise.
10:14: Bob: What is the greatest future threat to America? Obama: Terrorist networks. China is a potential threat, but it’s also a potential partner, and we’ve told China to play by the same rules as the rest of us. We went after international trade “cheaters” and we’ve won just about every WTO case we’ve filed. We stopped China from flooding the USA with cheap tires and now we can sell steel to China, and Romney criticized me for being too tough and protectionist. Also we need to spend money on education and R&D and infrastructure, and Romney wants to cut spending on all of that. Romney gets real offended and says that government doesn’t invest in things (what?) and that Nuclear Iran is the worst thing ever. Then points out that there are lots of Chinese people who want to be free, and says that America can partner with China, which will be difficult when he wants to call China poopheads on his first day in office as he promised to do in the last debate. Then he goes back to military spending. Then he complains that China is holding down their currency and that has to end, and says AGAIN he will call them poopheads on day one, and boy I’m sure the Chinese will love that.
10:19: Bob points out that calling China poopheads might start a trade war. Romney actually uses hand gestures to suggest that China has more to lose from a trade war than the USA does. China’s IP theft is very bad and Romney will Do Something About That. Obama snidely points out that Romney knows all about outsourcing, and he’s bet on American workers, like when he bet on the auto industry. Goes back to government investment in education and basic research. US exports have doubled since Obama came into office and currencies are better for exports than they have been since 1993. We were able to transition to Asian defence because we pulled out of Iraq and will pull out of Afghanistan. America has trade agreements with other countries to pressure China. Romney whines about the auto industry attack because he loves American cars and he wanted his stupid, stupid plan for a privately managed bankruptcy. Obama butts in to point out Romney is just full of shit and Romney gives him a sneer. Then he attacks government investment in Tesla and Solyndra and says “that’s not research.” Obama is jumping at the bit to respond to Romney.
10:26: Obama: “You were very clear” that Romney was full of crap and wanted private bankruptcies. We can’t cut education and R&D investments. We can’t bring down the deficit with seven trillion bucks of tax cuts and military spending. We’ve started making real progress and the old policies which are Romney’s policies will not work. Good line movement there. Romney goes into his usual schtick about the food stamp numbers and the unemployment numbers, you know the drill by now, but the lines are not nearly so strong as they were. And he loves teachers, but he wants the private sector to grow instead.
10:29: Closing statements! Obama: Well, now you have a choice. Over the last four years we’ve been digging our way out of shitty GOP policies. You know Obama’s spiel by this point, there’s nothing really new here. Romney: [initiate Optimic-Morning-In-America.exe] [initiate Bipartisanship.exe] [initiate I-Am-A-Moderate-No-Really.exe].
10:33: And that is that. Basically a tie here, I think, with a slight lean to Obama because Romney had to agree with his foreign policy so often. Romney didn’t make any huge mistakes and wasn’t a pissy asshole this time around for the most part, but lied out his ass like always. Obama stuck to his ground game and rebutted where he needed to do.