Final presidential debate – Hooray, it’s almost over!

I missed a couple days of opportune time to review the candidates late season messaging. I am especially disappointed to have missed their final pandering – oops, I meant “debate” – to undecided and persuadable voters. But, I had an opportunity to check out the health care system that I couldn’t pass up. The system worked just fine and all’s well that ends well but it did take me away from writing for a few days. (You’re welcome.) I’ll have a separate column to write on that sometime.

Foreign Policy Wrap Up

Mr. Romney makes some statements, such as how he would work with the Syrian rebel leaders, that strike me as inexperienced and naive. However, overall he now reflects a much more nuanced approach than he showed during the Republican primary debates.

In their final debate, both men slipped stealthily from foreign policy questions to domestic policy. They had some justification because there is a connection between our international strength and our domestic strength. Our soft power is related to our moral standing in the world which is, in turn, related both to how we treat our own people and how we treat others. Romney would increase military spending and Obama would not but both believe in a strong military.

It seemed once that they had some differences on Israel but those differences disappeared in this debate. Both used the same words to describe our position on Israel if it is attacked – we will “stand beside” them – but both stopped short of saying an attack on Israel is an attack on the US. Interestingly, in the debate, neither of them emphasized Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations as a priority.

Their supposed differences on China also diminished. While Mr. Romney still vows to call China a currency manipulator, he spent far more time talking about counterfeiting goods and copyright violations than currency manipulation. Mr. Obama talked about being tough on Chinese trade violations and that there has been recent flexibility in letting the Chinese Yuan seek its own value versus the dollar. Most of the business community and economists would prefer that they not start a trade war and get nervous when they talk the “currency manipulator” talk. I’ve seen several articles complaining that neither of them actually understand the implications of currency manipulation and treat it as a political and not an economic issue.

Both see America as a leader in the world with Obama seeing a more restrained role with the US encouraging others to take a more active role and Romney seeing a more visible role. They agreed pretty furiously on getting troops out of Afghanistan and had a very strong argument about whether they agreed on getting troops out of Iraq or not. By the way, they both wanted a large draw down in Iraq and differed only in the number of troops they’d leave – 4,000 vs 10,000. Neither would leave troops there under the circumstances proscribed by Iraq so both agree we should be out now. Lots of argument for so much agreement!

Based on current statements, their foreign policies seem to be very similar and in practice would probably turn out to be even more similar. In my scheme of things, I’d give the foreign policy point to Obama because he’s done it longer and has shown generally a much stronger tendency to get the facts before making judgements. However, I suspect Romney in practice would do the same and has done the knee-jerk because this is a campaign and not reality.

So What’s Next?

The election is now less than two weeks away. In reality, there has been no new information for weeks or maybe months. We have looked at historical positions and the twisted contortions of those positions as they move from audience to audience. There are some very important items I haven’t touched such as the Supreme Court appointments, education, environment, character and trustworthiness. I’ll have some observations on those next time. Depending on how long that post gets, it may also contain the final review of the candidates against my requirements.

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