Foreign Policy, Please?

Time zones and all that, the third debate of the US presidential campaign happened at the start of my day rather than the end. So perhaps my sense of humour was a bit impaired. But I scored the debate differently than bleary-eyed American commentators.

The twittersphere and the crew at the New York Times went crazy over the President’s well-rehearsed zinger:

“You mention the Navy, for example, and the fact that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets. We have these things called aircraft carriers and planes land on them. We have ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”

It’s great to see that Jon Stewart has been moonlighting for the Obama campaign. But the rest of the world and I were hoping for something more substantial in a debate over foreign policy. We’re confident now that both candidates know where Azerbaijan and Somalia are and what the latest stats on the balance of trade with China are. Very reassuring.

But there was nothing about Mexico, nothing about drones, very little about Russia, nothing about the European Union. It was mostly point-scoring and patriotism. Both men dragged the debate back to home turf as often as possible. I expected that Obama, after four years as the Commander-in-Chief, would steamroller Romney, who has been playing to the gallery on foreign policy. But Romney held his own. I’d score it as a tie. What do you think?

Michael Cook


Michael Cook likes bad puns, bushwalking and black coffee. He did a BA at Harvard University in the US where it was good for networking, but moved to Sydney where it wasn’t. He also did a PhD on an obscure corner of Australian literature. He has worked as a book editor and magazine editor and has published articles in magazines and newspapers in the US, the UK and Australia.

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  • LarryM

    Your points are well-taken. Romney managed to make one comment about ‘Latin America’, but there was nothing about Mexican drug cartels, and the violence that is spilling over into the US. Nothing about ‘Fast and Furious’, where guns were funneled to the Mexican drug cartels in an attempt to trace them back into the US later…this immoral and deadly program led to the deaths of several Mexicans and a US border agent. No real discussion of trade policy with our hemispheric neighbours to the south, and the fact Obama continues to sit on trade deals negotiated with them. No mention of the US response to the ongoing implosion of the EU, and how to deal with it.
    While, on the whole, I agree that it was in the narrowest sense a ‘tie’. Romney had some excellent moments…his best one being his criticism of Obama’s apology tour, and his closing statement was, I thought, outstanding. Obama scored some points on substance, but at the expense of style…the quote above has a sneering, condescending tone that, while funny, was beneath the dignity of the event, and the office of the presidency. Overall, he appeared juvenile in his attempt to pull Romney down into the gutter.
    From that standpoint, I believe it was a victory for Romney, who appeared sober, serious and knowledgeable, while Obama dissembled and sneered his way through the debate.