The Final Debate and Mitt Romney's Final Etch-a-Sketch

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[Black Star News Editorial]

Last night candidate Mitt Romney agreed with almost all of President Obama's positions on foreign affairs. Romney believed to win the presidency on foreign affairs he had to be like Obama.

The president won decisively and a CBS poll of uncommitted voters shortly after gave him a 30 % margin, 53% to 23%. CNN gave the president 48% to 40% among registered voters in its poll.

Romney conceded the debate by refusing to defend all his previous positions, on Syria, on Afghanistan and even on Iran. As Obama would later say Romney was "allover the map."

Romney didn't say he would do anything different from the president. He even abandoned his attack on president Obama over Benghazi, Libya, where he had previously blamed the president personally for the deaths of ambassador Christopher Stevens after the September 11 attack on the consulate. Romney may not have recovered from the stern rebuke from the president during the second debate: there Obama had claimed Romney was playing politics with the tragedy.

On Afghanistan yesterday Romney may have remembered how Joe Biden took Paul Ryan to school. Romney decided to agree with the president's 2014 date for a withdrawal of U.S. troops. Earlier he had attacked the president for setting a timeline. He had also advocated keeping U.S. troops in Iraq; he denied he had ever taken that position. Obama, after the debate, referred to it as another instance of "Romnesia."

On Syria, after lamenting the deaths of 30,000 people in the civil war there, Romney also ruled out direct U.S. military intervention on the ground. The moderator Bob Schieffer was capable; but he should have also asked Romney whether he would change his mind on the military option if Syria's stockpiles of chemical weapons were to land in the wrong hands.

Romney also ended up looking feeble when it came to Iran. The president pointed out that his administration had already put in place crippling sanctions against Iran and also said all options remained on the table and that he would never allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. "The clock is ticking," the president said.

Romney never brought up the "red line" issue on Iran -- previously he had said Obama wasn't firm enough by stating a red line that would trigger U.S. or Israeli action on Tehran.

When Romney tried to suggest that the president had gone on an "apology tour" shortly after taking office and that Obama seemed to side with other countries --Muslim ones-- in the region at the expense of Israel, Obama delivered a sharp rebuke.

He reminded Romney that when he traveled to Israel as a candidate in 2008 he didn't take an entourage of donors with him -- a dig at Romney's disastrous trip when he was accompanied by deep-pocket supporters like Sheldon Adelson during his own trip to Israel. The president also recalled visiting Holocaust memorial sites and visiting with people who lived in areas that had been subjected to cross-border rocket attacks.

Romney's suggestion that the president was weak on defense and that's why the candidate was willing to spend an extra $2 trillion on defense --which Obama says would add to the deficit-- was also turned back. When Romney said cuts to military spending had weakened U.S. capacity and used the example of the navy now having less ships that it did in 1917, the Republican unwittingly extended his jaws for the biggest blow of the evening.

“Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed,” Obama said. The president noted that there were now things called aircraft carriers that allowed planes to land on.

The president also took away the China card by saying Romney's vow to declare China a currency manipulator would spark a trade war. He also noted that Romney had invested in companies that created jobs in China.

Romney countered that China would be a bigger loser in a trade war since China had more exports to the United States. This was a reckless statement and the president should have noted it: Romney's statement suggests that he would be willing to foresake some U.S. jobs, including in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania just to get his way with China.

The president was consistent in saying U.S. foreign policy could only be robust by having a strong U.S. economy. He spoke about the need to end foreign wars and to use resources to invest in first class education and infrastructure.

The president lured Romney into traps -- forcing him to defend his position on the U.S. auto industry. Ohio looms so Romney was trying to "whitewash" his positions, Obama contends. Romney claimed he would have offered government guarantees for a managed bankruptcy to rescue Detroit. The president pushed back strongly, and that Romney had said the auto industry should have looked for private financing. Without the U.S. stimulus, this country would not be buying rather than selling cars to China, Obama said. 

In a close race national race heading to the election in two weeks Romney's strategy is curious. He figured that since the candidates are tied on national polls after battling on domestic issues, it was better to concede foreign affairs to Obama rather than take risks that would upset the balance.

The approach confirms what critics have contended all along:  That Romney is a man with no core leadership principles. A man who will say anything to get elected president.

Romney is a very risky proposition as president.

"Speaking Truth To Power."

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