Times Opinion: Romney fails, Obama wins
Though nothing like either of the first two debates, Monday's presidential debate was surprising for other reasons: Mitt Romney largely agreed with the direction of President Obama's policies in virtually every area of foreign policy. He also dialed back the hectoring, aggressive interruptions and rhetoric that made him appear such an overbearing bully in the first two rounds. Still, Romney failed to make the sale for his candidacy.
He simply couldn't endorse Obama's policies and successfully argue, in the same breath, that they were wrong. He never got past that contradictory hurdle. Though he frequently tried, he couldn't convincingly say that Obama's foreign policies — in Iran, Syria, Libya, Iraq and other Middle East hot spots muddling through the turmoil of the Arab Spring; or in Israel, or Afghanistan — had failed to reflect effective leadership or a cogent overarching policy, when in fact he was agreeing with Obama's strategies.
Nor, in his alternative argument, could Romney yet pin the economic effects of the deep recession that Obama confronted when he entered the White House — the worst recession in 80 years — on Obama's recovery policies. The most Romney could say, and he said often, was that he could do better going forward.
That convenient promise is not nearly enough to persuade reasonable voters that Romney's rhetoric is credible or believable, especially when he still cannot say how his math for far deeper tax breaks ($6 trillion in all) and spending promises ($2 trillion more for the Pentagon) squares with his other promise of deficit reduction over the next 10 years. He still failed to say, for example, how we would avoid putting new taxes on the middle class — through, say, ending credits for mortgage interest and student loans — if he keeps his promise to apply his 20 percent tax cuts to the nation's top 1 percent, who already own more than a third of the nation's wealth.
In was in this vein, however, that the debate, ostensibly on foreign policy, kept returning to domestic economic policies and issues. About the only clue Romney gave to show how he actually cut spending was his statement that he would turn Medicaid over to the states entirely.
That's a uniquely troubling promise. The federal government now pays two-thirds of Medicaid's cost to pay for health care for the very poor and for two-thirds of the nation's nursing home care for many middle-class elderly people. State governments pay the other third, and its one of their most costly programs. State governments already administer Medicaid as well. Romney plans to slash federal Medicaid spending by nearly a third, and thereafter provide states a fixed block grant, which means states will further slash the program.
Between voucherizing Medicare, cutting Medicaid for the poor and for nursing homes patients, and eliminating Obamacare, which if implemented would provide wage-indexed subsidies for affordable comprehensive health care for all uninsured Americans, it's easy to see the brutually harsh circumstances Romney envisions for America. Less health care, and more trickle down, Bush-style tax cuts for the ultra rich, the crowd Romney hangs with.
Obama's policies are, and have been, immensely more fair, and far more durable and constructive for an economy that depends on the middle-class doing progressively better, and on education, worker training and investments in new technologies and infrastructure. Romney talked about how he would challenge China's currency manipulation and low-wage job strategies, but his record with his private equity company, Bain Capital, shows that he and Bain have been funding investments in China that helped Chinese companies take American jobs.
Obama rightly made the case for sticking to his current foreign policies, which have united dozens of countries in burden-sharing; and to his current education and job policies, which have produced more than 5.2 million private sector jobs over the past 32 months.
If last night's debate stood as a referendum on Obama, then Obama won. If it stood as a sales pitch for election of Romney, then Romney clearly lost.
Free Press Opinion: Romney's convincing case
This election's third and final presidential debate sat like a minefield in front of Mitt Romney. It was his opportunity to sneak through and realize the opportunity to take the election down to the wire with a reasonable chance of winning, or make a wrong move and realistically end his hope of becoming president.
After taking command of the economic policy discussion following the first debate and swinging the momentum of the election in his favor, Romney demonstrated that he was more capable of guiding the United States economy out of its malaise over the next four years than President Barack Obama. What was still unproven, though, was how prepared Romney would appear to address questions regarding the diplomatic and commander-in-chief aspects of the job compared to someone with on-the-job training.
As a result, this debate wasn't actually about foreign policy — there's not a dime's worth of difference between Obama and Romney, anyway. Their almost identical answers on strategies regarding Iran, Afghanistan, Libya and Israel, for better or worse, proved that.
Instead, this debate was a test for Romney to prove whether he could appear knowledgeable and reassuring about foreign enemies and domestic threats, whether the American people would trust him with the lives of the members of our armed forces and, ultimately, whether he came across as “presidential.”
The president has access to daily issue briefings, the greatest foreign policy minds in the world and up-to-the-minute intelligence updates that simply aren't available to a challenger. As a result, it wasn't reasonable to expect that Romney could “win” this debate — whatever winning a debate means, given that the nature of assessing a debate is subjective and perverted by biases and party loyalties. On Monday night, Romney only needed to hold his own, prove that he was knowledgeable and prepared, and leave Americans with the feeling that he would make a trustworthy commander-in-chief. On each of those counts, Romney unquestionably passed with flying colors.
Over the past month, Romney has done what few expected. He has turned this election from a very likely blowout, into a barnburner. After Monday night, barring unforeseeable gaffes in the next dozen days, it is now possible — if a few states fall just right — for Romney to become the President of the United States.
The foreign policy debate may have been a boon to Mitt Romney's presidential chances, but it undoubtedly left many viewers and voters struggling with two realizations. First, with the economy in the tank and so many people fighting to make ends meet, foreign policy just doesn't matter this year like it has in elections past. Second, it's a good thing that voters aren't choosing a candidate based on their foreign policy platforms because both candidates offer extremely similar — and largely disappointing — outlooks on foreign policy and national defense.
Both men evidently need a refresher on the United States Constitution. Article 1, Section 8 empowers Congress, not the president, with the regulation of “commerce with foreign nations” and declaring war. Both candidates were more than happy to discuss possible military action and economic sanctions. In reality, however, the president's powers regarding either show of aggression is extremely limited. It would be nice to hear a president, or presidential candidate, admit that fact for a change and pledge to adhere to the constitutionally defined limits on his power, rather than attacking countries and developing economic sanctions without congressional authority.
It was also troubling to hear both Romney and Obama lay out their plans for the future of Syria and Egypt as though it's the responsibility of the United States government to determine the leaders, economic structure, laws and policies of these two independent countries that sit half a world away. It's arrogant and inappropriate for the president and potential president to debate how best for another country to go about its business.
Obama and Romney would have voters believe there is a tremendous difference in the way they see America's role in the world. In reality, they both have the same vision: America should continue to be an intrusive international security guard — at least in countries that have important national resources or pose a threat to Israel.
That role manifests itself in drone attacks and missile strikes that kill innocent civilians in countries that don't directly pose a legitimate threat to America. It results in trade sanctions that don't impact the evildoers they are meant to punish, but instead harm the poorest people in the affected countries, causing anti-American backlash. Worst of all, it results in the deaths of American servicemen and women who put their lives unnecessarily at risk.
This final debate only served as a reminder that those disturbing truths about America's foreign policy won't soon change regardless of whether Romney or Obama is president.
NASHVILLE - A Democratic super PAC will pour money and advertising into Tennessee's increasingly high-profile 4th District congressional race that pits a state senator against a Republican doctor who encouraged his mistress, a former patient, to get an abortion.
The House Majority PAC, which is associated with top House leaders, is spending "over $100,000" on a television ad. The ad, titled "Trust," was to begin airing Friday evening on Chattanooga and Nashville television stations.
It is the first evidence that Democrats think Scott DesJarlais, a first-term congressman who has campaigned as being anti-abortion, is vulnerable in his contest with Democrat Eric Stewart. And it comes a day after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee shifted the 4th District to one of 55 high priority "red to blue" districts Democrats think they can take from Republicans nationwide.
"Scott DesJarlais' incredible hypocrisy is just staggering," said Alixandria Lapp, executive director of House Majority PAC, which is linked to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, in a statement. "Tennesseans deserve better than Scott DesJarlais, for whom touting the values of trust and faith was nothing more than lip service."
DesJarlais' campaign issued a statement charging Stewart "has tried to run from his strong backing of Barack Obama and Obamacare throughout this campaign by pushing out recycled, 12-year-old garbage to keep from talking about his support of liberal policies that are killing jobs in Tennessee."
"His out-of-state, liberal attack team that works hand in hand with Obama is now trying to hijack this race from Tennesseans -- but they are too smart to fall for that."
The television ad begins with an announcer saying, "Trust and faith. As a doctor, Scott DesJarlais earned his patients' trust." The ad then cuts to extensive news coverage of the abortion controversy.
After the transcript of the recorded 2000 telephone conversation first emerged last week, DesJarlais told the Times Free Press that he was trying to get the woman to admit that she wasn't pregnant.
"I was attempting to use strong language to get her to tell me the truth," said DesJarlais. "There was no pregnancy, and there was no abortion," he said, adding he had not seen the woman in several months.
DesJarlais said his relationship with the woman, whom he treated briefly for a foot injury, was short. At the time, the congressman says he was legally separated from his then-wife, Susan DesJarlais, as a result of divorce proceedings. The couple divorced in 2001.
The messy divorce figured prominently in DesJarlais' successful 2010 campaign in which he defeated U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn., but the abortion issue was never raised.
In an open letter to constituents posted last week on his Facebook page, DesJarlais said that "through grace and redemption, God has truly given me a second chance. I have had an incredible marriage to my wife Amy of 10 years and have been blessed with an opportunity to raise three wonderful children. I have a strong pro-life record in Congress and history of fighting for values important to Tennesseans. I hope you will judge me on these facts because that is who I am."