About the only talking point worth talking about from Monday night’s presidential debate, was nobody played “Beat Up the Moderator!” Given the amount of flak Jim Lehrer and Candy Crowley took in the first two debates, I’m surprised. I was looking for Bob Schieffer to show up wearing Kevlar underpants — especially since he’s a known associate of the ever-demonized George W. Bush. However, Bob’s boy bits remained safe, and that set the tone for the evening. Neither candidate went for the goolies, although both could have and probably should have. In the end, it was Obama’s “horses and bayonets” zinger that carried the day, and nobody but Romney partisans is saying the Republican won. However, the only thing the American people actually learned Monday was President Obama can still argue heaven is hell with the devil and end up with Beelzebub bringing him a cold beer.
In an increasingly war weary America, it’s no wonder both candidates stayed away from talking foreign policy during a foreign policy debate. In a race that’s this close, nobody wants to be the guy bringing the bad news – especially if your name is Romney. It’s too late now to do chapter and verse (Barack Obama has left the building) but Mitt missed just about every opportunity he had to score points on the Commander-in-Chief – up to and including the recent debacle in Benghazi. I don’t think either candidate mentioned President Obama’s drone war on terrorism, and hypothetical or not, Israel is not going to go quietly into an Iranian nuclear nightmare. These things are real and immediate, and they’re not going to go away (jobs or no jobs in Ohio.) They need to be talked about. Certainly by the two guys who think they can handle this kind of action for the next four years — especially since the last four haven’t exactly been a Golden Age in American diplomacy.
The problem is American foreign policy means a lot more to the rest of the world than it does to anybody west of Kennebunkport. It’s a common fallacy that America wants to beat the rest of the world into submission. They don’t. They want to barbeque and watch the ballgame. (Bless You Boys!) Actually, especially in times of domestic crisis, Americans don’t worry about what goes on outside their borders. Throughout most of their history they’ve been confirmed isolationists, trying (as Washington and Jefferson told them) to avoid foreign entanglements. They don’t honestly care about Syria or Pakistan or even Afghanistan. The only reason it even comes up on the panel is voters have relatives “somewhere” over there getting shot at. To the average Joe (and Jane) on the American street, the world outside the U. S. of A is either a tourist destination or a wretched place full of angry people who hate them – and they’re not far wrong. Besides, contrary to popular belief, Americans don’t hold a grudge (they don’t have the attention span) and now that they “got” Bin Laden, they could care less about Aleppo, Abbottabad or the Khyber Pass. Their major concern is when are Dolores and Delmar coming home?
I think it was James Carville who helped Bill Clinton coin the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid.” and that’s squarely where this election lies. It’s all about Alvarez’s job, not Ahmadinejad’s bomb — and rightly so. The fact is, unless one of these guys can stop the economic hemorrhaging in the next four years, foreign policy won’t even be on the agenda, because somebody else will be running the world.