Coming Across Presidential is as Important as Winning on Points

The third and final presidential debate is now history and there was plenty of fodder for everyone. Those in the viewing audience that were slavering for red meat were, generally, on a restricted diet. With respect to malicious behavior, however, the president definitely took top “honors”. He smirked, he interrupted, he talked over Governor Romney. Governor Romney did not respond in kind. Two completely different demeanors were displayed. That difference in demeanor is a window into each man’s world view.

It would be impossible to catalog all of the lies that were regurgitated by the president during the evening. There were lies about Benghazi, growing economy, the president’s favorable stance on energy independence, Governor Romney’s foreign policy, Governor Romney’s proposed “$5 trillion tax cut” the president’s “successful” foreign policy, the terrible United States economy being the fault of the last administration and, well, everything.

As was the case in the second debate, if the president’s mouth was open, it was safe to say he was lying. A particular, favorite moment came when the president said that “there will absolutely be no sequestering” regarding the military. Neat trick considering that the president has already signed sequestering into law. After the debate, that…um…”untruth” was immediately walked back by the administration. The language now is that there “should be no sequestering”. Another great moment came when the president sneered that he was dealing with foreign policy issues when Governor Romney “(was) investing in China and Iran.”

Yet another was when the president decided to school Governor Romney about how well military technology has advanced. The president’s response to Governor Romney, concerning the drastic cuts in our military, particularly the Navy and Air Force, having damaged America’s security? He said that numbers weren’t significant; “This isn’t a game of battleship.” He continued, saying that we no longer require the number of ships that we’ve had since 1916 because we “now have something called aircraft carriers; you know? Airplanes land on them?”

Not yet satisfied with the level of insult of his remark, he added that we no longer use “horses or bayonets” in the military either and that perhaps the Governor needs to learn more about how the military works. It was all the more gratifying when Chris Wallace of FOX news reported that an active duty Marine had tweeted him to say that Marines are currently using bayonets and that, perhaps, “it is the president that needs to learn more about how the military works”. It would be enlightening to learn how the president would now prosecute naval battles in two wars at once. The number of ships and boats the Navy possesses, technology-forward as the president insists they are, are too few in number (according to the Chief of Naval Operations), to handle multiple conflicts at the same time.

Perhaps one could solve such a problem by mimicking the wisdom of King Solomon and cutting all off the vessels in half? Nor did the president respond to the charge that our Air Force is at its technological all-time low since the 1940’s. You know, old and outdated?

The form of the dialogue contained the essence of the debate. After initial distress that Governor Romney was not taking what appeared to be easy pitches it became increasingly clear that the Governor was deliberately not going to swing. Governor Romney’s advisors later stated that this was the tack that Governor Romney himself chose. A visibly frustrated president even tried revisiting issues, like Libya, vainly casting about, in hopes of engaging Governor Romney. The Governor wasn’t biting. He was there to discuss foreign policy. And he did, knowledgeably and forcefully. When the president diverted the subject matter to domestic spending, Governor Romney brought it back; he’d repeat that it was critical to be economically sound in order to successfully fulfill any foreign policy. And he was clear about how that would be accomplished. Governor Romney was non-combative and well-informed. It was Governor Romney that looked and sounded presidential. By contrast, the president looked and sounded petulant and waspish.

The president was pandering to his acolytes. The faithful who actually believe, despite the past four years, that he has a positive presidential record. But, because there aren’t presently enough of them to secure victory, the president was attempting to gin up greater numbers of votes among his base by heaving out the same, worn-out fairy tales he has been peddling since 2008. More change, more fairness but, mostly, more time. When the president wasn’t pumping hot air into phantom achievements, he diverted attention by attacking the Governor. When this occurred, Governor Romney simply declared that “attacking me is not a policy”. Just so.

Governor Romney was not only speaking to prospective voters. He was speaking directly to our allies, abroad. He spoke very clearly about the failures and betrayals of our allies during the past four years. Governor Romney was specific about how, and with whom, such failures would be redressed. He put America’s enemies on notice, too. The contrast between this approach and the vague consortium of nations and “improved” foreign relations the president laid claim to was revealing.

The usual suspects are already claiming this battle is a win for the president. The war, however, will be won in two weeks. If Governor Romney emerges the victor, America and her allies will sleep more soundly. Our enemies, less so.