By Bob Cesca: Where do I begin? President Obama won his second debate in a row, and this one in particular was a commanding victory in which his opponent, Mitt Romney, was reduced to a sweaty -- Nixon sweaty -- incoherent mess.
Last night, the president literally stared down Mitt Romney and accused him of being a foreign policy and military neophyte -- a know-nothing empty suit who can barely make it through a sentence without equivocating and reversing his own policies from months, weeks, days, in fact seconds earlier. And it all came down to this retort by the president regarding Romney's plan to increase military spending at a rate the Pentagon isn't asking for.
"I think Governor Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works. You — you mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets — (laughter) — because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. And so the question is not a game of Battleship where we’re counting ships."
In the midst of this fantastic moment, I actually thought the president was going to refer to Romney as a dilettante. Look, Sparky, you don't know jack shit.
For the first time in my life, I observed a Democratic leader emasculate a Republican leader on foreign policy. But it wasn't necessarily about testosterone and war-mongering. The president simply made Romney appear wholly out-of-his-depth and weak. Half the time, Romney was forced to admit that he agreed with the president's position -- an endorsement that was an obvious way to latch his wagon onto the president's successes. The calculus being that if Romney is seen as better on the economy, and equal to the president on foreign policy, then voters will get the best of both worlds. But the gambit was a huge mistake because the policy endorsements only amplified his weaknesses elsewhere -- his waffling, inexperience, his awkward posturing on Libya, his questionable record on China and so on. I got nothing, so, you know, what he said.
Speaking of China, this is a section of the debate that ought to be discussed at length for the next two weeks.
For the second match-up in a row, the president revealed a damning bit of heretofore unmentioned information about Romney on China. And rightfully so.
"And the fact is while we were coordinating an international coalition to make sure these sanctions were effective, you were still invested in a Chinese state oil company that was doing business with the Iranian oil sector. So I’ll let the American people decide, judge who’s going to be more effective and more credible when it comes to imposing crippling sanctions."
The company is called China National Offshore Oil Corporation, and it does, in fact, do business with Iran. One of many shady Romney business affairs. Do we really want yet another president with murky oil holdings and roundabout financial interests in rogue nations like Iran? I think we've already suffered through an eerily similar dark ride. More on that presently.
Romney's China response was easily one of the most incoherent, flip-floppy moments of his entire campaign in which he reversed himself multiple times within the same speech. See if you can diagram his position on China -- a nation he said he'd "get tough" with during last week's debate. First, there was this:
"And so we can be a partner with China. We don’t have to be an adversary in any way, shape or form. We can work with them. We can collaborate with them if they’re willing to be responsible."
"We don't have to be an adversary in any way." In any way. Got it. Literally seconds later:
"That’s why on day one I will label them a currency manipulator which allows us to apply tariffs where they’re taking jobs. They’re stealing our intellectual property, our patents, our designs, our technology, hacking into our computers, counterfeiting our goods."
Well, that's being an adversary in many ways.
Then he said, "We have to say to our friends in China..."
Friends... who are stealing and hacking and manipulating?
Then, "You can’t keep on holding down the value of your currency, stealing our intellectual property, counterfeiting our products, selling them around the world, even into the United States."
If Romney considers them friends, I'd hate to be one of Romney's friends.
This is a total mishmosh of nonsense. He wants it both ways, and, I assure you, China won't give a flying rip about use of the words "friends" and "partners." Romney's China policy would be a disaster for the global markets and the American economy. Marco Rubio agrees.
Oh, and speaking of intellectual property theft, Romney has investment holdings in Chinese companies that are knee-deep in theft. The Huffington Post reported:
Among them were New Oriental Education and Technology, a company in which the Romneys' blind trusts invested nearly $60,000. New Oriental is famous for stealing copyrighted U.S. academic tests, and was fined hundreds of thousands of dollars by a Chinese court for it.
The company Romney talked about purchasing in his "47 Percent" video, a Chinese outfit called Global Tech, was also involved in patent theft.
As the president said in the second debate, Romney is the last person who'd get tough on China.
During last night's post debate coverage David Corn said Mitt Romney "threw neocons under the bus" with his talk about "peace" and obviously transparent agreements with Obama. I get what Corn was saying but I recall quite clearly that George W. Bush talked about war as a "last resort" during the lead-up to the Iraq invasion. The neocons recognize this as necessary political palm-greasing and probably put him up to it. They know full-well they'll be able to elbow this weak-kneed amateur into a war in the Middle East. No doubt.
After all, 17 of Romney's 24 foreign policy advisers are former Bush/Cheney neocons. Anyone who's suckered in by Romney's talk of "peace" are naive amnesiacs who clearly don't remember 2002 and 2003. Romney is a liar and a shape-shifter and based on his array of war-mongering advisers, it's clear that he'll have us at war with Iran, Syria or both within his first two years -- if not sooner.
By the way, yes, Mitt Romney said the president was wrong to withdraw our troops from Iraq. He said it earlier this month, in fact, as the president said, during his big foreign policy address just after the first debate:
"In Iraq, the costly gains made by our troops are being eroded by rising violence, a resurgent Al-Qaeda, the weakening of democracy in Baghdad, and the rising influence of Iran. And yet, America’s ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence."
In the debate, Romney said, "We don’t want another Iraq." But he would've kept our soldiers in country, and they'd likely still be there today. The president challenged Romney on his baffling reversals:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: This is just a few weeks ago that you indicated that we should still have troops in Iraq.
MR. ROMNEY: No, I didn’t. I’m sorry, that’s —
PRESIDENT OBAMA: You made a major speech.
He said, "No I didn't," even though he said our efforts are undermined by the president's "abrupt withdrawal" just two weeks ago. What the hell?!
As I've been writing for weeks now, Who is this guy? He has no core values, no plan, no opinions that last any longer than two or three minutes, and he's running the most cynical presidential campaign in modern history, banking on the fact that many voters don't follow these statements closely enough to track the flip-flops and pandering, while also assuming that all politicians are slippery liars anyway, so why not vote for the one who looks like a Sears mannequin candidate direct from central casting.
He's a corporate raider with a record of shady investments and outsourcing overseas and is currently surrounded by neocon war-mongers. Worse, like Bush, he's an empty suit who will be controlled by his advisers -- capable of doing whatever they suggest for the sake of political expedience and re-election. Devoid of personal conviction, he possesses a CEO's sociopathic ability to separate conscience from business and make decision without the pesky fog of morality. Whatever it takes -- right or wrong -- to make it through the day and to profit at any cost. Is this a safe bet for the presidency of the United States? Not a chance in hell.
Last night was President Obama's last debate of his political career. And what a swan song it was. Now here's to hoping sensible voters will see through Mitt Romney's shifty nefarious robo-cynicism and jettison this fakey gosh-golly car salesman onto the forgotten slagheap of presidential losers.