I just watched the third and final Presidential debate for 2012. I thought that President Barack Obama did well on a number of fronts. First, Obama argued that things have gotten better during his term, as he discussed his rebuilding of relationships with other countries in the world, the increase of U.S. exports, how he helped crack down on the influx of cheap tires from China, and the growing stability of Chinese currency. Second, Obama made effective jabs at Mitt Romney, as when he harped on Romney’s flip-flops, noted that Romney invested in a company that somehow did business with the “Iranian oil sector” (Obama’s words), and hit Romney on outsourcing. Third, Obama conveyed that he had a sophisticated insight into issues, as when he said that we don’t need lots of battleships to have an effective military anymore (Obama’s line about us not having as many horses and bayonets nowadays was classic), as well as noted the difficulty in bringing countries together to bring about sanctions against a country such as Iran, a task at which he has succeeded, he argued. And, fourth, Obama added a personal touch, as when he talked about how the death of Ben Laden not only showed the world that we are committed to our objectives, but also helped provide closure to a young lady who lost her father in 9/11.
I’m not sure what the fact checkers will say about Obama’s comments, or Romney’s for that matter. But, while Romney did indeed appear knowledgeable and hit the President on statistics that don’t look too good in terms of the economy, I thought that Obama had the upper hand, for Obama conveyed the impression that foreign policy is in capable hands under his administration. Meanwhile, Obama’s harping on Romney’s flip-flops cast doubts on whether Romney’s hands would be overly capable in the foreign policy department. I’m not one who is against all flip-flops. For one, I think that sometimes a President needs to be flexible and open-minded, rather than sticking with a policy that may not be working, as some have argued that President George W. Bush did during much of his Presidency. Secondly, I don’t believe that all accusations of flip-flopping are necessarily fair. For example, when John Kerry said that he voted for an appropriation before he voted against it, and Bush criticized him for that, I thought that Kerry adequately explained why he voted as he did: originally, the appropriation was good, but things got added to it that he considered not-so-good. But overall, on the issue of flip-flopping, I would like for a President to be flexible and yet manifest a degree of stability. Romney, however, strikes me as someone who continually changes his position, sometimes for political gain, and sometimes because he may have had a genuine change of mind. I think that Obama is more stable in terms of his positions, and yet (in my opinion) Obama has enough common-sense that he would not be utterly rigid when such a course would be disastrous.