Monday, October 22, 2012

Live Blogging the Live Bloggers
Final Presidential Debate
Binder Full of Bloggers Edition

UPDATED: 23-Oct-2012

Welcome to the The Final Presidential Debate of the 2012 Election and the latest edition in the continuing saga of "Live Blogging the Live Bloggers blogging the Debates!"   The Dividist fondly recalls when he conceived this series to cover the first 2008 Republican debate, lo those many years ago, and first asked the question:
"There are plenty of live-bloggers covering the debate tonight, but who is covering the live bloggers? The Dividist rushes in where other, more sensible bloggers, fear to tread."
Tonight's debate is scheduled for 8:00 PM EST at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. But that is not important. This will be the last debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney before the election two weeks from now. That is not important. It is going to be focused on foreign policy. Not important.  The second debate went to President Obama on points. The first debate was forfeited to Romney when the President failed to show up due to a scheduling conflict.  The VP debate happened in there somewhere and Joe Biden smiled a lot. Tonight is the rubber match. None of that is important. The debate will be competing directly with the 7th game of the National League Championship Game between the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals (Currently no score after one inning).  Not important.

What is important is that my Chicago Bears are playing the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football during the debate.  So... in aggregate we can expect no one in California, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin, nor any real NFL or MLB fans will be watching this debate.What is wrong with these people? Can they not read a football schedule?   Do they not want people to watch these debates?  Wait... I wonder...

FULL DISCLOSURE:  The Dividist will be pretending to watch the debate, will try to live blog the live bloggers blogging the debate, but will really be watching the Bears game. So this is likely to be more lame than usual. Proceed at your own risk.

As always, we select a variety of bloggers from across the political spectrum,and attempt to live blog their live blog efforts. I don't know who we will include, in the past we've used used  Daily Kos from the left, VodkaPundit or HotAir from the right, look to either Reason or Cato for a libertarian point of view and the Moderate Voice, and/or Donklephant as a centrist blog.  Andrew Sullivan is  a reliable live-blogger, as is Chris Cillizza's Fix. Since this one has a foreign policy focus, we'll also monitor the Economist.

If past is prologue we will likely guess wrong about which blogs to monitor and will be scrambling once things get started. Refresh your browsers for latest content once the debate is underway. Because of the derivative nature of this enterprise, I do run quite a bit behind the actual debate. Just setting expectations to lower the bar.

The Dividist has not bothered to look up the polling on the expectations game.   The President has all the experience in Foreign policy in this debate. He killed Osama Bin-Laden. The expectation is there is no way he can lose a foreign policy debate. So he probably will.

Da Bears & Da Candidates have taken the field ...



Chris Cillizza's Fix: "If, at the start of the general election campaign, you told a seasoned political strategist in either party that the fate of the presidential race could well hinge on the foreign-policy-focused third debate, the reaction would have ranged from an eye roll to laughter.  And yet, here we are. President Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney head to Boca Raton, Fla., for their final debate Monday night with national polls suggesting that the race is tied and with the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, dominating the headlines."

The Moderate Voice"The revelation yesterday that Iran may want to meet directly with American representatives after the election to solve the nuclear impasse adds a new twist to the dialogue that will occur between Obama and Romney, but its impact remains uncertain.  The debate on foreign policy should be interesting, the question being whether substantive issues will be raised, or whether the candidates will concentrate on “gotcha moments"

The Dish: "The Rise Of China And Tomorrow's World is among tonight's debate topics. Elizabeth Economy underscores the need for more sophisticated evaluations of China strategy during the 10 minutes allotted to the question tonight... Romney adviser Aaron Friedberg makes the case against Obama's China policy... Ezra Klein explains why the one thing Romney will likely say - that he will brand China a "currency manipulator"- is an "out-of-date argument." Ezra fears that Romney's strategy could easily backfire.

Daily Kos - Hunter: "Hello, human diary. It is I again, Mitt Romney, your better.  Tonight is the final debate. It is on foreign polices. I believe I have rented the finest foreign policies that can be had from Republican circles. I have practiced being angry about China, Iran, the Soviet Union Russia the Soviet Union, and a wide assortment of other nations. I have memorized several stinging rebukes of my opponent, which I have been instructed to use at random intervals throughout the debate. I am, I believe, fully prepared."

Vodka Pundit:"I have C-SPAN. I have an ice bucket. I have a Canadian whisky, the name of which I’m too embarrassed to type. I have a certain glee, knowing I won’t have to drunkblog another presidential debate until the Democrats and/or Republicans start going at it again in 2015."

Stinque: "America has spoken: Rowdy debates are a lot more fun than Dignified Discourse On the Pressing Issues of the Day. And as we nuke our popcorn in preparation for tonight’s Preznidential Debate Open Thread/Closed Fists, we have just one thought: An empty chair is no good unless thrown."

Reason Hit and Run: "Newsflash! There are other countries in the world besides America. And tonight  President Barack Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney will debate just what we should do about them. Bomb them? Attack them with drones? Erect trade barriers and brand them cheaters? Or perhaps just project our values, PowerPoint style. Bullets, bullet points, can anyone really tell the difference?"

The Economist:  "Bin Laden. Benghazi. Bin Laden. Benghazi. With no moderation, the debate would sound something like that, with a few bits of China-bashing thrown in for good measure. Bob Schieffer, the moderator, should make sure a wider range of topics are discussed, such as Europe, Iran, Syria and the Arab spring. But the recent rhetorical jabs thrown by each candidate suggest little broader thinking about American foreign policy. As James Traub notes, the debate has descended into "competing banalities."

DIVIDIST - The Giants are winning 2-0 in the 3rd, the Bears are winning 7-0 in the 1st Quarter, and of course the first question is...

Libya & Syria

Chris Cillizza's FixSean Sullivan 6:09 PM PDT Romney: "We don’t want another Iraq, we don’t want another Afghanistan" Aaron Blake 6:12 PM PDT Obama staring down Romney: "Every time you've offered an opinion (on foreign policy), you've been wrong" .The Fix "Nice Romney response: "Attacking me is not an agenda."

The Moderate Voice: "I’m not sure how to score this one, on the one hand they tended to agree on Obama’s foreign policy but at the same time Romney disarmed the Libya issue as being used against him. In addition he held his own with Obama on the overall topic I suspect like many questions in these debates it comes down to if you like Romney you thought he did well if you like Obama you thought he did well and if you’re undecided I’m not sure it helped Then again I’m not sure these debates are for undecided as much as for rallying the troops."

The Dish: "9.19 pm. Romney doesn't want to get drawn into the Syrian civil war either. In this debate, neoconservatism is dead. But tomorrow? And the day after the election? With a liar this practised and cynical, we have no idea.  9.15 pm. Romney is bullying and hectoring and trying to bulldoze the president. And he is lying through his teeth as usual. The idea that he is now more in favor of cultural engagement than warfare in the Middle East - well, you just have to shake your head. This is such total cynicism and opportunism it's staggering."

Daily Kos: "6:06 PM PT: Here comes Moderate Mitt: "We can't kill our way out of this. 6:08 PM PT: Obama can't let Romney's "We can't kill our way out of this" comment slip by. Romney didn't just support the Iraq war from the start, he said it was a tragedy that it it ended. He attacked Obama for ending the Afghanistan war.  6:09 PM PT: Now Romney says he wants to kill the bad guys. What the hell, dude is Etch A Sketching in real-time."

Vodka Pundit"6:12PM Mitt has hit twice now on women and the Arab world — aiming for those suburban Moms. And now Obama is hitting on Romney’s “recklessness.”  6:16PM Obama is hitting on Iraq — which is just a replay of his 2008 campaign against Hillary.  6:18PM Obama is hitting hard, and Romney isn’t hitting back on policy, just on how the world is messed up.  We know the world is messed up. What we need to know is: 1) What Obama has done wrong. 2) What Romney would do differently."

Stinque: mellbell "Obama does this thing when Romney is speaking where he looks at Romney, looks into the camera, smirks just the teeniest bit, looks back at Romney, and then settles into a “Can you believe this idiot?” expression. Love it."

Reason Hit and Run: nickgillespie@nickgillespie "Toss up question: Given how we turned on Mubarak and Qaddafi, why should any Middle Eastern govt trust US support?" Matt Welch@mleewelch " Sending mixed our troops"! Also, O said Romney's plan "not designed to keep Americans safe." He's punching in the ribs.Jesse Walker@notjessewalker Two men running to be president of the world."

The Economist: "No one seems interested in the fact that both Mr Qadaffi and Mr Assad studiously observed all of their agreements with the United States over the past several years. Mr Qadaffi was a model of a former "rogue actor" who voluntarily abandoned his nuclear program and his support for terrorists in exchange for engagement with the West. Meanwhile, Mr Assad, like his father before him, has always been careful to avoid creating antagonisms with Israel."

DIVIDIST - Holy crap - the Giants are winning 7-0 in the 3rd - Looks like we'll have a World Series in EssEff on Wednesday! the Bears are winning 10-0 in the 2nd Quarter, and oh shit... Cutler is down. They say it was a clean hit, but a forearm to the neck driving Cutler to the turf looks dirty to me.

America's Role in the World and Defense Spending

Chris Cillizza's FixThe Fix 6:45 PM PDT "Obama now has 2 most quotable lines coming out of this debate: 1. The 80s called 2. Bayonets and horses" 6:46 PM PDT "Chances this debate will be the lowest rated of the three? 100%"    6:35 PM PDT "If you had no idea about the race, the level of aggression from Obama would make you think he is behind."

The Moderate Voice: "Romney talks about what you would expect, promoting political and economic freedom, stopping wars and injustice, etc. Then goes back to the economy and the military, says we have no idea what the future will hold and we need to be prepared... Talks about standing by our allies, says he was disappointed in tensions with Israel, withdrawal of missile defense from Poland (a clear Russia reference) and the lack of support for green revolution in Iran. Obama says largely the same thing, we need a strong America, etc. Says that we are stronger now than before, that we have rebuilt our alliances, worked to improve the economy, energy independence, etc. Says Romney won’t cut the deficit. "

The Dish: "9.42 pm. We have just seen the unraveling not of Obama's foreign policy - Romney backs it - but of Romney's mathematics. Romney's claim that he can balance the budget in eight years is another massive lie. Obama has just made a real advance in this debate. By ripping Romney's absurd proposals to build ships just because he thinks we should have more ships was devastating. Obama is exercizing mastery in this debate, and more clearly exposing the shallowness of Romney's grasp on the world."

Daily Kos: "6:26 PM PT: It's real-time Romnesia. 6:27 PM PT: This isn't a really a substantive thing, but it seems to me that Romney is fidgeting a lot more than the president.  6:28 PM PT: Romney cites Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinjead to make the case that our economy sucks because we have so much debt and therefore we can't afford to project strength, so we need to spend more money on defense."

Vodka Pundit: "6:40PM "Obama Interruptus. He started off so strong in the first half hour, but in the last ten minutes he’s coming across as completely unpresidential. That’s a big win for Romney." 6:43PM "Mitt looking more presidential, talking about the age and size of our Air Force and Navy. Obama, meanwhile, has turned his Eyeball Lasers up to "Ishtar.” 6:46PM "Not sure I’ve ever seen a President look smaller than Obama getting snarky about aircraft carriers and nuclear attack subs." 6:47PM "Yesterday, Axelrod said Iran’s currency was down 50%. Today, Obama says 80%. Who’s right?"

Stinque- nojo: 9:42 pm "Obama’s letting a lot of Mitt’s bullshit pass unchallenged." mellbell: "The horses and bayonets line was a serviceable retort." Targa " It’s not a game of Battleship. It’s Monopoly™ and Operation™, with a touch of Mystery Date™ for the replacement regimes in the Mideast."

Reason Hit and Run: @anthonylfisher Obama mispronounces "despot." Romney mispronounces "tumult." @MikeRiggs "The 1980s are calling now to ask for their foreign policy back." Anthony L @anthonylfisher "Russia/80s zinger!" @shikhadalmia "Our training program in Afghanistan is succeeding...Except when girls named Molly -- oops Malia -- are getting shot in the head!"

The Economist: "Here comes the deluge of barnyard effluence. This is the foreign-policy equivalent of the "Tell me about yourself as a man" question... In this instance, the emotional and rhetorical roles are flipped--Mr Obama sounds more hard-headed, and Mr Romney vaguer--but again, the answers are materially the same. Stay stronger, strengthen our alliances, rebuild America's economy... but...what if the next 15 countries gang up to take America's freedom? We're not prepared!"

DIVIDIST - Giants winning 8-0 in the 8th. Bears 13-0 in the 4th Quarter.

Israel & Iran, Israel & Iran, Israel & Iran

Chris Cillizza's Fix: The Fix 6:49 PM PDT Are all sanctions "crippling" in the same way that all interviews are "wide ranging"? Aaron Blake 6:51 PM PDT Obama zings: "You would do the same things we did but say them louder." Aaron Blake 7:03 PM Strong moment for Obama pointing out Romney's "not worth moving heaven and earth" comment. Good contrast on OBL. The Fix 7:05 PM PDT Romney is playing much nicer than Obama in this debate. Does he think he is on path to victory and doesn't want to risk it?

The Moderate Voice: "Romney says that he thinks that part of the problem has been that Iran doesn’t think Obama is serious and cites the “apology tour” where Obama gave speeches apologizing for things. He cites lack of support for green revolution in Iran and “daylight between US and Israel”. Obama comes back and again says Romney lies, that there was no apology tour and that everyone says so ... Accuses Romney of investing in Chinese company that did business with Iran."

The Dish: "9.59 pm. On the apology question, Obama finally won. And the truth is that America has dictated to other countries. Dictating who the leader of Iran was in 1958, for example, was and remains integral to the distrust of the US in the country. And it weakens America. 9.52 pm. Obama is dominating this debate, and his answer on how you put sanctions in place allowed him to use his presidential experience to best effect. Then Romney riffs on another series of lies. Thank God Obama looked him in the eye and told him to his face that he is a rank liar."

Daily Kos: "6:57 PM PT: Romney keeps on saying "we're four years closer to a nuclear Iran." Uh, that's not true ... unless Iran gets a nuclear weapon. 6:58 PM PT: This is riveting. Obama firing back on Romney's repeated apology tour claim. 6:59 PM PT: Romney is talking out his ass about how hypothetically Schieffer's hypothetically wouldn't ever happen, hypothetically speaking."

Vodka Pundit: "6:57PM “America has not dictated to other nations; America has freed other nations.” That’s gonna leave a mark. 7:02PM Romney nicely driving a wedge between Obama and Jewish voters. But Florida is already won. 7:03PM Huh. Obama killed Osama. That must be the October Surprise. 7:05PM What I would like to hear from either candidate is how us training up 315,000 Afghan soldiers is better than the Soviets having trained up thousands of Afghan soldiers."

Stinque:  Benedick 10:03 pm Is this a rout for Romney? Is Scheifer worse than Lehrer? Am I overreacting?  | mellbell 10:05 pm  Schieffer certainly has more control of the debate than Lehrer did, but he probably won’t smack down Romney like Crowley did. |  matador1015  10:32 pm Re: Schiffer. Could someone replace our regular moderator with Lewis Black?

Reason Hit and Run: @nickgillespieWe don't need a bigger military, we need fewer military interventions.  @BorowitzReport: Romney: "There's no place more important to me than Israel except Ohio."

The Economist: "Mr Obama has noted at least twice now that Mr Romney more or less agrees with his administration's policies, as if this fact redounds to his favour. But I'm not sure it does. Mr Romney's unrelenting pretense that they differ in that Mr Obama is less inclined to vain dominance displays seems strategically smarter."

DIVIDIST -  Chicago Bears scored 13 points. San Francisco Giants scored 9 runs. Either outscored the Detroit Lions and St. Louis Cardinals put together.  Life is good. This debate, OTOH, is bad. And boring. It's not that I am bored with foreign policy. It's just that there is absolutely nothing new or meaningful being said about foreign policy by either candidate in this debate.  Nothing. Not a single solitary word. Let's skip ahead to....

China & Afghanistan

Chris Cillizza's Fix: The Fix 6:49 PM PDT Are all sanctions "crippling" in the same way that all interviews are "wide ranging"? Aaron Blake 6:51 PM PDT Obama zings: "You would do the same things we did but say them louder." Aaron Blake 7:03 PM Strong moment for Obama pointing out Romney's "not worth moving heaven and earth" comment. Good contrast on OBL.The Fix 7:05 PM PDT Romney is playing much nicer than Obama in this debate. Does he think he is on path to victory and doesn't want to risk it?

The Moderate Voice: "Moderator asks if Romney naming China a currency manipulator would start a trade war. Romney says it would not because China does much more trade with us and thus they would not want to lose all of that business. Obama comes back and says that Romney likes to invest in companies that ship jobs overseas. Says that Romney would not have bailed out the auto industry and that his tax polices would encourage people to ship jobs overseas."

The Dish: "10.22 pm. Romney promises to launch a trade war against China in his first day in office. 10.24 pm. Obama is now obliterating Romney on trade with China, exposing him as a blowhard, as opposed to a smart and credible commander-in-chief. This really has been a susbtantive wipe-out for Obama, largely because Romney has essentially capitulated on almost every previous position he allegedly held."

Daily Kos: "Romney is going to protect the world from a China that counterfeits valves... Romney clearly would rather spend 90 minutes saying the word "foodstamps" over and over than talk about foreign policy."

Vodka Pundit: "What I would like to hear from either candidate is how us training up 315,000 Afghan soldiers is better than the Soviets having trained up thousands of Afghan soldiers."

Stinque - Targa: "No China. No iPhones."

Reason Hit and Run: @nickgillespie "Finally the China bashing!"

The Economist: "I thought Mr Obama was going to say "There's no reason Americans should continue to die in Afghanistan when Afghans can perfectly well die on their own... I conducted a personal trade war with China earlier this year as an experiment. The gravest consequence I confronted was that I bought some socks that were made in Guatemala and weren't comfortable. I think Romney is right about who doesn't want a trade war. "

DIVIDIST - After the satisfaction of the Bears NFC North victory, I am have a tough time feigning interest in this debate. And yet, I keep this post going. Apparently I am laboring under the illusion that some hapless reader would have an interest in something I've lost all interest in writing about.

Let's wrap this up. Forget the closing statements - same stump speeches - not worth the effort.  On to...

Who Won? Who Lost? Who Watched?

Graphic from CNN
Chris Cillizza's Fix: "WINNER: Obama clearly came loaded for bear, attacking Romney from the jump for a lack of clarity when it came to his vision (or lack thereof) on foreign policy. If you are looking for moments — and remember that the media coverage over the next few days will focus on just that — Obama had two with his line about “the 1980s calling” in regards to Romney’s foreign policy and his reference to “horses and bayonets” to call into question his rival’s understanding of the modern military... LOSERS: "Romney clearly decided to play it safe in this debate — whether because he thought he was ahead and will win if he doesn’t screw up or because he knows that foreign policy isn’t his strong suit.  But, as NFL teams (re)learn every year, playing the prevent defense almost never works. Romney was constantly trying to parry Obama attacks; he knocked some down but plenty got through too.  Romney also struggled to differentiate how his foreign policy would offer a break with what Obama has pursued over the past four years. And, he seemed uninterested in attacking Obama on Libya, a baffling strategic decision. Romney was, not surprisingly, at his best when talking about how the economic uncertainty in this country led to uncertainty for the country more broadly but he just didn’t do enough of it to win."

The Moderate Voice: "... pretty much a draw on points with your point of view more based on who you support.  Indeed I am struck by how much these debates seemed geared more towards boosting your base than appealing to the undecideds (which gives rise to the theory that there aren’t many of them). I also am not sure how this debate will play in the overall campaign. On the one hand we did have a lot of examples of Romney and Obama agreeing, which could play to Obama in the sense of “why hire the new guy if he thinks like I do” But much of the debate slipped back to the economy and the latest polls have shown that voters are not satisfied with Obama on the economy. If they now feel both would be the same on foreign policy and that they want to try a change on the economy that could work for Romney."

The Dish: "After the first truly epic implosion in the first debate, Obama has clawed his way back in the following two, in my view. He has marshaled his arguments as potently as possible; he brought the themes of his candidacy together compellingly. His advantage on foreign policy will not, I think, diminish; it may well strengthen. And that is only just. After eight years of the most disastrous, misguided, immoral and a catastrophic foreign policy, Obama has brought the US back from the brink, presided over the decimation of al Qaeda, the liberation of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, and restored America's moral standing in the world.  For Romney, he made no massive mistakes. No Gerald Ford moments. And since the momentum of this race is now his, if now faltering a little, a defeat on points on foreign policy will be an acceptable result. But this was Obama's debate; and he reminded me again of how extraordinarily lucky this country has been to have had him at the helm in this new millennium. He's flawed; he's made mistakes; but who hasn't? If this man, in these times, with this record, against this opposition, does not deserve re-election, then I am simply at a loss for words. I have to believe the American people will see that in time."

Daily Kos: "CNN seems to be absolutely determined to call the debate a draw. Their own poll has Obama winning the debate by eight points, but no matter. They've got a narrative and they're sticking with it... Sheesh."

Vodka Pundit: "Obama has run far and fast from his own record. Romney, I’m sorry to say, hasn't always hit him for that as much or as strongly as I think he should have. But is Romney credible? Yes. Romney is credible. Perfect? No. Credible, yes. And that’s a win tonight. Obama came in with an impossible task, to act as a spoiler and to appear presidential. And that is why he fails."

Stinque - nojo: "Obama debated a fun-house mirror."

Reason Hit and Run: "The Romney campaign strategy appears to have intended to present Romney as likeable rather than strong to ensure he did not come across as hawkish. This is reflected in the CNN polling data: Romney almost pulled even with Obama on likability 47 percent to Obama’s 48 percent. Fifty-one percent view Obama as the stronger leader compared to 46 percent who thought so of Romney. Romney contended three times during the debate that, “attacking me is not talking about an agenda for getting more trade and opening up more jobs in this country. This fits with the 68 percent who thought Obama spent more time attacking his opponent compared to 21 percent who felt so of Romney."

The Economist: "It is hard to perceive much difference between the two candidates' positions. To the extent that there were any clashes, it was generally over rhetorical emphasis rather than substance. Both did a fine job of articulating their shared views and appearing presidential, whatever that means. Ultimately, hard to see how this will hurt either one. On the margin, it should help Mr Romney appear more credible than he had before--but not by much."

DIVIDIST - Obama wins the debate. He was better prepared, had better zingers, and brought the snark. But how many were watching?  And of those watching, how many cared?

15 days to the election. I guess we'll find out then. 

UPDATE: 23-Oct-2012 

Upon further review...  It was an odd "debate".  This is what it's come to... The media is "fact-checking" the current inventory of bayonets in the military, Iran's geographic proximity to the sea, and the final debate between two men vying for the most powerful and important job in the free world was reduced to a sitcom rerun.

Exactly what did happen Monday night, besides both campaigns conspiring to disrupt and distract from my enjoyment of the Bears victory? Lets go under the hood and take another look.

In the clear light of day, it appears that both campaigns accomplished their objectives in the debate.

It was apparent that Team Obama concluded that the vanishingly small percentage of remaining undecideds / Independents / Centrists are a lost cause and not worth the effort. Their entire objective in the debate was to make sure the Blue Team stayed fired up. There is nothing his supporters like better than watching the POTUS mocking Romney and calling him a liar, even if it secures Obama exactly zero new votes. Does anyone really believe that after listening to the President and his surrogates hurled variations of the "liar" epithet at Romney exactly 3,475,237 times over the last few weeks, saying it another dozen times in the debate would really sway more votes?  I can only assume that their hope is that the performance will motivate their base to get off their collective ass and into the voting booth. Particularly Ohio voters.  If it does that, they succeeded.

Team Romney, on the other hand, believe they have momentum and simply did not want any YouTube moments that would distract from his positioning as an acceptable alternative to Obama to those self-same independents, moderates, and centrists. They both succeeded in executing their respective strategies.

We'll see in two weeks who had the better strategy.

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