The Foreign Policy Landmine

At the risk of engaging in more “despair porn” — I like that phrase actually, though I don’t think I should Google it to find its origin lest I find a whole lot more that is likely to scar my soul — I think the third debate is going to be very difficult for the president.

I agree with the general notion that foreign policy ought to be a big strength for Obama. That issue was one the things I most liked about him when I first started to support him in 2007, and except for the disastrous 2009 Afghanistan decision, I have mostly quibbles with him on foreign policy. Obama gets foreign policy in a fundamental way, while Romney is both a rank amateur and unfortunately largely surrounded by crackpots.

That said, it is pretty obvious where Romney is going to go in the third debate. He laid out his line of attacks in his VMI speech. He’ll claim Obama has been too soft on Iran, too hard on Israel, and generally weak in the Middle East. He will argue that Obama has been too willing to “lead from behind,” whereas American interests and greatness require us to lead from the front.

What bothers me is this: While Obama is actually right on all of these issues, it is actually very hard to frame the argument succinctly. Obama’s positions are subtle, balanced, thoughtful, but not easily reduced to a bumper sticker.

Consider Israel. If anything, I’d like to see Obama be even tougher on Israel, particularly in demanding progression on the Palestinian front. But it is a complex issue. Sure, there is a concise argument to make about the simple illegality and immorality of the the 45 year-old occupation and demand immediate, full Palestinian statehood. But (a) this is not Obama’s position and (b) it would be politically disastrous to frame the issue for the American public purely around Palestinian rights.

The real answer is much more complex. It talks to the leadership dynamics and failures on both sides; acknowledges legitimate Israeli security concerns, which noting the long-term counter-productive nature of current policies; highlights the illegimate nature of Israeli settlement policy, while recognizing the fact that Jerusalem is going to need to be a topic of further negotiation; places the issue in a regional context; and so on.

It isn’t that I despair of Obama being able to make this argument coherently. Rather, it is quite easy to imagine in a situation where Romney launches sound-bite-sized attacks and Obama is forced to respond with what will seem like rambling, ambiguous defenses.

Obama has the best single sound-bite, of course, “How about we ask bin Laden if he thinks I’m too soft?” or some variation of that, but Obama’s positions on Israel, Iran, and global leadership while sound are also going to come off as fuzzy and academic to many.

And the other problem, of course, is that Romney will simply blunt any Obama attack by just denying he ever said what he is accused of, fact-checkers and video evidence to the contrary be damned.

Again, I am not saying Obama is going to lose either the third debate or the election. I’m just saying, I think the foreign policy debate is going to be a tough nut to crack in terms of exposing Romney as a dangerous fraud.

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128 replies
  1. 1

    It would be, if anybody but the Village wanted another Iraq war or thought Israel should dictate our foreign policy.

  2. 2
    Hawes says:

    Iraq and Afghanistan are Obama’s counterarguments. We’re effectively out of Iraq and we’re getting out of Afghanistan. Romney would have us stay in Afghanistan and get into Iran.

    People are sick and tired of war. If Obama makes it a choice between war and peace, he wins.

    That was Gore’s lost opportunity in 2000: “Governor Bush, what is it about peace and prosperity that you dislike.”

    “Governor Romney, what is it about peace that you dislike?”

  3. 3
    Hill Dweller says:

    Obama just has to repeatedly tell the audience that Willard has absolutely no foreign policy experience, and his advisers are the neocons that got us into Iraq with no plan once we got there.

  4. 4
    Xantar says:

    How about we fucking wait until tonight’s VP debate and next week’s town hall debate are over first before we start worrying about the third one?

  5. 5
    schrodinger's cat says:

    Shorter BF. OMG the sky is falling and we are all doomed. Also too, Obama is not as smart as I am.

  6. 6
    Bruuuuce says:

    And the other problem, of course, is that Romney will simply blunt any Obama attack by just denying he ever said what he is accused of, fact-checkers and video evidence to the contrary be damned.

    “Governor, that’s not true. We can see the video on YouTube if you’d like.” (hint hint, O audience…)

  7. 7
    Horatius says:

    Obama just has to talk about England and how RMoney embarrassed himsel there. Case closed.

  8. 8
    TS says:

    All sounds like concern trolling to me – Obama has it right but the people won’t understand. We have “despair porn”, “disastrous 2009 Afghanistan”, “hard to frame the argument”, “politically disastrous”, “It isn’t that I despair” etc etc.

    You have a strange way of not despairing – One less than brilliant debate and suddenly the President is incapable of getting across his message.

  9. 9
    MTiffany says:

    it would be politically disastrous to frame the issue for the American public purely around Palestinian rights.

    And more obscenely, if President Obama were to point out that terrorist groups like al qaeda use US tacit support of Israel’s continued occupation of Gaza and the West Bank as a justification to attack the US, neocons would exploit this as being either weak in the face of a threat or a terrorist sypmathizer.

  10. 10
    jonas says:

    The only problem here is that while bashing Obama as too hard on Israel plays well in front of evangelical Republicans and neoconservatives, most of the country 1. doesn’t really care a lot about it and 2. when it does, it think Israel’s kind of a dick to the Palestinians and that we shouldn’t be basing our Middle East policy on whatever the Likud says.

    Obama had better have a good answer for what happened in Benghazi last month, too. Romney’s going to use that over and over as an example of the administration not having a handle on things.

  11. 11
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    That said, it is pretty obvious where Romney is going to go in the third debate. He’ll claim Obama has been too soft on Iran, too hard on Israel, and generally weak in the Middle East. He will argue that Obama has been too willing to “lead from behind,” whereas American interests and greatness require us to lead from the front.

    Who cares what he says? As long as the President occasionally returns Romney’s creepy stare with an icy stare, that should pacify Sullivan and Tweety. We’re part of the reality-based community here.

  12. 12
    amk says:

    Oh boy. Preemptive freaking out?

  13. 13
    Paul says:

    All Obama needs to do is to repeat “we killed Osama bin Laden” and “I ended the war in Iraq” all night long and he’ll be fine.

    Americans do not care on outta about foreign policy. They care about their own pocketbook.

  14. 14
    Betty Cracker says:

    I think Obama has some great openings on foreign policy. For example, on Israel, he could point out that Willard is explicitly auditioning for the role of Netanyahu’s poodle. He (Willard) actually said this:

    “Before I made a statement of that nature [on the Palestinian question], I’d get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu and say: ‘Would it help if I say this? What would you like me to do?”

    That might be just what Jennifer Rubin wants to hear, but most Americans who are not hardcore wingnuts would find that troubling. Also, Willard thinks we’re getting OUT of Afghanistan too fast. I don’t think most Americans agree. I’d like for Obama to say he would accelerate the time-table for withdrawal, though I doubt he will.

  15. 15
    Bernard Finel says:

    @Xantar: Blah, my guess is the VP debate is going to be snooze-fest, and that the format of the “town hall” debate will limit the amount of back and forth between Obama and Romney. The next real confrontation between the two will be the foreign policy debate.

    Again, what do I know? But that is my assessment.

  16. 16
    Barentw says:

    With Iran, sanctions have crippled their economy and even “Bibi” is calling off plans to invade. With the rest, Obama just has to tie Romney’s belligerence to the last republican administration. “Dick Cheney doesn’t endorse my foreign policy, and I’m proud of that fact.” Etc. Romney seems to think chest thumping will attract voters, which is misguided. This isn’t 2004.

  17. 17
    Matt McIrvin says:

    Romney is going to slam Obama hard on the “Benghazi coverup”. It’s not clear to me that this got any traction the first time the Republicans tried to run with it, in part because it’s hard to get exercised about a supposed coverup of something that everyone knew within about a day.

    But Obama needs to have some kind of easy-to-understand story about what happened there. I think it’s interesting that, while people who understood the situation thought Romney’s remarks in the wake of the attack were embarrassingly dumb, they really didn’t seem to hurt him (“47%” landed a few days later).

    “Republicans cut funding for embassy security” might be a good thing to mention.

  18. 18
    max says:

    At the risk of engaging in more “despair porn”—I like that phrase actually, though I don’t think I should Google it to find its origin lest I find a whole lot more that is likely to scar my soul

    Daily Kos diary on ‘despair porn’. Safe for anybody but Sully.

    He’ll claim Obama has been too soft on Iran, too hard on Israel, and generally weak in the Middle East. He will argue that Obama has been too willing to “lead from behind,” whereas American interests and greatness require us to lead from the front.

    ‘My opponent claims that we have been weak somehow, but I remind you that my opponent is advised on foreign policy by people who think ‘Bomb everywhere tomorrow’ is sensible policy.’

    Again, I am not saying Obama is going to lose either the third debate or the election. I’m just saying,

    In the middle of a battle, save the bridge burning until you need to torch the bridge. Just sayin’.

    max
    [‘One thing at a time.’]

  19. 19
    Bernard Finel says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Well, I am pretty damn sure that Obama actually is much, much smarter than I am. But smarter does not mean he is necessarily able to condense complex, nuanced positions into readily digestible sound-bites.

    Obama has quite a strong foreign policy record. But Romney’s attacks are still going to be a challenge to deflect because of the substantive complexity of the issue.

    Obama’s going to need to show that Romney doesn’t understand the issue, which is easy in theory, but difficult to do without seeming condescending, I think.

  20. 20
    Bernard Finel says:

    @TS: Is there any way to raise an issue here without being attacked for “concern trolling.” Just curious.

  21. 21
    LGRooney says:

    On Israel, he can tell Romney to go talk to the people of Israel and see where they stand because it is not with the hardline stance of Netenyahu.

    On leading from behind, he can refer to the GOP shout about freedom and democracy everywhere over the past decade or two. Then, explain that allowing the people of the ME to make their own choices and helping shape the aftermath of those choices is the most cost efficient, diplomatic route. Obviously, imposing democracy at the point of a gun from outside the country, e.g., Iraq and Afghanistan to name but two, does not work – it costs too much, it creates too many enemies by focusing the various factions inside against the intruder, and costs us in diplomatic authority in other areas of the globe.

  22. 22
    Hill Dweller says:

    The biggest threat to the Obama campaign is Willard convincing the public that he is a moderate. The NBC poll seems to suggest a lot of people believed his bullshit during the first debate and liked what they saw.

  23. 23
    Anonymous says:

    @Bernard Finel:

    Starting your post as you did might not be the right play.

  24. 24
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @Bernard Finel:

    Blah, my guess is the VP debate is going to be snooze-fest, and that the format of the “town hall” debate

    You think an argument between an angry old guy and a mean-spirited young guy is going to be a snoozefest? This is the testosterone-laced matchup the MSM has been waiting for!

  25. 25
    LGRooney says:

    @jonas: Doubtful since the GOp can’t have any traction on that. The reason things were kept secret is that they had to be. Today in the Post, Cizilla wrote about the GOP not conducting these hearings behind closed doors and one of their own stressing the need to do so because the place where the Ambassador was at the time was a CIA compound. Add to that that one of their own also admitted that they cut embassy security in their budget.

  26. 26
    MikeJ says:

    @Betty Cracker: Rmember the shit John Kerry took over the made up “getting permission” kerfuffle?

  27. 27
    Comrade Jake says:

    @Hill Dweller:

    and his advisers are the neocons that got us into Iraq with no plan once we got there.

    I think this could be quite effective. I don’t think most Americans appreciate the fact that Romney’s foreign policy crew is basically a replica of Bush’s. Something like “Americans saw what our foreign policy looked like under George Bush. If they want to see that again, they should vote for Mitt Romney.”

  28. 28
    MTiffany says:

    I have a simple proposal for the next three debates. During the debates, each time Romney or Ryan lie or otherwise distort the truth, and we know the statement to be a lie because there is Youtube video to prove it, we get the link and take to social media and post on Facebook or send out a Tweet “Romney lied about x, and here’s the proof.”

    Be the change you seek… or something.

  29. 29
    Hal says:

    I think the foreign policy debate is going to be a tough nut to crack in terms of exposing Romney as a dangerous fraud.

    I don’t think Obama has to go this route. Romney has no foreign policy experience and Obama should emphasize all of that. Romney interfered in the negotiations for the release of Chen Guangcheng, and jumped the gone in Libya. Twice he has potentially endangered people’s lives by politicizing out of desperation to be President. Obama should focus on what Romney does not know or cannot do. Boasting and bragging about being a President who will make the rest of the world kneel before Zod is not going to win Romney the debate.

    Oh, and if there is a one, two punch between Biden and Obama in the debates, no one will even care about the third debate. or Romney will be too weakened for it to make a difference. Let’s hope.

  30. 30
    Kane says:

    If it were up to Romney, we would still have combat troops in Iraq. Bin Laden would still be on the loose. The terrorist Moamar Gaddafi and the dictator Hosni Mubarak would both still be in power. There would be no timeline to exit Afghanistan. Military spending would have sky-rocketed beyond what our own generals are asking for. DADT would continue to be goverment policy. Veterans would have their benefits cut and their medical care privatized.

    Yeah, I can see how all of this is going to be a problem for President Obama.

  31. 31
    Comrade Jake says:

    Slightly OT, but have any of you seen this tremendous fail by the GOP on the Benghazi hearings? You have to hand it to the asshats, giving away state secrets simply because they’re so eager to embarrass the President.

  32. 32
    Anonymous says:

    @MTiffany:

    I’m actually quite surprised that this wasn’t the plan for the first debate. We all knew that Mitt was going to lie his ass off, and this seems like an effective counter. Obama could even announce it during the debate: “Romney denies that his plan will cost 5 trillion. But right now on twitter and on whitehouse.gov, we’re posting video proof that he’s lying. Don’t take my word for it, check for yourself.”

  33. 33
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Anonymous: Agreed, why start everything as xyz is going to be a problem for Obama. Where foreign policy is concerned every time Mitt the twit has opened his mouth, he has put his foot in it. Case in point his disastrous foreign policy tour and the weird press conference after the Libya incident.

  34. 34
    some guy says:

    The two state concept in Israel is dead. Time for liberals to start demanding “One Man, One Vote.” No more support for apartheid.

  35. 35
    Svensker says:

    @Bernard Finel:

    No.

    SATSQ

  36. 36
    schrodinger's cat says:

    @Kane: Sshhh its the MSM narrative and it has to be followed to the T, otherwise Andrew Sullivan (and BF) will has a sad. Why you want to make BF sad?

  37. 37
    some guy says:

    On Israel, he can tell Romney to go talk to the people of Israel and see where they stand because it is not with the hardline stance of Netenyahu.

    Actually, the majority of Israeli’s do support this racist warmonger.

  38. 38
    Bruuuuce says:

    @Matt McIrvin: The response is “The GOP defunded the State Department by $5 billion, including security funding. If that hadn’t happened, the embassy would have been safe.”

    Even Republicans can understand that, though they won’t accept it.

  39. 39
    Laura says:

    Has there been any polling done on how people feel about a potential war with Iran in defense of Israel? Admittedly my worldview is pretty small, but I’m guessing a large majority of the country is fucking sick of war and doesn’t give a damn about Israel.

  40. 40
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    My wife almost always starts a phone call with “What’s wrong?” Just sayin’.

  41. 41
    lamh35 says:

    Oh good Lord. Mitt Romney has been consistently horrible for the past 18 months. He has ONE GOOD DEBATE NIGHT and now he’s some genius. Barack Obama has been consistently good for the past 18 months and has ONE BAD DEBATE NIGHT and now he’s some idiot savant. Jesus.

    I’ma just leave you with what James Fallows at Atlantic has to say about it (and seing has he of all people was very prescient about the first debate, I’ma going to go with his more rational take):

    On Debates and the Election: Could 90 Minutes Really Change Everything?

    …BUT does any of this mean that Obama will now lose — or even should be considered the underdog? I don’t think so, because of the following. None of them is “news” but for that very reason they may be getting overlooked…
    …(e)The final debate is about foreign policy, where Obama knows the big picture and the fine points, and Romney knows neither. Don’t take it from me, take it from Fred Kaplan and Conor Friedersdorf, in their eviscerations of Romney’s lamentable foreign-policy address at VMI. If Obama’s showing in last week’s debate was the worst major-candidate debate performance in memory, Romney’s speech was the worst of its kind in a very long time. Sample from Kaplan: “it was astonishing to watch Romney spin a daydream of himself as some latter-day George Marshall, bringing peace, prosperity, and hope to a chaotic world–this from a man who couldn’t drop in on the London Olympics without alienating our closest ally and turning himself into a transcontinental laughingstock.”

    Do yourself a favor go an read the whole thing, please, I’m begging you.

  42. 42
    JPL says:

    Just like the Republican House members, Mitt will use classified information to advance his agenda. MSM has decided that it not their job to chastise or correct him. Facts are so passe.

  43. 43
    muddy says:

    @Bernard Finel:

    Is there any way to raise an issue here without being attacked for “concern trolling.” Just curious.

    Maybe it’s because you keep on with the

    I’m just saying
    on this topic all the time.

    Just sayin’.

    ETA: I don’t know why I got a block inside a block and don’t know how to fix it. “On this topic” is from me.

  44. 44
    Corner Stone says:

    @Bernard Finel:

    Is there any way to raise an issue here without being attacked for “concern trolling.” Just curious.

    The fact that you even asked this question is the very definition of concern trolling!

  45. 45
    Steve LaBonne says:

    I don’t think clearly stating that the foreign policy of the United States must be controlled by the government of the United States, and not the government of Israel, would be an unpopular position. Not by a long shot.

  46. 46
    Kane says:

    Does #romneyshambles sound familiar?

  47. 47
    Cacti says:

    If Mittens wants to take the “lead from the front” tack, the POTUS should ask him where he was in Vietnam when he had a chance to lead from the front.

  48. 48
    pk says:

    Who cares about Israel? Unless you are a right wing zealot Israel is unimportant to the rest of the country. I get annoyed everytime I hear an idiot politician talk about how much they have to protect this ridiculous country in the Middle East which has not been able to get its act together for 60 yrs. I would love to hear Romney say he will bomb Iran for the sake of Israel. I have no idea why American politicians feel they need to give periodic blow jobs to Israeli prime ministers. If you think Romney threatening to start a war with Iran for the love of Israel is his foreign policy strength then you may just be a right winger yourself.

  49. 49
    ericblair says:

    @Anonymous:

    Obama could even announce it during the debate: “Romney denies that his plan will cost 5 trillion. But right now on twitter and on whitehouse.gov, we’re posting video proof that he’s lying. Don’t take my word for it, check for yourself.”

    This is a very good point, and makes use of the new reality that a majority of the debate audience isn’t just sitting in front of the debate, but also sitting with access to an enormous amount of information literally at their fingertips. Probably the best way to deal with rampant high-speed lying.

    Are there any debate rules against referring people to external sources in this way, is it Just Not Done for some BS historical reason, or do debaters feel that persuadables are the people who aren’t sitting there with their laptop/pad/phone in their hands watching the debates?

  50. 50
    Drew says:

    If you’re wrong on this I think we’ll have to file you away with Dick Morris.

  51. 51
    KXB says:

    Obama should contrast the feelings on the island of DC versus the rest of America. On the island, deep-pocketed donors and media types are pushing for war with Iran. In the rest of America, no one gives a shit. We’re still living with a nuclear Russia and China, which have sizable forces. Iran does not have a nuclear weapon, or much of anything.

    If anything, let them have an Israel-Iran debate on a military base with military families, and let them pull that same shit.

  52. 52
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent): At least she’s not like Olympia Dukakis in “Moonstruck,” who answered late night phone calls with, “Who’s dead?”

  53. 53
    yopd1 says:

    The problem with the whole Romney jumping the gun on Libya is that there are obviously other factors in play there that were basically forcing Obama and Clinton’s hands with respect to their responses. This became clearer yesterday when Issa and another Republican all but described that a location in Libya was a CIA operations base.

  54. 54
    Taylormattd says:

    Fap fap fap fap fap fap fap.

    Do you guys sit around cutting yourselves all day long, quivering with excitement at the prospect of the next Obama-Biden failure/betrayal?

  55. 55
    rm says:

    I can think of three good rhetorical opportunities:

    — Governor, you are a reckless fool who will shoot your mouth off without thinking. You endangered lives by speaking out of turn about Libya. You used our slain diplomats as a prop. You can’t visit England or Israel without causing an incident. We cannot trust you to handle foreign policy.

    — You can talk tough in a campaign, but I made real decisions. Trash talking is not leadership.

    — Romney’s team is Bush’s team. He has the same advisors. They will get us the same results.

  56. 56
    Cassidy says:

    OT: I’m gonna do some slight spamming over the next few months and I apologize in advance. My Firefighter class has to do a service project as part of our course. It’s not in the curriculum, but our Chief thinks it’s important to remind everyone we’re supposed to be role models and public servants; I agree with the sentiment. So, my class has chosen this one. I personally don’t have any attachment to lung cancer other than my continual fight to quit smoking, but this is what my class voted on. We’re doing the “Fight for Air” climb in February 2013 and between now and then we’re trying to raise $100 or more per person. If you have some spare change that you haven’t allotted for political races, would you consider it? Thank you.

    Your donation buys you a small part of misery on my part. We’ll be climbing 42 floors/ flights of stairs in full bunker gear and air pack.

  57. 57
    WJS says:

    <blockquoteThat said, it is pretty obvious where Romney is going to go in the third debate. He laid out his line of attacks in his VMI speech. He’ll claim Obama has been too soft on Iran, too hard on Israel, and generally weak in the Middle East. He will argue that Obama has been too willing to “lead from behind,” whereas American interests and greatness require us to lead from the front.

    Bernard, you really ought to give this up.

    The VMI speech was an attempt by Romney to go more “moderate” on foreign policy, and his praise of George Marshall really stood out to people who remember the era in which Marshall was vilified by the Republican Party establishment. Not just Tailgunner Joe, but also Eisenhower, who left Marshall hanging out to dry when he was accused of being a Communist.

    Marshall was the strongest voice advocating against the recognition of Israel, and threatened to vote against Truman if it went forward. He eventually assented to the recognition, but for Romney to cite him in his address really speaks to the institutional amnesia of the modern Republican Party.

    By citing Marshall, Romney has nowhere to run. He’s now firmly on the wrong side of virtually every aspect of Republican orthodoxy.

  58. 58
    Kay says:

    I would encourage Obama to hit the withdrawal from Iraq. Over and over and over. That was a big deal here, especially among Right-leaning hawkish local Democrats who (I suspect) supported the invasion, or went along, and then regretted that.

    National media almost completely ignored it, but it mattered here. A lot.

  59. 59
    Commenting at Balloon Juice since 1937 says:

    The neocons telling Romney what to say still live in a cold war world and want America to maintain its empire. Fuck them with a hot poker.

  60. 60
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @Xantar: AMEN.

    Some of y’all are going to have heart failure by election day. Chill out!

    And no one wants a war with Iran, except defence contractors.

  61. 61
    Kay says:

    @Patricia Kayden:

    He should hit that, too. I liked: “if Governor Romney wants another war, he should say so” No reason he can’t use it again.

    It goes to both issues. There’s no public support for another war despite Dan Senor’s delusions, and it also includes a reference to Romney’s incessant lying and general untrustworthiness.

  62. 62
    TS says:

    @Bernard Finel: You can raise any issue you like – but save the “despair” – it seems the last two weeks has seen way too much of it – given 4 years of relative sanity.

  63. 63
    shortstop says:

    except for the disastrous 2009 Afghanistan decision, I have mostly quibbles with him on foreign policy.

    I had to read this curiously constructed phrase three times before I understood that is Mr. Finel’s idea of expressing agreement. “Only a few quibbles” instead of “mostly quibbles” would have been far clearer.

  64. 64
    YAFB says:

    I’ll be surprised if this line doesn’t make a reappearance, especially the last sentence:

    I said I’d end the war in Iraq. I did. I said that we’d go after al Qaeda. They’ve been decimated in the Fatah. That we’d go after bin Laden. He’s gone. So I’ve executed on my foreign policy. And it’s one that the American people largely agree with. So if Gov. Romney is suggesting that we should start another war, he should say so.

    As for Issa’s Benghazigate, it depends on what happens and comes out in the next couple of weeks. Compromising the CIA for political gain doesn’t sound like a vote-winner to me, but what do I know?

    ETA: I see Kay hit the same theme above while I was typing.

  65. 65
    Kay says:

    @YAFB:

    I agree. It’s a great line. I heard it and I thought “we’ll be hearing that again” and we have!

  66. 66

    @shortstop: Ah, but I don’t have a “few quibbles,” I have many quibbles. This is, after all, my business, so I am a lot of opinions on foreign policy, some of them even well-informed. But the point is that while I have many minor disagreement with Obama on foreign policy, they basically all fall into the category of “reasonable people can disagree” — except for Afghanistan, which was a predictable disaster, but that is a whole other issue.

  67. 67
    YAFB says:

    @Kay: It’s not just a great zinger, it happens to challenge the whole premise of Romney’s saber-rattling. He’ll probably be prepared for it, of course, but I can’t think of a comeback that wouldn’t sound weak, especially if Obama times its delivery well. As a sum-up point, it could be the takeaway, barring gaffes and the media don’t Twitter itself into a frenzy of boredom again.

  68. 68
    Linda Featheringill says:

    Ah, Nard Dog! How are you this morning?

  69. 69
    shortstop says:

    @Bernard Finel: The point, which you’ve missed yet again, is that you mangled that sentence. It currently reads as though you have mostly quibbles and little else with Obama’s foreign policy.

  70. 70

    @WJS: This is absolute nonsense. The Marshall/McCarthy/Eisenhower imbroglio happened 60 years ago. Even old geezers have no idea what the hell you’re talking about. The idea that invoking Marshall somehow sent a signal to anyone is just silly.

    No, Marshall is now seen as a synomym for “statesman,” which is what Romney was trying to invoke for himself. Marshall would have thought Romney an idiot, and his approach to foreign policy disastrous. I doubt Romney or his speechwriters even know what Marshall stood for, much less are trying to tie themselves to his approach to foreign policy in any substantive way.

  71. 71

    @Linda Featheringill: Actually could we make it Nard Dawg? Seems cooler that way.

  72. 72

    @shortstop: I have one major disagreements with Obama and otherwise have quibbles with him. There are very few places where I think he’s been exactly right. So, no, my sentence was not mangled. It reflected my perspective. He was wrong on one big issue. He’s pretty close on the rest.

    Are there any issues I think he’s been perfect on? I dunno. I don’t think I have any disagreements with him on U.S.-Belize relations. Otherwise, mostly quibbles.

  73. 73
    catclub says:

    @Steve LaBonne: Rightwingers I have spoken with clearly do not like the concept of the US determining US policy if Israel is involved in any way.

  74. 74
    Culture of Truth says:

    Again, I am not saying Obama is going to lose either the third debate or the election. I’m just saying, I think the foreign policy debate is going to be a tough nut to crack in terms of exposing Romney as a dangerous fraud.

    Surprisingly, I actually agree with this assessment. I don’t think this debate is a slam-dunk, and I can easily envision a situation where Romney lies and pounds the President as ‘weak’ on everybody and everything, and Obama has no choice but to defend a complex record of success with nuance and subtlety.

    The best response to “Why haven’t you stopped Iran from building a bomb?” “why is the middle east a mess?” is “well what would you do about it, start a war?” but that’s not really good either, since it puts your opponent in the Oval Office, and allows him to sit in the big chair with a bunch of imaginary facts and hypothesize about how successful he would be.

  75. 75
    catclub says:

    @some guy: Nope, not even a majority voted for his party.

    about 39% of Israelis think he is most suitable for PM.
    More than anybody else, but not a majority.

  76. 76
    kindness says:

    I disagree. I think it won’t be hard to point out the actual policy differences between Romney and Obama. Just look at who Romney is surrounding himself with, retreaded bush43 neocons who are clamoring for new wars.

    And honestly Bibi is not something to be afraid of. My Jewish friends who are almost all very pro Israel hate him. No, all Obama has to do is to quote the Israeli Defense force chiefs and Intelligence agencies who have all said Bibi is nuts and Obama is the best friend they’ve had in a long time (and that time frame includes bush43).

  77. 77
    Kay says:

    @YAFB:

    It’s not just a great zinger, it happens to challenge the whole premise of Romney’s saber-rattling.

    I agree.

    We have a number of hawkish, Right leaning Democrats here. It’s a rural county. Many of them are veterans. I think they feel real, very personal regret over their support of Iraq, and they will not go along with saber-rattling on Iran. Fool me once, etc.

  78. 78

    While Obama is actually right on all of these issues, it is actually very hard to frame the argument succinctly. Obama’s positions are subtle, balanced, thoughtful, but not easily reduced to a bumper sticker.

    Recipient, Understatement of the Year Award.

    There actually does seem to be some bloodlust for going into Iran (mostly from middle-aged Reagan fetishists, who probably think in cartoon terms about settling old scores, like a 1980s movie). But nothing like what I saw in 2002-3 for Iraq. Yet.

    I do look forward to yet another Arbitrary Media Rule (ie “people rally round the President in times of international crisis”) to be abruptly abandoned, just as the 8% unemployment threshold was.

  79. 79
    catclub says:

    @Betty Cracker: this.

    I wish Obama could put it clearly that Willard is naive in thinking nations have friends. (Getting a jab in on Bush and his personal relationship with Putin could not hurt, either.) Nations have interests. And Israel’s interests are not the same as those of the US.

  80. 80
    geg6 says:

    @Cacti:

    Bingo.

    Damn, that would hafta hurt, wouldn’t it?

  81. 81

    @Comrade Jake:
    I’m sure they’ll be punished, just as they were for outing Valerie Plame.

    Partisanship does end at Water’s Edge, after all.

  82. 82
    Culture of Truth says:

    The problem is that Romney’s habit of lying and providing vague generalities actually plays better in the area of foreign policy than it does in domestic affairs.

  83. 83
    TooManyJens says:

    @Belafon (formerly anonevent):

    My wife almost always starts a phone call with “What’s wrong?” Just sayin’.

    Every time my mom calls me, she sounds surprised when I answer. It drives me insane.

  84. 84
    Tractarian says:

    At the risk of engaging in more “despair porn”

    Right. The phrase you’re looking for is “concern trolling”.

    Is there any way to raise an issue here without being attacked for “concern trolling.”

    Yes, there is: stop concern trolling. Here’s some advice on how to do that:

    1) Include original content in your posts. I don’t need to hear from you that “The real answer [re: Israel/Palestine] is much more complex” that can be summed up in sound bites. No kidding.

    2) Include constructive criticism. You think “Romney will simply blunt any Obama attack by just denying he ever said what he is accused of”? (What a wild concept!) Then how about offering some suggestions on how this can be overcome? You know, instead of just pouting and frowning like my 3-year-old daughter.

    3) Back up your bald assertions with examples. “Obama’s positions on Israel, Iran, and global leadership while sound are also going to come off as fuzzy and academic to many…Obama’s positions are subtle, balanced, thoughtful, but not easily reduced to a bumper sticker…Obama is forced to respond with what will seem like rambling, ambiguous defenses.” You keep repeating the same thing, over and over, and yet you fail to provide examples. (Check that: you do provide one example, but it shows that Obama’s argument can be reduced to a sound bite.)

    4) Be realistic about Obama’s debating skills. It seems as though you are assuming the October 3 Obama will show up at the foreign policy debate. If that turns out to be true, then there is no need to analyze the finer points of foreign policy and debate style; Obama will lose either way.

    5) Reconcile your conclusion with your analysis. You recognize that Obama can make his “argument coherently”, that he is “actually right on all of these issues”, and that he “has the best single sound-bite”. And yet, you are predicting doom. Major cognitive dissonance.

    Your failure to do any of these things is a hallmark of a concern troll.

    You need to take a break from blogging, internalize these suggestions, and come back later when you have something valuable to contribute. Because this is yet another horrendous post.

  85. 85
    TooManyJens says:

    @Tractarian: I’m not sure I get why Bernard needs to offer Obama debating tips he’ll never see in order not to be considered a concern troll. Is “I’m worried about x, y, and z” really considered concern trolling now? I thought concern trolling was when people would come in here and tell us how sincerely they believed liberals needed to change our positions and be more conservative — all for the good of the liberal cause, of course.

  86. 86
    Steve M. says:

    The American people are sick of Middle Eastern wars. I don’t want to sound Pollyannaish, but if Romney’s message is, or seems to be, that we have to get deeper into that Big Muddy, not only will he alienate people outside his angry white male base, he’ll sound less like “Moderate Mitt” to everyone.

    Now, he’s a good debater, so he could find a way to sell saber-rattling as reasonableness, and Obama could falter again, but Romney’s basic message is a tough sell. I know when you examine the specifics he’s not that far to the right of Obama, but his tone is “Obama’s a girlyman who takes it up the ass from our enemies, and I’m Big Dick Willie.” That does not match the national mood, except at Bill Kristol’s house.

  87. 87
    TooManyJens says:

    While Obama is actually right on all of these issues, it is actually very hard to frame the argument succinctly. Obama’s positions are subtle, balanced, thoughtful, but not easily reduced to a bumper sticker.

    Too many people just don’t want to hear explanations any more complicated than “A good. B bad.”

    I was in an argument with an anti-birth-control person yesterday, who was making all these sweeping generalizations about all contraception being dangerous and people only using it because they were naive and selfish enough to let the pharmaceutical companies talk them into it. When I said that none of that was true and the reality was more complex, this was her response:

    “the reality is far more complex”? Sure, heard frequently, ..sounds like excuse for not doing homework.

    WTF do you do with people who think succumbing to lazy black-and-white thinking proves that you’re the one taking the issue seriously?

  88. 88
    Chris says:

    @catclub:

    That’s Realism 101, but it’s not always true and Israel is the number one counterexample. If nations were rational creatures guided by self interest, we’d have dropped Israel all the way back in 1948. Fortunately or unfortunately, public opinion and cultural factors matter too.

    And I’m not convinced that America’s lunatic teenage crush of Israel is anywhere close to spent.

  89. 89
    Suffern ACE says:

    @TooManyJens: Well, the thing about concern trolls, is that they don’t headline their offerings with alarming words like “landmine!”

    I happen to agree with with Bernard a little on this. We should be a little anxious that Romney will appear to be reasonable. No one knows who Dan Senor is or who the neocons are. And we don’t tend to take the words of our foreign policy experts seriously.

    The fact that Obama needs to explain his foreign policy clearly to people who don’t pay attention to it unless there’s a bomb being dropped with a lot of bluster (and even then) is a bigger challenge for him than for Romney. Romney can get the facts wrong and talk about how strong words and values will will the day. (Plus jobs for shipbuilders in VA!).

  90. 90
    YAFB says:

    @Culture of Truth:

    The problem is that Romney’s habit of lying and providing vague generalities actually plays better in the area of foreign policy than it does in domestic affairs.

    I’m not saying it should be phrased like this, but I think Obama could make a strong case that Romney’s been completely reckless on foreign policy during the campaign – antagonizing allies, blundering into sensitive situations and making statements abroad without knowing the full facts, cynically exploiting setbacks, and then when he started receiving the official briefings, continuing to do so [insert examples and citations ad lib], possibly saying that the State Department’s been on tenterhooks ever since he was made privy to intelligence waiting for the next boob Romney makes that they’ll have to clean up after (maybe not stating this last point in so many words, but implying it strongly).

  91. 91
    chopper says:

    @rm:

    i would make a comment about the irony of a backseat driver accusing the guy behind the wheel of ‘leading from behind’.

  92. 92
    shortstop says:

    @Bernard Finel: Still not getting it. You’re now defending what was in your head–what you meant–not what you put down in print. One of the reasons you’re such a consistently weak writer is that you keep insisting that because you thought it, you said it. Slow down and really read what you’ve actually written before you post.

  93. 93
    Culture of Truth says:

    If I were advising Obama, I would try to turn Libya from a disaster/weakness into a strength, saying something like

    “Yes, immediately after the attack we said it appeared to be a spontaneous riot, but we were still assessing all the facts. It now appears to be terrorism, but we still are gathering the facts. If that turns out to be the case, when the time comes, we will go after the terrorists who committed these acts against us. That’s the kind of President I have been and will continue to be. I gather facts, assess them, analyze proposed courses of action, and then I act decisively. If you like that, vote for me. If you want to someone who reacts without thinking, leaps to conclusions without checking the facts, who alienates our closest allies, then vote for Mitt Romney. Because I’m not going to change.”

  94. 94
    Agoraphobic Kleptomaniac says:

    I’m finally getting around to reading Drift, and the most depressing current reflection in the book is reading about Reagan’s big Panama Canal lie and all his other foreign policy lies that he made up that nobody ever seemed to correct or care that it was a lie.

    I read that part of the book and despair about the Foreign Policy Debate.

  95. 95
    gopher2b says:

    I have shared this concern since the 1st debate. Primarily, my concerns that while Romney’s positions on the economy are all based on lies (easily refutable lies if you bother to refute them), his position on foreign policy is not. His foreign policy position may be crazy and wrong, it’s not based on lies, but instead a VERY different world view and understanding of American power.

    I think the solution here is the OBL mission. Obama cannot just say, we got him, see how great we are. The obvious response the GOP will employ is the Navy SEALs got him, stop taking credit for their bravery and awesomeness. Instead, Obama needs to lay out what he did as a CEO (and how it was different from what was done the previous 7 years), and then extrapolate that out to Iran and the rest of Middle East.

    He can win but he won’t if they go into this saying, everyone thinks we’re great on foreign policy so we just have to play prevent defense (again).

    P.S. If they don’t have responses to the coming barrage of Libya accusations locked and loaded, I’m going to be very hungover the next morning.

  96. 96
    catclub says:

    @gopher2b: I would put it another way. All of Romney’s foreign policy positions are based on the fact that he is not President. So he thinks he can say whatever he wants.

    Part of the reaction against Wars McCain was that he spoke like a blowhard pundit as far as foreign affairs was concerned. (Knowing nothing about the economy did not help, either.)

  97. 97
    catclub says:

    @Culture of Truth: “Because I’m not going to change.”

    Almost on the climate change denial bandwagon. ;)

  98. 98
    Ian says:

    Actually, I think this will be easier than you say. Romney has a lot of the same people advising him as did Bush, and has the same sort of bellicose cowboy rhetoric. Frame Romney’s policy as same as/more of Bush, and that is something Americans grasp immediately.

  99. 99
    corina says:

    Slightly OT, but I just found this RW troll comment on the Romney’s Facial Recognition Software Failure open thread:

    A politician being a politician? Imagine that!

    I suppose it was OK with leftists that Mr. Obama latched onto ‘Big Bird’ as a lifeline, but when Mr. Romney mentions meeting Mr. Doherty, it’s a terrible thing, because Mrs. Doherty would rather promote Mr. Obama. Now, we’ll always associate Mr. Doherty with his mother’s politicizing.

    As for Mr. Obama? Let him rightly lose his job, and join Team Big Bird. His performance over the past four years has been abysmal. He’s failed to do anything he promised to do; his inattention to detail got Ambassador Chris Stevens raped and murdered in Benghazi, and his only defense is to trot out an eight-foot cartoon character.

    Please. Let this man join Al Gore on Current TV.

    I’ve come across this shit before in recent weeks, mostly in the Yahoo comments sewer, that Ambassador Stevens was “tortured, raped and murdered, and it’s Obama’s fault!!!!”.

    Anyone know where this particular nasty rumor originated?

  100. 100
    corina says:

    Sorry, the italics didn’t quite work. Comment from troll ends after “let this man join Al Gore on Current TV”

  101. 101
    gopher2b says:

    @catclub:

    I don’t disagree but therein lies the problem. Romney’s goals will be (1) to scare everyone about Iran, (2) Obama hurt Israel’s fee fees, (3) we abandoned freedom when the federal government didn’t vigorously twitter support for Iranians, and (4) Obama is personally responsible for the death of an American ambassador so this must mean he’s a giant wimp. If Romney does the above 4 things, he’ll win. And these are a lot harder to disprove because the answers are complicated and at times classified.

  102. 102
    Chris says:

    @Agoraphobic Kleptomaniac:

    Foreign policy isn’t real to Americans. The public’s view of that shit mostly comes from Rambo, James Bond, and the various “America won World War Two all by itself by being MRCIKA FUCK YEAH!” films. The real intellectuals get their views from Tom Clancy novels.

  103. 103

    what about teh dronez? won’t someone please think of the dronez?

  104. 104
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @Tractarian: This.

  105. 105
    different-church-lady says:

    I like that phrase actually, though I don’t think I should Google it to find its origin lest I find a whole lot more that is likely to scar my soul

    Great Orange Satan.

    Follow up: http://www.dailykos.com/story/.....xplanation

  106. 106
    Bruce S says:

    Please learn not to write posts that Shrodlinger’s Cat, “amk”, TS, et. al might read that have complex thoughts regarding the President.

    Incidentally, I’m predicting a deadly strike against the agents in Libya who perpetrated the embassy attack prior to the FP debate. One drone is worth a thousand words. Then all Obama has to do is go into the debate with a mean grin and shout, “Yippeeeekaaayyaaa! Motherfuckers!” Even the “white men” polling internals will zoom up.

  107. 107
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @some guy: It’s easy for ultra-Orthodox wankers to support wars they won’t have to fight for a state they still do not recognize as legitimate.

    Israel is a warning tale. They created their own 5th column and now it’s taking over.

  108. 108
    TooManyJens says:

    @Another Halocene Human: …wait. The ultra-Orthodox don’t recognize the state of Israel as legitimate? Or am I totally misunderstanding you?

  109. 109
    Corner Stone says:

    @ranchandsyrup:

    what about teh dronez? won’t someone please think of the dronez?

    Which ones? There are so many. I expect Alyssa Milano to start a save teh dronez campaign any day now. We’re practically just throwing away one of our nation’s natural resources, with no consideration for the future.

  110. 110
    Corner Stone says:

    @shortstop: The original sentence at issue wasn’t very complicated.

  111. 111
    Corner Stone says:

    @Bobby Thomson: Also, too.

  112. 112
    shortstop says:

    @Corner Stone: I never said it was “complicated.” I observed it was garbled shit that expressed the near-opposite of what he later admitted he intended.

  113. 113
    shortstop says:

    @Corner Stone: I never said it was “complicated.” I observed it was garbled shit that expressed the near-opposite of what he later admitted he intended.

  114. 114
    Corner Stone says:

    I love it we are so awesome that anytime we need to make sure everyone understands how much we disdain a rational argument we can just start blathering about dronez.

  115. 115
    Corner Stone says:

    @shortstop: Not complicated being a synonym for “bug fucking easy to understand for everyone else who read that sentence but you”.

  116. 116
    hep kitty says:

    Sweetie, Romney said in his 47% tape he was going to “kick the can down the road” for the duration of his term(s), should he be elected.

    We’ve got that juicy little clip.

    So CTFO!! :)

  117. 117
    Brachiator says:

    @Bernard Finel:

    And the other problem, of course, is that Romney will simply blunt any Obama attack by just denying he ever said what he is accused of, fact-checkers and video evidence to the contrary be damned.

    As a couple of people here as noted, Obama’s best tack would be not to tangle with Romney over facts, but to hit at Romney’s weakness with respect to leadership and judgement.

    So, one poster noted:

    Romney’s team is Bush’s team. He has the same advisors. They will get us the same results.

    Make Romney own it. “Romney has chosen as his advisors the same group who were wrong on Iraq.” That he would pick them, listen to them, design his foreign policy around them shows his lack of insight and understanding.”

    Obama can also hit at the failure of Romney’s visits to the UK, etc.

    His attempts to prove his foreign policy bona fides have been wrongheaded. Obama could even through in the insinuation that Romney would make foreign policy secondary to securing business deals for his cronies. Nasty and unsubstantiated, but what the hey.

    Then there is Romney’s little admissions at that fund raiser that he thinks that Palestinians are dopes and that there is not much point in vigorously pursuing a Middle East peace deal. Romney’s own words, no matter how he tries to wrap them in equivocation, are already pretty damning.

  118. 118
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @TooManyJens: Haredis? No. Because it is a secular state. This doesn’t extend to not voting, however. They may be ignorant but they ain’t stupid.

    They refuse to speak modern Hebrew because it is an abasement of the Holy Language. Since most do not study much English either, it leaves Haredi youth in a poor position to seek work. Thousands of families are on welfare.

    Very, very few serve in the Army and those that do have been starting shit about the gender equality generally practiced by the Army. I think you can find some stuff if you google IDF female soldiers singing.

  119. 119
    TooManyJens says:

    @Another Halocene Human:

    Because it is a secular state.

    Ah, I see. Joy. I knew the other stuff about the Haredim but had not heard that they consider the state itself illegitimate.

  120. 120
    Grung_e_Gene says:

    The Benghazi Smear Job is gaining traction I hear rich flabby purulent pukes at my swanky healthclub talking about it as an impeachable offense for President Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton.

    And it’s about time a President was impeached for 9/11…

  121. 121
    shortstop says:

    @Corner Stone: Sucks to be me, but I have no choice but to defer to your thoroughly demonstrated sense of communal understanding here at BJ.

  122. 122
    sherparick says:

    @Horatius: Yes, I think this would be the best counter-attack by just asking Romney if is trip adn actions in England in July will be the way he intends to work with allies and promote American interests and ask him to defend his actions for instulting his hosts about London Olympics, etc. Also, state that although we will support and sustain or allies, we will not allow other nations to dictate our foreign policy or slavishly follow dictates from any foreign government when promoting and defending our national interestst. I would also lay out there the accusation that Rommey would go to war with Iran (and perhaps reinvade Iraq) if they don’t do what we demand. i would also point out that his foreign policy advisors are all the same people who brought us the Iraq war and messed up the Afghanistan one and that they all think it was a good idea and that more war is a good idea.

  123. 123
    Betty Cracker says:

    @catclub: Excellent point. That would be a great way to put it.

  124. 124
    Chris says:

    @Grung_e_Gene:

    The new meme is “it’s Obama’s Watergate.”

  125. 125
    WJS says:

    @Bernard Finel:

    The Marshall/McCarthy/Eisenhower imbroglio happened 60 years ago. Even old geezers have no idea what the hell you’re talking about. The idea that invoking Marshall somehow sent a signal to anyone is just silly.

    No, nobody in Israel thinks further back than a few years. They’re not obsessed with the past, with signals, and with context at all. Nobody in Israel is acutely aware of things like that at all. In fact, just the other day, someone in Israel said, “you know, we’ve been silly–let’s let the past go and let’s all live in one big happy land full of cupcakes and sunshine and moonbeams.”

    You got me there.

    And, snark now off, that’s the hole in your post that you can’t fill. That’s an incredibly important point to miss–a Republican mentioning George Marshall in a positive way is an attempt to walk back towards a more moderate foreign policy. This is the moderate Mitt that reappeared at the debate. It ain’t gonna fly.

    Just because you don’t recall or know or can grasp the significance of a Republican candidate for President mentioning George Marshall and Israel in the same speech, with him passing completely over the fact that Marshall opposed US recognition of Israel and was hounded relentlessly by the Republican Party establishment for his positions, don’t all of a sudden pretend it doesn’t matter. With regards to Israel, American foreign policy, and signals, it certainly does matter.

    No, Marshall is now seen as a synomym for “statesman,” which is what Romney was trying to invoke for himself. Marshall would have thought Romney an idiot, and his approach to foreign policy disastrous. I doubt Romney or his speechwriters even know what Marshall stood for, much less are trying to tie themselves to his approach to foreign policy in any substantive way.

    Among Democrats, yes. Among Republicans, he became a pariah figure and a shorthanded phrase for losing China and appeasing the Communists. And no one knows what Marshall would have thought of today’s foreign policy establishment or wannabes. He was a remarkable man, but the context of mentioning him in a speech should resonate with people who think carefully about these issues.

    You’ve got more holes in your analysis than substance, and you’re trying to say everything and nothing at the same time like someone afraid to be called out for missing something big.

  126. 126
    Corner Stone says:

    @shortstop: Thank you.

  127. 127

    @Corner Stone: Samantha from Who’s the Boss? She has some natural resources. Always been a fan. Also, too, Mona was great.

  128. 128
    jonas says:

    @TooManyJens: Yes, there are some ultra-orthodox Jews who do not recognize the state of Israel because it is not a biblical theocracy. I don’t know how many of the ultra-Orthodox *actually living in Israel* believe this, but they are out there. Moreover, ultra-Orthodox in Israel often receive exemptions from military service because they qualify as “religious students” (they attend yeshiva full time) and take advantage of public welfare because they devote themselves to religious study rather than work.

    It’s more than just a little ironic that the country so many American conservatives claim to idolize subsidizes a large minority of its population with public welfare in this way.

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