Presidential Debate: Friends and Foreign Policy (Ohmigod, Israel is SUCH a Monica!)

Foreign Policy debateThe debate last night was on foreign policy, but it would be hard to know unless you happened to see that the banner said The Presidential Debate on Foreign Policy or noticed the throbbing vein in moderator Bob Scheiffer’s forehead. Both candidates kept twisting every question back to domestic policy issues ranging from education to the economy to the energy crisis. This is probably because if they had not done so, they would have had to change the title to The Presidential Agreement on World Peace and Iran Sucks.

There was little discord on anything but military spending, and for the most part the debate consisted of Mitt going “…Um. What he said.” The two candidates agreed that: 1) Democracy and peace are good; 2) Bashar Al-Assad killing his own people is super mean; 3) America is the best ever; 4) Iran getting a nuclear bomb is unacceptable. You think that you think it’s unacceptable, but no one would be less okay with that than me, [insert candidate name here].  The overarching theme throughout the debate was that both candidates are wary of the tensions rising in the Middle East and neither wants to become embroiled in another war. But we knew that heading into the debate.

If you want the water cooler version, here it is: Nothing happened. Make sure to slump exasperatedly against said water cooler as you say this, rolling your eyes with the pain of someone severely burdened (with something other than the guilt of knowing you spent yesterday evening on Sporkle, trying to remember the theme song from The Jeffersons). Obama (kind of) won, in that he made more points that were based on facts, was able to map a more detailed plan moving for forward in global leadership, and managed to pull off a zinger whose punch line was “bayonets” (a feat not achieved since the Comedy Central Roast of General MacArthur).

And so we have to make decisions based upon uncertainty.” So said Mitt Romney last night, in reference to the future of his foreign policy decisions (incredibly confidence-inspiring as a leadership trajectory). The soundbite seems to serve as a nice summary for the choice facing American voters in two weeks: for many, a vote cast elbows-deep in not knowing what the hell is going on. Next week, the mitZine will provide a breakdown of the big election issues, but for now, feast your eyes on some of the compelling words and incisive thoughts spoken at last night’s debate:


Used occasionally by Obama, Mitt said the word ‘friend’ more than a new sixth grader trying to make sure everyone knows how cool her other school was. For someone who is Biden and Big Birdgunning to get rid of Sesame Street, Mitt speaks like he is auditioning for a role in a Muppet family instead of as leader of the free world. One of the few times he used the word ‘allies’ was when was bragging about the amount they had, like America is the coolest kid on NATObook, saying “We’re the…the great nation that has allies, 42 allies and friends around the world.” It makes sense for Big Bird to call Oscar a friend; less so for America to call Pakistan a friend, even if they are both grumpy and having some issues around recycling. If he wins the presidency, the U.N. might have to change its anthem from ‘Ode to Joy” to “Can you tell me how to get, how to get to the General Assembly?”

‘Play by the rules’
Again, Mitt was the worst culprit for touting this phrase. Mostly used in reference to China, ‘playing by the rules’ was said over and over—typically in the context “We can be friends if you play by the rules” (didn’t Big Bird say that first?). Neither Mitt or Obama should ever be allowed to berate someone for not playing by the rules: one continues to kill citizens extra-judiciously, the other made his billions exploiting loopholes in the tax code. Your high horse was a casualty of the ‘horse and bayonet’ layoffs of 1917.

‘Crippling sanctions’
It’s difficult to explain how ridiculous this was unless you were watching: in the cases of both Syria and Iran, the U.S. is currently imposing ‘crippling sanctions’ to hurt the regimes, which typically means trade embargoes, dissolution of diplomacy, etc. Mitt kept on insisting that he would do the same thing, but that he would somehow make them ‘crippling-lier.’ Obama kept countering that they were already as crippling as possible. This kept going back and forth for minutes at a time: “Well you seem to be okay with the Tiny Tim standard, but I’m going for the full Christopher Reeve here.”

“Bob. Bob…..Bob. Bob–!”
Used whenever a candidate wanted the moderator’s attention. Bob!


On the state of our foreign policy:

“I see Iran four years closer to a bomb.
I see the Middle East with a rising tide of violence, chaos, tumult.
I see Jihadists continuing to spread…
I see Syria with 30,000 civilians dead, Assad still in power.
I see our trade deficit with China larger than it’s-”*

*To be sung to the tune of “It’s a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong (i.e. substitute ‘Iran four years closer to a bomb’ for ‘trees of green’). When your throat gets sore from Louis-ing, just end with a hearty “And I think to myself, what a Terrible World.” And then dive into “I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends” while waving a sparkly collage of your 42 global BFFs.

On a strategy for American defense:

Well, my strategy’s pretty straightforward, which is to go after the bad guys, to make sure we do our very best to interrupt them, to — to kill them, to take them out of the picture.”

To clarify, “bad guys”=“not friends.” Mitt’s general strategy is also coincidentally the general strategy of the Taliban, the PowderPuff Girls, Shia LaBouef in Transformers, and any teenage boy playing Call of Duty 4 right now. What are the chances?

Middle East GeographyOn geography:

“Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea.”

Um, no. This is not correct. 1) Iran and Syria do not share a border, and 2) Iran  already has a coastline. You just know George W. Bush is watching this going, “This guy is still the ‘smart’ Republican leader?? I called Africa a NATION one time!”


On promoting human rights and democracy worldwide:

“The notion that we would have tanks run over those young people who were in Tahrir Square, that is not the kind of American leadership that John F. Kennedy talked about 50 years ago.”

This makes no sense, right? Am I missing context? John F. Kennedy is a President who promoted American leadership and protests in Tahrir square is an issue of democracy…how is putting them together a strong rhetorical point? “Abraham Lincoln would really not have liked it when the Taliban assassinated that 14-year-old girl. He would have been really upset.”

On how good of a person he is:

“And then I went down to the border towns of Sderot, which had experienced missiles raining down from Hamas. And I saw families there who showed me where missiles had come down near their children’s bedrooms…”

Obama could not stop telling mushy anecdotes. It was like he was operating on two settings: Normal Obama and someone reading excerpts from Chicken Soup for the Commander-in-Chief’s Soul.

Obama TrebuchetsOn bayonets (oh snap!):

“But 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.”

He was visibly so excited for Mitt to start criticizing the smaller size of the Navy so he could whip this one out. “I don’t know if Iran has a bomb but I sure do, and it’s an idiot-seeking missile.”

On oh snap, part deux:

“And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”

Sorry 1980s, can you hold for one second? Yep……Oh, okay. The 1990s are on the other line—they want their joke back.

Moderator Bob Scheiffer

On re-directing conversation:

“Let me get back to foreign policy.”

It’s not like it’s the topic of the debate. Wait, it is?!Obama bin Laden

On poor phrasing:

“Obama’s Bin Laden…”

Say it ten times fast. Never mind, just say it one time at a normal speed. Does it still sound like Obama Bin Laden? Come on, Bob.

On Mitt being ridiculous:

“Yes, we all love teachers.”

I love that he couldn’t resist calling Mitt out after he was talking about cuts in education and then tried to temper it by saying, “Look: I love teachers.” You just got the impression that he had had it up to his wrinkly forehead in the empty, hollow, back and forth dialogue between the candidates. It was the moderator version of this:


Jas Irwin is quickly becoming the designated political commentator for mitZine.

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