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The Times
  • Editorial: Debates done, let's vote

  • From the get-go it was clear what both candidates were trying to accomplish at the third and last - thank heavens - debate Monday night, this one dedicated largely to foreign policy.

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  • From the get-go it was clear what both candidates were trying to accomplish at the third and last - thank heavens - debate Monday night, this one dedicated largely to foreign policy.
    Republican Mitt Romney was in reassurance mode, trying to retire Dem-inflamed perceptions that he's a wild-eyed warmonger. Indeed, he emphasized that a Romney administration would not lead with its sword but with economic aid, education, advocacy for women's rights and the rule of law. Out of the box he declared that "we can't kill our way out of this mess" in the Middle East. In those moments when the president tried to bait him into more heated discussion, especially regarding his "all over the map" stances, Romney resisted.
    For his part President Obama tried to come off as the sane and steady hand, the guy with the real commander-in-chief chops who ended the war in Iraq, charted an exit from Afghanistan, took out Osama bin Laden and tamed al-Qaida. He had the night's most winning line, in response to a Romney allegation that America's Navy has its smallest fleet in almost a century: "Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed." In short, Romney is out of touch, "wrong and reckless," Obama stated.
    Yet for the most part there really is not that much daylight between the two on foreign policy - yes on both counts to combat troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014; no on both counts to military intervention in Syria; yes on both counts to the use of drones; OK, OK, economic sanctions can be effective in crippling Iran. Romney again trotted out the tired lines about Obama's "apology tour" - the "biggest whopper" of the campaign, retorted the president - and about being "four years closer to a nuclear Iran," which is supposed to sound sinister but doesn't mean much. Meanwhile, Obama tried to fend off accusations that our relationship with Israel has soured. Interestingly, not much attention went to his administration's bungling in Benghazi.
    Where there were significant differences, well, Romney promises to be a big spender on defense. Obama poses the question of whether we really need to have a more expensive military than the next dozen or so nations combined. Romney also talks tough on China, calling that nation a "currency manipulator" that will have to bend, or else. Both positions may crash head-on into two other labels the Republican has sought to attach to himself: deficit buster and free trader.
    The early gauges of voter sentiment had Obama winning the debate, but so what? That was the expectation, as he's had much more practice in this area. In the final analysis, Romney did well enough. This election is not going to swing on foreign policy, in a nation that can be forgiven for having war and debate fatigue alike.
    Page 2 of 2 - Less than two weeks out and polls indicate the race is a dead heat. Ultimately, this page takes it as a given that both these guys will do everything in their power to protect the American people, and that both of them know citizens are now fixated on nation building back home, with economic security inextricably linked to national security. Let's vote.
    Journal Star of Peoria, Ill.
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