Best Lines From Last Night’s Debate


I went through the transcript and found some rather amusing lines from last night’s foreign policy “debate.” Some of them stuck out at me when I heard them (I was flipping channels back and forth, so didn’t see the whole thing). I loved this line from Romney:

And — and we’re going to have to recognize that we have to do as the president has done. I congratulate him on — on taking out Osama bin Laden and going after the leadership in al-Qaeda.

I love how he started with the “we’re going to have to recognize” line, as though what he was going to say after that is something important, then all he says is that he agrees with the president. Yes Mitt, we’re going to have to recognize that Obama did the right thing. Way to make the case to replace him!

But we can’t kill our way out of this mess. We’re going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the — the world of Islam and other parts of the world, reject this radical violent extremism, which is — it’s certainly not on the run.

There isn’t a single idea in all of that. A “comprehensive and robust strategy” is just a generic nothing. It’s what you say when you have nothing specific to say. Obama’s answer was equally substance-free:

Now, it is absolutely true that we cannot just meet these challenges militarily. And so what I’ve done throughout my presidency and will continue to do is, number one, make sure that these countries are supporting our counterterrorism efforts.

Number two, make sure that they are standing by our interests in Israel’s security, because it is a true friend and our greatest ally in the region.

Number three, we do have to make sure that we’re protecting religious minorities and women because these countries can’t develop unless all the population, not just half of it, is developing.

Number four, we do have to develop their economic — their economic capabilities.

This is one of the most irritating things about these debates, and it’s why there needs to be a real moderator instead of a spineless lapdog: the candidates are always talking about what we must do or ought to do, but they talk only in terms of outcomes. “We have to make sure everyone is treated equally” or “We need to get the economy moving again.” Yeah, no shit. But the question was, what are you going to do to make that happen? Repeating what we want as an outcome of policy has nothing to do with discussing the policy and why it would work.

Oh, and then there’s the abysmal ignorance from Romney:

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

Say what? Iran is on the fucking ocean, with almost 2500 kilometers of coastline on the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Syria has less than 200 kilometers of coastline on the Mediterranean. And Iraq is in between the two countries, so Iran couldn’t get anything to Syrian ports without shipping it through Iraq (which they can’t do). Seriously, this is something any high school kid who’s taken geography would know.

Comments

  1. psweet says

    Seriously, this is something any high school kid who’s taken geography would know.

    Except that high school kids these days rarely take geography.

  2. baal says

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

    This was the part I laughed at. I wonder if this isn’t a misstatement about oil pipelines or somesuch (but again…ocean!) The rest of the debate was beyond trite with Mitt largely wanting to do the Obama but with more severity.

    /agree about the moderation. It was 100% beltway boring with received wisdoms and careful avoidance of controversy. (Say, what is the average life expectancy for Gaza?)

    Also, 1916; I guess they did have internal combustion motors for the Navy but I was imagining sailing ships with 3 masts vs nuclear subs or the floating cities that are air craft carriers.

  3. Johnny Vector says

    Actually, for a top-level policy description, neither of these is completely content-free. It seems they are both saying that we need more than just a military response. Which is, like, duh, but it’s good to hear them say it.

    The question is, which of them do you believe would actually pursue a strategy that involves more than just killing people:

    1. The guy who didn’t go into Iran with guns blazing, but has pressured them economically to the point where they’ve said “Unc”, and are starting to form an “l” shape with their lips, or

    2. The guy who has John Fucking Bolton advising him on foreign policy?

  4. says

    I could understand a candidate for the office of President making an error with regards to discussing foreign policy vis-à-vis, say, Chad, or Andorra, or Bhutan.

    Heck, I could understand it when discussing friendly, more-or-less boring countries from the US’ perspective (like where I live, Canada, even though we’re just next door).

    But Iran?

    Even granting that you can’t set up a harbour for oil tankers just anywhere, Romney’s statement about Iran is just ridiculous.

    I’m not one for expecting politicians to think quickly on their feet when discussing policy for the purposes of rhetorical effect – indeed, I’d rather they take the time to carefully deliberate and review evidence and all that – but going into a debate one should at least know key things about key foreign policy files (such as, say, Iran).

  5. says

    I think you’re being too hard on Obama here. What he said isn’t very substantial, but it’s hardly as insubstantial as Romney’s unelaborated robust plan.

  6. Randomfactor says

    But we can’t kill our way out of this mess.

    And then he proceeds to make his foreign policy all about killing bad guys.

  7. Who Knows? says

    The rest of the debate was beyond trite with Mitt largely wanting to do the Obama but with more severity.

    I didn’t catch much of the debate, but I did hear President Obama say something like, It sounds like you want to do just what we’re doing, only louder.

  8. says

    Say what? Iran is on the fucking ocean, with almost 2500 kilometers of coastline on the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Syria has less than 200 kilometers of coastline on the Mediterranean. And Iraq is in between the two countries, so Iran couldn’t get anything to Syrian ports without shipping it through Iraq (which they can’t do). Seriously, this is something any high school kid who’s taken geography would know.

    That’s not the worst part about the whole Syria thing, Ed.

    I didn’t watch the debate, as I had far more important things to do, including watching Da Bears, watching baseball, playing Civilization 5, and listening to Green Day’s American Idiot on a constant loop in an attempt to retain my sanity. So I got the whole Iran/Syria thing as a bunch of image macros on Facebook.

    My initial reaction was, “What the hell? Why is everyone suddenly bringing up stupid crap Romney said six months ago?”

    Yeah, I don’t remember when, but I know that this isn’t the first time Mitt has made that claim. Steve Benen has confirmed that he said it as far back as February: http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2012/10/23/14642377-flunking-geography-101

    This really should be Mitt’s, “I can see Russia from my house,” moment.

  9. Scott Hanley says

    Doesn’t Syria provide Russia with its only naval base in the Mediterranean? Perhaps in flipping through his mental flash cards, Romney just grabbed the first one with the word “Syria” on it.

    The sad part about last night’s debate is that the Iranian government will listen to it and say, Yep, that’s why we need nuclear weapons. A few years ago I though war with Iran was a pipe dream from Bush-era dead-enders; now it seems to be a bipartisan consensus.

  10. anteprepro says

    Is it any wonder why Republicans hate the education system so much? If we lived in a world where everyone north of age 14 could easily detect that Republicans don’t know shit about shit, Republican politicians would be as non-existent as they deserve to be.

  11. says

    Normally, I’m decent at geography. If you gave me a contour map with no political borders, I’d still be able to get the general area of Iran. Given that I forgot it had coastlines, I’d probably err slightly more inland.

    It doesn’t take a complete idiot to not know this, but I’d expect a presidential candidate to know at least that much geography, given that Iran’s such a hot topic.

  12. slc1 says

    Re baal @ #2

    Actually, sailing ships went out, at least for blue water navies, before the Civil War. By 1916, the major navies of the world were all steel and driven by steam turbine engines (see articles on the British battleship Dreadnaught). Even crude submersibles were employed, particularly by the Germans.

    What was missing in 1916 was aviation, nuclear powered submarines, and nuclear powered aircraft carriers. One such aircraft carrier could have sunk the entire British Grand Fleet in the morning, the German High Seas Fleet over lunch, and the US fleet of battleships in the afternoon.

  13. Ben P says

    Doesn’t Syria provide Russia with its only naval base in the Mediterranean? Perhaps in flipping through his mental flash cards, Romney just grabbed the first one with the word “Syria” on it.

    Someone said it above, this was most likely an attempted but failed reference to being sold through Syria

    Because of the sanctions Iran has difficulty selling its oil and gas through the gulf, so it pipes it to Syria and Syria sells it.

    I honestly don’t know whether Syria provides any naval bases to Russia. I do know that (to the extent Russia still maintains a Mediterranean fleet) the Russian med fleet is based in the black sea at Sevastopol. They have to sail through the Bosporus to get to the med, but that’s not impossible.

  14. brucegee1962 says

    The thing I’m amazed about in the debates is how Mitt always seems to come down squarely on both sides of every issue. In domestic issues, he will cut taxes, because taxes are BAD, but not do anything to touch revenue, because revenue is GOOD. In foreign affairs, he will put pressure on Iran, but he won’t NEGOTIATE with them, because negotiation is for wusses, apparently.

  15. grumpyoldfart says

    See, all that dumbing down of the population has worked a treat. No need for Presidential candidates to know anything about anything. They can say whatever pops into their heads and the hoi-poloi will accept it

  16. plutosdad says

    Mitt’s “we can’t kill our way out” is the same as Obama’s “we have to do more than bomb weddings” (I think he said weddings, but it was right after an attack that went wrong) Just a dumb ass thing someone says that oversimplifies everything.

    Of course, thanks to drone technology, Obama has actually ramped up the collateral damage and made it part of his strategy. Oh wait it’s not collateral damage, because we define every male of fighting age in the vicinity of a target to be a terrorist.

    So, it’s worse now. And it won’t change as long as they (the law, networks, etc) don’t let the 3rd party candidates even speak or participate.

    “Doesn’t Syria provide Russia with its only naval base in the Mediterranean?”

    No, that is Serbia, which was why Russian tanks swept in when NATO was acting there. It’s also why Russia got involved just before WWI and caused a panic, just when the crisis was about to get settled.

  17. says

    it’s why there needs to be a real moderator instead of a spineless lapdog

    C’mon – you know the debates wouldn’t even happen if they weren’t pre-scripted and the moderator had agreed to do everything except, um, moderate.

    Related but unrelated is this wonderful video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QlwilbVYvUg
    “it’s morman judy and cow-people!”

  18. slc1 says

    Re Marcus Ranum @ #19

    I think the women moderators in the debates did pretty well. Clearly, Schieffer and Lehrer are a couple of senior citizens in far over their heads.

  19. eric says

    On those middle two quotes: that was during the discussion on the Arab spring, Egypt, etc. I got the impression during that part of the debate that Obama was being very circumspect because he wants to (i) work with those governments while (ii) still working with opposition groups to improve civil and human rights. For example, mentioning that Egypt had a Muslim Brotherhood president but repeating ‘we have to be careful’ two or three times throughout. That subtext says to me: ‘I’m not going to badmouth the guy when I have to work with his government tomorrow. Winning this debate point is not worth the fallout of telling the world that my administration is working against his reelection.’

    So I gave him a pass on that. Yeah it was bland, but I can see good policy reasons (entirely separate from campaigning) to stay bland when talking about islamist political power in Egypt, Turkey, etc.

  20. left0ver1under says

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

    Say what? Iran is on the fucking ocean, with almost 2500 kilometers of coastline on the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

    It’s yet another display of their short-term “thinking” and attention spans. It was only last year the rightwing media blathered about Iran blocking the strait of Hormuz, trying to build up an excuse for starting a war.

    Why do these people “think” that facts are irrelevant or mutable? Maybe they’re illiterate. It certainly would explain a lot.

  21. baal says

    @#7 I’d like to think I came to that conclusion without the priming. I’m not shilling on the (D) side and my politics are to the left of the democrats (though not necessarily in line with anyone is an activist on a given issue).

  22. fastlane says

    And after the fact, Faux Noise had, you’ll love this, Sarah Pallin, offering her insights on foriegn policy and her opinion of the debate.

    The jokes, they write themselves.

  23. says

    “There isn’t a single idea in all of that. A ‘comprehensive and robust strategy’” is just a generic nothing.”

    And how is his strategy of running around punching countries in the face “nothing”, hmmm? You can’t get much more comprehensive and robust than “John Bolton says I should punch everybody who displeases us in the face”. That’s not a “generic nothing”. That’s a generic something.

  24. Ben P says

    I think the women moderators in the debates did pretty well. Clearly, Schieffer and Lehrer are a couple of senior citizens in far over their heads.

    I disagree to some extent.

    Lehrer was pathetic, he had no control over either participant and let Romney run the show because Romney was the more aggressive one.

    Crowly was the second worst. She held it together sometimes, but a few other times Romney just rolled her over by bulling ahead with his response regardless of what she said.

    Raddatz I think was the best of the group, but neither Biden nor Ryan were as aggressive as Romney has been. She impressed me far more by asking really pointed questions of the debaters. If a moderator had asked a question of Palin like “Vice President Biden, there was just an attack on Libya that killed our ambassador and three other americans, why wasn’t that a massive failure of inteligence” you’d never hear the end to the whining.

    Schieffer had less control than Raddatz, but neither Biden nor Ryan was quite as aggressive as Romney though. Schieffer had one really shining moment though when he handled romney like a pro. The format for a particular question was R, O, R, O, where Obama got the last word on that particular question. Obama finished his rebuttal and when Schieffer started to move on to the next question this happened:

    SCHIEFFER: All right, let’s go. And that leads us — this takes us right to the next segment, Governor, America’s longest war, Afghanistan and Pakistan…

    ROMNEY: Bob…

    SCHIEFFER: Governor, you get to go first.

    ROMNEY: You can’t — but you can’t have the president just lay out a whole series of items without giving me a chance to respond.

    SCHIEFFER: With respect, sir, you had laid out quite a program…

    ROMNEY: *laughs* Well, that’s probably true.

    I think that was a really masterful handling of Romney. if he’d just try to tell romney NO, Romney would have kept trying to talk because that’s his strategy.

  25. caseloweraz says

    I liked the tweet from Mike Drucker that ABC flashed on the screen at one point: Romney supports doing what the president is doing; he’s just very angry about it.

    And let’s not forget the “horses and bayonets” line. This came when Romney was talking about the Navy having fewer ships than in 1916. The president said, “We also have fewer horses and bayonets than we did in 1916. That’s because our military has changed.”

    President Obama won this debate.

  26. says

    I’m almost completely lost on how the wingnuts can figure what Obama said was an insult. The bit about bayonets — well, wingnuts have a tendency to be overly literal, so there’s no logic there, just stupidity. But how exactly they can interpret Obama as calling the modern navy obsolete is completely opaque to me. You can’t get there from here.

  27. blf says

    By 1916, the major navies of the world were all steel and driven by steam turbine engines

    Mostly using coal-burning boilers. The USAlien Navy converted to oil in-between the wars.

    That means some proportion of the naval ships of the time were coal resupply / refueling ships (not sure what they are called: coaliers? coal tenders (the term I’ll use here)? collier? …?). I have no idea as to what proportion were coal tenders, but would not be too surprised if it was a rather large number — coal’s energy density is not, I think, very high, so you’re “constantly” needing to refuel.

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