Pre-review of tonight’s third presidential debate

Please do not expect a review tomorrow morning of tonight’s third and last debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the way I did for the other three debates. I will likely not watch it. Even if I start watching I am fairly certain that I will not stay until the finish, and even if sheer inertia causes me to stick it through to the end, I will be too annoyed to care to comment even about the debating tactics that each person uses.

Why my hostility to this debate? Because the topic is foreign policy and there is nothing more disgusting than listening to the leaders of the two major parties in the US talk on this topic. Both will start from the assumption that it is the right of the USA to tell other countries what to do and to lecture and threaten any nation that does not acquiesce to its dictates. The debate will only be about the details of how to do that and who will be more bellicose. It does not help that the moderator Bob Schieffer seems to have never had an original insight in his life and can be counted upon to not stray outside the boundaries of establishment thought.

But for your reading pleasure, here is a review of the debate before it even happens, so sure am I of the form it will take.

There will be the obligatory pandering to the military, about how great the troops are and appreciation for their sacrifices. There will be repeated affirmations that America is the greatest nation in the world, always has been and always will be, and that trillions of dollars need to be spent on the military in order to show the rest of the world who is boss because fear is the only thing other countries understand and they should always be aware that we can crush them like bugs.

Expect to hear each candidate talk without being specific about how they will grow the economy by increasing exports. Each will praise free trade while threatening other nations that they claim are acting ‘unfairly’, with that word being used against any country that acts in its own self-interest in ways that negatively affects the US’s own self-interest. There will competition to see who can be more bellicose about China specifically, since 15 minutes have apparently been reserved for this topic.

Romney will bring up the crazy notion that Obama has been going around the world ‘apologizing for America’ and that this is something he will never do, and also charge that Obama has also not ‘stood up’ to Putin. Romney will assert that he will make all these pesky foreign leaders bow their heads and acknowledge America’s supremacy, while Obama will boast about killing Osama bin Laden and other alleged terrorists around the world. How do we know they are terrorists, other than just on Obama’s say so? That impolite question will not be asked by our moderator.

There will also be a competition to see who can claim the mantle of greater willingness to threaten Iran with annihilation and to create even more misery for the Iranian people through sanctions. They will both express their undying love for Israel and clasp Benjamin Netanyahu to their bosoms as their BFF. If we are lucky, there will some slight mention of the Palestinians and the obligatory statement about needing to advance the ‘peace process’. There will be no mention of Gaza, unless the illegal boarding by Israel two days ago in international waters of a humanitarian ship containing several European parliamentarians bound for that port causes it to be raised.

There will be talk about what to do in Syria with both agreeing that something must be done to remove its current leadership and save its people from their current misery but being vague on the details. What about Libya and Benghazi? Fox News is pushing the Libya story hard. In the front section of Friday’s Plain Dealer there was an unusual full-page ad in ominous dark colors promoting a news show at 10:00 pm promising to blow the lid off this story. I did not watch it, of course, but all I read in the papers the next day were stories quoting anonymous intelligence sources that lent some support to the Obama administration’s admittedly shaky version of events. Romney may still be nursing his largely self-inflicted wound on that fiasco from the last debate and is well-advised to give it a miss.

But what is most significant is what will not be discussed. You will not hear any disagreement on the merits or even legality of murdering people in other countries using drones; the deaths of so many civilians, old, children, men, and women, as a result of this terror rained from the sky and the inevitable blowback from it; the right of the president to arrest and indefinitely detain without trial anyone at all; the alternative ‘justice’ system of military tribunals that has been created to arrive at pre-determined results in which even statements obtained under torture are admitted as evidence and if, by some miracle, a detainee is found innocent, can continue to be detained forever; and all the other violations of civil liberties that the so-called ‘global war on terror’ has unleashed, from wiretappings to the harassment of critics, such as the search and seizure of the property of anyone entering the country who sheds light on any of these practices. To have these topics raised, you would need someone like Glenn Greenwald as moderator.

You will hear a lot of tough talk, especially from Obama, about bringing those who harm Americans to justice but you will not hear a peep from either of them about bringing to justice all the Americans who have committed war crimes, ranging from committing torture to launching unprovoked wars because, by definition, Americans do not commit war crimes, only the enemies of America do.

So there you have it, your debate for tonight, even before it happens. The only reason for me to watch it is to see how accurate my pre-review is but I can do that by reading the transcript the next day. My time will be better spent reading a book. If any readers of this blog watch it, please tell me in the comments how it went.


  1. Jockaira says

    I agree, not necessarily with all your viewpoints, but with the main one about the current nature of Presidential Debates which have become an opportunity for the Repubs and the Demos to cloak themselves in the respectability of apparent public debate over serious issues.

    As presently constituted, these debates are nothing more than managed political advertisements designed to evade the limitations on spending and to sucker the voters into believing that any of the discussed issues will actually be concretely addressed by either candidate after elections.

    Hot Air for the masses!

  2. Corvus illustris says

    No “reply” is necessary or even possible. But when they get to

    … America is the greatest nation in the world, always has been and always will be, and … trillions of dollars need to be spent on the military in order to show the rest of the world who is boss because fear is the only thing other countries understand and they should always be aware that we can crush them like bugs.

    my fondest fantasy is that on a screen behind them the face of Chalmers Johnson would appear, with an easily-legible caption reading

    Things that can’t go on forever–don’t.”

  3. Curcuminoid says

    “that we can crush them like bugs.”

    Let’s see how that plays out:
    -US tells China what to do with its currency
    -China tells US what to do with that demand
    -Chickenhawks in Washington decide to “crush them like bugs.”
    -China launches its nukes
    -America launches its nukes
    -Everyone dead, nuclear winter

    Doesn’t seem like the military really benefitted us there. Economic strength is more important in clashes between major powers. Although that last consequence does explain why conservatives aren’t worried about global warming…

  4. Aratina Cage says

    I’m feeling so uneasy about watching it, but I will. Given that this final debate is on foreign policy, I wonder, how did the president luck out in never being asked about his detestable states’ rights opinion on same-sex marriage? So damn lucky he is because it certainly would have hurt his chances among a sizeable number of his current supporters were he to repeat that line again.

    As for war, Obama’s team may be bad, but they’re not warmongers and are substantially better than the neocons who are rallying around Romney. It is way past time for Democrats to claim the military mantle and show they are more responsible on military matters than Republicans, and I think President Obama has the skill to pull that off in this debate. Last time he had it rather easy debating the that overzealous idiot, John McCain, who had just declared his intention to start a military ruckus with Russia.

  5. Stevarious, Public Health Problem says

    Last time he had it rather easy debating the that overzealous idiot, John McCain, who had just declared his intention to start a military ruckus with Russia.

    I suspect Romney will be just as bellicose, and present himself as just as willing and eager to start a fight with qhoever seems to have it coming. Likely suspects include Iran and China.

    Obama could win this simply by pointing out how Romney eagerness to start a war makes him completely unfit for the office of President. No CiC should ever be EAGER for war.

  6. jhendrix says

    What’s sad is that you’re probably spot on.

    I was tempted to make a drinking game of it, each time a candidate lied or used a fallacy I’d take a drink. But that would only end up with my wife dialing 9-1- and waiting 15 minutes to push the last 1.

    Still, I think I’ll watch it with one glass of a good bourbon and make snide comments with other folks on a political message board. Should make it entertaining at least.

  7. Francisco Bacopa says

    Just got through watching the debate. it wasn’t as bad as Mano predicted. Romney took a big turn toward the peace thing and spent about a quarter of the time praising Obama. Romney had a fairly strong closing statement, but was very weak on the last question.

    I missed the first two minutes of the debate as I went from driving home from a gig listening to the intro on Pacifica to switching to watching it on Youtube. Wouldn’t have missed it, but the line was long at Whataburger.

    If you listened to the Pacifica coverage you might have noticed that the intro and post debate show where hosted by KPFT in Houston. They are having a fund drive now. Consider dropping them a dime.

    Interesting fact about KPFT. They are the Pacifica station that has suffered the most violent attacks. They were bombed off the air in 1971 by the KKK. They had a couple of minor arsons in the 1990’s, and someone shot out their windows with a rifle just a couple of years ago. Other interesting fact: KPFT has its studios in the boyhood home of former Secretary of State James Baker.

  8. lochaber says

    I kinda like pacifica, and they seem to have pretty close ties to Amy Goodman, who I’ve been a fan of since I read her book ‘Exception to the Rulers:…”. pretty awesome journalist.

    And both her, and pacifica (when I get the opportunity to listen to them) seem to have no hesitancy to rail on the celebrities of the left if they are doing something hypocritical or stupid.

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