Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Over at Le Monde, I contributed an op-ed this morning with a rundown of last night's final debate between Obama and Romney, largely hailed by voters as a victory for the president.

In a debate remarkable in the virulence of the attacks leveraged, the scope of topics was surprisingly narrow, and most of the candidates' arguments were retread from various campaign speeches and events.

The big question of the night was leadership. The president accused his Republican rival of poor judgment, a man dangerously subscribing to the values and frameworks of a by-gone era. For his part, Romney condemned the president's weak global leadership, an "apology tour" that has seen the US' enemies empowered (Iran) and its allies cast aside (Israel). For all of their differences in world vision, Romney did agree with Obama on a number of issues (use of drones), in some cases making only minor distinctions (would have asked Mubarak to step down, but earlier). Perhaps a smart tactical move for a candidate hoping to pick up centrist and undecided voters...

Romney did not disqualify himself from the commander-in-chief test. The president was aggressive, and while supporters may celebrate the bite in his repeated attacks against Romney, it is unclear if voters will agree - or rather see it as unbecoming and evidence of a struggling candidate. Likewise, will voters sign on for Mitt Romney's calls for more defense spending and a more robust US presence in the world in a time of budgetary constraint and reduced ambition in American public opinion?

Foreign policy remains a secondary issue in the 2012 elections. Will Obama transform last night's performance into a second wind of electoral momentum? Or will Romney's cool showing be enough to convince voters to make a change?

Click here to read the full text (in French) via Le Monde