I'm a bottom-line kind of housewife, so here's the "Real" deal on the battle in Boca Raton. Barack Obama won the final presidential debate. Say what you want about Romney going peaceful to win undecided female voters, but he got his ass handed to him. If you don't counter-punch when you face a fierce uppercut on Iran and a mean cross on Egypt, you may go down for the count in voters' minds, on foreign policy. I said after the first debate, "If you play not to lose, you will" when President Obama went soft. This time, Mitt Romney ran that risk and it led to the first time we've literally seen him sweat in the six years he's been running for president. Will any of this help to seal the deal for Obama after his Denver debacle? We won't know until election night, at the earliest (I'm talking to you, Florida and Ohio!). Now, if you're asking, "what does she know about a debate in Florida?" then you haven't seen The Real Housewives of Miami. So, without further delay, here's my last in a series of posts on the presidential debates.
Etch-A-Sketch Mitt Romney's team just shook out a new version of their candidate. First off, What does Romney stand for? Acting "presidential" in the debate, doesn't mean you attach yourself to the president's foreign policies after months of criticizing them. "Leading from behind" in the Middle East has magically become a great idea of "working through our partners." He agreed with so much of the president's agenda, you'd think he was speaking for the president's campaign. Clearly, he got the memo to lay off the war-mongering talk (maybe it was lost in the binder full of women?). Problem is, Romney has gone from a hawk in the primaries to someone who espoused Obama's strategies overseas last night and finally a dove who would make George McGovern proud (Rest in peace, Senator!). Where is the Republican candidate? Conservatives should be nervous with a packaged candidate that could be a jack-in-the-box, if he gets into office.
Did Obama Sink Romney's Battleship? When pundits from former Bush strategist Matthew Dowd on ABC to Neil Cavuto on Fox Business Network knock a conservative on substance, that candidate lost. The exchange of the night came early on. Romney charged, "Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We're now at under 285." Obama shot back, "We have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, 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 made Romney look more out of place than a Real Housewife who shows up to a black tie event in sweats.
If Obama had an apology tour, then Romney danced with the Rockettes for three years. Both of these are false, but one party has tried to make one of them true. Romney repeated this claim of an "apology tour" in the debate, even though Foreign Policy's columnists called it a "canard," CNN labeled it "false" and countless fact-checkers said the same. Here's the deal. In his first year in office, President Obama went overseas to repair damaged ties to countries in the Middle East and Europe (thanks, President Bush!). During a series of speeches in those countries, President Obama pointed out past U.S. issues before he spoke of problems with the country he was in, as a way to say that we both have things to work on. It's a classic diplomatic tactic, so you don't come off like someone who's lecturing an alcoholic while you're holding a drink in each hand (not that us Housewives would know anything about that). You want them to listen to you and it works. Just look at how other nations joined us on the sanctions against Iran. But President Obama never issued an apology. Now, stop before I break out the photoshopped picture of Romney in a tutu!
Is that flop sweat on your brow or are you just nervous to see me? At one point, it wasn't just Mitt Romney's views on women that harkened back to 1960, his forehead did, too. Richard Nixon famously sweated through his first televised debate with JFK in 1960 and lost the debate, on style. In Boca Raton, Romney perspired more than Albert Brooks in that famous scene from Broadcast News. It was so bad, that Brooks tweeted, "If Romney sweats any more I get a royalty" and that the former governor "needs a binder full of Kleenex." With quips like that, we should make Albert an honorary Housewife!
Romney's debate performance was timeless. We heard a lot of talk before the first debate that Romney was practicing zingers. In Boca, President Obama was the one who landed all the rehearsed one-liners. He nailed Romney for saying Russia was our greatest geo-political threat by saying the 1980s called "for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War's been over for 20 years." He followed with, "You seem to want to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s." Of course, that was President Obama going off on Romney's statements, pre-Oct. 22, before his views changed to mirror those of the president, on Monday. He's like a reality star who's great on-camera being themselves before a network exec or publicist forces them to parrot a popular opinion, losing the spontaneity that made them great in the first place. Where was his passion? Where was his conviction?
I, sort of, feel your pain. Listen, none of us Real Housewives mind some airbrushing... on our photos in InTouch or US Weekly. But if you try to airbrush history in the Internet age, fact-checkers will take you down. President Obama used the "airbrush" attack on Romney's auto bailout criticism, but it could've come on Syria, Libya or a debt that's been built on the back of two wars he was in favor of. Even his his harrowing talk of the middle class, is a pivot.
Before I fully go there, let me say, it's not right to claim Romney is without compassion. The charity work he's done through his church is admirable. But it is possible to donate time or money to charity and still be out of touch with people's problems. His talk of the famous 47 percent proves it. So, last night when he spoke of Ann Romney's discussion with a woman who couldn't find work, he was appealing to the 47 percent he wrote off in a behind closed doors, $50,000 per person fundraiser. So, you can't turn around and ask for their vote after you ran them down.
Playing it safe is playing to lose. Mitt Romney showed up to the first debate ready to launch a bomb to close the gap. He did and it paid off. He showed up to Florida looking like he felt the pressure of a tight race and not wanting to lose. His strategy of letting things pass so he could seem above the fray, caught him flat-footed. Sure, he rattled off memorized lines to look like he studied hard for the showdown (like his talk of Mali or the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt). However, he was shown up on topics that ranged from naval ships (a naked attempt for voters in Virginia) to his bogus charge of Obama avoiding Israel, which Obama used to blast Romney for bringing donors and attending fundraisers, while he went on a solemn trip to Yad Vashem or victims of bombings from Hamas in Sderot. Couple that with any lack of a real difference on Syria or Afghanistan and Romney sometimes looked like a backseat driver or worse, the dog who got caught peeing on the carpet.
At the same time, President Obama also missed some opportunities. He could have hammered home more about how much of our debt comes from two wars orchestrated by men who had never been to war and how some of the same men are now Romney's foreign policy advisers. Also, while Romney's constantly badmouthed government bailouts, President Obama could have pivoted to show that the financial success of Romney's Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City was funded by a record $1.3 billion in federal funds. Governor, I know you'd rather talk about the records set by Olympians, not your lobbying efforts, but really? REALLY?
A phony war on China that does not include a Housewife throwing dishware. Romney talked of labeling China as a currency manipulator, but got shown up by Obama who said his record doesn't show an ability to get tough on them. He blasted Romney: "The fact is, while we were coordinating an international coalition to make sure these sanctions were effective, you were still invested in a Chinese state oil company that was doing business with the Iranian oil sector." No wonder he's getting slammed on the right, today.
If you think Obama or Romney Has This In The Bag, You Don't Know Politics. Yes, there's a strong feeling that the president won the final debate BUT... this thing is about as over as a Real Housewives season before the reunion taping. It was easier for Obama to look like the Commander In Chief, because he's had four years of experience and accomplishments (bin Laden, anyone?) to fall back on. His win on foreign policy was not a surprise but this election is all about our domestic economy and not it's about Get Out The Vote efforts. The next four years will be led by the man who has more supporters turn out, at the polls. I don't care who you vote for, if you don't get to a polling place on or before election day, you have NO RIGHT to bitch about the next four years. If you want to make a difference, put down the remote, back away from your computer and get into a voting booth! I'm guessing this is something both parties can agree on.
The Real Housewives of Miami airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo. Follow Lea Black on Twitter at @LeaBlackMiami.