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Maxim Thorne

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Obama-Romney Final Debate: Chess or Battleships?

Posted: 10/22/2012 10:45 pm

Tonight Romney seemed to be playing Battleship; Obama chess. While postured as the Foreign Policy Debate -- Romney certainly drove home his local economic agenda, perhaps avoiding his apparent weakness on foreign policy. He reiterated the millions on food stamps.

Battleship is a guessing game for two players, and time and time again Obama has drilled home that Romney's foreign policy seems chaotic and random. Romney used a scattershot approach with lots of inconsistency with previous positions. In a powerful moment Obama pointed out that Romney tonight acknowledged Al Qaeda as the greatest threat -- pulling back on the Governor's prior claim that it was Russia. And the best moment in keeping with Battleship was Romney's accusation that the US had fewer ships today than in 1916 -- to which Obama responded that we also had fewer horses.

Chess is a slower game of strategy where pieces are used to attack and capture the opponent's pieces, with the object of the game being to 'checkmate' the opponent's king by placing it under an inescapable threat of capture. Obama seemed to be building the case for America's role in world, investing in democracy, even when costs are real. He also kept "capturing" Romney's pieces of inconsistent arguments.

Both laid out quite different roles for America in the world. Obama argued for America's role in promoting democracy; Romney felt America's overall interest was peace -- arguing for ending conflict. This is puzzling -- we are revolutionary country -- and Obama was clear that we stand for transitions to democracy - even supporting conflict when necessary.

If you argue that Romney bested Obama in Debate One, besting the professorial and wonky President with clear and effective jabs. Tonight, Obama's approach was to use Romney as a punching bag. And even though this was the foreign policy debate Governor Romney kept bringing the talk to his local education and other policies in Massachusetts.

President Obama's style was the polar opposite to Debate One. His approach seemed to be consistent with talking about the military. Obama's arc of toughness reached a climax in the foreign policy and last debate tonight. He was using the alpha male A-Game. He wanted to appear smart and smarter. Tough and tougher. He punched holes in Romney's foreign policy inconsistencies; he was tough on Iran and on defense of Israel; he argued he invested more in the US Military than all the top ten countries in the world. And his memorable punch line to Romney: 'Every time you've offered an opinion, you've been wrong' on foreign policy..."

The President time and time again pulled the Commander in Chief card. He made clear that he was privy to information that rejected media reports. The Governor was on the defensive and did not seem to ever get a foothold in the debate. A heated moment was Romney attempting to diminish the killing of Osama bin Laden, arguing that we can't fight terrorism with killing. Obama scowled and argued about keeping focused on why we were fighting in the first place which Romney and the previous President Bush seemed to have forgotten.

In the battle of who is stronger on Israel both candidates pulled out most of the stops. But Romney argued that the world is scarier especially in the Middle East, not helped by Obama's "apology tour" and with negotiating with China. Obama saw a world with American influence growing and consistent (and one without foreign trip fundraisers in Israel). Obama was certainly supported by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak own words about Israel's relationship with the U.S. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26xy6Gbb3XY Finally, the President argued that Romney's scattered approach was dangerous for the world and Romney was partly responsible for directly shipping jobs to China.

So to win in Battleship you have to take out all your opponent's ships. In chess, you can leave pieces on the Board but still checkmate the King. Romney to his chagrin did not take out all of Obama's ships. Obama, on the other hand, played his chess game, cornered and checked Romney.

November 6 will show whether checkmate is the next move.

 

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