THE BLOG
10/23/2012 08:36 am ET Updated Dec 23, 2012

The Debate Trilogy, Part III: Still Waiting for the Return of the Jedi

The latest CNN/ORC poll for the third and final presidential debate has Obama winning 48 percent to 40 percent over Romney.

Obama was expected to win this debate. Indeed, as several of my colleagues frankly put it, "It is his to lose." The same could be said about the overall election, but what we now know is this--it is going to be a close one, with many pundits forecasting that the election may come down to one state--Ohio.

Both candidates agreed on most foreign policy issues, from drone warfare to continued support of Israel. All this talk about drones (which I am glad finally came up) has me thinking about two characters from Star Wars.

And instead of being Obama-Wan-Kenobi, the President was more like Barry Fett, as he continued to attack Romney for his propensity to make prior inconsistent statements-- among them, his varied answer to the question of who is the biggest threat to America.

I was hoping to get more substance out of Obama during this final debate on foreign policy, but what I got instead was more of the anti-Romney pitch, as opposed to the pro-Obama argument.

There were many other instances throughout, the most memorable of which was Obama's retort to Romney's claim that our Navy is smaller than anytime since 1917: "Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed."

While the President accused Romney of playing Battleships, he came across as a man playing checkers---let me "jump" over this issue, now "king" me.

What about the fact that Obama's own Secretary of Defense said that the $1 trillion in potential defense cuts will be "devastating"? What about the possibility of across-the-board budget cuts to the military? I think it is fair to acknowledge that this is a real debate in and of itself.

Obama came back with this, "First of all, the sequester is not something that I've proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen." But when Obama tells me not to worry about the fiscal cliff, I still do, precisely because of Congress' proven track record of unprecedented discord.

I am equally doubtful that Romney, despite his bipartisan record in Massachusetts, can single-handedly fix Washington. But Romney was right about one thing--Washington is broken.

Monday night's moderator, Bob Schieffer, didn't say much to keep the conversation on foreign policy. Yet, his first few words more than made up for the lack of grit in his performance: "We want a debate that is worthy of the presidency--of the greatest country in the world."

I do not feel that this debate was worthy of the presidency. To be sure, this final debate was the best one thus far, in that it was not only highly contentious, but also the climax of a month's articulation of policy.

Still, attempts at asking specific questions were again side-stepped. For example, Romney completely avoided the question about whether he would support a preemptive Israeli strike against Iran. To be fair, Obama did not chime in either when given the chance.

But isn't this symbolic of the mediocrity and lukewarm answers we get in these debates? When we finally get a real hypothetical, one that may reveal a real and focused stance on a specific issue--we hear crickets.

When asked about America's role in the world, Romney thought that this would be a good time to interject his favorite point--the economy and his trusty five-point plan. Guilty of the same empty rhetoric, Obama spouted-out the same old sound-bytes we have all come to know and love, like, "It's time to do some nation building here at home."

This is because that is what makes sense...politically. Neither candidate has a true incentive to be candid or to lay out specific approaches to specific situations. Such rhetoric would be noble and brave, but would also be suicidal, as it needlessly exposes them to retorts and inherently ostracizes certain voters.

This year's debates were just like they always were, but for some reason I expected something different. Debates offer the candidates a rare opportunity, one outside of the arena of platitudes and skewed facts in advertising, to directly make their case to undecided voters.

Both candidates talked a lot about how we should each fact-check this and fact-check that. And where do we go to do this? Romney's answer, "Come to my website". I somehow doubt that is the answer.

And where do we go to continue the debate, once the waves of the election subside? How do we stay informed and continue to participate in between elections? This election, while it may seem like the most important thing right now, will come and go. Once it does, what can we do to hold these politicians accountable and have our voices heard?

According to Bob, Momma Schieffer once said, "Go vote; it'll make you feel big and strong." I agree with the first part. But not voting in a battleground state, my voice doesn't exactly feel big or strong. And it will remain this way for elections to come...unless we can find a way to have our voices heard-- to look at politics issue by issue, instead of politician by politician.

People say that this isn't possible amongst such a polarized electorate. Now, prove them wrong.