Not gonna rehash here the angry broadsides over the Romney-Crowley exchange in the last debate, and what's become a ridiculously inane politicizing of a tragedy (the death of an evidently talented and surely dedicated ambassador in Libya). But Steve Coll has made an incisive comment that bears posting:
Why are we arguing about bad intelligence reports or misleading characterizations from cabinet officials who were working from second-hand briefings when the facts have been more or less in plain sight since the beginning? There’s an answer, of course: a few weeks out from voting day, campaign strategists find phony but emotional arguments about foreign policy easier to make than subtle, meaningful ones.
Next week, the candidates devote an entire debate to foreign policy. After they are done arguing about who is a better friend of Israel or a more devoted enemy of the Taliban and Iran, what will they possibly talk about? Romney and Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan have both been repeating lately that Obama’s foreign policy is “unravelling before our eyes.” That is such a strange, vacant stretch of an argument that it will be entertaining to watch Romney try to extend it across ninety minutes. Surely by now, when he looks abroad, he no longer trusts his instincts.
Personally, I'm convinced that no matter who wins the debate Monday, and despite my many misgivings and complaints about steps that Obama has taken (or not taken) as president and commander-in-chief, he is - and will be - vastly more competent than Romney to lead the US's efforts in the wider world over the next four years. He's a well-informed, sober calculator who has also surrounded himself with other mostly well-informed, sober-calculator, experienced experts. Romney, on the other hand, though he presents himself to us as a would-be international leader, has no real experience on the international scene beyond organizing an Olympics in a (globally speaking) backwoods locale and making what amounted to a combination of pandering religious pilgrimage and tributary visit (to Bibi) to Israel. In essence, he's not much more on this score than a taller, older, slcker version of Sarah Palin.
Romney furthermore has surrounded himself with advisors who include Bush-administration neocon dead-enders (to borrow a Bush-administration phrase) whose blustering, wrong-headed policies inflicted upon the US its worst-ever strategic disaster as well as brought it to the brink of economic catastrophe.
That the Romney campaign now tries to pin the aftermath of both disasters on Mr. Obama should disgust any American who's been paying attention. And the possibility that the nation's security might be entrusted to the hands of such a non-statesman-like, patently vacillating politician and self-aggrandizing businessman ought to scare the be-jeezus out of all of us