Analysis of media issues, politics and current events.
At the second presidential debate between Obama and Romney, Romney tried to go in for the kill by trying to paint Obama as weak, ineffective and secretly conspiratorial on his handling of the attacks on the Libyan embassy that resulted in the death of 4 people, including the Ambassador. A factual trip up by Romney (claiming that the president didn’t call it an “act of terror” early after the incident ) was revealed when transcripts and the debate moderator confirmed that Obama did. And Obama’s glaring push back (rightfully or acting) in claiming offense from Romney politicizing the Libyan issue clearly hurt Romney in the debate.
From the talking points from Romney and operatives still beating the battle drums this week for the Obama administration’s handling of Libya makes you picture a 60s Batman TV show villain saying after Batman escapes his trap and certain doom, ” You may have gotten out of my Libya trap this time Obama, but I’ll get you next time!!!” The next time will most certainly be the upcoming debate on foreign policy on Monday.
No, Romney and Romney campaign, you won’t. Here’s why.
Evidenced in both Paul Ryan and Romney, the presidential and vice-presidential candidates’ foreign policy strength and understanding doesn’t go too deep. This guys are fiscal/business guys who really don’t care or have a vision of foreign policy. Nor do the think it will help them win the election. And they act like it. Except for being coached on remembering leaders and major cities of a country, just about every foreign policy answer usually is delivered a sloganeered packaged to throw as a referendum or criticism of the Obama administration. Mostly in the form of “(Unlike Obama) We need to take on China” and the chestnut, “Obama keeps apologizing and showing weakness for the USA” and “Leading from behind.” Cute but nothing to show a clear thought-out policy. Just broad platitudes. Nothing to see an actionable governing idea.
Fine. Snappy platitudes get you through a speech or a domestic policy debate. Not 1 1/2 hours focused on foreign policy. That spreads sloganeering into a pretty thin gruel after a while. Plus the Obama foreign policy in reality is similar to a policy most GOP leader would follow. Often when pushed, both Ryan and Romney reluctantly admit the same while using a few different words to show a distinction without a difference.
The only real opening: Libya. Among the right and some low information news consumers, it’s the Solyndra or Fast & Furious of foreign policy. A government mistake or program failure mixed with unclear communications that has been talked up by right wing media to the verge of dangerous or cronyistic conspiracy. To say, “Oh, no. This is way more than just a f8ck up.” And some on the right have bought it.
It’s why Mitt Romney mentioned all three in the second debate. A wink to those that believe and an invitation for others to get on board. Problem is, they’re really not. These events should be investigated as mistakes in government and maybe heads should roll. But none of these are Watergate or 9/11. Sometimes f*ckup and bad decisions are just that. These stories try to play in the belief (or hope) in some that there must be more to this.
Yes, Solyndra got $500 million for solar power subsidies and the company failed. One of a few failures in a very successful program (started by President Bush and less than 2 out of the 33 Department of Energy loan recipients failed) to support new energy companies. Like Color, the web app startup given 41 million in venture capital funds that just went under, not all business will succeed no matter who funds them. So yes it was given money and failed. But some kind of earth-shattering conspiracy? No.
Fast & Furious. Another program started under the Bush Administration. Using guns track drug lords. With the dumb mistake of not tracking or accounting for guns getting in the hands of people that would use them for crimes. One which killed a border patrol office. Dumb? Yes. Vast government conspiracy? No.
And now Libya. No matter how you want to do the metrics. Whether that asking at what point did the Obama administration know that this was a terrorist attack or out of control protest. And why did they seem to speak with two voices? Fair. Or we an ask why didn’t the embassy get the security that some documents seem to show they requested? That’s fair – though the question now asked as much because that one goes back to Congress that turned down funding.
My point is, Romney can try to jab with this question, but this is not the story to build a whole foreign policy debate on. Especially when the eagerness of the Romney campaign to respond, let to Mitt Romney criticizing government official while they were under attack. He stays on it too long, he’s going to look petty and small-minded on foreign policy. All while up against a man who has to deal with foreign policy issues all over the world every day.
That’s a bit like taking on Tiger woods in a match because you see a weakness in his putt. Putting is important, but there more to Golf and being a golfer than putting. And you won’t win or beat that person with a narrow focus.
If the Romney campaign was smart, Libya should not be the main focus in the foreign policy debate. But without a strong forgiven policy background, it may be the only card they have.