The final debate between Mitt Romney and President Obama was a technocratic affair in which the challenger borrowed the incumbent's positions in order to prevent a knockout defeat.
I cannot imagine an independent or low information voter being able to follow Monday night's debate for any sustained amount of time.
Obama clearly defeated Mitt Romney following a devastating flurry of blows to the head and body--this was the equivalent of an adult beating up an impudent child--alas, it will not matter in terms of the final vote.
Few issues of legitimate disagreement or substance were discussed in Monday's debate. As Chris Matthews smartly pointed out, there was no mention of how multipolar our world had become, or how Europe's economic crisis has impacted America's economy. Those are epic fails on the part of the moderator.
Interestingly, there was no question about either the decline of peak oil or the threat posed by global warming. Much time was instead spent on the chimera issue of the United States' relationship with Israel. The Israel Lobby is not going anywhere, for either candidate, now or in the near future. The public and candidates' energies would be better spent talking about other matters.
While no substantive disagreements about the reality of American Empire took place during the final debate, there were however a few moments which revealed a frightening divergence in expertise and temperament between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.
The Republican challenger is apparently possessed by the demons and ghosts of George Bush the Younger, and is frighteningly incapable of taking consistent issue positions on matters of serious national concern. Romney's pathological lying about domestic affairs is one thing; his malleable relationship to the truth in matters of international affairs will make the world less safe.
Moreover, Romney offers up a childish version of diplomacy and statecraft which assumes that the United States can always get her way, and that other countries are on bended knee, awaiting American guidance and approval before they act.
Comic characters such as Superman and Captain America have both moved well beyond a view of a unipolar world that revolves around the United States as a hyper-power. The fact that a candidate for the Office of the President of the United States of America would spin fictions that are better suited for children, and neophytes drunk on the lie of our country's invisibility and natural superiority, is chilling.
In the last debate, Mitt Romney also revealed how contemporary conservatism is stuck in a world of its own making, one where the facts and geopolitical realities are to be discarded as inconvenient.
When I was in elementary school, I watched Rambo movies and G.I. Joe cartoons. I also read the G.I Joe comic books. I also loved the Red Dawn movie because America always found a way to win. Even American high school students could defeat the best soldiers from the Russian and Nicaraguan armies. We were that great.
The Final Countdown was awesome too. In that movie a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier goes back in time to fight the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. These are the fun playthings and memories of children. Such memories and childish things cannot be the basis of a credible foreign policy. Conservatives and low information voters have internalized these myths as barometers for patriotism and American Exceptionalism.
The petit authoritarians of the Tea Party GOP still exist in this infantile and politically adolescent stage of development. As such, they should be treated like the dangerous children they are. In shilling to their childish ways, Mitt Romney offered up three related fictions.
First, America is not a shining city on the hill that only supports democracies and human rights. If another candidate said such a thing, I would understand that it was an act designed to appeal to the uninformed mass public. With Mitt Romney I am unsure. He may actually believe such fables. The United States has historically backed authoritarian regimes because said governments supported the geopolitical and economic agenda of American elites.
Perhaps Mitt Romney should watch Why We Fight:
Alternatively, Romney could learn a great deal from Marine Corps legend General Smedley Butler:
Mitt Romney is clearly not an expert on military affairs. But, he is smart enough to appeal to independent voters, as well as his base, two groups that are engaged in a phallocentric pissing contest view of American military power where more ships and planes equals more military power and influence abroad.
During the debate, I talked to one of my friends, guest commenter Bill the Lizard, in order to briefly share a laugh at Romney's ill informed views on the size of the U.S. Navy and Air Force. He and I are both ghetto nerd military grognard types who understand the silliness of Romney's critique of a "historically" small military.
Killing power, lethality, and the ability to deliver payloads are the core metric for calculating a comparative measure for the U.S. military's effectiveness in 2012 vs. 1917. Mitt Romney may not know these things. His public likely does not know these facts. To them, big toys equal American power. Mitt Romney is the equivalent of a grown kid playing with G.I. Joe toys.
Like Romney, I always wanted to own the USS Flagg aircraft carrier. My parents said it cost too much. In reality it only held one or two planes, so I think mom and dad may have been right. Romney would think buying a few of these toys would be a good investment:
Romney also wants more planes for the air force. Numbers matter. Perhaps, the United States could buy more biplanes? For the many tens of millions of dollars for an F-22 Raptor, the air force could buy many thousands of World War One or World War Two era fighter planes. I was always partial to the G.I. Joe plane the SkyStriker. I bet Romney has a few of them to play with as well:
As President Obama smartly and directly pointed out, international relations is not a game of Battleship. It is also not a video game. Politicians lie. Politicians lie as a matter of strategy and routine because they reason that the consequences are minimal as the American people have low expectations, and the institutional checks are usually great enough to prevent severe consequences from any one poor decision.
International relations are based upon the clear signalling of direct intentions and consequences. The sociopathic behavior of Romney on the domestic front would be extremely problematic. His post-truth campaign abroad would go beyond the noble and necessary lie to the flippant and erratic one. Such tendencies are a formula for war and conflict.
In the final debate the real Mitt Romney stood up. He is a corporate pitchman who is willing to tell any lie in order to close the deal. I wonder how such an approach will work with China, Pakistan, Brazil, India, or Russia?
Ultimately, Mitt Romney has demonstrated a shocking lack of character and consistency. His willingness to play such games with American prestige abroad, and the lives of our military men and women, makes him utterly disqualified to be President of the United States.