“So across the board we are engaging them in building capacity in these countries and we have stood on the side of democracy. One thing I think Americans should be proud of: when Tunisians began to protest, this nation, me, my administration, stood with them earlier than just about any other country.”
That excerpt from Obama at last night’s debate was one of the few noteworthy comments made during the long, boring thing. Obama said it in a way that would make Louis XIV proud. It was arresting because it is a microcosm of his thinking. The man who can’t get through many speeches without “me” and “I” or “I won” or “my administration” didn’t neglect himself last night.
Throughout the hour and a half Obama kept reminding us he is Commander in Chief. He compared himself to JFK when he talked about Mubarak’s removal. He said we’ve never been stronger in the world than since he took office. Obama said “I’ve been successful” – even saying he did everything he could to secure people in the embassy in Libya! Of course, the capture of Bin Laden was because of him and his “clarity of leadership.”
Yes, the hubris of the man was present last night as it has been present the past five years. It was present in his off putting body language, too. From the first minute of the debate when Obama and Romney shook hands, Obama did, as he’s done in the other debates, pat Romney’s arm. It was a paternalistic gesture like a father patting an errant child, not worthy of two equals standing on a stage.
Throughout the debate I found myself mesmerized by the split screen of Obama and Romney. Obama, on the right, kept staring at Romney so intently that it was creepy. He seemed to hunch forward like a gargoyle. I just couldn’t get that image out of my head. When Obama answered questions, I wondered if the president had consumed too much Red Bull. He stammered and babbled. His answers got so long I lost track of his point. Then there was his blinking, which analysts say is a sign of lying.
Romney offered a good contrast. He had a slight smile on his face. He answered calmly. He seemed more self assured than Obama. He seemed more presidential.
Obama got down into the weeds. He lacked vision. He was snide and petty as when he replied about not using horses and bayonets in today’s world. (Actually, we do. I distinctly remembered Rumsfeld at a press conference after the war started in Afghanistan. He was asked to comment on a photo of a soldier astride a horse. He explained how we used them in terrain like them).
Substantively, there wasn’t much new covered. It was a lot of the same old same old. Probably Romney knew it would be that way. It was a debate more about attitude than issues.