Relaxed, reasonable, and reassuring.
Those three words summarize Governor Mitt Romney’s performance in Monday night’s third and final presidential debate.
Romney wisely took repeated opportunities to transform a global-affairs debate into a discussion on the U.S. economy. Message: no economy, no power. Romney explained this with a cogent blend of arguments and facts.
I would have preferred to see Romney nail President Obama to the floor over his gross and ultimately deadly mismanagement of America’s diplomatic presence in Benghazi, Libya.
Romney also missed an easy chance to criticize Obama for refusing last month to meet with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“The best way to stand up to Iran, Mr. President, is to stand shoulder to shoulder with the leader of our closest friend in the Middle East — in public, and before the entire world at the United Nations General Assembly,” Romney should have said. “Sure, you spoke with him on the phone. But what kind of signal does that send the A-bomb-obsessed mullahs in Tehran?”
Romney already has my vote, however. So, in the grand scheme of things, such manageable concerns among those of us in Romney’s base are less important right now than those of undecided, independent, and swing voters. What they saw was a calm and confident leader who was conversant on a wide array of foreign-policy issues.
These highly prized centrists also heard a Republican nominee speak of peace often enough to echo the just-departed former Democratic senator George McGovern of South Dakota. (Say what you will about McGovern’s positions on Vietnam and other issues, he was a first-rate speaker, a man of substance, and a genuine World War II hero — as the late Stephen Ambrose chronicled in his fine book Wild Blue.)
Romney’s frequent talk of peace and his repeated mentions of military engagement as a last resort should inoculate him from Obama and the Left’s claims that he is a greed-driven warmonger desperate to launch a new war á la the much-hated “George Bush.” Romney likely left viewers with the sense that his will be a much steadier hand upon the wheel.
Romney seemed to follow almost to the syllable the advice of my friend and colleague, Jonah Goldberg. Rather than lunge for Obama’s jugular, which would have thrilled those of us in the GOP’s Reaganite base, Romney smiled and presented his path to a better world — much as Reagan would have done.
Oddly enough, in Monday night’s debate, Romney looked like the incumbent, while the jumpier, twitchier, and far more interruptive Obama resembled an unsteady challenger. Romney’s serene expression as he listened to Obama’s strained voice suggested a man who does yoga. Romney exuded a peaceful, easy feeling that smells like . . . victory.