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Observations From The Final Presidential Debate

Professor X and Mr. Fantastic
Amardeep Singh, Associate Professor of English

President Barack Obama showed in the third debate some of his greatest strengths: his resiliency, his calm, and his mastery of the issues on hand. At times, he even seemed a little overly combative; clearly, he feels he must continue to compensate for his widely panned passivity in the first debate. Despite his current assertiveness, I cannot help but see the real Obama as fundamentally a somewhat cerebral intellectual (keep in mind: as a professor myself, I find this to be a good thing). If the President were a superhero, perhaps he could be "Professor X" in the X-Men series of comic books: powerful, but vulnerable without a strong supporting team.

If the President is Professor X, Governor Romney would have to be "Mr. Fantastic" in The Fantastic Four (for those who aren't familiar, Mr. Fantastic is someone who, after a dose of cosmic radiation, can reshape his body at will). In the third debate in particular Governor Romney seemed to relish seamlessly rejecting his previously held positions, which were generally hawkish, in favor of a newfound, peace-loving centrism (on the Middle East: "We cannot kill our way out of this mess"). As of yet it is not clear whether Mr. Romney’s many inconsistencies on matters of policy will be noticed by a large enough number of voters for it to make a difference in the polls. But the ability to shape shift has long been one of Mr. Romney's defining features; he seems to arrange his positions to appeal to voters for whatever office he is seeking at the moment. 

Will American voters aim to reelect a somewhat cerebral and aloof leader who seems to be more like Professor X, with a solid if not spectacular record -- or take a chance on a slippery shape shifter like Mr. Fantastic? Given how close the polls are, we probably won't know who'll win this epic battle until late in the night on election day.
 
Follow Dr. Singh's blog, Electrostani.


America Can’t Afford Four More Years
George A. Nation, III, professor, Perella Department of Finance and Law

Last night was the last presidential debate of 2012. The focus was foreign policy, but in the end the focus came back to domestic policy, especially the economy. This is fitting. Without a strong economy America would not be able to have a strong foreign policy. For that reason, and others, Governor Romney won this debate.

The Governor clearly has a better plan for the economy and the experience to execute it. Lower taxes and less government spending on non-essential programs are critical to getting this economy growing. We have had four years of President Obama’s economic policies and the economy is in bad shape.

America can’t afford four more years of these policies. Also, in the case of our relations with China the issues are primarily economic, and again the victory goes to Romney who will be better able to pursue America’s interests with China.  Global economic development is also very important to combating Islamic extremism in the long term, and here again Romney has the edge.

When it comes to dealing with global military issues there is not a great deal of difference between the two candidates. Both men seem reasonable in their approach to dealing with international issues, though I would give the edge to Romney since I believe he would be more credible and consistent than the President has been. The president has sent mixed signals to the Iranian government regarding their nuclear program.  The President has been overly optimistic in his assessment of the threat posed by al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Overall, the President is often unwilling to acknowledge terror attacks, preferring, perhaps for political reasons, to characterize them in some other-any other- way. That was the Administration’s first instinct in the Benghazi attack and it has been the case for some time. This reluctance emboldens terror groups. In terms of the strength of our military, I think that there is no doubt that our military will be stronger if Romney is elected.

At the beginning of the night both candidates seemed tired, and so they should be. This was evident in President Obama’s snide remark regarding the fact that we now have ships that go under water-nuclear submarines. This did not sound presidential. It sounded small. It was apparent in Romney’s opening remark about something funny happening on purpose (?), and even in Bob Schieffer’s “Obama bin Laden” misstatement. I think the audience is getting tired, too. We have heard it all before at least once, often more than once. We know where the candidates stand and in two weeks we get the honor of voting for the next leader of the United States. Thinking about the countries discussed last night makes me remember how fortunate I am to be a citizen of this great country. Next week, while whom I vote for is important, it is not as important as the fact that I exercise my most important democratic right and vote. I am hopeful that regardless of which candidate you support you will join me.

Civility Can Be Simple
Brian Pinaire, Associate Professor of Political Science

Every debate should take place with the candidates seated around a table. It not only encourages but compels (relative) civility; it inhibits the ability of the candidates to simply talk over the moderator--and each other to some degree; and, it looks more professional for everyone involved.  Even debates that ostensibly involve the people" (i.e. those taking place in a "town hall" format) could easily be accomplished with the candidates facing one another, three feet apart, as opposed to awkwardly moving toward the questioner or--worse--circling the other candidate like the main character in a Peter Benchley novel.

Follow Brian’s humorous musings on politics on Twitter @impoliticker, his blog Impoliticker or his columns on the Huffington Post.

Story by Jordan Reese

Posted on Tuesday, October 23, 2012

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