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Tonight’s Presidential Debate – A Study In Crisis

Crisis, Benghazi, Libya, United States [1]The second Presidential Debate of the 2012 election is being held tonight at Hofstra University [2] in Hempstead, New York at 8:00 PM Central Time, using a townhall style, with questions from independent voters regarding domestic and foreign policy.  After what most are now referring to as “disappointing” and “lackluster” in the performance of President Obama in the first debate, there is much anticipation that tonight could be the most critical night of the campaign.  Last week’s debate between the Vice-presidential candidates, while more lively than the first Presidential debate, held its own disappointments for many, including myself.  Many on the right were quick to deride the Vice-president for his excessive use of laughter in response to criticisms (a common debating ploy intended to minimize the importance of the criticism) which while unnerving even to myself, was still one of the few remaining tactics available to a a ticket that cannot defend its opinion in a debate of logic.  In all likelihood, it was effective with a significant segment of the audience.  As was Biden’s less detailed policy answers.

The disappointment that was most striking to me was the level of detail that Paul Ryan got into on policy.  I think it was potentially putting quite a few people to sleep.  This is not a criticism of the presentation as much as recognition of the audience.  The majority of people that need convincing at this point are not those that are policy wonks like most you readers here and myself, but rather the independent part of our culture that is looking for a sound bite that will give them confidence in their vote.  Biden on the other hand frequently pandered to those who don’t have any desire to delve into the details.

At any rate, the polls are generally showing the President’s campaign losing ground, a little bit at a time.  Most analysts agree that the President’s performance tonight has the potential to save or kill his campaign, and for the President this is probably one of his best opportunities to raise his grade since this will be a townhall style debate, and Obama can be, if nothing else, charismatic.  The question is, will he turn on the charm? More to the point, can he turn on the charm in the face of questions on foreign policy, especially if the tirade which is Benghazi becomes the center of tonight’s discussion?  I’m pretty confident that Mitt can take any question, regardless of whether it is domestic or foreign policy, and turn it around onto the Benghazi situation.

Yesterday’s marching out of Secretary of State Clinton in front of the media to confess her sin of delivering poor intelligence to the President was incredibly transparent, at least in appearance and in it’s timing.  Clearly bringing her out this close to tonight’s event was intended not only to open a relief valve for the President in preparation for the debate, but to also get the media to steer all of its attention to the Secretary during the hours running up to it.  As a result, it will be easy for the President to say something like this tonight: “First of all, my heart goes out to the families of those we lost.  I considered Christopher a friend, and always appreciated his input and candor.  Second I continue to put my complete faith and confidence in the Secretary, despite the unfortunate intelligence failures in the past few weeks.  She has been working tirelessly to address issues on multiple fronts, and although she and we thought we had the right information early in the hours before and after the horrific attack on our embassy, errors are sometimes inevitable.  Secretary Clinton has assured me that a full review of our intelligence position and procedures in this region is in process and that we will address the issues that come to light.  Third, with regard to our ambassador’s requests for military resources, we take requests like that very seriously.  We receive hundreds of such requests each month from around the globe and we prioritize them appropriately to ensure we have an adequate balance of military presence in any region.  We will review these assessments to determine how we can prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again.”

Once the President speaks of one of his staff or cabinet with the word “confidence”, it’s time to update the old resume.  My expectation is that Clinton will resign before the election in hopes that the President can use her as cover to squeak through.

At any rate, watch for tonight’s debate to center, whether planned or otherwise, on this topic.  The rest of the time will likely be focused more on jobs, the economy, entitlements, Iran’s efforts to build a nuclear weapon, possibly the question of US troops arriving in Jordan (though not likely), and finally, jobs.

Wait, did I just say we sent troops to Jordan [3]?  Evidently, the situation in Syria is driving this, but frankly the use of military in so many parts of the Middle East is starting to get confusing if not suspicious.  I thought this administration was going to use diplomacy to resolve conflict?

And what about the nuclear armed Ohio-class submarine that went AWOL in the Persian Gulf recently?  Oh, wait, that’s a new television series. [4]  Sorry.

We will have analysis of tonight’s debate tomorrow here at The Conservative Reader.

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