Tuesday, October 23, 2012


The final presidential debate yesterday demonstrated more debate fatigue than sparkle. Both candidates tried as much as possible to return to their stump speeches through the backdoor. Foreign policy became a band-aid for ulterior pedestrian motives. Certain predictable themes came up, and when they appeared they did so in a mostly sloppy fashion and were often unconvincing.  President Obama understandably showed more familiarity with the issues but Romney compensated certain insecurities by coming off as "over-presidential," cool and generally in command of the facts.  Both candidates had actually more in common than not. Romney made a U-turn and distanced himself from former more bellicose arguments a la McCain.  Strangely, Obama omitted to elaborate on the more interesting aspects of his foreign policy:  coalition building with new partners, up-to-date type of warfare, redirecting strategic priorities westwards. Both failed to mention the EU, the BRICS, Millennium goals or reform of the UN. Only China was considered an und fir Sich.

There was little fire. Obama might have won by a point but it was more a draw than a K.O.  I doubt that the electorate was spellbound and the situation looks as before, too close to tell.  I wonder if the not-too-subtle signals which the candidates sent to women, blue-collar workers, and particular swing states will have had any effect. Schmaltzy anecdotes rang, often contrived, and came over as artificial. The traditional ending with kisses, family and kids makes Europeans feel like throwing up (fortunately Justin Bieber was not invited).  Strangely, Europeans refrain from getting sick watching the acrobatics of Dominique Strauss-Kahn or Sylvio Berlusconi.

We have now two weeks post mortem in front of us, before V-day.  I feel that the longer this campaign dragged on, indifference dislodged enthusiasm. Both candidates adjusted their messages to such an extent (Obamacare excluded) that they became like Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The alpha males of the second debate decided to play "cute", almost. In the first debate Obama napped, in the third, both appeared to be operating on Valium.

The Tea Party must be in disbelief, seeing Romney's transfiguration (again) into a centrist politician and must be tempted to cry "no room, no room!" as in "Alice in Wonderland."  The military/industrial complex, for its part, must feel relieved after their Republican Caesar pleaded for an expansion of fleet and military budget.  It is sad that it had to end this way.  Both candidates turned their back on earlier promises, both played to constituencies which they manipulated and who will be forgotten as soon as the occupant of the Oval Office is elected. The economic doomsday is still a big chip on the future leader's shoulder, while the fiscal cliff at year's end and the national debt are creating a Swiftian metaphor wherein the United States risks becoming hostage to its lender (China).

The pundits are thinking already about 2016 and about who will come next.
Political addicts and pollsters are incurable. Statesmen are an extinct species. Only the taxpayers abound, lost in opaque cyphers. Whoever the winner will be, the voter will be the dupe, ending up paying the tab for the misleading promises made by both contenders.

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