With President Obama’s devastating debate performance two weeks ago, coupled with Mitt Romney’s jaw-droppingly powerful one; with the Biden-Ryan vice presidential debate last week that by most counts was not a game-changer for Romney but could possibly have taken a small toll on Obama; with Mitt Romney’s average national polling numbers on the rise and now, as of this writing, surpassing President Obama’s; and with the news that came Monday night, only 24 hours before the second presidential debate we saw last night, that Sec. of State Hillary Clinton is taking responsibility for last month’s attacks on the American embassy in Libya, all that Romney needed to lock up an election victory, barring any major worldwide news regarding Israel or an unearthed video of Romney’s pastor “God damn[ing]” America, was to bring to the American people one more solid debate, free of any major gaffes, to demonstrate yet again the stark differences between him and the President.
However, the general consensus seems to be that the debate was a tie, and I can probably concede to that. (Though I think the first 60 minutes went solidly to Romney; but because Obama performed better in the last 30 minutes than he did earlier, that left a more lasting impression than did his performance in the first hour. Thus, an effective tie.)
Romney’s biggest mistake was unfortunately his weak handling of a topic that so easily could have made the night a runaway victory for him, and that was the topic of Libya.
In an interview Monday night with CNN, Clinton threw herself under the proverbial bus, saying that she is responsible for security (and in the case of Libya, a lack of it, which lack ultimately led to the death of four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stephens).
Clinton’s goal in finally coming out and saying once and for all that she was responsible for the Libyan situation was ostensibly to help protect Obama, but her real goal, I think, was probably to hurt Obama’s re-election campaign so that she can run for president in 2016 against a sitting Republican president—Romney.
Before the debate, I thought that Obama would be cornered on the issue, that all Romney had to do in front of the live audience of America was to ask Obama directly, “Now that Secretary Clinton takes responsibility for Libya, are you going to ask for her resignation?” And I saw three options for Obama in this hypothetical scenario: to say yes, to say no, or to dodge the issue. I overlooked the fourth path that Obama could have taken, and that was the one he did take: he took responsibility, completely rejecting Clinton’s notion that the buck stops with her on security matters. “Secretary Clinton has done an extraordinary job,” he said. “But she works for me. I’m the president and I’m always responsible….”
Obviously that was the best answer he could have given. But he then proceeded to contradict the official statements of Clinton’s State Department. This bought him more time until his and Romney’s next debate for his advisers to come up with an explanation as to why, if security is under Obama’s command, Obama rejected the request of embassy officials for more security.
Since this topic arrived late in the debate and moderator Candy Crowley was very forceful in moving the discussion along to other topics, Romney did not have the chance to pin Obama down on the issue. I think it’s imperative, then, that he do just that between now and the next debate, especially since it has become such a prominent topic as of late.