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The Washington Post's editorial board sets the framework for analyzing yesterday's foreign policy debate:
MITT ROMNEY ENTERED Monday night’s debate trailing President Obama in polls on foreign-policy aptitude and wanting to demonstrate that he could be a sober and competent commander in chief. He began by striking an elevated tone — only to encounter an aggressive and slashing opponent.
The New York Times delivers a blistering rebuke of Romney's performance and policy:
Mitt Romney has nothing really coherent or substantive to say about domestic policy, but at least he can sound energetic and confident about it. On foreign policy, the subject of Monday night’s final presidential debate, he had little coherent to say and often sounded completely lost. That’s because he has no original ideas of substance on most world issues, including Syria, Iran and Afghanistan.

During the debate, on issue after issue, Mr. Romney sounded as if he had read the boldfaced headings in a briefing book — or a freshman global history textbook — and had not gone much further than that. Twice during the first half-hour, he mentioned that Al Qaeda-affiliated groups were active in northern Mali. Was that in the morning’s briefing book?

Bloomberg's editors:
Someone apparently forgot to tell Mitt Romney about last night’s foreign-policy debate. He didn’t come to debate, and he wasn’t eager to talk about foreign policy. [...] To say that Obama got the better of Romney on substance, and he did, is almost beside the point. Obama repeatedly called for more specifics and exposed Romney’s inexperience; he was especially good on Romney’s empty talking points on Pentagon spending. The question is which Romney Obama got the better of.
E.J. Dionne at The Washington Post:
The cost of creating this reassuring presence, however, was that doing so reinforced Obama’s attack line on Romney as an unprincipled politician. Romney’s stands on issues seem related almost entirely to the political calendar: Veer as far right as necessary in the primaries, then slam on the breaks, turn right around, and head in an entirely new direction – all in pursuit of those moderate suburban moms whom strategists on both sides see as central to the election’s outcome. [...]

We will know soon enough what voters make of all this, but my hunch is that Romney not only underestimated the cost of a play-it-safe strategy in the debate itself, but also misread the political moment. Romney did have momentum after the first debate, but I don’t read the polls as showing that this race was still moving his way. Rather, it was stuck, with each candidate having a chance to move the contest his way. That means that playing to win tonight was the right strategy. It’s the one Obama chose.

Joe Klein at TIME:
President Obama won the foreign policy debate, cleanly and decisively, on both style and substance. It was as clear a victory as Mitt Romney’s in the first debate. And Romney lost in similar fashion: he seemed nervous, scattered, unconvincing — and he practiced unilateral disarmament, agreeing with Obama hither and yon … on Iraq (as opposed to two weeks ago), on Afghanistan (as opposed to interviews he’s given this fall), on Libya and Syria and Iran. He didn’t have a single creative or elegantly stated foreign policy thought and, indeed, seemed foolish at times, using the word peace about as often as George McGovern in 1972 [...]
At The New Yorker, John Cassidy's headline wins the internet today:
Mitt the shapeshifter falls on Obama's bayonet
More from Cassidy:
The hirsute and somewhat elderly gent keeling over in the G.O.P. green room was John Bolton, the Bush Administration hard-liner who, in 2005 and 2006, spent a year and a half camped out on the East Side trying to insult as many U.N. officials (and foreigners in general) as he could. In reaction to questions about why Romney had enlisted head cases like Bolton to his foreign-policy team, his flacks frequently pointed to the presence of less fearsome figures, such as Robert Zoellick, the former head of the World Bank. But who knew that Romney had also enlisted Katrina vanden Heuvel and Kofi Annan as advisers? Not I, anyway.
The Chicago-Sun Times on moderate Mitt:
Where was this man all along? And when he gets religion so late in the game, can he be believed?
The Los Angeles Times editorial board:
[T]he ever-shifting Republican nominee tacked even closer to the moderate middle than he did in the debate devoted to economic policy. [...] If Romney believes in a thoughtful and centrist foreign policy, which he hadn't until Monday night, it would argue for his candidacy. But if that vision is attractive — and it is — why not stick with the president who is already pursuing it?
The San Francisco Chronicle:
Barack Obama barely had to break a sweat in the final debate of the 2012 campaign.

While the social media world was abuzz with tweets about Mitt Romney’s alleged perspiration problem, a cool, calculating Obama portrayed his Republican presidential challenger as an inconstant opportunist in a constantly dangerous world. The Democratic incumbent painted the former Massachusetts governor as an ill-informed novice, zeroing in on Romney’s charge that Obama would leave the Navy with fewer ships than it had in 1917.

“Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed,” the president lectured Romney in the debate’s signature moment. [...] The exchange prompted 105,767 tweets in a minute, the most of any moment in the debate. and encapsulated a 90-minute encounter that Obama controlled, in substance and in style.

Greg Sargent:
Tonight, America was introduced to Peacenik Mitt — and watched him take a pummeling. I don’t know how much this will impact the overall dynamic of the race — it may not matter much at all — but it’s hard to see this as a good night for Romney.

Romney didn’t take many of the shots he was expected to take — while Obama landed a number of very hard blows on Romney early on.

Robert Wright at The Atlantic:
Maybe his internal polls showed undecided voters worrying that he'll blow up the world, but, for whatever reason, he seemed bent on convincing us that he's no more likely to start a war than Obama.  [...] Obama sounded more self-assured and more in command of the facts -- partly because, after four years in office, he knows the foreign policy terrain better than Romney, but partly, I think, because he just does commander-in-chief better than Romney. And Romney's repeatedly acknowledging the wisdom of Obama's policies only reinforced that impression. Sometimes it almost seemed like Obama was the self-assured mentor and Romney the nervous protégé. I think most viewers picked up on the difference, whether consciously or subliminally.
Amy Davidson at The New Yorker:
it’s not quite right to say that Romney mimicked Obama. He didn’t mirror the President’s program so much as counter it with something blank and smudgy, shoved at the world with contempt. He was unapologetic about pushing the idea of “what I have called an apology tour”—another false notion. Romney also dismissed the very idea that Benjamin Netanyahu might ever take military action without having a serious talk with him first—a comment that is both shallow and dangerously incautious. The challenge with Iran, Romney said, was that its leaders looked at Obama and “saw weakness where they had expected to find American strength.” The quality of that strength was vague, though. It seemed to involve looking good and buying ships.
Sarah Palin slammed President Barack Obama's performance against Mitt Romney in Monday night's debate during an appearance on Fox Business Network following the event.

"I think President Obama certainly showed his desperation tonight with not only his mannerisms, with all of his interruptions and seemingly angered responses, but his false charges," she said. "And he is trying to make up for lost ground, of course, because the president’s lies are catching up with him. It’s unfortunate that Gov. Romney didn’t have time to answer all the false charges. I made a couple of pages of a list of the false charges."

Full video and transcript of the debate here.

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