For most American viewers, including this one, much of Monday night's presidential debate on foreign policy was conducted as though it were in a foreign language.
References to Mali, to former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, missile shields in Poland, "status of forces" agreements — could only have befuddled the voting public.
It's not that the candidates invoked unimportant issues. And it's not that the two held so elevated a conversation mere mortals could not understand. It's that they were debating almost entirely in tone rather than content.
Originally published on Tue October 23, 2012 1:10 am
Credit Eric Gay / AP
In at least one sense, the final presidential debate of the year looked a lot like the previous ones between Mitt Romney and President Obama.
Regardless of what they were asked, each offered talking points he had prepared and was determined to make. The candidates, not moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News, set both the tone and the pace of the debate.
That included switching gears far from the nominal subject of Monday's debate in Boca Raton, Fla., which was foreign policy. The domestic economy received at least as much attention and verbiage as Iran, Libya or China.
Foreign policy proved to be a subject that kept the tone mostly substantive tonight in the third and final debate between President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney before the Nov. 6 election.
The high school debaters at the Bay Area Urban Debate League get together every week in downtown Oakland, Calif., to hone their arguments and debating styles. But the young debaters have had a chance during the recent presidential debates to see how it's done on the national stage.
They watch with pen and worksheet, taking notes and analyzing the candidates' debating styles, hoping to glean some lessons from the pros.
There is a lot for these young debaters to observe and compare, but they have also noticed some key differences.
In many of his campaign speeches, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney likes to chide the Obama administration for cutting military spending. And Romney says one force in particular is suffering from a lack of resources.
"The size of our Navy is at levels not seen since 1916," he says in many of his stump speeches. Romney promises to rebuild the Navy until it reaches 350 ships. But does a bigger Navy make the U.S. more secure?
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. In Iowa, two long-time members of the House of Representatives are waging a nasty reelection battle that will leave one of them out of a job come January. Both had their districts redrawn into one new district after Iowa lost a seat through reapportionment. NPR's David Welna reports on this rare incumbent face-off.
Former South Dakota Sen. George McGovern died Sunday at the age of 90. A liberal icon, he made two failed bids for president, but remained active and worked for several organizations battling world hunger. NPR's Ron Elving and Jill Callison of The Argus Leader discuss McGovern's politics and legacy.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. The Middle East presents a series of challenges for whomever wins on November 6th: immediate problems in Libya and Syria, a seemingly eternal problem with Israel and the Palestinians, but maybe the biggest problem: the looming crisis with Iran.
At Monday night's foreign policy debate, the first round of questions for the presidential candidates will involve "America's role in the world."
The answers from President Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney likely will focus on military readiness and anti-terrorism efforts. That's what most Americans would expect to hear, given that their country has been involved continuously in overseas combat since the terrorist attacks of 2001.