It’s hard to believe the U.S. election campaign is almost over—it feels like it began only two or three eons ago. In the time since Mitt Romney launched his 2012 candidacy, the seasons have changed, toddlers have reached puberty, gases and dark matter have come together to form the seeds of untold future galaxies and Lady Gaga has had, like, three different hairstyles. Most people now can’t wait for Nov. 6, which will mark the final day of this campaign and the only day Wolf Blitzer won’t talk about the next one.
By this point in the process, Mitt and Barack are like in-laws who’ve come to town, done the tourist thing, doted on the grandkids and now you desire nothing more than for them to get the hell out of your house. We just want our bathroom back, guys.
But before that glorious day could come, we needed to get through the third and final presidential debate. The difference between the two contenders was stark. Barack Obama said he wanted to move America forward. Mitt Romney agreed that America should move forward. It was another tough night for diagonal.
The debate was about foreign policy, a topic so grave that the candidates apparently could not address it while standing. Alas, the table-and-chairs format robbed the debate of some of its intensity, most of its macho posturing, and all of its aggressive striding. This was a real loss because the striding was far and away the highlight of the town hall debate, which pretty much became a contest of which candidate could approach the questioner using the fewest steps.
Still, Monday’s event afforded Americans one last chance to ponder the big questions: who is better qualified to lead the U.S. in a changing world? How will the moderator screw up this time? And what else does Mitt Romney have binders full of? Is it menus from his favourite takeout food places? It probably is.
There were a couple of curious moments for Romney. First, the Republican nominee put a precise figure to the number of allies that America has in the world: 42. It was a savvy move. If this whole “president” thing doesn’t pan out, it gives Romney a great fallback gig: reality show contestant. “Allies of America, you’re all beautiful but there are 42 of you and I’ve got only these nine roses . . . ”
Second, Romney—perhaps scolded by advisers to focus less on billions and millions—opted to use hand gestures to convey the disparity of American trade with China. “They sell us about this much stuff [makes ‘tall guy’ gesture] every year. And we sell them about this much stuff [makes ‘Tom Cruise-height’ gesture] every year.” I for one hope this catches on as a debating tactic. That way, candidates in 2016 can differentiate themselves by declaring: “I love Israel thiiiiiis much.”
Toward the end of the final debate, both men were coasting on rhetorical fumes. Obama mentioned Osama bin Laden by name six times. Romney’s interventions began to be dominated by odd declaratives: “Research is great . . . I like American cars . . . I love teachers.” He also started but never finished a number of anecdotes: “I’ve met [the unemployed] in Appleton, Wisc. I met a young woman in Philadelphia.” He pointed out that his wife, Ann, had also met various people in various places. And then came this actual exchange:
Romney: You’re wrong, Mr. President.
Obama: I am not wrong.
Romney: You’re wrong.
Obama: I am not wrong.
Romney: People can look it up.
Obama: People will look it up.
It was like the Lincoln-Douglas debates but with more double-stamped-it, no erasies.
Perhaps the weirdest twist was that Romney spent a good part of the debate not debating: “I couldn’t agree more . . . I felt the same as the President did . . . That was the right thing to do.” With election day finally approaching, it was an odd time to for Mitt to basically change his slogan to: Just Like the Current Guy, But Mormonier.