Zakaria: Tonight, it's about character
October 22nd, 2012
01:24 PM ET

Zakaria: Tonight, it's about character

By Jason Miks

Fareed Zakaria discusses the importance of the third and final presidential debate taking place tonight in Florida, and looks at the issues likely to be tackled.

How many Americans really care deeply about foreign policy issues?

Well, the substance of the issue they don't care about. Foreign policy is a little bit different from domestic policy. In domestic policy you’re trying to see whether the candidate agrees with you or whether you agree with him. It’s often a checklist of things: abortion, the economy, taxes.

Foreign policy is really a prism through which people look at the character of the person, the values, the strength, the consistency. So it is important, but not in a direct way in the way that domestic policy is.

On the front of the “Drudge Report” today there’s an array of pictures, and they show President Obama supposedly bowing to these foreign leaders, continuing this "apology tour", something I’m sure that Mitt Romney will bring up tonight.

I think he'll bring up the “apology tour.” I don't know to what extent he'll bring up those photographs. Three of the four people there are, in fact, kings or queens, and what President Obama was doing was a kind of gesture of respect I suppose. But certainly he’s going to try to present himself as a tougher, somebody who doesn’t apologize for America. Not that there are actual instances that President Obama actually apologized, but that’s the line he’s going to use.

I think the key for Romney is going to be to come across a little bit less as an attack dog and more as a president.

5 things to watch tonight

The last debate he was very aggressive in his body language. Actually both candidates were very aggressive, but in this particular debate they will be sitting at a table. I think that at least the Republican base likes aggressiveness in their candidate.

I think they do. This will be Governor Romney’s 26th debate, having done some in the Republican primaries. And he’s gotten very good at it. But he’s also gotten a little aggressive because the Republican base does like that. I wonder whether that works as well with the general electorate. But I expect a very strong performance from him. He’s a very good debater. He’s one of the best debaters I have ever seen in presidential politics.

President Obama did a great job [on Libya] in the second debate, crafting his answer to his advantage. But it will be tougher this time around.

It will be tougher because there are, in a sense, two separate issues. There’s the issue of whether or not we were unprepared, and I think on that, substantively, I would say it’s very tough. In retrospect you can always say you should have accepted a request for extra security. But remember, there are 265 diplomatic missions around the world. Any given week I guarantee you two dozen of them are asking for more security and you have limited resources. It’s not clear what you do.

But that gets conflated with the aftermath of the crisis where there was a certain clumsiness in terms of how the Obama administration handled things. I don't think they were trying to deliberately deceive anybody, but they handled the situation badly, they got their facts wrong, they went out to the press too early. And as a result the whole thing gets conflated into a failed policy.

That’s what President Obama is going to have to deal with.

soundoff (220 Responses)
  1. Taskmaster

    What would Fartweed know about character? He has none!

    October 22, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Reply
  2. Ordinary Average American

    Mr. Zakaria has been studying "character" and ethics a lot this year, after getting caught red-handed plagiarizing.
    That reminds me: Martin Luther King dreamed of a day in which a man would be judged by the content of his character, instead of the color of his skin.
    Well: 95% of blacks in 2008 judged the candidate purely based on the color of his skin, and 45% of whites also voted for the black candidate, giving him a fair and equal chance to govern.
    This experiment in Affirmative Action voting has not worked out well.
    However, we did prove that we are a fair and just nation, and the whites proved to the country that slavery is over and segregation is over. The whites paid their dues. We should not have to elect all black leaders for the next 150 years just to make up for the sins of other people we never knew, never met, and would not agree with anyway.
    This time, let's just vote for the best candidate.

    October 22, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Reply
  3. DH

    If its all about character than its all over because President Hypocrite has none. Mr. Bait and Switch is good at talking the talk but when it comes to following through he's a zero. I can hardly wait to see him try and wiggle out from underneath the Benghazi debacle. Knowing him he will try to pin it on Hillary Clinton. The American people will see right through his deception.

    October 22, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Reply
  4. WatrGrrl

    I simply don't believe Ba-rack is a good person nor is he the man I want to see in our White House nor is he trustworthy to represent the American People. He breaks laws he doesn't like, or refuses to uphold them – both actions are illegal and a demonstration that he believes he is above the law. He is a chief executive, not an emperor but he acts like the latter and does not understand the role of the former term. I do not believe he is honorable. I do not believe he is trustworthy. He has neither my respect nor my vote and I truly hope he is held accountable for the wrongs he has committed.

    October 22, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Reply
  5. blake

    If tonight is all about character, then no need for the debate. Obama has already lost. Lied about Iran, Israel, and Libya. No integrity.

    October 22, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Reply
  6. John

    Character? What credibility do you have regarding character, Fareed? In addition, I just saw the conversation between Soledad O'Brien and Rudy Giuliani where O'Brien refers to herself as a "journalist." What a joke! She's not a journalist. Just like Fareed and everyone else at CNN she's a cheerleader for the Left.

    October 22, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Reply
  7. Steve S

    Yeah, but WHICH Romney character will show up, tonight?
    There's been so many............................................................................

    October 22, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Reply
  8. Horrendus

    The Author really did not watch the debate last time, as Obama and Crowley LIED, if there was any crafting then it was coordinating the lie. He may have done well enough through the rest of the debate with Crowley's help, but the last question was the tell tale mark of a setup.

    October 22, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Reply
  9. Shotgun Granny-Evelyn Connaway

    My shotgun and I will take Obama's character over any republican politician's and any republican president's we have ever had, along with some of the democrats too. Twisting facts want change that!

    October 22, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Reply
  10. Sleepless in Cali

    Yes, it IS about character - and Obama had NONE!

    October 22, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Reply
  11. nalt42

    Romny needs to work on his character.

    October 22, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Reply
  12. Troy

    Zakaria's impartial? "Obama's foreign policy has been good. The question is: Can it be great?"

    October 22, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Reply
  13. Mars

    I think Mitt has substantial foreign policy experience. From his father being born on polygamist colony in Mexico, Mitt running to Paris to escape the draft, outsourcing American jobs to China all the way to hiding his money in offshore accounts. He certainly knows how to show the world American values and leadership.

    October 22, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Reply
  14. Kel

    I don't want to read an opinion article touting character in a presidential debate written by an admitted plagiarist.
    You have ZERO creditbility in my eyes Fareed Zakaria. I don't car eto hear your viewpoints

    October 22, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Reply
  15. Shecky

    FAREED ZAKARIA talking about CHARACTER?????

    Now THAT's funny!!!!!

    October 22, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Reply
  16. Sounding Off

    Hummmmmm......a debate is basically a discussion involving opposing viewpoints. So how is it possible to debate someone who's on both side of every issue?

    October 22, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Reply
  17. dc

    An article about character..... Has anyone noticed Farreeeeeed is not writing because he is on probation for plagerism – He copied another writer's work and was given a time out! So much for liberal character!

    October 22, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Reply
  18. Reasonably

    "Zakaria: Tonight, it's about character" we're effed either way?

    October 22, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Reply
  19. Kat bryan

    And what does Obama care about? (oil man post). George Clooney, partial birth abortion, Pimp With A Limp, Beyonce, and Snoop Dog? Yes, Osama Bin Laden is dead. So is our Ambassador Stevens. Know why? Because our President CHOSE to pass on 60% of his intelligence briefings and campaigned instead. In fact, he spun a web of lies the day after those heroes died and went .... campaigning. Obama is many bad adjectives, but I digress. Mostly he's dangerous for America and our our People. He does not LEAD, he parties. He does not pretend to like Leaders from other countries, he likes to be a rock star. I don't want a rock star for a President or one who CHOOSES to miss his security briefings because he's a know it all. He is responsible for the death of four Americans, personally and politically, and he's not man enough to stand up to it. Like everything since he's taken office, he "blames" everyone else. Fasten your seat belts all those you rode a wave of Hope and Dreams in 2008 and are now riding the wave of "BIG BIRD and BINDERS. Seriously, is that all you got? Obama will be a one-term President and will go down as one of the worst in history. The other was Carter - his soul mate.

    As for Fareesh - you're biased. Extremely left. And you're the same person who said we all should rely on other methods of energy. Yeah, right. TAX PAYERS have already lost BILLIONS on Obama's solar energy fantasies. Soon, he can spend his own money on alternative energy. Let's see how much he puts out.

    CNN is a hack lamestream media station and that's why your ratings are so low.

    Adios Obama

    October 22, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Reply
  20. Honestuck

    Go vote now. Don't let CNN spin everything into voting for Romney. The long you wait the longer they will attempt to change your vote. I voted today and the exhileration is incredible. CNN's attempt to spin falsehoods cannot change my vote. Be in the driver'sseat, vote now.

    October 22, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Reply
  21. ug

    It's been like this for charecter all along and Obama has only one charecter...himself and lies.

    October 22, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Reply
  22. Ash

    People are sick of Romney's Mormon style lying.., how can this man sleep at night? He has lied every day of his public campaign life for 2 years now... so many turnarounds... does he know liars go to HELL?

    October 22, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Reply
  23. Sleepless in Cali

    Character you say? Obama has none! In fact, Obama is nothing more than a mirage created by that slime bucket AxelROt!

    October 22, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Reply
  24. Thomas E. Shafovaloff

    All those who would dare to rate any President based upon one incident will be complicit with the "terrorists" that produced the debacle. In a sense, to "diss" this President because of what "terrorists" planned and executed may be reacting just the way the "terrorists" hope the Americana public will react. Just like Netannahu wanted to take control of our foreign policy by publicly trying to corner the President on Iran the terrorists in Libiya more likely than not had the same intent. So, fall for it – and you will be assisting the terrorists in their interference with U.S. politcs! Go ahead GOP show your ..........
    Thomas E. Shafovaloff

    October 22, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Reply
  25. aebe

    Plenty more Marines,than diplomatic missions,Fareed.It was 9/11,after all.Although I believe that the Embassy and Ambassador were given to the terrorists,as a sop for too many I killed BinLadins.Security was taken from the embassy.We were lied to as to the quality of the Syrians,maybe fleetness of foot was a secret.Loaded arms not allowed?
    Republican aggressive/Democrat sheep ?
    American media – Too dumb to think for themselves,but have got to do it for you, ABC through NBC.

    Validate your 2nd Amendment Rights.Carry.

    October 23, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Reply
  26. lweba

    I now believe Mitt was born a burly!

    October 23, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Reply
  27. Humanity4All

    Mitt Romney definately appeled to the zero IQ foxnews watchers not average american. Romney does have rich backing him up and all he has to do now is throw out nasty negative ads paid for by rich boys..

    October 23, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Reply
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    November 3, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Reply
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