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.
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.