TODAY'S PAPER
Good Evening
Good Evening
Opinion

Filler: Mitt Romney, Barack Obama fall back on domestic issues debating role of U.S.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, left and President

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, left and President Barack Obama face each other during the third presidential debate with President Barack Obama at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. ( Oct. 22, 2012) Credit: AP

On Syria, what Romney has said tonight is a bit baffling. It is, more than anything else, a full-throated announcement that Obama is doing exactly the right things, delivered in such a way as to angrily claim Obama isn't doing anything right at all.

And the question of whether the U.S. should have stuck with Hosni Mubarak in Egypt may be one we can't answer for decades. This is the problem with nations very unlike ours embracing democracy -- a movement we supported in Egypt. The citizens sometimes vote for things we find abhorrent. Now, the Islamic Brotherhood is in control, with public support, and the nation is about to adopt a constitution that subjugates women's rights to Shariah law.

Will Egypt keep faith with Israel? The U.S.? Nobody knows.

Just as important, how will world leaders we are wooing view the fact that we turned on Mubarak, with whom we had previously been pretty cozy? We'll see, I suppose, but likely not warmly.

And what, Schieffer asks, is the role of the United States in the world?

Romney would clearly much rather talk about domestic policy, so he says America's role in the world is to have a great economy at home. And to have a strong military. And to stand by our allies. But mostly it's to create lots of jobs and be energy independent. And fund schools that put kids first. And create tax laws that favor entrepreneurs. And, perhaps, foment apple pie and Chevrolets through an international education program.

Obama, too, is drifting back to domestic policy as being easier to argue than foreign dilemmas. Neither candidate has mentioned anything happening outside the United States for 10 minutes. I'm sure folks across the world tuning in to hear what the U.S. has planned for them are fascinated by an argument over standardized test results and small business growth in Massachusetts.

In a way, it's not surprising that the candidates are falling back on domestic memes. At least when it comes to domestic policy we -- politicians and citizens alike -- feel like we understand the issues. "Which factions should lead Syria when Assad falls?"

"Um...let me tell you about my energy plan, cause I don't know squat about Syrian rebels."

"America remains the world's one indispensable nation," Obama says, and unwittingly. I imagine most of the world's citizens think the one indispensable nation is the one they hang out in.

Obama, for his part, has made a huge improvement in the face he makes while listening to Romney, who still has a really weird, simpering look on his face when he listens to Obama.

Columns