The List

Top 5 final-debate memes: 'Horses and Bayonets,' and more

Inevitably, a few choice phrases and images from Monday night's debate took on an internet life of their own

In a debate season that's brought us Unemployed Big Bird, Binders Full of Women, and Laughing Joe Biden, it would have been anticlimactic had some word or phrase from the final debate not acquired instant meme status. The foreign-policy debate didn't disappoint, lighting up Twitter and Tumblr with talk of obsolete weapons, the classic strategy game Battleship, and other quickly viral — and likely quickly forgotten — internet sensations. Here are a few of the cultural moments born of the final face-off between President Obama and Mitt Romney:

1. Horses and BayonetsWhen Romney criticized Obama for his plans to shrink the U.S. military budget, the GOP contender brought up some surprising data points: "Our Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917," and our Air Force has fewer planes than at any time since 1947. (See The Week's fact check of this claim.) Obama was ready: "Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets" — and a meme was born. The hashtag #horsesandbayonets and spoof accounts took over Twitter, and someone set up a Horses and Bayonets Tumblr. Conservatives say that Obama alienated shipbuilding ports in key states like Virginia and New Hampshire. Who won that exchange, asks Oskar Garcia at The Christian Science Monitor. "The internet, of course."

2. Obama sunk Romney's BattleshipObama's response to Romney's ship-tallying exercise — "the question is not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting ships — also yielded a second meme: "Obama just sank Romney's battleship." The taunt tickled Obama supporters, but Romney backers got in some choice counter-jabs: "Obama tells Romney this isn't a game of Battleship," tweeted "Conservative Twitter Baron" Matt Dawson. "I wish It was! I'm sick of playing the game of 'Sorry' for the last four years."

3. Things Romney LovesOne of moderator Bob Schieffer's best lines came when — after Romney had just gushed, twice, that "I love teachers" — he gently steered the conversation back to foreign policy by telling the GOP candidate: "I think we all love teachers." Romney's sentiments got people thinking about all the other things he's declared his "love" for, including Big Bird — the comment that sparked the original 2012 debate meme. "Teachers, Big Bird, lamp... Romney always hurts the ones he loves," tweets The Guardian's Ana Marie Cox.

 4. The '80s called....After Obama noted that, earlier this year, Romney had called Russia, not Al Qaeda, our greatest geopolitical threat, the president unleashed his other zinger of the night: "The 1980's are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back — because the Cold War has been over for 20 years. But governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policy of the 1950s, and the economic policies of the 1920s." Boom, "that '1980s called' line was the best line of the 3 debates methinks," tweeted The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza. "Does your healthcare plan cover burns, Mitt Romney?" added Kentucky sports journalist Thomas Beisner. Not everyone relished the riposte: "The 1980s called... they want their cliches back," tweeted Brad Walsh.

5. Sweating RomneySpeaking of the 1980s, Romney forgot some sage advice from a Reagan-era antiperspirant ad: "'Never let 'em see you sweat,'" says The Hollywood Reporter. "Throughout the 90-minute debate, the former Massachusetts governor was seen with perspiration on his face, particularly his upper lip." The internet seized on his glistening visage. "Romney looks like he's been manning a BBQ for 3 hours," tweeted Jessi Klein. This is epic "sweating, Nixonian style," said Van Jones on CNN. "You could bottle Mitt Romney's upper lip sweat and sell it for $4.50 in the Trump Tower gift shop," tweeted Chris Rock. Come on, guys, added Lisa McIntire. "Romney didn't have flop sweat. He had victory shine." 

Recommended

Biden will not shield Trump's records from Jan. 6 probe
Joe Biden.
privilege revoked

Biden will not shield Trump's records from Jan. 6 probe

Biden's comments avoid larger immigration issue, critics say
Joe Biden.
at the border

Biden's comments avoid larger immigration issue, critics say

Fox News reportedly cancels Rudy Giuliani for 3 months
Rudy Giuliani.
Fox & Frenemies

Fox News reportedly cancels Rudy Giuliani for 3 months

10 things you need to know today: September 24, 2021
Rochelle Walensky
Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: September 24, 2021

Most Popular

Jimmy Fallon and Nicole Kidman almost make it through interview without awkwardness
Jimmy Fallon and Nicole Kidman
Last Night on Late Night

Jimmy Fallon and Nicole Kidman almost make it through interview without awkwardness

Democrats are governing like Republicans
A donkey.
Picture of W. James Antle IIIW. James Antle III

Democrats are governing like Republicans

7 cartoons about America's vaccine fights
Editorial Cartoon.
Feature

7 cartoons about America's vaccine fights