Mitt Romney's surprisingly calm debate performance: Brilliant or boneheaded?

The GOP nominee politely echoes Obama on Syria, Israel, and Iran — and may have come off looking presidential as a result

Old chums: Mitt Romney and President Obama meet at the end of their last debate on Oct. 22.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Many of Mitt Romney's supporters praised him after Monday's foreign policy debate with President Obama, saying that the GOP challenger showed with his steady, measured performance that he was a plausible commander-in-chief. Romney avoided outright attacks, even passing up a chance to repeat his criticism of Obama's handling of the deadly Sept. 11 assault on U.S. diplomats in Libya. Romney even ceded several policy points to Obama, seeming to endorse the current administration's strategy of carefully arming rebels but avoiding direct military involvement in Syria, tightening sanctions against Iran, and maintaining a close relationship with Israel. Obama himself even said that while Romney has embraced "wrong and reckless" saber rattling in the past, "I'm glad that Governor Romney agrees with the steps that we're taking" now. Was Romney smart to play it cool, or did he look weak by giving up so much ground to Obama?

Romney blew a chance to hammer Obama: "Obama has a weak record in the Middle East," says Daniel Pipes at National Review, but you wouldn't know it from watching the debate. Romney "agreed with Obama more than he disagreed, and rarely pointed out the president's failings." He praised Obama for getting Osama bin Laden without pointing out that al Qaeda remains a threat. Worse, he squandered the opportunity to remind voters of Obama's inept and dishonest handling of the attack in Libya.

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