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With 'horses and bayonets,' Obama casts Romney as out of touch

October 22, 2012|By Kathleen Hennessey

If Mitt Romney’s foreign policy was an unknown to average voters, President Obama came to the table for the third presidential debate ready to sum it up in one word: dated.

In his final face-off against the former Massachusetts governor, Obama unleashed a series of zingers all casting Romney’s foreign policy ideas as old — sometimes really, really old.

Obama started by tearing into Romney’s description of Russia as a “No. 1 geopolitical foe.”

“And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War's been over for 20 years,” Obama said, reviving a bit of snark he’s used on the campaign trail. “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 policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.”

(Romney answered the criticism by saying he was distinguishing geopolitical foes from national security threats. Iran is the greatest security threat, he said, but Russia continues to regularly oppose U.S. aims at the United Nations.)

Obama reached quite a bit further back for his next, practiced attack. Answering Romney’s familiar critique about the Navy having fewer ships today than under past presidents, Obama said Romney “hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works.”

“Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines,” he said. “And so the question is not a game of Battleship where we're counting ships. It's — it's what are our capabilities.”

But Obama most wants to link Romney to a more recent era. In his first answer, Obama tied Romney to the foreign policy of former President George W. Bush, noting that Romney supported the invasion of Iraq.

kathleen.hennessey@latimes.com

Twitter: @khennessey

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