While there weren’t many memorable moments in the debates between Romney and Obama, there are a couple of items that have received more attention than I expected. Ironically, I have heard these brought up by conservative talk show hosts in order to criticize Obama. But these are two of the few things that Obama said that were actually truthful and somewhat accurate.
The first incident happened while the two were discussing the economy in the second debate. In particular, the high price of gas came up. Romney was criticizing Obama because gas prices are so high now.
Obama responded, “He said when I took office, the price of gasoline was $1.80, $1.86. Why is that? Because the economy was on the verge of collapse, because we were about to go through the worst recession since the Great Depression, as a consequence of some of the same policies that Governor Romney’s now promoting. So, it’s conceivable that Governor Romney could bring down gas prices because with his policies, we might be back in that same mess.”
Republicans and others in the media have criticized Obama immensely for this comment. But, as much as I hate to say it, Obama was basically right here. Gas prices were also extremely high under the Bush presidency. The price of gas went way down, along with oil prices, right when it became evident that there was a major recession. So gas prices came way down right before Obama was inaugurated, so it is an unfair benchmark to use gas prices on the first day Obama took the presidency.
While lower gas prices do not necessarily indicate a bad economy, it is true that a bad economy can cause gas prices to go down. That is what recessions do. The demand for goods and services go down, while the demand for money goes up. This means that prices usually go down, including energy prices.
Gas prices were high during the Bush presidency when the artificial boom was still going on. This was a time when there was a severe misallocation of resources. In addition, the two major wars certainly added to the high prices of oil and gas. The monetary inflation caused both the artificial boom and the high gas prices. But when the bust came, the prices went down. I guess you could say that Obama actually got a small piece of the business cycle correct.
Don’t get me wrong here. Obama is still a fool when it comes to economics, but I guess the Republican criticism of his point on gas prices just makes many of the Republicans economic fools themselves.
The second incident was in the last debate on foreign policy. Romney was accusing Obama of reducing the size of the Navy. Obama responded, “You mention the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets. We have these things called aircraft carriers and planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.” He went on to say, “It’s not a game of battleship where we’re counting ships, it’s ‘What are our capabilities?'”
While some people may not have liked the sarcastic tone, Obama was absolutely right on this point. Regardless of your opinion on foreign policy, we live in a different world than we did almost a hundred years ago. Actually, it is completely different than it was just 25 years ago when there was a Cold War and the Soviet Union still existed.
Today, terrorism and guerilla warfare are the dominant threats, or at least portrayed that way by the U.S. government. Of course, if the U.S. government stopped intervening around the world, then guerilla warfare would no longer be a factor and terrorism would probably be much less of a factor. And there is no question that Obama has continued the interventionist policies of his predecessors. But on this one point, Obama was actually correct that Romney’s criticisms were baseless.
What do ships do now? They are used to transport goods, they are used as aircraft carriers, and they patrol the open waters. But there isn’t an Iraqi Navy or an Afghan Navy, which are the two places where there have been major wars.
In conclusion, there are a lot of things that Obama could be criticized for and yet conservatives are picking on a couple of quotes from the debates where Obama actually had honest and valid points. Since the conservatives can’t really attack Obama on major things (because Romney and Ryan supported many of those same things), they resort to these petty things to try to make it look like there is a difference between the two candidates. Unfortunately, we are going to be stuck with one of them for another 4 years.