Sometimes it feels good to go back in time and relish in just how right you were, even though your stance may have been perceived as outrageous or untenable at the time. Sometimes, though, it can also hurt a little. It hurts because while you can take pleasure in pointing the finger and saying, “Haha, told ya,” the damage has been done.
Today’s trip in the Wayback Machine takes us to the presidential debates of 2012. Romney vs. Obama, with the future of the country hanging in the balance. After a lackluster performance in the first debate, Obama came back roaring for the second two. He was prepared, he was interested, and he came equipped with plenty of well-timed quips that put the much more qualified, intelligent, and politically-competent Mitt Romney back on his heels.
If you went back and took each small exchange of the debate in context, you could probably find a hundred sections where Romney has been proven right by the passage of time. But let’s just take the issue of Russia. This small snippet of the second debate on YouTube shows the president scoring points by positioning Romney’s statements on Russia as preposterous and outdated. At the time, it looked to many voters as if the Republican candidate was out of touch. Looking back now, however, it is our current president who looks as though he should have paid more attention to his national security briefings.
“Russia,” Romney says in the debate, “is a geopolitical foe. Russia does continue to battle us time and time again in the UN…I’m not going to wear rose colored glasses when it comes to Russia or Mr. Putin, and I’m certainly not going to say to him, ‘I’ll give you more flexibility after the election.’”
In response, Obama counters, “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War has been over for twenty years.”
Like many of his sharp retorts in these debates, the comeback was meant to be Obama’s answer to Lloyd Bentsen’s “You, my friend, are no Jack Kennedy” moment with Dan Quayle. It didn’t garner any of the feverish applause of the former, of course, but maybe that’s because modern debate audiences are more heavily warned against that kind of frenzy. Or maybe it’s because it just wasn’t that great of a zinger. A final possibility is that, well, the audience knew that Romney was not as far off in his remarks as the president would have liked them to believe.
The next months are going to be interesting ones when it comes to our country’s relationship with Russia and Putin. Things have been strained for years, but the aftermath of MH17 may take things beyond simple strain and into a much more threatening situation. Could we be headed back to the Cold War after all? Time will tell, but you have to wonder where things would be if we had elected a commander-in-chief who saw Russia for what it was. Putin got his post-election flexibility, and now we’re paying for that mistake.