Some thoughts on the final presidential debate:
•Maybe a President Romney or a second-term Obama will surprise me, but after watching three debates with these guys, one of my main reactions is that it's a little disappointing that this is the best that this generation of Americans can come up with. Sure, they both have personal stories that are in some ways impressive — Mr. Obama's rise to the presidency from unlikely circumstances, Mr. Romney's success as a businessman. But when you look back to the truly great presidents in American history — Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt (for his World War II leadership), Ronald Reagan (I'd include John Kennedy, too, but that's a longer story for another time) — it's very hard to see either Mr. Romney or Mr. Obama in that category. And it's too bad, because our country right now is in quite a pickle.
•Elliott Abrams has made this point in the past as perhaps others have as well (See Bret Stephens in Commentary here), but it showed again in the debate tonight in a big way. When President Obama is trying to be supportive of Jews or Israel, he has a pattern of portraying them as victims. Mr. Obama did this in tonight's debate when he talked about how when he went to Israel, he went to Yad Vashem — the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem — and to Sderot, where Israeli civilians were being bombarded with rockets from Gaza. That's the part of the Israeli and Jewish story that, for whatever reason, Mr. Obama seems to find most attractive and personally compelling, as opposed to other parts that others may find more attractive and personally compelling — parts that concern Jewish power or excellence or achievement as opposed to Jewish victimhood.
•I don't get why Mr. Romney thinks that threatening tariffs on Chinese goods is an attractive position for voters. Wouldn't that just make all the stuff we all buy from China more expensive? On China trade, I don't think either of the candidates really gets the advantages to the American economy of cheap goods made in China. Mr. Obama bragged that China was flooding America with cheap tires, and that he "put a stop to it." The consequence of that is that ordinary Americans now have to pay more money for tires. Who wants that, other than a few American tire-workers and the owners of their factories? I understand and agree with all the stuff about preventing China from stealing American intellectual property, and I'd prefer that the workers in China have the freedom to organize genuinely free labor unions and to bargain collectively. But if China wants to subsidize American consumers by sending us artificially cheap stuff, it seems to me that America may want to just take as much of the cheap stuff as we can and use the money we save by doing that to invest in other things.