John Baer: We want answers, fellows, not dancers

MAYBE PRESIDENT Obama should bring his Nobel Peace Prize to Monday night's debate on foreign policy in Boca Raton.

That way if Mitt Romney refers, as he often does, to Obama's "apology tour" of nations, Obama can say, "Please proceed, governor."

Then Romney can say, as he did during last week's debate, "The president's policies throughout the Middle East began with an apology tour and pursue a strategy of leading from behind."

Then Obama can clear his throat, hold up his Nobel medal and read the citation for "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."


Who will win the third debate and who will win the election?

Then Mitt can trash the Nobel committee with, "Yeah, well, this year they gave their prize to the failing socialist European Union and I'm pretty sure we don't want to travel the road to Greece."

Then Obama can note that the last silly thing Romney said in Boca Raton (at a fundraiser in May) was that 47 percent of Americans are irresponsible moochers.

Then, of course, we're off to the races.

I don't know if this final debate decides the outcome of the race for the White House.

I don't know if CBS's Bob Schieffer, a Texas-born news veteran and solid interviewer, can elicit more than talking points.

And clearly most voters are far more interested in domestic economic issues than in foreign affairs.

(An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll says foreign policy is most important to just 6 percent of voters, behind the economy, social issues, Social Security and Medicare, health care and the deficit.)

Still, here we are, with low expectations.

It's a debate you'd think favors Obama. Romney has no foreign-affairs record - unless you count Mormon missionary work in France 40 years ago, or his jaunt in July during which he managed to insult the Brits over readiness for the Olympics and the Palestinians over their culture.

But because he has no record, Mitt can pick at Obama's: on Syria, Libya, Iran, Afghanistan, Israel and more. I'm guessing there'll be lots of picking.

This could lead to a reminder that Romney earlier this year referred to Russia as America's "No. 1 geopolitical foe."

Which could lead to a reminder that Obama earlier this year told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that the best time to negotiate missile-defense issues is after November because "[a]fter my election I have more flexibility."

Surely we'll revisit Obama getting Osama in 2011, something that Romney said back in '07 was "not worth moving heaven and earth" to do.

Certainly we'll reprise reaction to last month's attack on our consulate in Benghazi. For even if Obama immediately called it an act of terror, there remains the question of why the administration kept pointing to that anti-Muslim film for two weeks after the event.

I hope Mitt is asked if he'd go to war to stop a nuclear-armed Iran. I hope Obama is asked why he has confidence in U.S. intelligence regarding Iran's nuclear progress, given repeated intelligence failures in that part of the world.

I hope both answer questions.

And the war in Afghanistan - 11 years, more than 2,000 American lives lost, more than 17,000 U.S. troops wounded, more than $1 trillion spent that might have gone to job-creating infrastructure at home - what can they say?

Obama can say he's ending it. Mitt can say he'd end it. Who can really say when it ends?

Don't expect surprises Monday night. Tight elections cause cautionary rhetoric.

Don't expect specifics about the future of foreign relations, or plans to reassess U.S. spending and military presence around the world.

Expect squabbles over who did what, said what or supported what in the past.

It is, after all, election time. The election's close. So expectations should be low.


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