Horses & Bayonets & World Peace: The Final Debate's Most Pageant-y Moments

Like an incredibly high stakes Miss America competition, the last Presidential debate of the 2012 election season has come and gone. And because both candidates are fighting to the death over the tiny sliver of undecided voters (really, what amounts to twelve people who own Puddle of Mudd CD's scratching their butts in Ohio) the candidates' final sorta-unscripted time in the eyeline of The American People was characterized by incredibly simple platitudes about world peace and friendship, odd verbiage, and Mitt Romney's sweaty "OH CRAP I ONLY READ THE CLIFF'S NOTES AND HE'S TESTING ON FOOTNOTES AND ALSO I ATE CAJUN FRIES FOR LUNCH" face. Thank goodness moderator Bob Schieffer opted to skip the bathing suit competition. So you don't have to go back and watch it yourself, or ever think about it again, here's a rundown of the pageantry.

Miss Syntax America 2012


Mitt Romney's bizarre twin language syntax is confusing, off putting, and fascinating. Like watching a businessman stare straight ahead as he pees his pants on a subway platform, or listening to Kenneth Branagh read Carrie Prejean's emails.

Here are some actual Mitt Romney quotes from the debate's transcript:

We were together at a humorous event a little earlier, and it's nice to maybe funny this time, not on purpose. We'll see what happens.


And that's how he opened. From there, Romney appeared to grow ever more nervous as the debate progressed and it became clear that his foreign policy experience includes trying to convert French people to Mormonism, making Brits and Palestinians mad, and little else. His face reacted to a perceived threat by getting really greasy. A sweat mustache appeared. When Obama began hitting him with several points a smarter conservative than Mitt Romney could have refuted, Romney tried to magically transform his sketchy economic policy into foreign policy before our very eyes. But that was also weird — and not just because of the sweat 'stache.

I'd be happy to have you take a look. Come on our website. You look at how we get to a balanced budget within eight to 10 years.


Sure, dude. I'll make sure to come on your website.

When discussing the Middle East, Romney used the word "tumult" five times. He described Iran's nuclear program as "nuclear folly," which I believe in the Romney house they refer to as "the f-word." He responded to an Obama barb by calling it "the height of silliness." Then, toward the end of the debate, both candidates seized on the phrase "crippling sanctions" like they were trying out a new name for their post-election bipartisan thrash metal band. Six times hearing "crippling sanctions" on TV when I could have been watching DVR'd episodes of Ben & Kate is six times too many.


Barack Obama's Talent: Meme Launching

If we're talking pageants, last night, Barack Obama's talent was meme launching, an ambitious endeavor considering that the last two debates brought us memes that were all Romney (even though the SAVE BIG BIRD and BINDERS FULL OF WOMEN jokes were technically at his expense). While the President's first attempt at meme creation was met with what I swear was an audible "ugh, dad your jokes are so dumb" groan rising out of the borough of Brooklyn — "The 1980's, they're now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War's been over for 20 years." — his second go at it was much more successful.

After Romney accused Obama of letting our Navy wither like an elderly prostate, the President struck back with a bit of barely-contained condescension so liberal catnippy that it could have been written by Rachel Maddow.

You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, 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. And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we're counting slips. It's what are our capabilities.


HORSES AND BAYONETS! What a fucking delightful combination of words. And Battleship! And patient paternal explaining! By the end of the evening, a Horses and Bayonets Facebook page had been launched, the Obama campaign had purchased, another site mocking Mitt's antique sensibilities. Photoshopped pictures of an angry Mitt Romney losing a game of Battleship against a cocky Barack Obama began popping up on Twitter and Facebook.


Paul Ryan, who is starting to seem a little like Mitt Romney's sex idiot, responded to the meme by saying he "doesn't understand" the "horses and bayonets" comment, hitting back at Obama by pointing out that "the ocean hasn't shrunk." Good point, bra.


A lesser meme launched by an Obama zinger was the President's assertion that Romney's plan is to do what the current administration has done, but louder, but that didn't come with the exciting old timey visuals and photoshopping opportunities of the Horses & Bayonets remark. Finally, "BUT LOUDER" wouldn't be a good name for a store that sells rugby shirts and overpriced jeans and pre-distressed leather belts and decorates its walls with antique muskets.

Mitt Romney's Talent: Geography/Rapping


Governor Romney brushed off his geography skills in an attempt to impress the viewing public with his Commander in Chiefery. Unfortunately, his most emphatic geographic assertion last night was wrong. Embarrassingly, Palinesquely so. He said,

Syria is Iran's only ally in the Arab world. It's their route to the sea.

Except, Iran touches the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea. And it doesn't border Syria. I can't believe we made fun of Miss Teen South Carolina for her speech about how some children in The Iraq don't have maps when it's clear that some Romneys right here in America also tragically lack them. How wrong we were.


But, there's a positive side to all of this: as he got more rattled and dewy last night, Romney began repeating himself in a way that was almost rhythmic. Here are a few Romney quotes, lifted directly from the transcript. They're easily better than Ke$ha raps, and the world of hip hop is long overdue for a someone to fill the nervous, sweaty businessman niche.

the president received a letter from 38 Democrat senators saying the tensions with Israel were a real problem. They asked him, please repair the tension — Democrat senators — please repair the tension...

They look at our — our decision to — to cut back on our military capabilities. A trillion dollars. The secretary of defense called these trillion dollars of cuts to our military devastating. It's not my term, it's the president's own secretary of defense called these trillion dollars of cuts to our military devastating. It's not my term, it's the president's own Secretary of Defense, called them devastating.


All he needs is MC Tagg to drop a beat and that could be a helluva track.

Loving World Peace, Teachers, Friends, and Hugs

And now we're at the part where the candidates talk about things about which everyone can agree. World peace, friends, love. It's like an Ann Romney stump speech in debate form. Here's Mittens laying out his detailed foreign policy agenda,

... our purpose is to make sure the world is more — is peaceful. We want a peaceful planet. We want people to be able to enjoy their lives and know they're going to have a bright and prosperous future, not be at war.


But how are we going to do it? Our friends. Romney said,

We're the great nation that has allies, 42 allies and friends around the world.

President Obama agreed, stating "Israel is a true friend" in much the same way Jenni "JWOWW" Farley might refer to Snooki. We've got bracelets and everything, guys. It's offish.


Romney did some pandering to the ladies last night! Within a minute of his opening statement, he was reflecting on the plight of women in the Middle East, how it's a total tragedy that they're so oppressed. Did you know, for example, that women working there sometimes have a real hard time getting their boss to let them off early so that they can run home and make dinner for their families? What a shame. Since 75% of teachers are women and Romney desperately needs women to vote for him, he also had nice (albeit totally pornographic double entendre-y) things to say about teachers. Here's an awkward exchange with mostly invisible moderator Bob Schieffer.

ROMNEY: I love teachers, and I'm happy to have states and communities that want to hire teachers do that. By the way, I don't like to have the federal government start pushing its weight deeper and deeper into our schools. Let the states and localities do that. I was a governor. The federal government didn't hire our teachers. But I love teachers. But I want to get our private sector growing and I know how to do it.

SCHIEFFER: I think we all love teachers.

Misters Congeniality

The Mitt Romney we saw last night was a much more twitchy, nervous, Dick Nixon-y Romney than we saw in the first debate. He sort of acted like how I act when I've smoked too much weed of middling quality and want to go home. But that doesn't mean that all of the fight was smoked out of him; there were still some heated exchanges. Here's one, which can also serve as a perfect summary of how the American political process works>

ROMNEY: You're wrong...


OBAMA: ...they would have gone through a...


ROMNEY:'re wrong.


OBAMA: No, I am not wrong. I am not wrong.


ROMNEY: People can look it up, you're right.

OBAMA: People will look it up.


And the winner is...

After the debate, Obama supporters crowed that the floor just had a Romney-shaped mop taken to it. Romney supporters complained about the moderator. Even Romney, mid-debate, couldn't resist Romneying the fuck out and arguing with Bob Schieffer about the rules.


That's how you know Obama won.

But if my folksy anecdata method isn't enough, take a look at the post-debate polls — almost every poll gave the edge to Obama. A CNN focus group that featured no Latino voters still gave the edge to Obama 48-40%. Public Policy Polling found that swing state voters thought Obama won 53-42%, and that 51% of respondents planned on voting for the President on November 6th.


And the loser is...

Ann Coulter, what the fuck is wrong with you? Who made you like this? Show me on the doll where your parents didn't love you.


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