Ardent backers view debate with criticisms

President Barack Obama wasn’t likely to get Joseph Breman’s vote and Gov. Mitt Romney wasn’t likely to garner Duane Butcher’s vote before Tuesday’s presidential debate, the second of this campaign.

When it was over, Breman and Butcher, both Grand Valley residents, each remained backers of Romney and Obama respectively.

Each looked at the debate through different prisms. however. Butcher is a 30-year veteran of the foreign service who noted in an interview after the debate that, as Foreign Service officials, both he and Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who died in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, accepted risk when trying to further American interests.

Breman is the major gifts officer for the American associates of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.

In criticizing Obama and his response to Stevens’ murder, Romney’s conduct was appalling and one that ultimately worked against U.S. interests, Butcher said.

Obama during the debate criticized Romney for his comments shortly after the Sept. 11 attack.

“I’m more offended than I can say,” Butcher said, criticizing Romney’s issuance of press release that “attacked our government while a brave man was still in the process of dying” in Benghazi.

For Breman, Obama’s overheard remark to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev asking Medvedev to tell Vladimir Putin that he would have “more flexibility” to negotiate on missile defense after the election, was a hurdle that Obama couldn’t clear in the debate.

“I can only wonder what kind of comments Obama has made to other made other heads of state of a like nature,” Breman said. “I have no confidence in the president’s foreign policy as it relates to the Middle East.”

There was little that Obama or anyone could have done to protect Stevens, who was dependent, as are all ambassadors, on the host country for his security, Butcher said.

Butcher, an unaffiliated voter, said the Republican’s responses during the debate revealed a failure to understand the risks faced by ambassadors, one that plays into the hands of American enemies in the region.

“I also like that the president accepted full responsibility for it,” Butcher said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier in the day had claimed responsibility.

Romney should have taken a page from Ronald Reagan, then a Republican former governor campaigning against Democrat president Jimmy Carter, who was “exemplary” in his response when American hostages were taken in Iran in a Muslim uprising. Butcher said.

In any case, Butcher said, “There was nothing the president could have done. In that kind of chaotic situation, if a group decides they want to kill you, they’ll kill you.”

Obama bears responsibility for the attack as a policy matter, Breman said.

“I’ll go to my grave” wondering why the United States had an ambassador in Libya when the country was clearly unstable, Breman said.

Shows of strength are necessary for survival in the Middle East, Breman said.

“I think when your foreign policy doesn’t demand respect, you’re not going to get it, especially in that part of the world,” Breman said.

Romney was right to criticize Obama for “putting daylight” between the United States and Israel, its most reliable ally, for failing to protect Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and in not recognizing the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood there, Breman said.

After the debate was over, Breman said, “The question isn’t so much whether Romney would be better but could Obama be worse?”


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