Rest up on debate day. Have an espresso before going onstage. Keep in mind: You are the champ, not the contender. Act like it. Dark suit, red tie. Ramrod straight. Never look down. Use the right mix of sugar (that wonderful smile) and salt (a few zingers on point.) The final debate is on foreign affairs, which offers the right openings for you to regain your respect, along with your mojo.
Set a presidential stance, reminding your opponent that you are one of the 44 commanders in chief in American history. You committed the lives of brave young Americans to war. No one who has not written personal letters of condolence to military families or met and saluted troops’ returning caskets at quiet airports can know this feeling.
Take some sober credit. You promised to end the war in Iraq, and you did. You promised to pursue Osama bin Laden and kill him, and you did. You promised to end our military adventure in Afghanistan, and that is happening. You promised to find and kill the terrorists who killed our ambassador and other Americans in Libya and you will do that. In critical matters of war and peace, any administration should be graded on one fundamental basis: Promises made, promises kept.
Unnecessary adventurism that costs dearly in life and treasure are to be avoided. Your opponent’s bluster and warnings to hostile countries, not based on the sound advice of our advisers in defense and intelligence or sober consultation with our allies, is reckless political pandering that does not serve our country’s interests.
Deal with the public’s impatience, and yours, with the congressional logjam and excessive lobbying. You tried for four years to work with the Republicans in Congress. But when their leaders openly avowed to vote against anything you proposed — even laws Republicans had advocated — they have to accept the blame.
For your political opponent to say that you failed at compromise is reminiscent of the child who killed his parents and asked the judge for mercy because he’s an orphan. Ask voters to send a message to their representatives in Congress — to elect patriotic legislators from both parties who will work with you toward sensible compromises.
Don’t shy away from Romney’s remarks about “the 47 percent.” After that disgraceful speech became public, he said his words were “inelegant.” Now he says they were wrong! But what he says backtracking in public is less revealing about the real Mitt Romney than what he said — in code words and embarrassing candor — to his supporters in private. These “freeloaders” he chastised are students, elderly, retirees, military vets, folks facing hard times. Words — ideas — like his could never pass your lips because they are not in your heart.
Ask why Romney keeps his money not in America but in Cayman Islands and Swiss banks and in Luxemburg. Why won’t he disclose his finances to voters, as his father did in his campaigns, as he himself did for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 when he wanted to be selected as his vice president, and what he himself asked of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) when he vetted him.
Return to the fundamental question in this election: the two differing approaches to the role of the federal government. You encourage a government that is a best friend when citizens are in need, an inspiration for creativity and advancement, and a safety net for people falling on bad times. You believe in the arts, humanities and PBS. If you haven’t focused on billionaires and multi-millionaires, it’s because they need less. That isn’t socialism, it is basic fairness. While you have been consistent in your values, your opponent has been Pretzel Man, offering himself as a right winger in the primaries, now offering himself as a middle of the roader; running away from policies, then embracing them; switching and twisting positions like a whirling dervish.
Are things better now than 2008? You’ve brought us from wars abroad to peace, and away from the brink of economic disaster at home. Ask them to allow you to finish the job.
Goldfarb, a Washington attorney and author, served in the Kennedy Justice Department and was a speech writer for Robert F. Kennedy in his Senate campaign, as well as for other national politicians.