Newsflash! There are other countries in the world besides America. And tonight President Barack Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney will debate just what we should do about them. Bomb them? Attack them with drones? Erect trade barriers and brand them cheaters? Or perhaps just project our values, PowerPoint style. Bullets, bullet points, can anyone really tell the difference?
Apparently there aren't that many countries, however, or at least not so many that matter. A leaked topic list indicates that the debate will focus almost entirely on the Middle East and terrorism, with perhaps a brief pause for Romney to brand China a cheater and Obama to say the word "outcompete." What about Africa, Latin America, Russia, and the European Union? Well, what about them?
We'll have to wait a few more hours to find out what the candidates actually say, but here's a rough guess: Mitt Romney, who has toured other countries and embarrassed himself in the process, will accuse President Barack Obama of being an embarrassment as a national leader—someone who has "diminished American influence abroad" and "compromised" American values.
Obama, who came into office with little direct background in foreign policy and who has since ordered bombings and drone strikes that have killed hundreds, including at least 176 children, will imply that Romney is inexperienced and simplistically, dangerously hawkish.
Expect both candidates to make implausible promises about the country's energy future, and both to seek ways to make themselves look tough on China, the country from which the U.S. imports more goods than any other. One candidate will be "wary" about the Middle East. The other will be "cautious."
In other words, expect a lot of kinetic rhetorical action, but not much actual debate.
So you may as well find a fancy foreign brew and drink your way through it all.
Start with a robust pregame chug for all the foreign policy issues that won't be discussed: Democracy and development in Africa, the future of Russia, the Eurozone crisis, Greece and austerity budgets, debt and monetary policy in Japan.
And then take a drink if:
- Obama claims he ended the war in Iraq.
- Romney fails to note that he didn't.
- Obama mumbles something vaguely incoherent about Afghanistan.
- Romney mumbles something vaguely incoherent about Afghanistan.
- Obama talks up sanctions on Iran.
- Romney says those sanctions are not strong enough, but won't say what action(s) would be.
- Either candidate attempts to provide a detailed assessment of Iran's nuclear program.
- Romney once again botches his criticism of the Obama administration's Benghazi blunders.
- Obama defends his administration's days-long insistence that the attacks were provoked by a YouTube video critical of Islam.
- Romney promises to brand China a currency manipulator.
- Obama declares that America must outcompete the rest of the world.
- Romney, like just about every presidential candidate for the last few decades, pledges to achieve North American energy independence by 2020, but does not promise to discover unicorns, which is equally likely.
- Obama says he wants to end subsidies to big oil without mentioning that he wants to plow those subsidies right back into dubious green energy projects.
- Romney accuses Obama of having gone on an apology tour.
- Anyone uses the words "mission accomplished."
- Anyone uses the words "brought to justice."
- Anyone mispronounces the name of a foreign country or city. Double shot if they pause to slowly correct themselves.
- Anyone, including the moderator, gets mixed up about which war he's talking about.
- Take one drink the first time President Obama mentions Osama bin Laden. Take two drinks the second time. And three drinks the third. Keep increasing the number of drinks accordingly each time he mentions him. And so on and so forth, so on the sixth time President Obama mentions bin Laden, you should take six drinks.
- Buy a truck full of tequila, drive straight to Mexico, and open a bar under an assumed name if Romney responds to any of Obama's bin Laden mentions by saying "you didn't build that."
And remember to check back at debate time (9 p.m. EST) as Reason's editors live tweet the entire event.