What was up with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his Mr. Nice Guy act during that third and final debate with President Obama?
Former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. -- the state manager for the Romney campaign -- has a theory.
Ehrlich spoke -- as it is his twice-annual tradition to do -- at Towson University Professor Rick Vatz's persuasion class last Tuesday, the day after the debate.
The former governor theorized that since Romney has been surging in the polls, there was no need for him to be Mr. Tough Guy. Romney's goal, Ehrlich speculated, might have been to win over those undecided voters that might have thought his foreign policy was too hawkish.
Vatz took issue with Ehrlich's point, drawing a sports analogy.
"I hate prevent defenses," Vatz said of the practice of some football teams to protect a lead late in the game. They give up short passes and focus on preventing big plays. Sometimes the "prevent defense" works, other times it doesn't. Some critics feel that the only thing the "prevent defense" prevents is victory.
Vatz would have preferred to see Romney nail Obama on the Benghazi mess that left four Americans dead. Romney, Vatz contended, could have also brought up Obama's shaky relationship with the state of Israel.
I tend to agree with Vatz. There are at least five areas I hoped Romney would have had Obama explain.
1. That Benghazi mess: why did the Obama administration go with the "riot in response to 'The Innocence of Muslims' " explanation, rather than the pre-planned 9/11 anniversary terrorist attack it appeared to be even then?
2. Last year the president called on Israel to return to the borders it had before the 1967 Six Day War. News stories from May of 2011 quote Romney as saying that Obama's position was essentially throwing Israel under the bus. By last Monday, that bus had all but disappeared.
3. Obama and Romney have the same position on Jerusalem being the capital of Israel. But at this year's Democratic National Convention, some Democrats made an attempt to remove support for that position from the party's platform. (Note: Democrats wanted to boot any mention of God from the platform too.) It was only Obama's intervention that restored it. But Romney passed on the opportunity to ask Obama this: "Just what IS your party's position on Jerusalem being the capital of Israel, Mr. President? You support it, but many members of your party clearly do not. Mr. President, are you out of touch with your own political party?"
4. Should Secretary of State Hillary Clinton resign? Some heads in the Obama administration should roll after what happened in Benghazi. Clinton has already accepted full responsibility for the debacle that deteriorated into a tragedy. How noble of Clinton to fall on the sword for the Obama administration, but should hers be the only head to roll? I suspect not. There is at least one other candidate whose head should be on the proverbial chopping block: the genius that refused to provide extra security for the Benghazi consulate, even after it was requested.
5. Unrelated to the problems in the Middle East is America's relationship -- or, more accurately, the lack of one -- with the Marxist nation of Cuba. Democratic and Republican positions on this have been the same for over 50 years, which is to say vindictive, backward and stupid. We imposed a trade embargo on Cuba in 1961, which was supposed to lead to the economic collapse of the Castro regime. It hasn't worked. We've managed to have normal -- or close to normal -- relations with every Marxist nation in the world, except one. Anti-Castro fanatics drive our Cuban policy in southern Florida. The question for both Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama: Is it wise for any nation to let its foreign policy be dictated by a fanatical minority?
Examiner Columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.