Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Advice: Obama, explain; Romney, chill the tough talk

By Hilary Rosen and Will Cain, CNN Contributors
updated 7:36 PM EDT, Mon October 22, 2012
Workers prepare the stage for the final presidential debate Monday night at Lynn University in Florida.
Workers prepare the stage for the final presidential debate Monday night at Lynn University in Florida.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Republican Will Cain to Obama: Explain in detail the attack in Benghazi, Libya
  • Cain: Of course, Obama should point to killing of Osama bin Laden
  • Democrat Hilary Rosen: Romney must behave like a commander in chief
  • Rosen: He should "chill" on aggressive stances or risk making U.S. seem like a bully

Editor's note: Will Cain is an analyst for The Blaze and a CNN contributor. Hilary Rosen, a CNN contributor, is a Democratic political strategist.

(CNN) -- CNN asked a Democrat, Hilary Rosen, and a Republican, Will Cain, to offer advice to the opposing party's candidate for Monday's final presidential debate.

Will Cain's advice for President Obama

Be prepared to answer one question: Why, for almost two weeks after the attacks on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, did your administration give the American people the impression that the attack was part of a spontaneous protest over an offensive video?

Will Cain
Will Cain

This is not criticism veiled as advice. Monday night's debate will largely focus on foreign policy. If that question is not asked, it will be journalistic malpractice by moderator Bob Schieffer and debate malpractice by Mitt Romney.

5 things to watch in tonight's debate

Malpractice is exactly what Romney committed in the last debate by bickering over whether the word "terrorism" was uttered in the Rose Garden. Who cares what happened in the Rose Garden? The picture that Susan Rice and Jay Carney painted was clear and wrong. There was no protest over a video. There was no protest at all.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



It could be that initial intelligence wrongly suggested it was a spontaneous attack in response to a video and that even now the nature of the attack isn't fully clear, as The Washington Post reported on Friday. But within hours of the attack there were contradictory reports. And as reported by The Daily Beast's Eli Lake, those initial reports were soon put in doubt.

Whatever the answer, Obama should expect the question to be asked, and respond not with outrage, but accountability.

Get instant updates with CNN's live blog

Romney will try to draw clear distinctions over how he would handle Iran, Afghanistan, and China. Most of his criticism will revolve around rhetoric. The theme: Romney will be strong, Obama weak. On this Romney runs the risk of looking petty in questioning the burdens and respect that accompany the title commander in chief.

But this one question is about truth and accountability. Obama will need an answer. Not for Romney. For the American people.

And it will be asked.

Oh yeah, mention Osama bin Laden at some point too.

13 reasons to watch the last debate on CNN's platforms and nowhere else

Hilary Rosen
Hilary Rosen

Hilary Rosen's advice for Mitt Romney

A debate on foreign policy for most Americans is, let's face it, like eating your peas. You know it matters, but you just can't get too excited about about it. In a way, perhaps that is as it should be.

If Americans felt their safety was particularly threatened by global events, people would be much more engaged in the policy discussion that will take place Monday night. Of course there are grave issues many parts of the world: the seemingly never-ending threat to Israel from Iran and others, North Korea, trade deficits with China, a weak economy in Europe, and pockets of anti-Western terrorism in many parts of the Middle East and North Africa. And the United States has much at stake in the outcomes of them or in shaping the ongoing crises.

War of words over Benghazi attack
What role will Benghazi play in debate?

But the reality is also that we have spent billions of dollars in two wars over the last 12 years, and President Obama has kept his promise to bring those wars to an end and to focus his effort on keeping America safe.

CNN/Google Campaign Explorer: Ads, money and travel

So how does Mitt Romney get an edge over the president in a foreign policy debate? My view is that he must simply look like a commander in chief for the future. In an effort to distinguish himself from Obama, Romney has made some big mistakes with regard to foreign policy.

Romney's biggest mistake may simply be in his attitude. In short, he acts like a leader from the 1950s who is still trying to prove to the world that America is not just the best country, but the boss of the world. And in 2012, that just doesn't fly. Are we the leader of the free world? Yes. Are we a nation that should continue to share our democratic values with the world? Yes. Can we control everything that happens in the world? No -- and we shouldn't try. Simply put, we can't afford it and we don't need to.

So when Romney blusters on about how much tougher he would be than Obama, in an effort to distinguish a foreign policy that isn't very distinguishable, he should pay careful attention to the fact that were he to be president, acting so aggressively would carry expectations that he follow through. And the American people do not want a president who picks fights around the world.

My advice to Romney is to "chill" a little in the debate. Don't act like you will be the world's bully. Act thoughtful and well, presidential -- like our actual president.

How foreign policy hits close to home

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writers.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:27 PM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
updated 11:17 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
updated 10:05 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
updated 8:03 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
updated 6:27 PM EST, Sat December 27, 2014
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT