Obama debate performance: Just ONE cup of coffee too much

Again today, The Onion captures the essence:

Obama Takes Out Romney With Mid-Debate Drone Attack

BOCA RATON, FL—Saying that the high-value target represented a major threat to their most vital objectives, Obama administration officials confirmed tonight that former governor Mitt Romney was killed by a predator drone while attending a presidential debate at Lynn University.

Sources said the drone attack, which occurred at approximately 10:10 p.m. Monday night, obliterated Romney in the middle of a statement on Chinese-purchased U.S. securities, sending his dismembered limbs and internal organs into the audience and leaving a smoking pile of charred flesh and bone in his seat.

“The information we have received from military personnel in the field indicate that tonight’s drone strike took out Mitt Romney, a former businessman the Obama administration has long considered a serious danger, especially in past few weeks,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney, describing the operation as “an unmitigated success.” “The president personally authorized the strike earlier this evening, and as soon as we had visual confirmation that the target in the drone’s sights was, in fact, Mitt Romney, we eliminated him.”…

So maybe President Obama didn’t quite go that far last night, but he was certainly on the attack to a degree that often seemed, to me, unseemly.

By the way, I tried to post this last night, but ran into technical problems — I had left my laptop’s mouse at the office, and my wife’s desktop internet connection was running so slow I figured I’d never get to bed. So here’s what I wanted to share, which was my Twitter feed from the debate. These started at 9:21 p.m. As usual, all Tweets are by me except where another screen name is indicated:

  • Obama needs to chill. Looks desperate. Nobody wants an Interrupter in Chief…
  • The Fix ‏@TheFix Worth noting: Obama has attacked Romney on every question thus far. #lynndebate
  • Peter Beinart ‏@PeterBeinart The egyptian govt needs binders of women to fully develop
  • Romney is coming across as calmer, which, when we’re talking national security, can sometimes count more than the words being said.
  • Yeah, Madeleine Albright redux! “@politico: Obama: “America remains the one, indispensable nation.” #debates
  • @howardweaver@BradWarthen that one redux’es WAY farther back than Albright.
  • Yeah, but I liked her cover version…
  • In Godfather terms, Romney is playing the Man of Reason tonight. Obama at times seems to be shooting for Crazy Joey Gallo
  • OK, I’ve heard the president say he “ended the war in Iraq” too many times. He didn’t do that; the Surge did.
  • The thing is, I generally approve of the job Obama’s done in the world. But he’s not selling it very well tonight…
  • If Obama loses this election, and does so because of this debate, I wonder, will it be because he just had ONE CUP OF COFFEE TOO MUCH TODAY?
  • That’s what I wanna hear! RESOLVE! “@DepressedDarth: I will build 5 new Star Destroyers if I’m elected president. #finaldebate
  • grannykate ‏@katespalmer @BradWarthen Surge changed tide. POTUS brought troops home
  • So would McCain have. Even Bush was on track to do that…
  • Almost an hour into this, and neither Obama nor Romney has indicated what he would do about Quemoy and Matsu. This is unacceptable.
  • Slate ‏@Slate RT @fmanjoo: Here’s the place for Obama to say, “Ask Osama Bin Laden if I apologized. Oh, that’s right, you can’t. Because he’s dead.”
  • Yeah, kinda what I thought… “@washingtonpost: FACT CHECK: Obama did not go on “apology tour” http://wapo.st/SjFXqM #debate
  • In what alternative universe did this “apology tour” take place? I totally missed it. Yet so many GOP tweeters assert it as article of faith
  • The president’s calmed down some. Hasn’t jumped anxiously down Gov. Romney’s throat in awhile.
  • No, Mr. President, we were no longer “bogged down” in Iraq when you took office. Not after the Surge. Stick to the good things you HAVE done
  • SunnyPhilips ‏@SunnyPhilips Sad many Americans would rather watch HoneyBooBoo or other trash TV than debates impacting their country’s leadership.#theirvotecountstoo
  • OK, I give up: What’s a Honey Boo-Boo?
  • SunnyPhilips ‏@SunnyPhilips Ha. You’ve made my day.
  • Romney’s strategy tonight has been not to commit major errors tonight. No big strategy proposals, just no screwing up. Generally working…
  • Nicholas Kristof ‏@NickKristof Candidates take a break from bashing each other to jointly bash China. 太过分了!
  • If Obama would blame China for Gamecocks’ two losses in a row, he could win South Carolina.
  • Ramez Naam ‏@ramez China holds only about 8.2% of US federal debt. Most is held by Americans. http://bit.ly/kaOUzI
  • Really? I’m not seeing that… “@ebertchicago: Obama looks cool. Romney looks sweaty. Will post-mortems agree? #debate
  • Scott Huffmon ‏@WinthropPoll Foreign Policy debate: Good thing there are no issues with South America or most of Africa or Europe to be dealt with !
  • Obama mentions Pacific strategy. About time we got into mega strategy. Still no mention of Quemoy and Matsu…
  • My Navy Brat nervous system is still twitching indignantly over the horses and bayonets thing…
  • Nicholas Kristof ‏@NickKristof Foreign policy debate spent more time on Israel than on Europe, India and Africa combined. That’s not our world.
  • Aaron Gould Sheinin ‏@asheinin Serious tweet: Seeing lots of Republicans calling the debate a draw.
  • That’s because they wanted their guy to be as combative as Obama was — which frankly was NOT a good thing…
  • I liked that they shook hands civilly and smiled at each other at the end. How pitiful is it that I’m clinging to something that small?
  • Dan Gillmor ‏@dangillmor If Romney can persuade the public that he’s the peace candidate — there isn’t one — then the American people are truly out to lunch.
  • But he might with some, purely on demeanor.
  • Anyone else think Romney was going particularly after women tonight, rocking back and not being Mr. Aggressive?
  • David GregoryVerified ‏@davidgregory The President is determined to pick a fight tonight; Romney determined to avoid it. What does that say about where each camp sees the race?
  • A lot.

That last one posted at 10:50 p.m.

So… what did y’all think — both during, and upon reflection? I haven’t had much time for reflection, so I leave you for now with the stream-of-consciousness.

90 thoughts on “Obama debate performance: Just ONE cup of coffee too much

  1. Steven Davis II

    Obama also slipped and released confidential military information. He explained to Romney that our Navy has boats that planes can land on and boats that can go underwater called “sumbarines”.

  2. bud

    Obama can’t win. In the first debate Romney was clearly the bully throwing out false talking points one after the other. Meanwhile Obama calmly stated his case. The pundits were all over themselves declaring Romney the winner, mostly on style.

    Last night Romney was the one who came across as comatose. He pretty much agreed with the president on most issues. On a few he trotted out a bunch of nonsense, like the whole “we have fewer ships today than at any time since 1917”, or some rubbish like that. Obama in a clearly humorous and reserved way countered by pointing out we don’t have as many bayonettes either.

    Obama won the debate going away. Romney looked weak and ill-prepared. Not sure what this whole one cup of coffee meme is about.

  3. Steven Davis II

    The “Apology Tour”… you know where he bowed down to every foreign leader like he was demonstrating how to properly touch your toes?

    I can’t remember if this was before or after he handed 100 year old Queen Elizabeth an iPod.

  4. bud

    Aside from the winner/loser analysis I find it very sad that there really isn’t a good peace candidate. It’s all about being tough and how many people our military can kill. No place for a bleading heart liberal to go. I sure do miss George McGovern.

  5. Steven Davis II

    bud – it’s called strategy. Romney knew before the debate started what his game plan was for the evening, and he knocked it out of the park.

    Obama, on the other hand, wandered in after a round of golf and apparently a few drinks and blew his cool several times.

  6. Steven Davis II

    @bud – Fact checker, I bet if they checked they’d find that we have more bayonets today than they did back in 1917.

  7. David

    Who went on the attack?
    Who was more presidential?
    Who had the calmer demeanor?
    Who appealed the most to x constituency group?
    Who had the best zinger?

    These are the questions we must ask ourselves to determine who we want to be president for the next four years, people!

  8. bud

    No, Mr. President, we were no longer “bogged down” in Iraq when you took office. Not after the Surge. Stick to the good things you HAVE done.

    Please get over this “surge” fetish you have. The surge was a failure. It didn’t make Iraq a safer place (people are still dying there in droves) nor did it help speed our departure (we stayed well after the “surge” ended). That’s just a neocon phoney talking point that you just repeated twice, TWICE. And frankly I find it disgusting just like the whole Iraq war debacle. Obama got us out of Iraq, not the damn “surge”.

  9. Brad

    Bud, I’m saying he came across as overcaffeinated.

    Here’s the thing… this was a national security debate. We’re talking about deep, atavistic emotions being stirred in the electorate. By being all jangly and combative, Obama did not project safety. By being calm, I think Romney was halfway to a win before he opened his mouth.

    This reminds me of the Kennedy-Nixon debates, when I was 7 years old. I watched them — or at least one of them — and I came out of the experience for Nixon. SOLIDLY for Nixon. When Kennedy’s inaguration was on TV months later, I announced I would not watch it, and hid behind a chair. My mother told me to cut it out and grow up.

    Here’s why I preferred Nixon: I was just a little kid; I responded on a gut level. And all of Kennedy’s patented youthful vigor, seemingly (to me) focused on an aggressive stance in the Cold War, really bothered me. My Dad was a career naval officer. I felt like this guy wanted to send my Dad to war. As it turned out, my Dad DID go to Vietnam seven years later, spending a year in the VC-infested mangrove swamps, so I wasn’t entirely wrong.

    The content last night was different. Except for the UTTER nonsense of “apology tour” and some other false notes, Romney mostly sounded like a guy who wanted to stay the course. Obama rightly noted the fact once or twice.

    So that kind of leaves us with the emotional impression, and Romney struck the right tone, in a debate that was about how safe people would feel with one of these guys in charge.

    Now, I’m not saying that the typical voter out there approaches things the way a 7-year-old child does, but the emotional content IS significant in voter behavior…

  10. bud

    Brad, Obama just did not come across that way at all. He looked tough and presidential and knowledgeable and at time humorous. At no time did I find him reckless or dangerous. I came away thankful that he’s in the Whitehouse and we’re free from the disaster of George W. Bush. Not that I find Romney the horror that Bush was but he is employing many of Bush’s form security folks. Sorry but your interpretation of the debate is way off base.

  11. Brad

    Let me add, following up on what I said about Romney going after women. I think he did himself a lot of good with female voters last night, by being the one who seemed most able to control his testosterone.

    Democrats have hypnotized themselves into thinking that you go after women by passionately embracing abortion. Women are a tad more complex than that. Something that I believe appeals to them more broadly is a man who seems able to stay cool and control his own machismo — ESPECIALLY when we’re talking national security.

    I have a feeling that a lot of the red meat-eaters in the GOP — the kind who like to call Romney a RINO — were disappointed last night. Those guys probably wanted their guy to go in and tear Obama a new one.

    But I think Romney must have listened to his wife’s advice on this one…

  12. Doug Ross

    It is (and always has been) the economy, stupid.

    Strong economy = strong America.
    Weak economy = weak America.

    It’s funny to watch Democrats line up behind Obama when he’s done little different than Bush.

    If you are against war, you can’t vote for either of these guys. There are options – Libertarian or Green Party are the true conservative and liberal parties. Democrats and Republicans are responsible for everything we see in government today.

  13. Brad

    Bud: “The surge was a failure.”

    That is an utter falsehood. Excuse me for going all Obama on you on that, but it is. Keep on saying it if you like, but it will never be true.

    We were headed for the exits in Iraq when Bush left office, and the Surge is a big reason why.

    My point, of course, is that Obama has a very solid national security case to make, but here he is still tossing out moldy memes from 2008, like he’s still trying to beat Hillary Clinton in the primaries, positioning himself as the most anti-Iraq candidate.

    This is 2012, and it’s the swing voters in those key states he needs to be persuading. He’s done a hell of a lot more than preside over the departure from Iraq that would have occurred anything (although, one hopes, with a decent Status of Forces agreement). Why does he keep hammering on this stuff that seems designed just for you folks in his anti-Iraq war base?

  14. Brad

    Doug’s right — on his analysis, not his conclusions.

    Fortunately, there’s NOT that much difference — between Obama and Bush, Romney and Obama — on foreign policy fundamentals. And that’s a good, reassuring thing.

    And every time one of them tries to put down the other guy in some fundamental way aimed at his partisan base — Romney ranting about the imaginary “apology tour,” and Obama trying to hang his party’s boogeyman, Dick Cheney, around Romney’s neck — they lose points with me.

  15. bud

    Fortunately, there’s NOT that much difference — between Obama and Bush, Romney and Obama — on foreign policy fundamentals.

    Maybe between Romney and Obama. Do we really know what foreign policy fundamentals Romney really believes. Brad you sometimes write some really brilliant, enlightened and well thought out posts. I give you great credit for seeing John Edwards for the phoney that he turned out to be. And there was the health care stuff. Suffice it to say THIS piece of nonsenses is absolutely, positively not one of them. I just cannot imagine Barack Obama lying us into a war against a non-threatening nation. I can’t. Perhaps he will someday and I’ll have a good ole plate of crow but as of right now I find that unimaginable.

  16. bud

    As for Dougs point. Yes Obama is too hawkish for me with the drones and his very slow way of getting us out of Afghanistan. And he pushes for far to big of a military. But seriously not that much different from Bush? Did you and Brad get together and smoke some of that Opium we confiscated from Afghanistan?

  17. J

    per the RNC: Romney’s best debate moment was when he lied” re the apology tour.

    From the Wash Post and Greg Sargent,,” that Obama apologized for America and has yet to visit Israel — the Romney camp is again attacking an Obama that mainly exists in the minds of the Obama-hating GOP base, and probably doesn’t really exist in the minds of undecided voters, who have watched this president for four years and don’t share the base’s suspicions about his commitment to America.

    At least one RNC official is calling this Romney’s “best moment of the debate.” It’s a curious choice: With two weeks to go until the election, Romney’s best moment wasn’t an affirmative one where he laid out his own agenda vis a vis America’s role in the world; it’s one where he attacked Obama for an apology tour that never happened. The fact that a criticism of Obama that has been has been completely debunked is seen by the Romney camp as his shining triumph of last evening is fitting. It will be interesting to see if this is how the Romney campaign intends to close out the race. If so, it contrasts sharply with the Obama pivot to an affirmative case for a second term agenda that is now underway.”

    Romney: “I stand by what I said.. whatever that was!” Ha Ha.

  18. Doug Ross


    How are my conclusions wrong? If you are against an interventionist war policy, which candidate supports that position? If you believe torture is wrong, which candidate do you choose? If you believe our military industrial complex wields far too much influence in politics, who is a better choice for President?

    We should have a strong national DEFENSE. There is no justification in my mind for weakening our own economy to meddle in the affairs of the world.

    That’s why I vote Libertarian.

    From the Libertarian platform:

    “We support the maintenance of a sufficient military to defend the United States against aggression. The United States should both avoid entangling alliances and abandon its attempts to act as policeman for the world. We oppose any form of compulsory national service.”

  19. bud

    Bottom line:

    Round 1. On style point Romney won big. Mainly because Obama was too passive in challenging all the BS.

    Round 2. Not a big difference until Romney stepped into with his blunder regarding Obama not mentioning the Benghazi attack as terrorism. A claim proven as false. Romney did make a big and important point about the job losses. But in terms of debating points I’d give the edge to Obama.

    Round 3. No contest. Romney was stiff, uncomfortable, unprepared and generally appeared as if he wanted to run away. The first hour was actually hard to watch as Romney stumbled and bumbled his way along. The last half hour Obama was merely running out the clock and the final score was probably closer than it should have been.

    VP Debate. I didn’t care much for Biden but he did what he had to do. Ryan just did not come across as a man up to the task. I’d rate it a draw.

    Final Score: Dems 2 GOP 1 1 draw

  20. Doug Ross

    I can’t vote Green Party because their platform basically calls for turning over all control of our foreign affairs to the United Nations.

    “a. As one of the initiators and primary authors of the United Nations Chart”er, the United States is obligated to conform to the stipulations of the U.S. Constitution, which identifies all such agreements as treaties that hold the authority of U.S. law. The U.S. government is pledged to abide by its principles and guidelines in the conduct of foreign relations and affairs. ”

    I’m for exiting the United Nations as quickly as possible. We can make deals with individual nations one by one. We shouldn’t have to seek their approval for anything.

  21. Steven Davis II

    “No place for a bleading heart liberal to go.”

    There’s always Canada.

    My first response was, “Away”.

  22. Karen McLeod

    To me Romney looked like he’d pasted an “I-don’t-believe-a-word-you-say-stupid” grin on his face, and spent the entirety of the night determined to keep that look on his face. BTW, Romney kept books balanced by closing/selling off any company he couldn’t make pay immediately. Is he going to do that with the US?

  23. Steven Davis II

    @Brad – You watched a presidential debate when you were 7? Back then most 7 year olds were lucky enough to know their colors and how to spell their name… let alone foreign policy, balancing the budget, etc…

    If I had been alive and 7 back then I’d probably just been upset that they interrupted The Beverly Hillbillies or The Flip Wilson Show.

  24. Steven Davis II

    “He looked tough and presidential and knowledgeable and at time humorous”

    For us non-bleeding heart liberals, Obama has never looked that way.

  25. J

    “What Romney is doing is mortally destroying any chance of a resolution without war. … Obama does think there is still room for negotiations. It’s a very courageous thing to say in this atmosphere. In the end, this is what I think: Making foreign policy on Iran a serious issue in the US elections — what Romney has done, in itself — is a heavy blow to the ultimate interests of the United States and Israel,” – Efraim Halevy, former chief of the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad.

  26. Silence

    @bud – We had 16 infantry divisions in 1917, which is the same number we have now, I think. I don’t know if the size of said divisions has changed. We may or may not have more bayonets than we did in 1917. For all I know we’ve got 10 million of them sitting in an army depot somewhere right this minute.

    @ brad – think how much outreach to Muslims NASA could do with the 5 new star destroyers….

    Brad – I think you are absolutely 100% wrong that Obama isn’t much different than Bush on foreign policy. They are similar in how they have pursued the war in Afghanistan, but I think that’s where it ends.

  27. Brad

    Doug, the “conclusion” that I disagree with is that one should vote Libertarian, or some other alternative, on the basis of its fringe foreign policy.

    Kathryn, the first thing I do when I get a laptop is disable the trackpad. I’m a keyboard guy more than a pointer guy, and my thumbs and the heels of my hand are constantly touching the trackpad, and if it’s not disabled, the cursor jumps around randomly on the screen, causing me to type over my work and do all sorts of other maddening things I don’t want it to do.

    A mouse is off to the side and out of my way, where I can use it when I need it.

  28. Brad

    Re the imaginary “apology tour”… one thing I didn’t do in the post above is include all of the replies and reTweets of my posts during the debate. But perhaps I should share this one from SC GOP Chairman Chad Connelly…

    After I wrote, “In what alternative universe did this ‘apology tour’ take place? I totally missed it. Yet so many GOP tweeters assert it as article of faith,”

    … Mr. Connelly replied: “I think it was he same time as the on the ‘bow down’ to dictators tour Brad!”

    I didn’t respond, not really knowing what to say to that, then soon forgot it in the flow of the debate…

  29. Brad

    … but like I said, all the GOP True Believers seem to think that’s one heckuva killer debating point. Doesn’t matter that it didn’t happen; they’re determined to believe that it DID, and it’s a big deal to them…

  30. Brad

    Steven, FYI, “The Beverly Hillbillies” didn’t come on the air until two years later. I remember it distinctly; it was just before we moved to South America at the end of 1962.

  31. bud

    I would put the apology tour nonsense in the same category as the birther BS. What is interesting is that in polls taken abroad the amount of respect shown for the USA has improved dramatically since Obama took office. Now that’s a “surge” I can believe in.

  32. bud

    Donna Douglas celebrated her 30th birthday the same day the Beverely Hillbillies premiered. That makes her 80 today! Gadzooks is that even possible?

  33. Doug Ross


    Luckily I am not an editorial board member so I don’t have to select the least worst candidate of the two major parties.

    I vote on principles not compromise.

  34. Brad

    About bayonets…

    I’m learning some interesting things about bayonets from that Dave Grossman book, “On Killing,” that I’m still gradually making my way through.

    Based on studies of historical battles, the things don’t get used very much — even in the rare, way-too-close situations that they’re designed for. Their main impact is psychological.

    Their main impact is the terror they inspire. Few troops will stand their ground in the face of a bayonet charge, because the idea of cold steel stabbing into them is so much more terrifying than a bullet.

    However, if they DON’T cut and run, the bayonets are actually quite unlikely to be USED on them. Most soldiers, despite their training, will turn the rifle around and use the butt as a club at the last second. The reluctance to BE skewered on a bayonet is largely matched by a humane reluctance to skewer the enemy.

  35. Steven Davis II

    “Kids today have it made. ‘Cause if they don’t like what’s on television, they’ve got 40, 50 channels to choose from! Remember how many channels we got when we were kids? 3. And if the President was on, your night was shot. ‘The President’s on! He’s on every channel! We’re gonna miss Flipper !’ ”

    Jeff Foxworthy

  36. Brad

    This is a companion finding to the one that only 15-20 percent of GIs involved in contact with the enemy WWII actually fired their weapons. And only about 2 or 3 percent actually aimed to kill the enemy.

    Then we changed our training methods. By Vietnam, the U.S. military had achieved a 90 percent firing rate.

    The difference in deadly effectiveness, between a modern army and one trained by WWII methods (such as when the Brits fought the Argentines in the Falklands), is startling.

    Of course, Grossman’s thesis in part is that there is a huge psychological cost to soldiers for overcoming that that reluctance to fire at other humans.

  37. Steven Davis II

    @bud – those countries that “respect us” as their buddy under Obama, used to “fear us and look up to us before Obama went on his wallet dropping tour”. We used to be looked up to, now we’re just and equal to them… and kiss up to to see if they’ll lend us some money. Countries that used to put out the red carpet for presidential visits, now look out the window when the doorbell rings, and say, “It’s just Barry from the US looking for a golf partner, keep quiet and maybe he’ll go away.”.

  38. Silence

    Brad – there are 5 approved killing blows to the head in bayonet combat: The vertical buttstroke, the horizontal buttstroke, the buttstock smash, the straight thrust and the slash. I don’t think anyone actually turns the weapon around, holds it by the barrel and swings it like a club – maybe Fess Parker as Davy Crockett dying at the Alamo.
    What are the chances that you’d be engaged against the enemy in close quarters, both be out of ammunition, and therefore be forced to fight hand to hand?

    Close quarters combat training has a big psychoogical component. Probably bigger than the terror of the bayonets that you mention. Drilling in hand to hand combat builds confidence – like a kid taking martial arts lessons – and it also builds military discipline.

    It’s like performing close order drill – there’s no direct military purpose to marching on a parade ground. But knowing how to drill, lead, and the confidence that comes with executing the drill successfully has a military benefit.

    A bayonet is also very useful if you are trying to maintain a line or perform crowd control. An angry rioter might come try to grab the barrel of your rifle, but they probably won’t if you have the bayonet attached.

  39. Steven Davis II

    I have a hard time believing 95% of the soldiers and Marines on D-Day were purposely shooting in the air. Or the ones island hopping in the Pacific who saw what the Japanese were doing to captures Americans. How many veterans have you talked to who were in combat would admit to purposely punching holes in the sky or dirt?

    When someone is willfully and purposely trying to shoot you, your natural response isn’t to just pop off a few rounds into the air and hope they’ll go away. Your instinct is either to run, or do something to make them stop trying to kill you and those around you.

  40. Mark Stewart

    I am all for a strong navy. It is of paramount importance to our country, actually.

    But this thing where Romney is all for massive defense spending increases (for the navy most of all) is just oddly out of sync; it’s as if he just riffed on Reagan’s pledges of 1980. Of course, those were made back when the military really was in a bit of a doldrum. Now, to say that we have a smaller navy than in 1917 is just rhetoric – what we really have is more like the world equivalent of what the US fleet ratio was to the rest of the world in 1944. And that to me is just fine; and in no way under-sized.

  41. Brad

    Silence, I wasn’t describing today’s doctrine regarding bayonets, or their value in building confidence in training.

    I was talking about the historical use of bayonets in combat — and the Fess Parker example is actually quite relevant to that.

    I’m talking about the days when you had one shot and it could take a minute to reload, and hand-to-hand wasn’t such a theoretical or rare possibility.

    Steven, the 15-20 percent firing rates, and much lower rates of effective fire, are based on a bunch of studies of pre-Korea battles. In some cases, such as from the 19th century, they are based on analyses of ammunition expended compared to actual casualties, and then compared to the casualties that should have been expected from trained riflemen at those distances. There are a number of startling findings. For instance, after Gettysburg hundreds if not thousands of fully loaded abandoned weapons were gathered up from the battlefield — phenomenal numbers of men had died, or abandoned their weapons, without firing them. Many, many of the weapons had been loaded two and three and four and five times, just one cartridge jammed in on top of another — apparently a very common phenomenon in those days. These guys were standing in the firing line and looking busy, but they were just loading and loading again. In some cases, all the way up to the muzzle.

    The more recent, WWII figures depend a lot on the work of combat historian S.L.A. Marshall.

  42. Steven Davis II

    I read a comment a while back from someone responding to a question about if we still “fix bayonets”. He said they’re as much a psychological tool as a weapon. He said you could walk up to and point a rifle at an Iraqi and just stand there, you fix a bayonet and they scatter like roaches before you even get close to them, faster if you run or start swinging the front of the rifle as you get closer.

  43. Steven Davis II

    “phenomenal numbers of men had died, or abandoned their weapons, without firing them”

    Fight or Flight.

    For Sale: French military rifle. Never fired and only dropped once.

  44. Brad

    From that story that Bryan shared about the British hero from Afghanistan: “… the speed, aggression and audacity of his response caused the insurgents to fall back in disarray.”

    The bayonets probably helped, too.

    Nothing like initiative.

  45. Mark Stewart


    Or maybe they were just scared stupid standing in those lines watching many around them become a casualty – often from canister shot from artillery. In that haze of smoke and roar of sound it might have been very easy to forget that one had forgotten to pull the trigger. I don’t think people are so intentionally suicidal that they would be shot at like that and simply stand mute.

    If one only has a single shot, one might not want to fire until one needs to for self-preservation. This makes that kind of old fashioned bravery/stupidity/barbarity all the more remarkable.

    It is worth noting that we have found ways to increase the lethality of our soldiers at about the same rate that their mortality rate from combat has decreased.

  46. Steve Gordy

    France suffered 1.3 million dead in WWI; about 80,000 military dead in WWII; and thousands more in their unsuccessful wars in Indochina and Algeria. That’s not exactly dropping your weapon without firing it; but this is an area in which conservative dogma is unshakeable.

  47. Keith June

    Does anyone really know where Romney stands on anything? I get the impression from last night and the previous debates that Romney will say virtually anything if it means he gets elected. I’ve spent considerable time in the Middle East and lost friends in both Iraq and Afghanistan. By no means does this make me an expert but let’s say, I’m vested. I was part of the group that shut down Iraq and quite frankly, it was great to see that chapter of our history come to a close. Yes, people are still dying in Iraq and I suspect the Iraqi’s will deal with sectarian violence for years to come, but quite frankly, I think we—the American People paid enough in treasure and most importantly, in lives. And I do credit the administration with shutting the mission down and transitioning responsibilities to the Iraqi’s. Romney’s comments on Iran are dangerous and reckless. And they’ve changed numerous times. So again, I’m not really sure where he stands….though he seems to support the President’s actions. Are we prepared to go to war with the Iranians? Perhaps yes, and need be, yes. But I argue we expend all measures before we exercise that option. Did the President make a solid case, I think so. Was he emphatic, perhaps but less so than Romney in the first debate and more truthful. And I think Romney should shoot whatever advisor gave him the line comparing the number of ships today to WWI. I got Romney’s point but could have been far more effective than using WWI as a model. It opened a huge hole for Obama.

  48. Silence

    Just a few hundred yards from the abandoned rifles archaeologists found literally thousands of pairs of soiled underwear.

    More seriously though – if you look at the training that soldiers received up until fairly recently, it involved a lot of firing at fixed targets on a standardized rifle range – it was marksmanship practice. Nowadays training doctrine includes plenty of marksmanship practice, but also a lot of fire and maneuver and other exercises to create a better analogue for actual combat.
    It’s also worth noting that the percentage of actual trigger pullers has fallen – while the percentage of combat support and support soldiers has risen significantly. Basically, the soldiers who are “good” at killing get to kill, and the ones that aren’t, don’t.

  49. Pat

    At Steven II re French rifles.
    I saw an NPR travel program on the French. It showed the battle trenches between France and Germany. They lost and won the same plot of land over and over. A huge number of French and German died there. I think I heard them say 700,000. No wonder they hate war! I’ve been pondering that for a week.

  50. bud

    This French bashing from the right is actually pretty funny. Indeed the French suffered horribly in WW I and were a very reluctant participant in WW II. Eventually they reached the conclusion that all these various wars just weren’t getting them anywhere. As a result they, along with their European friends have pretty much abandoned foreign adventurism. The Russians likewise suffered in both World Wars. Germany too. The result has been a largely peaceful Europe for 60+ years now. That’s not cowardice, it’s pragmatism.

  51. Brad Warthen

    Ah, yes, the French. Just the other night, waiting to go onstage as Sir William, I paused to thank a couple of the young redcoats in the cast for their service defending us from that menace. They assured me they were fully prepared to sort “the Frogs” out.

    Good lads. Brave lads.

    Confusion to Old Boney! say I…

  52. bud

    The USA under a Romney/Ryan administration:

    1. Women who get pregnant as a result of rape and an inability to obtain contraception are sent to jail. The nations prisons as a result of this and the incarceration of victimless crime offenders creates a huge burden on our prison system.
    2. The top 1/10 of 1% control the greatest percentage of the national wealth in our country’s history. They continue to shelter this great wealth in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere thanks to the continued tax breaks offered the super rich.
    3. The national debt soars to a level that dwarfs the current level.
    4. Our nation’s military becomes stretched to the breaking point as we embark on endless wars. This in spite of a $2 trillion increase in the military budget as much of this money is squandered on useless military hardware toys.
    5. Unemployment rates soar to double digits as the GOP austerity programs destroy public sector jobs such as teachers, firefighters and cops. This loss of good government workers jobs ripples through the economy and once again the manufacturing and construction sectors collapse.
    6. The newly de-regulated banking sector once again brings on a new financial bubble.
    7. The EPA is gutted and the quality of our air and water deteriorate. This pales in comparison to the soaring temperatures and dry weather caused by accelerated global warming.
    8. As a result of the poor state of the economy and failing crops the health of Americans suffers. Yet the proportion of uninsured Americans skyrockets following the repeal of Obamacare. The result is the first drop in life expectancy in the nation’s history.

  53. Brad

    Bud, come on. Do you really expect any reasonable person on the planet to keep reading your argument after “Women who get pregnant as a result of rape and an inability to obtain contraception are sent to jail?”

  54. Silence

    @bud – I don’t think it’s that the Europeans saw the error of their ways. I think it’s that most of the ones with any backbone, any toughness, derring-do or any military gumption died in the wars, leaving the pacifists, weaklings and sissies to breed. This literally turned Japan and Germany from the most martial nations on earth into a bunch of hippies and peaceniks.

  55. bud

    This literally turned Japan and Germany from the most martial nations on earth into a bunch of hippies and peaceniks.

    Hippies and peaceniks? Those terms are so 1960s. Too bad the US can’t follow their lead.

  56. Silence

    @Mark – During Soviet times there was a policy of promoting the various ethnic identities throughout the USSR. After the collapse of communism the various mobs arose to fill service gaps and of course to make money. There’s a lot of russian mobs, and typically each one is dominated by a specific ethnicity. When I lived in Russia there were casinos/nightclubs run by each different mob. The Armenians, the Georgians, the Kazakhs, etc.

    The oligarchs are another issue entirely. That was mass privatization gone wrong – due to a poorly entrenched system of property rights.

  57. bud

    That was mass privatization gone wrong.

    I’m shocked, shocked. I didn’t think it possible for privatization to go wrong.

    Seriously the transition for the Soviet Union to a market based economy was very difficult. At one time oil production declined by about 80%. Once they were able to turn it around their oil industry made a dramatic turn around and is now the number 1 oil producer in the world. I’m sure they received a great deal of help from western oil experts but still it illustrates how an industrious people can do amazing things.

    The trick is to thread the needle between too much and too little regulation. Too much stiffles initiative. Too little can result in dramatic environmental and human consequences. Apparently that is what happened in China.

  58. Phillip

    Silence and Steven’s comments, re the French and re “pacifists and sissies” breeding in Germany and Japan post-WWII casts light on something I’ve often noticed, just not quite that blatant always…have you ever noticed how some of the far-right’s mocking of the French is often accompanied by the faint hints of admiration for the Axis powers? Just never heard it put so bluntly before.

    In any case, Silence, you’re quite wrong about the Germans and Japanese. I’ve known (and in the case of the former, am related to) a number of brave veterans of the Axis powers. Not everybody died in the war, and also it was the memory of suffering and first-hand witnessing of war by most everybody who lived in those countries at that time, whether or not they served, that has affected their national determinations since then to be A) reluctant to go to war, and B) extremely cautious about appeals to nationalism and jingoism within their domestic politics, well aware as almost all are that they sowed (most of) the seeds of the calamity that was WWII.

    Conversely, it is our national insularity from the firsthand knowledge of war that makes us more blase, especially about the suffering of people we cannot relate to. We are so fragile, in fact, as a nation, that 9/11 may well be seen to have seriously jolted us off course from our national identity, based on the grievous errors we’ve made in “response” to that event in the decade since.

  59. Mark Stewart

    I don’t know; I was in St. Petersburg in 1996 and, wow, that was the wild, wild west. Or the corrupt, dispirited, caught between the past and the future version of it.

    Come to think of it, our real westward expansion may have actually been a lot like that – we have just done a great job of giving it the John Ford whitewash. Now, we are all reminiscent of the pioneer spirit and white-canvased prairie schooners. But the reality was, for many, a lot less noble and a lot more mud hovels and setbacks.

    But the similarity between the Russian and American spirits ends there.

  60. Silence

    @ bud – there were a myraid of problems, where to start?

    1) Central planning had turned economic decisions into political ones. Where to put industries? What to produce, and how much? Where to invest in upgrades and modernization? That sort of thing. Their industries ended up undercapitalized, poorly located, white elephants that were developed to support a military complex that no longer existed and a network of sattelite states that no longer existed. Basic investments in technological upgrades hadn’t been seen in years, and as part of the Soviet program was having 100% employment, a lot of workers were redundant. The industrial base simply couldn’t compete in a free/global marketplace in most cases. The areas that they could compete were things like mining and metal processing, and of course, energy. Think nickel, aluminum, oil & gas, titanium: basic commodities with a ready international market.

    2) There weren’t a lot of high quality consumer products being produced – nobody really wanted russian cars or toilet tissue once alternatives were available, and they couldn’t afford to modernize a lot of their factories to compete.

    3) To privatize, in a lot of cases, stock was distributed to the workers at the plants, usually based on tenure and seniority. The problem was, without a decent legal system and without respect for private property rights, simply owning shares of stock didn’t really get you anything. In many cases shareholders were kept out of meetings by armed thugs, and in other cases, the assets were sold off by management and/or politicians for their own benefit. The shareholders ended up with worthless stock or with stock of dubious value. There weren’t a lot of CPA’s or GAAP to evaluate the value of an enterprise, and there weren’t liquid exchanges to trade shares. People often sold their shares for cheap, or were intimidated into selling their shares for cheap, allowing certain individuals to acquire control of the businesses, hence the oligarchs. Since the government at all levels was in on the shady deal, there were no regulators to turn to.

    4) Since the shares had been given away, and the enterprises were of dubious value anyhow, the companies couldn’t raise capital through traditional markets like the IPO process. International and local banks were skeptical about lending money anyhow, knowing that they had no mechanism to collect. In any case, those that did would have been burned in the currency crisis that occurred.

    5) There was a legacy of ignoring environmental problems in the USSR. When you control the media you can get away with that. This is still the case in many locations. Transparency is needed in order to craft the appropriate degree of safety and environmental regulation. People need to know what they are/aren’t supporting. The civil institutions just hadn’t developed yet, and in many cases still haven’t.

    6) Lastly, it’s important to point out that the Russian populace was highly educated in the USSR times. Literacy was around 99% and there were many enginers, scientists, and other professionals. This was an advantage that Russia had that China and many other developing nations didn’t have – yet it didn’t prevent many of the problems that occurred due to a lack of a properly functioning civil society.

  61. Brad

    I don’t think you’re being fair to John Ford. Check out “My Darling Clementine.” Perhaps the most awesome black-and-white photography Hollywood ever turned out…

    But if you want a cure for “whitewash,” watch “Hell on Wheels.” I do…

  62. Silence

    @ Mark Stewart – It was still very wild west when I was there in 1994, 2001 and 2002.

    One day I saw a man on a bike get run over by a streetcar. He was injured, the bike was destroyed, but he just picked up the pieces and started limping home. No ambulance, no police, no lawyers, just a realization that he shouldn’t have been riding in the streetcar’s tracks.

    But the dyevotchka’s were outstanding. It was like I’d jumped into a crumbling shabby parallel universe populated by Vogue models.

  63. Brad

    Favorite shot in “Clementine” — Fonda as Earp sitting on the covered boardwalk, rocking his chair back with a foot against a post. There’s this incredible vista reaching down the street, out of town and into the vast distance, with every shade in the landscape and the clouds and everything brilliant and sharp as a razor, and yet in spite of all that backlighting, in the foreground you can see the texture of the beadboard porch ceiling above Fonda’s head. Amazing.

  64. Mark Stewart


    My sister was a university student there in 1991 – thought it was an incredible blossoming, and a huge, giddy party. She returned in 1994 to see that reality had set in.

    I bet they are still using bedsprings as barriers to keep people off the sidewalks under the falling building parapets.

    Everyone grousing about the primacy of the individual ought to go see Russia. Makes one appreciate a free, civil society of opportunity under the rule of law.

  65. bud

    5) There was a legacy of ignoring environmental problems in the USSR. When you control the media you can get away with that.

    Don’t totally disagree but that is a gross over-simplification. Sure government control over everything, including the media, can result in an system that ignores environmental concerns. But it could also work the other way if the central government used draconian measures to ruthlessly enforce strict environmental regulations. It would be a mistake to blame Soviet style central planning as the culprit for their dirty environment. Rather that was a choice made by the planners. It was simply a case where the government was willing to cut corners to move it’s planned economy along and one of the areas considered expendable was the environment.

    I would maintain that in a capitalist economy the same corner cutting motives will exist as companies find environmental concerns expendible to try and produce at the lowest cost. If they can externalize the cost of polution then there is a huge profit incentive to do so. That’s where government MUST step in to find efficient ways for environmental costs to be a part of the expenses associated with production. In other words pure capitalism can be just as dirty as pure communism. Only the government can mandate internalizing of environmental costs to overcome the greed associated with capatilism given that there will be a huge cost incentive to those companies who do not share societies concerns for a clean environment.

    Sadly this is becoming a forgotten issue in our political process here in the US. And I’m afraid we will all pay the price some day.

  66. Silence

    bud – Agreed again. Absolutely it is a simplification, I was getting tired of typing. It all comes down to priorities – in the case of the Soviets they wanted full employment and to produce at all costs. The incentive system was all wrong – the managers who were expected to produce a product, say wheat or nickel or steel or whatnot didn’t get any bonus points for cleanliness. If you met your quota, great, maybe you’ll get promoted or at least keep your job another year. If not, off to the gulag. They had some of the same short-term thinking issues that corporate managers in the West fall victim to – make this quarter look as good as possible, damn the consequences.

    I’m not sure that government can find an efficient way to externalize the cost of pollution. I think to some extent it is the business of the consumer to demand a transparent process – and then not to buy products that they disagree with.

    Do you want a new iPad produced by cheap/slave labor from a Foxconn plant, or do you want one produced through some sort of fair trade business that costs more? How much more are you willing to pay for a Subaru that is produced in a zero waste, no landfill plant? That sort of thing. We as consumers can drive corporate efficiency better than the regulators can. There should be legal limits on pollution, but ultimately it should come down to the choice of an educated consumer.

    A funny anecdote: In the USSR there was a factory that produced chandeliers. It was evaluated by how many kilograms of chandeliers it produced each year. There wasn’t a huge demand for chandeliers in the USSR, so they’d just build them and put them into a warehouse. In order to meet their production quotas every year, at the end of the year they’d figure out how many kilos they had left to meet their quota, and then build an enormous multi-ton chandelier so that they wouldn’t miss their production target. Central planning and misaligned incentives in action.

  67. Steve Gordy

    On our trip to Russia last year, my wife and I saw many abandoned industrial establishments – foundries, shipyards, quarries, etc.; all of which produced material to meet some commissar’s production targets. Sort of reminds me (on a large scale) of a shopping mall, once vibrant, now dilapidated because the big box stores are elsewhere.

  68. bud

    I’m not sure that government can find an efficient way to externalize the cost of pollution.

    After re-reading what I said you’re probably right. What government CAN do is set target goals for the total amount of pollutants released into the environment then use some sort of tax breaks to achieve the goal. That’s the idea behind cap and trade. Something that conservatives embraced until recently. I always thought that was a better way to go than requiring specific pollution eradication measures.

  69. Silence

    @ bud – Really it comes down to what people want to support. I’m all for emission limits that protect our air, land and water. The problem is that with monopolies like the electricity, water and sewage system there aren’t any alternatives that are remotely cost-effective, at least for most people. We can push for these things over time, but the implementation is usually slow and less than ideal.

    With something like a car, food, or a consumer product there seem to be a lot of people that weigh the fators and make an environmentally friendly choice.


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