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October 22nd, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Letters to the President #1372: 'Foreign affairs: The final debate'

Reporter's Note: Both the candidates are making final preparations for tonight’s big debate.

Dear Mr. President,

So the last big debate is looming and the topic of the day is foreign affairs, eh? I would not profess to be an expert in such matters, so I can’t offer much advive. When it comes to foreign affairs, the only think I know with certainty is that that is the title of one of my favorite Tom Waits albums of all time, and if you’ve never heard it, you should nab it on iTunes pronto. The title track in particular is full of wonderful images and ideas that would get you into a tres mellow groove for tonight’s discussion.

That is assuming you want to be mellow. Who knows? Maybe you are once again going to strike a more aggressive stance. It’s your choice of course. I’m just saying if you want to be cooled out, listening to Foreign Affairs is a great way to get there. If not, I guess you could go with something punchier, like Rage Against the Machine.

I suppose what you really have to aim for is something in the middle. You have to bring enough energy and passion to seem like you’re engaged, and yet not so much as to make it look like you are desperate. Maybe you should channel a little Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Ha!

I’ve always thought that debates about foreign policy are decidedly one-sided when a sitting President is involved because, after all, almost no opponent can know as much about the topic as the current keeper of the White House. You’ve been engaging all these issues, getting daily briefings, and burying yourself in the details of all these entanglements overseas for four years now. Mitt Romney? Not so much.

Still, I’m sure you know better than to take it for granted that you’ll have an upper hand. Debates, like foreign affairs, can be full of surprises. Neither foes nor friends will necessarily behave the way you expect them to, so flexibility is the key.

Good luck with it. I’ll be watching. Call if you get a moment.

Regards,
Tom

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