by Ray Fleming

It was clear from the start of Monday night's US presidential TV debate on foreign policy that Mitt the Moderate was appearing for the Republicans instead of Romney the Rabble-Rouser who wants to put China and Russia in their places. CBS's Bob Shieffer opened proceedings by summarising the dispute over Libya at last week's debate and inviting Mr Romney to return to the issue. Instead, he embarked on a tour d'horizon of the world's trouble spots, endorsing broadly the President's policies in Syria, Egypt and Afghanistan, the use of drones and the dispatch of Obama bin Laden. Not a single word about the situation “unravelling before our eyes” in Libya that so concerned him only last week.

Romney has always had a reputation as a “flip-flopper” and his performance on Monday night showed why. Everything he said was designed to reassure the electorate that, contrary to earlier impressions formed during the primaries, he would not be another George W Bush, going to war with insufficient regard for consequences. He emphasized the need for stronger US leadership but without defining how he would provide it. Mr Romney's mask of moderation slipped only once when he found a correlation between a healthy US economy and military strategy. I swear I saw the ghost of President Eisenhower warning the nation against the power of the military-industrial-Congressional complex in his farewell speech in 1961.

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