Final debate: Challenging each other face to face

President Barack Obama sharply challenged Mitt Romney on foreign policy in their final campaign debate Monday night, saying, "Every time you've offered an opinion you've been wrong." The Republican coolly responded, "Attacking me is not an agenda" for dealing with a dangerous world.
AP Wire
Oct 26, 2012


Romney took the offensive, too. When Obama said the U.S. and its allies have imposed crippling sanctions on Iran to halt nuclear weapons development, the Republican challenger responded that the U.S. should have done more. He declared repeatedly, "We're four years closer to a nuclear Iran."

Despite the debate's stated focus on foreign affairs, time after time the rivals turned the discussion back to the slowly recovering U.S. economy, which polls show is the No. 1 issue for most voters.

They found little agreement on that, but the president and his rival found accord on at least one international topic with domestic political overtones — Israel's security — as they sat at close quarters 15 days before the end of an impossibly close election campaign. Each stressed unequivocal support for Israel when asked how he would respond if the Jewish state were attacked by Iran.

"If Israel is attacked, we have their back," said Romney — moments after Obama vowed, "I will stand with Israel if Israel is attacked."

Both also said they oppose direct U.S. military involvement in the efforts to topple Syrian President Bashir Assad.

The debate produced none of the finger-pointing and little of the interrupting that marked the presidential rivals' debate last week, when Obama needed a comeback after a listless performance in their first meeting on Oct. 3.

But there was no mistaking the urgency. The two men frequently sniped at one another even on issues where they agree, and reprised their campaign-long disagreements over the economy, energy, education and other domestic issues despite ground rules that stipulated the debate cover international affairs.

Obama and Romney are locked in a close race in national opinion polls. The final debate behind them, both men intend to embark on a final two-week whirlwind of campaigning. The president is slated to speak in six states during a two-day trip that begins Wednesday and includes a night aboard Air force One as it flies from Las Vegas to Tampa. Romney intends to visit two or three states a day.

Already four million ballots have been cast in early voting in more than two dozen states.

On the Middle East, Romney said that despite early hopes, the ouster of despotic regimes in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere over the past year has resulted in a "rising tide of chaos." He said the president has failed to come up with a coherent policy to grapple with change sweeping the Middle East, and he added ominously that an al-Qaida-like group has taken over northern Mali.

Anticipating one of Obama's most frequent campaign assertions, Romney said of the man seated nearby, "I congratulate him on taking out Osama bin Laden and taking on the leadership of al-Qaida. But we can't kill our way out of this. ... We must have a comprehensive strategy."

More than a half hour later, Obama returned to the subject, saying that Romney had once said it wasn't worth moving heaven and earth to catch one man, a reference to the mastermind behind the 9/11 terror attacks.

He said he had decided it was "worth heaven and earth."

Obama said he had ended the war in Iraq, was on a path to end the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan and has vowed to bring justice to the attackers of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi last month — an assault that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.

He also jabbed at Romney's having said during the campaign that Russia is the United States' No. 1 geopolitical foe.

"Governor, when it comes to our foreign policy you seem to want the policies of the 1980s, just like you want to import the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies in the 1920s," Obama said.

Obama was snippy after Romney, criticizing the administration's Pentagon budget, said disapprovingly the U.S. Navy has fewer ships than at any time since the end of World War I.

"I think Governor Romney maybe hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example, that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military has changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them."

Romney offered unusual praise for Obama's war efforts in Afghanistan, declaring the 2010 surge of 33,000 U.S. troops a success and asserting that efforts to train Afghan security forces are on track to enable the U.S. and its allies to put the Afghans fully in charge of security by the end of 2014. He said that U.S. forces should complete their withdrawal on that schedule; previously he has criticized the setting of a specific withdrawal date.

The two men are locked in a close race in national opinion polls. The final debate behind them, they intend to embark on a final two-week whirlwind of campaigning. The president is slated to speak in six states during a two-day trip that begins Wednesday and includes a night aboard Air force One as it flies from Las Vegas to Tampa. Romney intends to visit two or three states a day.

Already four million ballots have been cast in early voting in more than two dozen states.

Barring a last-minute change in strategy by one campaign or the other, Obama appears on course to win states and the District of Columbia that account for 237 of the 270 electoral votes needed for victory. The same is true for Romney in states with 191 electoral votes.

The battlegrounds account for the remaining 110 electoral votes: Florida (29), North Carolina (15), Virginia (13), New Hampshire (4), Iowa (6), Colorado (9), Nevada (6), Ohio (18) and Wisconsin (10).

The televised debate brought no cessation to other campaigning.

Obama's campaign launched a television ad in Florida that said the president ended the war in Iraq and has a plan to do the same in Afghanistan, accusing Romney of opposing him on both. It was not clear how often the ad would air, given the fall's overall focus on the economy.

Vice President Joe Biden, campaigning in Canton, Ohio, emphasized differences between the two candidates on the war in Afghanistan.

"We will leave Afghanistan in 2014, period. They say it depends," he said. "Ladies and gentlemen, like everything with them, it depends. It depends on what day you find these guys."

Romney's running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, was in Colorado. "We are in the midst of deciding the kind of country we're going to be, the kind of people we're going to be, for a generation," he said.

Whatever the outcome of the final face-to-face confrontation, the debates have left an imprint on the race. Romney was widely judged the winner of the first debate over a listless president on Oct. 3, and he has risen in polls in the days since. Obama was much more energetic in the second.

Monday night marked the third time in less than a week that the president and his challenger shared a stage, following the feisty 90-minute town-hall-style meeting last Tuesday on Long Island and a white-tie charity dinner two night later where gracious compliments flowed and barbs dipped in humor flew.

At the Al Smith charity dinner, Obama previewed his all-purpose fallback to criticism on international affairs.

"Spoiler alert: We got bin Laden," he said, a reminder of the signature foreign policy triumph of his term, the death at the hand of U.S. special operations forces of the mastermind behind the terror attacks on the United States more than a decade ago.

The president and his challenger agreed long ago to devote one of their three debates to foreign policy, even though opinion polls show voters care most about economic concerns.

Growth has been slow and unemployment high across Obama's tenure in the White House. Romney, a wealthy former businessman, cites his experience as evidence he will put in place policies that can revive the economy.

In recent weeks, the former Massachusetts governor has stepped up his criticism of the president's handling of international matters, although his campaign hasn't spent any of its television advertising budget on commercials on the subject.

In a speech earlier this month, Romney accused the president of an absence of strong leadership in the Middle East, where popular revolutions have swept away autocratic regimes in Egypt and elsewhere in the past two years. He has also accused Obama of failing to support Israel strongly enough, of failing to make it clear that Iran will not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon and of backing cuts in the defense budget that would harm military readiness.

Yet Romney has stumbled several times in attempting to establish his own credentials.

He offended the British when he traveled to England this summer and made comments viewed as critical of their preparation for the Olympic Games.

Democrats pounced when he failed to mention the U.S. troops in Afghanistan or Iraq during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in late August, and officials in both parties were critical of his comments about the attack in Benghazi while the facts were unknown.




Wing - I realize this might be difficult for you to understand, but I don't view this election as my side or your side, or whose winning today or down in the polls tomorrow, or who looked presidential in what debate, or hating or loving one candidate over another. I am truly concerned about Romney as a presidential candidate being dishonest and evasive - or worse - on the big issues. He's been hypocritical on economic policy, a flip-flopper on social issues, and slippery on foreign policy. What does he believe? I think he's so desperate for power and money, he'll say anything to anyone on any issue if he thinks it will get him what he wants. He's a grand manipulator who sees you and me as pawns on the chessboard of his balance sheet. Please don't put me in your category - I just don't fit.

Tri-cities realist

Are you sure you didn't intend to say Obama, instead of Romney?


Yes, I'm absolutely sure. Romney/Ryan are the epitome of the glorification of dishonesty, and they bask in their glory for all the world to see.....if you decide to look.


Lanivan, it is a mark of true desperation that someone who has attempted to defend Obama on substance (although attempting to make Mitt Romney into a monster) has given up on substance and returned to the slander that he should not be elected because of his religion. You know you are, and should be better than that. With respect to the analyses of Romney;s tax plan, I can forgive you for having been misled by the Obama campaign who have lied repeatedly about it - " "Even the studies that Romney has cited to claim his plan adds up still show he would need to raise middle-class taxes," said the Obama campaign press release. "In fact, Harvard economist Martin Feldstein and Princeton economist Harvey Rosen both concede that paying for Romney’s tax cuts would require large tax increases on families making between $100,000 and $200,000."
But that's not true. Princeton professor Harvey Rosen tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD in an email that the Obama campaign is misrepresenting his paper on Romney's tax plan:
"I can’t tell exactly how the Obama campaign reached that characterization of my work. It might be that they assume that Governor Romney wants to keep the taxes from the Affordable Care Act in place, despite the fact that the Governor has called for its complete repeal. The main conclusion of my study is that under plausible assumptions, a proposal along the lines suggested by Governor Romney can both be revenue neutral and keep the net tax burden on taxpayers with incomes above $200,000 about the same. That is, an increase in the tax burden on lower and middle income individuals is not required in order to make the overall plan revenue neutral." You really need to do some independent fact checking before you quote President Obama, Joe Biden, David Axelrod, David Plouffe, Stephanie Cutter and Jay Carney, who are all proven serial liars. Bye the bye, in the last debate both Obama and Romney asked viewers to fact check whether Romney included government guarantees and financing in his call for a managed bankruptcy of GM - did you take them up on it? I did - Obama lied Did you check Obama's claim that he did not come up with the idea for sequestration? I did - Obama lied (Just wanted to save you the embarrassment of relying on Obama in further comments.)


Vlad - you sure get heated up about Mormonism as cult. I could not care less if Romney is Mormon, a Jehovah's Witness, or a Scientologist - I just wonder if anyone else finds it interesting that after all these years, Mormonism is suddenly deleted off Billy Grahams list of cults.....after a visit from Romney, not before. As for the rest of your post, what is your point?


I stand corrected. I foolishly assumed that in the heat of a close election, less than two weeks before the day of the vote, your focus on Mormonism as a cult had something to do with the fact that Mitt Romney is a Mormon. I didn't realize that you scan the Billy Graham list of cults on a regular basis, purely for your own edification. Mea Culpa. I take it that the fact checking mentioned in the same comment was sufficient to convince you that Obama lied.


Another example of the glorification of dishonesty from you, Vlad. (Do you know that when you use severely conservative websites for your arguments, you lose all credibility?). In 2008, Romney famously declared the the money to bail out GM should come from the private sector with government providing guarantees only. Problem is - absolutely no one at that time stepped up to write the checks. Banks were more broke than the auto industry. There was no private money to be had in the land. Government loan guarantees don't do any good if banks don't have the money. So the government stepped in and saved the auto industry - which includes Ford and all the many auto parts suppliers in several states. They now have strong sales and are making record profits. The government loans are being paid off with interest. By the way, this clarification to your bogus rant is from CNNMoney and an interview with Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman of GM at the time and an outspoken Republican. I am quoting him almost verbatim.


Lanny, you're becoming unhinged in your attempts to cover for the many lies Obama has told. In the debate, the issue was Obama arguing that Mitt Romney wanted no government bail out of GM and Chrysler and constantly called for the media and the public to “look it up.”

Mitt Romney's actually provided his solution for GM in an article titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” which was published in The New York Times in 2008. The title was not Romney’s choice, but the rest of the article is authored by Romney. I quote from the N.Y. Times article by Romney " The American auto industry is vital to our national interest as an employer and as a hub for manufacturing. A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs. It would permit the companies to shed excess labor, pension and real estate costs. THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHOULD PROVIDE GUARANTEES FOR POST-BANKRUPTCY FINANCING AND ASSURE CAR BUYERS THAT THEIR WARRANTIES ARE NOT AT RISK (Caps mine so you won't miss it ) In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check. The link I provided gave a direct link to the N.Y. Times, but I guess since it is a conservative site your virginal eyes could look at it to get to the NY Times (By the way even David Letterman concluded Obama lied about this and expressed his "disappointment" at being lied to by his President). This is verbatim, not your "almost verbatim." Who do you believe, CNN or Your Lying Eyes? By the way, Ford will have to look into every corner of every warehouse they own to find that bailout money you claim they received - but, of course, Ford DID NOT RECEIVE any bailout money - that had a proposal for it but ultimately decided to compete without it - THEY BUILT IT THEMSELVES. . . .
Get a Grip, Lanny, I expect better of you (even if you do spin a pretty yarn).


Vlad - it's been over a week and I happened read over this for the first time. ford did not accept federal loans, but they were helped tremendously by the auto bailout. They use many of the same national auto suppliers as GM - if GM had liquidated, which they were only days away from, it would have created a huge domino effect which would have impacted these same auto suppliers, and Ford indirectly. My understanding is that the managed bankruptcy/government loan program was carried out, in part, through shedding excess labor, pension, and real estate costs.


Lanivan, I almost hate to do this to you, but it's relevant and out there CNN Fact-Checks Obama


Can't wait for the reply on this one! Hello Laninvain, we wait!

Captain Obvious

Vlad is right...both campaigns are throwing around numbers loosely. They have absolutely no incentive to state what they are truly going to do as that would alienate some voters somewhere. The fault is with the American public wanting it all and wanting it now. President Obama's new plan is the same as his old plan that has been working well over the last 4 years pulling us out of a disaster. We have no idea of what the Romney plan would be because it would be political suicide for him to say anything specific and he is not going to stick his neck out. He changes his mind on issues from one week to another depending on which direction the wind blows. The only anchor for Romney is the Republican mantra of less stifling regulation and lower taxes on Wealthy Individuals and Corporations who create jobs. Except regulation hasn't increased unduly under Obama and Corporations and Wealthy Individuals will hire anytime business picks up, not when they have more money. Lordy, they already have gobs of money.


Your first three words were the only correct analysis in your post. Thanks!



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