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Posted by on Oct 22, 2012 in Breaking News, Featured, Media, Politics | 52 comments

Live Blogging: the Third and Final Obama Romney Presidential Debate (Foreign Policy)

I feel much like I did after the VP debate and the second Presidential Debate, pretty much a draw on points with your point of view more based on who you support.

Indeed I am struck by how much these debates seemed geared more towards boosting your base than appealing to the undecideds (which gives rise to the theory that there aren’t many of them).

I also am not sure how this debate will play in the overall campaign. On the one hand we did have a lot of examples of Romney and Obama agreeing, which could play to Obama in the sense of “why hire the new guy if he thinks like I do”

But much of the debate slipped back to the economy and the latest polls have shown that voters are not satisfied with Obama on the economy. If they now feel both would be the same on foreign policy and that they want to try a change on the economy that could work for Romney.
Both agree they like teachers as they move into closing statements

Obama talks about how we’ve had 3 debates and too many TV ads (nice laugh from Romney there).

Talks about how he has done a lot of work the last four years to improve things and to fix the problems he got. Says Romney would go back to policies that support the rich and not the middle class. Talks about jobs, education,etc.

Cites manufacturing jobs again (pretty clear he is looking to Ohio as the firewall)

Again pretty much the standard talking points.

Romney similarly goes to his talking points. Says we have not had success the last four years and so we need a change.

Says that Obama would continue to bring about more debt and higher unemployment. He then discusses the need to work across the aisle with both parties (an effort to reach for the middle voter ?)

He says that he will lead the nation to prosperity
Next question is what is the greatest future threat to our national security ??

Obama goes first this time and says that the greatest threat will continue to be terrorism. He then goes into China and talks about how it can be a threat but can also be a partner. Discusses his efforts to force China to be fairer and more balanced on trade. Says they have done more in 4 years than Bush did in 8.

Talks about steel workers in Ohio (and other states…geee I wonder why he emphasizes Ohio) and that he has worked to give them openings to sell steel in a fairer market. Talks about how Romney has opposed some of his efforts on this issue and that the workers agree with him (smart line)

Then talks about the need to build investments in education and business and how Romney budget would not allow this.

Romney says that the government doesn’t build business (a nice call out to his base) and that the biggest threat is a nuclear Iran.

Then talks about China along many of the same lines as Obama but says that China is only going to work with us if they respect us and that our economy and defense would make things weaker with China.

Says Obama’s own Defense Secretary called the planned defense reductions devastating.

Then moves to again discuss China and currency manipulations, says this is part of the reason they beat us on jobs and imports. Talks about China violating copyrights. Says both sides must play by the rules.

Moderator asks if Romney naming China a currency manipulator would start a trade war.

Romney says it would not because China does much more trade with us and thus they would not want to lose all of that business.

Obama comes back and says that Romney likes to invest in companies that ship jobs overseas. Says that Romney would not have bailed out the auto industry and that his tax polices would encourage people to ship jobs overseas.

Says we need to invest more in education, research, etc

Says that our military is now able to stand up in Asia because we got out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Romney comes back and says that Obama is wrong about the auto industry, points out that he is from Detroit and is a strong supporter of the US auto industry, says that he opposed both Bush and Obama on the bailout. Says that he supported a managed bankruptcy that would have been a better way of getting them back on track.

So a dispute more over technique that solution. They go back and forth over who is accurate, in the end I don’t know that this issue will swing much of the vote, though it was clearly aimed at Ohio/Michigan/Pennsylvania.

Obama goes against Romney on the issue of exporting jobs and suggests Romney would go back to Bush. Says we need to go forward.

Romney agrees we need to go forward, but not with the policies of the last four years. Talks about how much debt, unemployment, etc have gone up over the last four years. Talks about people he has met that have not been able to find jobs.


Next question is on Pakistan and asks what we should do with them when there is evidence they are supporting terrorism. Why do we give them money and support ? Should we “divorce them” ?

Romney says no, we cannot cut off contact with Pakistan because they are a nuclear power and that cutting off contact and support could put those weapons into the hands of terrorism.

Cites the various problems in the government (trying to show his knowledge) and that he doesn’t blame Obama (I wonder if that is a subtle effort to suggest Obama lacks influence ?).

Says we have to work hard to strengthen the country, that it is important to bring the government to a civil society.

Moderator asks Romney on drones (says we know Obama’s views)

Romney says Obama was right to do it (like someone is going to say killing terrorists is bad). But he says it is also necessary to have a policy beyond just killing terrorists. This is pretty smart really, he doesn’t disagree with Obama so Obama can’t hit him on that and he calls for things both of them would like.

Obama talks about building partnerships with countries around the world and that this will help to build the governments of those countries into free market democratic governments.

A bit of a slip here I think by Obama where he says that when it came to places like Tunisia that some of the first to stand up for them was “me” then quickly corrects self with “our government”. Not a biggie really but an odd way to phrase things. But we all make slips under pressure.

Next question on Afghanistan. What do we do if deadline for withdrawing from there comes and it is clear they are not ready. Do we stay or do we go ?

Romney says that they will be ready and we will be out by 2014. Talks about the progress we’ve made there and that this will not change. Then talks about the need to deal with Pakistan and how we need to deal with them and not just walk away (says he knows Obama agrees, clever turnaround).

Says he thinks we need to have a dual policy to both get Afghanistan ready for transition and to build up Pakistan.

Obama, for obvious reasons, talks about the progress made in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Cites the accomplishments in beating back Al Q and in getting forces in Afghanistan ready for taking care of themselves.

Says it’s time to come home and free up resources to put people back to work here in the US. Talks about the need to help the troops coming home (nice connection there) and talks about meeting with a veteran who was unable to continue his work as a medic here. Says first lady has done a lot of work there.

Next question: What would you do if Israel called and said that the bombers and fighters were on the way ?

Romney dismisses hypothetical saying that Israel would not act that way, that any response to Iran would be discussed ahead of time and that a proper plan would be developed.

He then discusses Iran being closer to a bomb, Chinese trade deficit, North Korea nuclear proliferation, Russia saying they won’t comply with past treaties on proliferation. Says this is a result of failed policies.

Points to letter from 38 Democratic senators critical of Obama on policy to Israel.

Obama comes back with the theme of Romney being all over the map on policies and says he’s glad that Romney is now following his views.

Cites a number of policies where he says Romney has gone back and forth on the issues. Talks about talking to the child of a victim of 9/11 and that she was liberated by getting Bin Laden. Suggests Romney would not have gotten him.

I think this a dangerous move for Obama, clearly anyone would have gone after Bin Laden and indeed his example was that he (Obama) said he would take the shot on Obama while Romney would not move “heaven and earth”.

I think Romney has an opening to point out these differences.

Next question discusses what deal would you accept with Iran ?

Obama says that Iran would have to give up nuclear program and comply with UN directives. Says we would welcome them to the community of nations. Says he is glad Romney agrees with him but that Romney sometimes acts like speaking louder makes them better.

Obama talks about how hard it is to get everyone to agree.

Clearly Obama wants to try and paint Romney as following him rather than being credible on his own. I’m not sure how well this will sell since so far most of the issues have been ones where pretty much everyone agrees (IE very few pro terrorism people out there) and the independents don’t like when they go negative.

Romney says that he thinks that part of the problem has been that Iran doesn’t think Obama is serious and cites the “apology tour” where Obama gave speeches apologizing for things. He cites lack of support for green revolution in Iran and “daylight between US and Israel”.

This could be a play for the Jewish vote, normally Dem but from many polls a bit unsure on Obama this time.

Obama comes back and again says Romney lies, that there was no apology tour and that everyone says so (again this is one of those issues where you can read it either way and your reading tends to be based on who you like).

Accuses Romney of investing in Chinese company that did business with Iran.

Obama also says that things were messed up four years ago and that he has worked to fix them (following the theme on the economy).

Romney comes back on apology tour and points out Obama did visit many middle eastern nations but not Israel. Romney also says that it was wrong for Obama to say we “dictated to nations” but instead “freed nations”

Obama comes back and talks about how he visited troops in Middle East and also cites several visits to Israel (another vote tugging comment I suspect).

He then suggests Romney would not be credible to foreign leaders.

Another relatively even question. I’m not sure if Obama benefits from having Romney seem to agree on a lot of issues or Romney benefits from showing himself the equal of Obama on foreign policy.
Next question is on Israel/Iran. Asks if either would state that an attack on Israel is an attack on the US ?

Obama goes first and says he would stand with Israel if they were attacked, moderator asks if he means that we have already said an attack on Israel is an attack on US and Obama won’t bite. Obama wants to appeal to Jewish vote but doesn’t want to be hemmed in too tightly I think.

Then talks about how we will never let Iran get a nuclear weapon, says we have imposed sanctions and that Iran needs to either take the peaceful route or face the consequences. Says Romney would move too quickly (again trying to paint Romney as not ready to play but I do not know it is working since Romney seems to be holding his own). Again likely a matter of who you support.

Romney says that he agrees with Obama on Israel and Iran and that sanctions are the right route though he would have imposed them earlier and would seek to tighten them today, stopping ships who carry Iranian oil from using US ports, naming Iranian leaders as pariahs, indictments, etc.

Romney compares it to South Africa, a nice comparison which I presume Obama will agree with. Says military is last resort.
Next question is on size of military and where Romney will get the money to pay for it

Romney says that he will get it by both reducing spending and improving tax revenues, cites his web site for people to check out his programs (I think this is actually one of the few times either man has done that, which is a bit odd).

Says he would also send many Medicare programs to the states because they can execute them more efficiently.

Obama says that the math does not work on Romney’s programs, says that the military does not want the money Romney is proposing to spend. Says that he still spends more on military but that he worked with JCS to make sure we are safe in future (a cite back to Romney’s prior comments).

He then talks about the future of the military, cyber security and space weapons, etc. Says that his agenda is good. Agrees that the deficit is a national security threat (wonder if that quote will show up in an ad).

Romney comes back and talks about how he has worked to balance budgets for years both in private and public sector, as governor and as head of Olympics.

Don’t think either side scored there but Romney did get an effective response to Obama’s statement that he doesn’t know how to balance budget while Obama was effective in saying that he has worked with the military.

Obama says that Romney doesn’t know what he’s talking about with the military tries to mock Romney by saying “we have airplanes now”. While I am sure this will make his supporters cheer I think it could turn off the independent voters. They have said in the past they don’t like it when candidates get negative.
Next question: What is our role in the world, Romney goes first

He talks about what you would expect, promoting political and economic freedom, stopping wars and injustice, etc. Then goes back to the economy and the military, says we have no idea what the future will hold and we need to be prepared.

Points out that in the 2000 debates there was no real discussion of terrorism and yet one year later was 9/11, so we need to have strong military to prepare for unseen threats.

Also talks about the economy and the threat it poses to our overall strength.

Talks about standing by our allies, says he was disappointed in tensions with Israel, withdrawal of missile defense from Poland (a clear Russia reference) and the lack of support for green revolution in Iran.

Obama says largely the same thing, we need a strong America, etc. Says that we are stronger now than before, that we have rebuilt our alliances, worked to improve the economy, energy independence, etc. Says Romney won’t cut the deficit.

Not really earth shaking so far, both sides saying they want warm smiles and cute puppies.

Now Obama hits back at Romney, says his policies are wrong and wreckless, says he supports Bush and Cheney policies (nice move strategy wise).

Romney goes to his 5 step program, I have to say Romney is very good at bringing this out and it’s a pretty effective strategy. Romney talks a lot about the economy, interesting how both men keep coming back to the economy.

Obama hits Romney saying that he does not support small business and that he failed as governor of Massachusetts. Then goes into discussion of his education policies and hits up his desire to hire new teachers. Not a bad move as a shout out to the teacher unions as well as an appeal to parents out there. Then goes back to taxes and says Romney will rob schools to fund the rich.

Romney cites his successes as governor of Massachusetts and the fact that his education programs were very successful. Talks about working with both sides of the aisle (a smart move given the partisanship fatigue)

Both men actually did pretty well with this question though it still largely works out to a wash.
Next question is on Syria and what to do there, Obama goes first.

He talks about the building of an international coalition, the imposition of sanctions, the need to have the Syrian people do the heavy lifting. Says it is terrible what is happening but that we also have to be very careful about getting in too deep. Suggests that Romney would be wrong to send arms in there too quickly.

A nice balanced answer between the desire to help and the need to be cautious.

Romney talks about the same basic things really, the need to get good and responsible leadership in Syria but avoiding getting our troops in there right now.

Again they are largely agreeing and as I’m thinking about it I am wondering if that could actually be bad for Obama. Normally when you have the challenger agreeing with the incumbent that’s a good thing for the incumbent because he can argue “why change if we agree”

But in this case a lot of the polls show voters don’t like Obama’s economic policies but are cautious on Romney’s foreign policy. If they decide that the two sides pretty much agree and they don’t like Obama on economics then they could feel safer voting for Romney.

Obama goes back to Libya, tries to say that Romney was opposed to getting Khadafi out of power in that country, not a bad move in terms of trying to raise doubts on Romney (which I think he realizes is the key)

Moderator now asks Romney whether he would support no fly zones. Romney responds by again saying he would not want the military to be involved in Syria.

Romney then talks about how we haven’t done enough to bring together a coalition to bring down the government in Syria. Obama says that they agree on this issue (again I’m not sure this will be the good thing it usually is)

Obama is asked about Egypt and he talks about how he is still hopeful about things going well there and discusses the programs he has backed to try and build leadership there. Then he goes into a short discussion about the need to do things here to build our own economy (interesting move to shift a bit away from foreign policy).

Romney asked if he would have backed Mubarack and he says no. He then discusses how we need to gear our foreign policy towards promoting peace and freedom around the world. He picks up on Obama’s shift to the economy by discussing the threat of the national debt as a security risk. Also the need for a strong military and the fact that cuts would be a bad idea.

Again both men mostly going to talking points, not a ton new yet.

Pretty even debate so far.

The first question is on Libya and the controversy over what happened there as well as the aftermath and the debate over thatand the first response goes to Governor Romney

Romney starts with the standard thank yous and smiles to Obama.

He then talks about how the Arab Spring was a time of great hope but that in the months since things have not gone the way many have hoped (Syria, Libya, etc). He’s clearly starting by trying to show his foreign policy knowledge. He also congratulates Obama on Bin Laden, pretty clever to sort of disarm what he knows would be an Obama starting point in his responce

Then he questions how much Al Q is really on the run, says we need to continue to work against them, not be overconfident.

Obama responds with a summary of his efforts over the last 4 years, arguing he is bringing down the war in Iraq to focus on the real threat. He then talks about Libya and the fact he will always work to stop those who threaten America.

Talks about how we liberated Libya with a coalition and did it faster than we did in Iraq. Potentially a risky statement in that Iraq was won pretty quickly in terms of the battle and the real problem was the post war era, much as may be the case in Libya.

He then says he’s glad Romney supports fight against Al Q but says that in the past he has not. Romney quickly comes back and says he has supported Al Q fight but that it needs to be part of a broader strategy.

They go back and forth on the issues but not a great deal of disagreement on the basics of fighting terror, just some of the logistics.

Obama tries to tie Romney to policies of the past, a pretty clever move. He also digs a bit at Romney saying he has never executed foreign policy, cites areas where he says Romney is wrong.

Romney comes back by saying that his record is clear that Obama is wrong, talks about the need to have solutions and attacking the other side is not an agenda (nice comeback really). He also disarms Obama claim that Romney said Russia was main threat by pointing out he said Russia was geopolitical threat but in same speech also cited Middle East and terror.

Again they go back and forth, a lot of did not and did to kind of stuff.

I’m not sure how to score this one, on the one hand they tended to agree on Obama’s foreign policy but at the same time Romney disarmed the Libya issue as being used against him. In addition he held his own with Obama on the overall topic

I suspect like many questions in these debates it comes down to if you like Romney you thought he did well if you like Obama you thought he did well and if you’re undecided I’m not sure it helped

Then again I’m not sure these debates are for undecided as much as for rallying the troops.

The candidates have stepped out to the stage with the normal polite applause and greetings. We await the first question as the candidates are seated with the moderator.

Bob reminds us all that tonight is the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a fitting night for a foreign policy debate.
Welcome to the Third and Final Presidential Debate from Boca Raton Florida.

The format of this debate will be the same as the first so it will be interesting to see if President Obama returns to his performance from the first or is once again back in form (I’d guess the latter is more likely).

The moderator tonight is Bob Schieffer and the debate will consist of six fifteen minute segments on the following topics

• America’s role in the world.

• Our longest war – Afghanistan and Pakistan.

• Red lines – Israel and Iran.

• The changing Middle East and the new face of terrorism, Part 1.

• The changing Middle East and the new face of terrorism, Part 2.

• The rise of China and tomorrow’s world.