Final Presidential Debate Displays Differences on Foreign Policy

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney answers a question as President Barack Obama listens during the third presidential debate at Lynn University  in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney answers a question as President Barack Obama listens during the third presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012.
In their final debate before the November 6 U.S. presidential election, President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney battled over foreign policy issues, including the U.S. response to Syria's civil war, Iran's nuclear program, and defense spending.  
The 90 minute encounter was Governor Romney's chance to put to rest doubts about his ability to handle foreign affairs challenges, and an opportunity for President Obama to solidify his image as someone better equipped to manage foreign policy and national security issues.
Governor Romney pointed to what he called disturbing events during Mr. Obama's first term in office, including 30,000 dead in Syria, the attack on Americans in Libya, and an Iran four years closer to a nuclear weapon.  
Watch Jim Malone's related video:

Libya and the killing of Americans in Benghazi was discussed, with Mr. Obama repeating his determination to find the killers.  The president, Mr. Romney said, has failed to provide a comprehensive strategy to deal with rising Muslim extremism.
"I congratulate him on taking out Osama bin Laden and going after the leadership in al-Qaida, but we can't kill our way out of this mess.  We're going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the world of Islam and other parts of the world reject this radical, violent extremism," he said. 

Obama said he re-focused attention from Iraq to Afghanistan and decimating al-Qaida, mentioning the transition to end the U.S. combat role by the end of 2014. Romney agreed with Obama on the 2014 time line.
Repeatedly through the debate, Obama called Romney's policy proposals "wrong and reckless" and pointed out instances in which he said his Republican challenger had changed his positions.
"You said we should have gone into Iraq despite the fact there were no weapons of mass destruction, You said that we should still have troops in Iraq to this day.  You indicated we shouldn’t be passing nuclear treaties with Russia despite the fact that 71 senators, Democrats and Republicans, voted for it," he said.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney greet family members following the final U.S. presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida October 22, 2012.
  • President Barack Obama greets members of the family of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney after the third presidential debate at Lynn University, October 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Florida.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama speaks as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney listens during the final U.S. presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012.
  • Richard and Carol Smith look at the broadcast screen showing Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and U.S. President Barack Obama during the final U.S. presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012.
  • President Barack Obama speaks as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and moderator Bob Schieffer listen during the third presidential debate at Lynn University, October 22, 2012, in Boca Raton, Flordia.
  • The crowd watch Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and U.S. President Barack Obama meet in the final U.S. presidential debate in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22, 2012.
  • Students and professors cheer while dancing with cutouts of President Barack Obama, left, and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, right, prior to watching the third televised presidential debate at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of
  • President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney greet one another as moderator Bob Schieffer watches at the start of the third presidential debate at Lynn University, October 22, 2012.
  • Freshman Shannon Anderson, 19, sits on the edge of the pool during a party outside the debate hall ahead of the presidential debate between Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, at Lynn University October 22, 2012, in

The two argued over Syria, but agreed that U.S. troops should not become involved on the ground there. 
Governor Romney accused the president of failing to play a strong enough leadership role.  Mr. Obama rejected this, saying giving heavy weapons to Syria's opposition is not a "simple proposition."
Obama said he did not regret calling for the departure of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.  America has to stand for democracy, he said, adding that Egypt's government has responsibilities, including abiding by its peace treaty with Israel.
On Iran and relations with Israel, Mr. Obama said the U.S. will "stand with Israel if it is attacked."  Both men stressed their determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. 
Governor Romney said he would tighten existing sanctions and accused the president of signaling weakness to Iran's leaders, leaving the world "four years closer to a nuclear Iran."
"It is essential for a president to show strength, from the very beginning, what is acceptable and what not acceptable and an Iranian nuclear program is not acceptable to us, they must not develop a nuclear capability," he said. 
Saying the "clock is ticking" for Iran, Obama suggested that Governor Romney's proposals were not much different from he has already done. "I am glad that Governor Romney agrees with the steps that we are taking.  There have been times Governor, frankly during the course of this campaign, where it sounded like you thought you would do the same things that we did but you would say them louder and somehow that would make a difference," he said. 
President Obama called reports that the United States plans direct talks with Iran "not true" saying the U.S. would only accept a deal that "ends Iran's nuclear program."   He said the U.S. will not allow Iran to "perpetually engage in negotiations that lead nowhere."
The two men argued over defense spending, with Romney defending his proposals to build a larger U.S. military by reducing spending in government programs, including President Obama's signature health care law.
President Obama challenged the "math" of Governor Romney's proposals, saying the Republican challenger is proposing spending that military leaders have not asked for.
On China, Governor Romney renewed his pledge to declare China a currency manipulator should he win in November.  Obama pointed to his record of winning trade violation cases against Beijing, and said the U.S. will keep pressing China for more progress on currency issues.
ROMNEY: "They are stealing our intellectual property, our patents, our designs, our technology, hacking into our computers, counterfeiting our goods.  They have to understand we want to trade with them, we want a world that is stable, we want free enterprise, but you have got to play by the rules."
OBAMA: "My attitude coming into office was that we are going to insist that China plays by the same set of rules as everybody else."
President Obama and Governor Romney went into Monday's final debate essentially tied, according to most public opinion polls.   Both campaigns said their candidate won the encounter in Boca Raton, Florida, both sides hoping for a positive bump with Americans voting in just over two weeks.

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Comment Sorting
by: Andy Kearney from: South Carolina
October 23, 2012 6:27 AM
I to hate seeing people lie on national TV.
The President says he brought in jobs with his stimulus package. Yes sure he helped save the auto industry but he doesn't say anything about the lost money to overseas when the contracts to make wind turbines went overseas and the money didn't stay a in the country. To me who ever is in government need to look after the people of America and not be just thinking of themselves
I very much disagree with the comment that Mr Romney is hated by so many people. Do you want me to give you a list of the names of people who don't like our President.

by: Orhan Fazlioglu from: Istanbul,Turkey
October 23, 2012 5:23 AM
The last round of the debate between the Governer Romney and the President has shown that the Republicans haven't studied their homework better than the Democrats.I also intend to say the President is more realistic and competent about both national and international issues the US electors have been focusing on.Everybody must agree that the Obama administration has gone through tough times in terms of political and economic crisis worldwide.I strongly believe his administration has handled both the domestic and international challenges in a dextrous way .I guess that the way Romney is adamant to pursue will not ever bring any good to the USA.

Obama administration has gained the country a tremendous credibility across the world standing by the common efforts to bring down the totalitarian governments in the Middle East and his bid to promote peace all around the world. I am afraid that the Governor is likely to wipe out the credibility Obama has long committed himself to build over his presidency.From my point of view,Obama is far more transparent than Romney in many aspects ranging from foreign policies to tax cuts to education to healthcare.Obama has even become a household name all around the world by his modest thoughts,and his rationale behind his programme.If I were a constituent I would vote for Obama because his prudence proves to have worked well up until now..I believe the American voters will not ignore this fact and stand with Obama again. May God guide the US constituents on the right path and on the right choice.

by: Jonathan from: NYC
October 23, 2012 1:04 AM
President Obama's debate win was sensational! People seem to finally be realizing that Mitt Romney and the GOP have based an enormous amount of their election strategy on lies, hated and deceit. From the 72 million Americans that will be left without any health insurance, whatsoever, by year 2020, under Romney's plan (determined by two independent, non-partisan research studies available to the public), to women and minorities being drastically stripped of their equal rights because of his refusal to support initiatives like the Lily Ledbetter Act which enables women to be paid the same as men provided they do the same work (the first act passed by President Obama) or Hospital Visitation Rights which allows gay people the same visitation rights as straight people when a loved one is in hospital, Americans are seeing Mitt Romney for who he really is. From the West Coast to the East Coast and all of our our great country in between, we Americans are seeing from these debates that a Romney/Ryan plan will leave the middle class being burdened with much higher taxes while the wealthiest Americans pay less in tax because "it will help inspire job hiring" which evidence showed us in the Bush years, does not happen. Out of four debates neither Romney or Ryan could specify their "tax plan" despite being given numerous opportunities. That is not honest. That is not American. That is not integrity and that is certainly not Christian. Mitt Romney also has the highest disapproval rating, of all time, of any Presidential candidate, ever. Higher than Bush. We must understand this. The entire world hates the guy. We must be proud to be Americans. We must have a President who represents all of America and that we can be proud of. We are coming out of one of the most difficult economic times in our history in large part because of two wars we are finally ending. We are bringing our brothers and sisters home. But we cannot go backward. We must go forward. We are Americans. And we will prevail.

by: KathHuron from: Michigan
October 22, 2012 10:59 PM
Um ... Mr. President? Our soldiers do still use bayonets. Anyway, ships are one heckuva lot more important to our military strength.

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