As the debate begins, the first segment is the challenge of a changing Middle East and a new face to terrorism.
The first segment covers the controversy over Libya, as Romney criticizes the actions taken after the attack, and warns that a vote for Obama would put us four years closer to a nuclear weapon. Obama responds, his “first job as Commander of Chief is to keep Americans safe. We ended the war in Iraq, focused our attention on our enemies, and Al Queda core leadership has been decimated.”
Obama attacks Romney’s record on foreign policy, arguing that Romney’s plans outline, “foreign policy of the 1980s, the social policy of the 1950s, and the economic policy of the 1920s. He attacks Romney’s claim that Russia is the biggest national security threat to the United States.
Romney’s response? Russia is a geo-political foe and Iran is biggest threat to national security. Romney continues, ‘ I wont tell Mr. Putin I’ll give you more flexibility after the election.”
Moderator Bob Schieffer, keeping good time as the moderator of this debate, asks: Should we reassess our policy in Syria?
Obama responds first, arguing, “We’ve organized the international community saying Assad has to go.” He continues, for us to get more entanlgled in Syria is a serious military step.”
The candidates seem to agree that removing Assad is a high priority, and Romney makes clear he does not support military involvement. He says, ‘Syria is an opportunity for us. Seeing a replacement government is critical, but we dont want military involvement.” He concludes, “We need to have an effective leadership effort, armed parties need to be the leadership parties.”
Obama rebuts, “We are playing the leadership role.”
The candidates have yet to interrupt each other, or the moderator, which is an improvement from the first two presidential debates.
Romney echoes sentiment that Syria was a missed opportunity for America, in that we should have taken a leading role to bring together the parties there. Obama, agreeing with this sentiment: “America has to stand with democracy.”
Unlike the previous debates, both Romney and Obama have agreed with each other at least once, with Romney citing, “freedom voices in the streets of Egypt were the people that were speaking of our principles.”
What is America’s role in the world?
Mitt Romney: America has a responsibility and privilege is helping defend freedom and promoting the principles that make the world peaceful. We want to end conflict, but in order to fulfill our role, America must be strong, America must lead. For that to happen, we have to strengthen our economy at home. [Paraphrased]
It’s important to note that Romney also makes a bold statement in his response, saying he will not cut our military budget.
Barack Obama: The world needs a strong America and it is stronger now that it was four years ago. Since ending the war in Iraq, we have refocused on ending the war in Afghanistan and refocus on relationships that have been neglected. What we also have been able to do is position ourselves so we can start rebuilding America. Making sure we are bringing manufacturing back to our shores. [Paraphrased]
Where are you going to get the money for a bigger military?
In short, Romney wants to cut 5% of discretionary spending excluding military, to which Obama responds, it just doesn’t add up.
“We spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined.” – Barack Obama
The takeaway is that Romney will not cut the military because the number one role of president to protect national security. Obama rebuts, “sequestration was proposed by Congress and will not happen.” He continues, how can we best meet our defense needs while making sure our veterans have support, and that is not reflected in the kind of budget Romney is putting forward.
Israel and Iran:
Is an attack on Israel an attack on the United States?
“Israel is a true friend,” Obama responds, “it is our greatest ally.” In a succinct and straight-forward answer, Obama restates, “I will stand with Israel if they are attacked…As long as I’m president of the United States, Iran will not get a weapon.” Citing strict sanctions and economic instability, Obama assures the audience and viewers at home that a nuclear arms race is not in our future. “The work that we’ve done in respect to sanctions offers a lot of choice.”
Two minutes to respond, Romney assures that “when I’m President of the United States, I stand with Israel.” Another agreement between the two candidates, as Romney agrees that a nuclear Iran is not an option. Our mission in Iran, to dissuade Iran from having a nuclear weapons.
Why were sanctions effective? Obama credits “it’s because we got everybody to agree, we’ve regained credibility.”
On Israel, Obama and Romney get into If we’re going to talk about trips that we’ve taken, the first trip I took was to visit our troops. When I went to Israel, I didn’t take donors, I didn’t hold fundraisers.” He continues, “Who is going to be credible to all parties involved, and they can look at my track record…They can say that the President of the United States has stood on the right side of history.”
Romney, after dodging a question on the basis that he doesn’t want to get into hypotheticals, repeats his mantra, “I see Iran is four years closer to a nuclear weapon…I see Syria with 30,000 people dead.”
Update on winners & losers from CNN:
- Florida undecided voters are not responding well to Romney’s comments
- The women in the focus group CNN is tracking are responding very positively to Obama’s answers on foreign policy.
America’s Longest War: Afghanistan and Pakistan
Romney: When I’m president, we’ll bring our troops out by 2014. As for Pakistan, Romney believes it “is important to the world the region and us.”
Obama: “When I came into office, we were still bogged down in Iraq…We are now in a position where we have met many of the objectives that have got us there in the first place.” He calls for a responsible pull out of Afghanistan. He continues, “After a decade of war, it’s time to do some nation building here at home.”
Is it time for us to divorce Pakistan? Romney beleives that we can’t just walk away from Pakistan. On drones, he is in complete agreement with Obama, arguing, “I believe we should use any and all means to take out people who are a threat to us.” With strong leadership, he believes that we can see peace and prosperity the world demands. Obama responds, “we’ve created partnerships throughout the region to deal with extremism.”
What is the greatest threat to national security?
Obama: With respect to China, China is both an adversary but a potential partner in the international community if they are following the rules. We will insist that China plays by the same rules as everyone else. In order for us to compete with China, we need to build our nation here at home. [Paraphrased]
Romney: The greatest threat is a nuclear Iran. On to China, Romney compares their interest to ours. China doesn’t want to see protectionism, they want to see peace. They have to manufacture goods and put people to work. We can be a partner with China, we can work with them. [Paraphrased]
Romney continues, “I will label them a currency manipulator on day one.” He continues, “We have to understand that we can’t just surrender and lose jobs.” Romney speaks to the power of a partnership with China, while Obama rebuts, “You are familiar with jobs being shipped overseas because you worked at a company that ships jobs overseas.”
Obama: Need free trade relation with countries other than China so they start feeling the pressure.
Romney: I like American cars … I would not do anything to hurt the car industry. I disagree with Bush .. companies need to go through bankruptcy.
Obama: That is not what you said.
Romney: I said I would provide guarantees I would do nothing but help these companies get back on their feet. I never said I would liquidate the industry. I have the commitment to allow these companies to compete with anyone else in the industry…I want to invest in research … universities, but not companies [like Solyndra]
Obama: Look … you’re trying to airbrush history. Cutting our investments in research and technology will not let us compete with China … [we need] a tax code that rewards people that invest right here in the United States.
Romney: We can’t go back to the policies of the last 4 years. We have more people on food stamps and more debt than when you [Obama] came into office … A nation as prosperous as our should not be [in such a bad situation]. I don’t like the federal government pushing deeper and deeper into schools. I love teachers.
Schieffer: We all love teachers … but the debate is over.
Obama: You’ve seen a lot of commercial and campaign materials, now you have a choice. Policies that brought you 2 wars and economic policies that won’t create jobs and created a deficit. I have a different vision. I want to build on strengths and bring jobs back to our shores, the best education in the world, to control our own energy, and energy of the future. To cut spending and ask wealthy to do a bit more. That is the key to 20th century economy. I will go after those that do us harm, but after a decade of war, we need to do some nation building here at home. [America} bounces back because we have character. I will listen to you [Americans] and work to make sure that we are the greatest nation on earth.
Romney: I am optimistic about the future. We have the opportunity to have good leadership and make sure the world is a safer place. We have two different paths. (1) by the president, we have a path towards Greece and declining take-home pay. 20 million people out of work. I will get people back to work and off food stamps by getting them good jobs. We need a president that can work across the isle. I know what it takes to get country back and I will work with good Democrats and Republicans to get back. It is our turn to take the torch … and I would like to be the leader, who leads in an open and honest way to maintain an America that is the hope of the earth.
IVN will be curating a live blog of tonight’s debate, as the presidential candidates talk foreign policy. In light of Pew Research Center’s findings that almost 40% of all American adults use social media to engage in political activity online, we’re inviting the online community of independent-minded voters to join us for the third in our series of presidential debate tweet chats:
With two debates under their belts, Obama and Romney are expected to touch on the defense budget, national security, ending the war in Afghanistan, and the specifics of the September 11 Benghazi attack.
Moderator Bob Schieffer, CBS News’ Chief Washington Correspondent, will be tasked with keeping the candidates on time in tonight’s debate, a job which has proved challenging during the last two debates.
Stay on this page during the debate for live coverage and analysis.
The IVN team will be posting updates of the foreign policy discussion, while tweeting with independent-minded voters from across the nation using the hashtag #indyvote. To join the conversation either join us on Twitter, or follow along below.