FINAL PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE (of THREE) 2012
Monday 22 October 2012
Location: Wold Performing Arts Center: Lynn University-- Boca Raton, Florida
Subject: Foreign Policy and National Security
Moderator: Bob Schieffer, CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent
Format: moderator asking questions of each candidate alternately: 2-minute response by each candidate, beginning with the candidate to which the question was first directed (Governor Romney won the 'coin toss' and takes the first question); "open discussion" thereafter at the discretion of the moderator. Debate to last no longer than 90 minutes all told.
Scoring for 'The Green Papers' by RICHARD E. BERG-ANDERSSON TheGreenPapers.com Staff
Explanation of the SCORING SYSTEM used by 'The Green Papers' for the 2012 Presidential and Vice-Presidential Debates
Round 1: Concern[ing] Libya-- the controversy over what happened there continues: four Americans are dead, including an American ambassador; questions remain. What happened? What caused it? Was it spontaneous? Was it an intelligence failure? Was it a policy failure? Was there an attempt to mislead people about what really happened?
Governor Romney answered first: "This is obviously an area of great concern to the entire world- and to America in particular- which is to see a change in the structure and the environment in the Middle East. With the 'Arab Spring' came a great deal of hope that there would be a change towards more moderation and opportunity for greater participation on the part of women in public life and in economic life in the Middle East: but, instead, we've seen- in nation after nation- a number of disturbing events... And so what we're seeing is a pretty dramatic reversal in the kind of hopes we had for that region. Of course, the greatest threat of all is Iran- four years closer to a nuclear weapon- and we're going to have to recognize that we have to do as the President has done: I congratulate him on taking out Osama bin Laden and going after the leadership in al Qa'eda. 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 which is really not on the run: it's certainly not hiding!... we must have a comprehensive strategy to help reject this kind of extremism."
President Obama responded: "My first job as Commander-in-chief... is to keep the American People safe and that's what we've done over the last four years: we ended the war in Iraq, refocused our attention on those who actually killed us on 9/11, and- as a consequence- al Qa'eda's core leadership has been decimated. In addition, we're now able to transition out of Afghanistan in a responsible way- making sure that Afghans take responsibility for their own security- and that allows us also to rebuild alliances and make friends around the world to combat future threats. Now, with respect to Libya- as I indicated in the last Debate- when we received that phone call, I immediately made sure that- number one- we did everything we could to secure those Americans who were still in harm's way; number two, that we would investigate exactly what happened; and number three- most importantly- that we would go after those who killed Americans and we would bring them to justice- and that's exactly what we're going to do. But I think it's important to step back and think about what happened in Libya: now, keep in mind that I and Americans took leadership in organizing an international coalition that made sure that we were able to- without putting troops on the ground, at the cost of less than what we spent in two weeks in Iraq- liberate a country that had been under the yoke of dictatorship for 40 years- got rid of a despot who had killed Americans... Governor Romney, I'm glad that you agree that we have been successful in going after al Qa'eda- but I have to tell you that... your strategy previously has been one that has been all over the map and is not designed to keep Americans safe or to build on the opportunities that exist in the Middle East."
Governor Romney replied: "My strategy's pretty straightforward- which is to go after the bad guys, to make sure we do our very best to interrupt them, to kill them, to take them out of the picture. But my strategy is broader than that... we're going to have to pursue a pathway to get the Muslim World to be able to reject extremism on its own. We don't want another Iraq; we don't want another Afghanistan- that's not the right course for us. The right course for us is to make sure that we go after the people who are leaders of these various anti-American groups and these jihadists but also help the Muslim World. And how we do that? A group of Arab scholars came together- organized by the UN- to look at how we can help the world reject these terrorists- and the answer they came up was this: one, more economic development... number two, better education; number three, Gender Equality; number four, the Rule of Law... but what's been happening over the last couple years as we watched this tumult in the Middle East- this rising tide of chaos occur- you see al Qa'eda rushing in; you see other jihadist groups rushing in- and they're throughout many nations of the Middle East. It's wonderful that Libya seems to be making some progress, despite this terrible tragedy, but- next door, of course- we have Egypt... This is a region in tumult- and, of course, Iran on the path to a nuclear weapon. We've got real gaps in the region!"
President Obama retorted: "Governor Romney, I'm glad that you recognize that al Qa'eda's a threat because, a few months ago, when you were asked 'what's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America?', you said 'Russia'- not al Qa'eda, you said Russia. And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their Foreign Policy back because, you know, the Cold War's been over for 20 years. But, Governor, when it comes to our Foreign Policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s- just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s. You say that you're not interested in duplicating what happened in Iraq, but just a few weeks ago you said you think we should have more troops in Iraq right now... I know you haven't been in a position to actually execute Foreign Policy but, every time you've offered an opinion, you've been wrong... You indicated that we shouldn't be passing nuclear treaties with Russia, despite the fact that 71 Senators- Democrats and Republicans- voted for it. You've said that first we should not have a timeline in Afghanistan, then you said we should: now you say 'maybe' or 'it depends', which means not only were you wrong but you were also confusing and sending mixed messages both to our troops and our allies. So what we need to do with respect to the Middle East is strong, steady leadership- not wrong and reckless leadership that is all over the map."
Governor Romney rebutted: "Of course I don't concur with what the President said about my own record and the things that I've said: they don't happen to be accurate. But I can say this: that we're talking about the Middle East and how to help the Middle East reject the kind of terrorism we're seeing and the rising tide of tumult and confusion. And attacking me is not an agenda; attacking me is not talking about how we're going to deal with the challenges that exist in the Middle East and take advantage of the opportunity there and stem the tide of this violence. But I'll respond to a couple of the things you mentioned. First of all, Russia, I indicated, is a geopolitical foe... in the same paragraph, I said, 'and Iran is the greatest national security threat we face'. Russia does continue to battle us in the UN time and time again: I have clear eyes on this- I'm not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia or Mr. Putin and I'm certainly not going to say to him 'I'll give you more flexibility after the election'. After the election, he'll get more backbone!... There was an effort on the part of the President to have a Status of Forces agreement and I concurred in that and said we should have some number of troops that stayed on. That was something I concurred
President Obama interrupted: "This is just a few weeks ago that you indicated that we should still have troops in Iraq: you made a major speech!"
Governor Romney protested: "I indicated that you failed to put in place a Status of Forces agreement at the end of the conflict--"
President Obama continued: "Here's one thing I've learned as Commander-in-chief: you've got to be clear- both to our allies and our enemies- about where you stand and what you mean. Now, you just gave a speech a few weeks ago in which you said we should still have troops in Iraq: that is not a recipe for making sure that we are taking advantage of the opportunities and meeting the challenges of the Middle East!... It is absolutely true that we cannot just beat these challenges militarily and so what I've done throughout my Presidency- and will continue to do- is, number one, make sure that these countries are supporting our counterterrorism efforts; number two, make sure that they are standing by our interests in Israel's security, because it is a true friend and our greatest ally in the region; number three, we do have to make sure that we're protecting religious minorities and women because these countries can't develop unless all the population- not just half of it- is developing; number four, we do have to develop their economic capabilities; but, number five, the other thing that we have to do is recognize that we can't continue to do nation-building in these regions. Part of American leadership is making sure that we're doing nation-building here at home!"
Scoring: In his initial answer, Governor Romney gave a general overview of how he saw the situation in the Middle East but President Obama, in his own initial response, actually addressed Libya per se- first, his Administration's response to the attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi and its aftermath (although he pretty much repeated what had already been said in this regard, including that said by Vice President Biden during his Debate with Congressman Ryan) and then- perhaps anticipating Romney's oft-spoken complaint about the Administration's not doing more in Syria- spoke at length about just how Libya had been liberated in the first place before going after Romney's Middle East policies themselves. Romney parried Obama's thrust well here though it was altogether curious that Romney cited policies advocated by a group gathered under the aegis of the United Nations [?!] instead of offering policies in this regard of his own. President Obama continued to hammer Romney's views; Romney's claim that he was only arguing that Russia is a "geopolitical foe" only came off as so much 'double-speak', though his scoring the President for telling now-former Russian President Medvedev that he would "have more flexibility after the election" was a rather effective comeback-- problem is: Romney then blunted it by, once again, getting "hung up" on the details- this time, those surrounding the failure to have a Status of Forces agreement in place when American troops left Iraq. President Obama was able to end the Round on his own terms by specifically addressing the issues involved in the United States being so involved in the Middle East (this at least somewhat in direct answer to Romney's earlier decrying that "attacking me is not an agenda; attacking me is not talking about how we're going to deal with the challenges that exist in the Middle East") and then sneaking in an at least side comment about the Economy ("nation-building here at home"). In truth, of course, neither candidate really directly answered all of the moderator's question (the President came the closest, but only within his initial response) and Romney smartly stayed away from that whole "acts of terror" versus "acts by a terrorist group"/'fortnight delay re: public acknowledgement of same by the Administration versus more immediate Rose Garden statement' dispute that had gotten the Republican nominee in no little trouble during the Second Presidential Debate... still: Obama 10, Romney 9.
Round 2: The war [in Syria] goes on-- [Assad]'s still there. Should we reassess our policy and see if we can find a better way to influence events there? Or is that even possible?
President Obama answered: "What we've done is organize the international community- saying 'Assad has to go'. We've mobilized sanctions against that government; we have made sure that they are isolated; we have provided humanitarian assistance; and we are helping the opposition organize- and we're particularly interested in making sure that we're mobilizing the moderate forces inside of Syria. But, ultimately, Syrians are going to have to determine their own future- and so everything we're doing, we're doing in consultation with our partners in the region- including Israel, which obviously has a huge interest in seeing what happens in Syria; coordinating with Turkey and other countries in the region that have a great interest in this... What we're seeing taking place in Syria is heartbreaking and that's why we are going to do everything we can to make sure that we are helping the opposition. But we also have to recognize that... for us to get more entangled militarily in Syria is a serious step and we have to do so making absolutely certain that we know who we are helping, that we're not putting arms in the hands of folks who eventually could turn them against us or our allies in the region... I am confident that Assad's days are numbered but what we can't do is to simply suggest that- as Governor Romney at times has suggested- that giving heavy weapons, for example, to the Syrian opposition is a simple proposition that would lead us to be safer over the long term."
Governor Romney responded: "Let's step back and talk about what's happening in Syria and how important it is. First of all, 30,000 people being killed by their government is a humanitarian disaster. Secondly, Syria's an opportunity for us because Syria plays an important role in the Middle East, particularly right now. Syria is Iran's only ally in the Arab world- it's their route to the sea; it's the route for them to arm Hizbollah in Lebanon which threatens, of course, our ally Israel: and so seeing Syria remove Assad is a very high priority for us. Number two, seeing a replacement government being responsible people is critical for us; and, finally, we don't want to have military involvement there: we don't want to get drawn into a military conflict. And so the right course for us is working through our partners and with our own resources to identify responsible parties within Syria, organize them, bring them together in..., if not government, a form of council that can take the lead in Syria, and then make sure they have the arms necessary to defend themselves... Recognize I believe that Assad must go: I believe he will go- but I believe we want to make sure that we have the relationships of friendship with the people that take his place such that in the years to come we see Syria as a friend and Syria as a responsible party in the Middle East... we've watched- over the past year or so- first the president saying 'well, we'll let the UN deal with it', and... Kofi Annan came in and said 'we're going to try a cease-fire'- that didn't work! Then it looked to the Russians and said 'see if you can do something'... We should be playing the leadership role there."
President Obama rebutted: "We are playing the leadership role. We organized the "Friends of Syria"; we are mobilizing humanitarian support and support for the opposition; and we are making sure that that those we help are those who will be friends of ours in the long term and friends of our allies in the region over the long term.... Going back to Libya- because this is an example of how we make choices- when we went into Libya and we were able to immediately stop the massacre there because of the unique circumstances and the coalition that we had helped to organize, we also had to make sure that Moammar Gaddafi didn't stay there. And to the Governor's credit, you supported us going into Libya and the coalition that we organized- but, when it came time to making sure that Gaddafi did not stay in power- that he was captured- Governor, your suggestion was that this was 'mission creep', that this was 'mission muddle'. Imagine if we had pulled out at that point! Moammar Gaddafi had more American blood on his hands than any individual other than Osama bin Laden! And so we were going to make sure that we finished the job: that's part of the reason why the Libyans stand with us. But we did so in a careful, thoughtful, way: making certain that we knew who we were dealing with, that those forces of moderation on the ground were ones that we could work with- and we have to take the same kind of steady, thoughtful, leadership when it comes to Syria. That's exactly what we're doing!"
Governor Romney retorted: "I don't want to have our military involved in Syria: I don't think there's a necessity to put our military in Syria at this stage; I don't anticipate that in the future. As I indicated, our objectives are to replace Assad and to have in place a new government which is friendly to us- a responsible government, if possible... This has been going on for a year... this should have been a time for American leadership. We should have taken a leading role- not militarily, but a leading role organizationally, governmentally- to bring together the parties there, to find responsible parties. As you hear from intelligence sources even today, the insurgents are highly disparate: they haven't come together; they haven't formed a unity group, a council of some kind. That needs to happen: America can help that happen!"
President Obama came back: "What you just heard Governor Romney said is he doesn't have different ideas and that's because we're doing exactly what we should be doing to try to promote a moderate, Syrian leadership and an effective transition so that we get Assad out- that's the kind of leadership we've shown; that's the kind of leadership we'll continue to show."
Asked by the moderator if he regrets having said it was time for now former President Mubarak of Egypt to go (in much the same manner that both candidates had just said Syrian President Assad has to go) when so many in his own Administration thought he should have waited, President Obama replied: "No, I don't because I think that America has to stand with democracy... But what I've also said is that now that you have a democratically elected government in Egypt, that they have to make sure that they take responsibility for protecting religious minorities- and we have put significant pressure on them to make sure they're doing that- to recognize the rights of women, which is critical throughout the region: these countries can't develop if young women are not given the kind of education that they need. They have to abide by their treaty with Israel- that is a 'red line' for us because, not only is Israel's security at stake, but our security is at stake if that unravels. They have to make sure that they're cooperating with us when it comes to counterterrorism. And we will help them with respect to developing their own economy, because ultimately, what's going to make the Egyptian revolution successful for the people of Egypt but also for the world is if those young people who gathered there are seeing opportunities... But what is also important for us to understand is -- is that for America to be successful in this region, there are some things that we're going to have to do here at home as well. You know, one of the challenges over the last decade is we've done experiments in nation building in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. And we've neglected, for example, developing our own economy, our own energy sectors, our own education system. And it's very hard for us to project leadership around the world when we're not doing what we need to do here."
Governor Romney then commented: "I believe, as the President indicated and said at the time, that I supported his action there... I wish we'd have had a better vision of the future: I wish that, looking back at the beginning of the President's term and even further back than that, that we'd have recognized that there was a growing energy and passion for Freedom in that part of the world and that we would have worked more aggressively with our friend and with other friends in the region to have them make the transition towards a more representative form of government such that it didn't explode in the way it did. But, once it exploded, I felt the same as the President did, which is these freedom voices in the streets of Egypt where the people who were speaking of our principles. And President Mubarak had done things which were unimaginable and the idea of him crushing his people was not something that we could possibly support... Our purpose is to make sure the world is more peaceful: we want a peaceful planet; we want people to be able to enjoy their lives and know they're going to have a bright and prosperous future and not be at war- that's our purpose! And the mantle of leadership for promoting the principles of peace has fallen to America: we didn't ask for it but it's an honor that we have it. But for us to be able to promote those principles of peace requires us to be strong and that begins with a strong economy here at home and, unfortunately, the economy is not stronger. When the President of Iran, Ahmadinejad, says that our debt makes us not a great country, that's a frightening thing!... We need a strong economy; we need to have- as well- a strong military... We have to stand by our principles- and, if we're strong in each of those things, American influence will grow: but, unfortunately, in nowhere in the world is America's influence greater today than it was four years ago."
Scoring: Governor Romney should be given all due credit for here providing at least some of the specificity in his foreign policy positions he has (along with his running mate, Congressman Ryan) hitherto not so well articulated in the course of these Debates (largely because- more true of Ryan during his own Debate with Vice President Biden in particular- the Romney/Ryan strategy, up to this point, seems to have been- to at least some extent- more about the mere gainsaying of Obama Administration policies [in my own view, in an attempt to portray President Obama as rather nonchalant about Foreign Policy as part of an overall argument that the Obama Administration has generally been ineffective in all sorts of areas, including the Economy]); however, having said this, Romney was well portrayed- by President Obama- as merely "piggybacking" on what the Obama Administration is already doing re: Syria (Obama saying, of Romney: "he doesn't have different ideas... because we're doing exactly what we should be doing"). There was also no significant difference between the candidates within their respective responses back when now-deposed President Mubarak was still in power (which also hurts Romney, if only because President Obama was the one in High Office at the time). Both candidates managed to sneak in references to their policies re: the American Economy this time (Obama expanding upon his "nation-building at home" theme; Romney- however obliquely- scoring Obama on his mediocre economic record) but- as to the subject at hand- Romney yet failed to advance beyond mere criticism in that, again, he suggested doing nothing inherently different from current Obama Administration efforts. Thus: Obama 10, Romney 9.
Round 3: What is America's role in the World?
Governor Romney answered: "I absolutely believe that America has a responsibility and the privilege of helping defend Freedom and promote the principles that make the world more peaceful and those principles include Human Rights, human dignity, Free Enterprise, Freedom of Expression, elections- because, when there are elections, people tend to vote for peace: they don't vote for war. So we want to promote those principles around the world. We recognize that there are places of conflict in the world: we want to end those conflicts to the extent humanly possible- but, in order to be able to fulfill our role in the world, America must be strong: America must lead- and, for that to happen, we have to strengthen our economy here at home... We've got to strengthen our military long-term: we don't know what the world is going to throw at us down the road. We make decisions today in a military that will confront challenges we can't imagine: in the 2000 Debates, there was no mention of Terrorism, for instance and, a year later, 9/11 happened. So we have to make decisions based upon uncertainty and that means a strong military: I will not cut our military budget! We have to also stand by our allies: I think the tension that existed between Israel and the United States was very unfortunate; I think also that pulling our missile defense program out of Poland in the way did we was also unfortunate in terms of, if you will, disrupting the relationship in some ways that existed between us. And then, of course- with regards to standing for our principles- when the students took to the streets in Tehran and the people there protested, the Green Revolution occurred: for the President to be silent, I thought, was an enormous mistake: we have to stand for our principles, stand for our allies, stand for a strong military and stand for a stronger economy!"
President Obama responded: "America remains the one indispensable nation and the world needs a strong America- and it is stronger now than when I came into office! Because we ended the war in Iraq, we were able to refocus our attention on not only the terrorist threat but also beginning a transition process in Afghanistan: it also allowed us to refocus on alliances and relationships that had been neglected for a decade. And, Governor Romney, our alliances have never been stronger- in Asia, in Europe, in Africa, with Israel where we have unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation, including dealing with the Iranian threat. But what we also have been able to do is position ourselves so we can start rebuilding America and that's what my plan does: making sure that we're bringing manufacturing back to our shores so that we're creating jobs here, as we've done with the auto industry, not rewarding companies that are shipping jobs overseas; making sure that we've got the best education system in the world, including retraining our workers for the jobs of tomorrow; doing everything we can to control our own energy... Now Governor Romney has taken a different approach throughout this campaign... both at home and abroad, he has proposed wrong and reckless policies. He's praised George Bush as good economic steward and Dick Cheney as somebody who shows great wisdom and judgment and taking us back to those kinds of strategies that got us into this mess are not the way that we are going to maintain leadership in the 21st Century!"
Governor Romney rebutted: "I've got a policy for the future and an agenda for the future and, when it comes to our economy here at home, I know what it takes to create 12 million new jobs and rising take-home pay. And what we've seen over the last four years is something I don't want to see over the next four years... I will get America working again and see rising take- home pay again and I'll do it with five simple steps... Number one, were going to have North American energy independence... Number two, we're going to increase our trade... The opportunities for us in Latin America we have just not taken advantage of fully: as a matter of fact, Latin America's economy is almost as big as the economy of China. We're all focused on China: Latin America is a huge opportunity for us!... Number three, we're going to have to have training programs that work for our workers and schools that finally put the parents and the teachers and the kids first, and the teachers union's going to have to go behind. And then we're going to have to get to a balanced budget: we can't expect entrepreneurs and businesses- large and small- to take their life savings or their companies' money and invest in America if they think we're headed to the road to Greece: and that's where we're going right now unless we finally get off this spending and borrowing binge... And, finally, number five: we've got to champion small business. Small business is where jobs come from: two-thirds of our jobs come from small businesses."
President Obama replied: "Well, let's talk about what we need to compete. First of all, Governor Romney talks about small businesses but, Governor, when you were in Massachusetts, small business development ranked about 48th, I think, out of 50 States... And the way you define small businesses include folks at the very top: they include you and me- that's not the kind of small business promotion we need. But let's take an example that we know is going to make a difference in the 21st Century and that's our education policy- we didn't have a lot of chance to talk about this in the last Debate... Under my leadership, what we've done is reformed education- working with governors in 46 States. We've seen progress and gains in schools that were having a terrible time and they're starting to finally make progress- and what I now want to do is to hire more teachers, especially in math and science, because we know that we've fallen behind when it comes to math and science. And those teachers can make a difference. Now, Governor Romney, when you were asked by teachers whether or not this would help the economy grow, you said 'this isn't going to help the economy grow'; when you were asked about reduced class sizes, you said class sizes don't make a difference- but, I tell you, if you talk to teachers, they will tell you it does make a difference... And the kinds of budget proposals that you've put forward- when we don't ask either you or me to pay a dime more in terms of reducing the deficit, but instead we slash support for education- that's undermining our long-term competitiveness: that is not good for America's position in the world and the world notices!"
Governor Romney responded: "I'm so proud of the State that I had the chance to be Governor of. We have, every two years, tests that look at how well our kids are doing. Fourth graders and eighth graders are tested in English and math. While I was governor, I was proud that our fourth graders came out number one of all 50 states in English and then also in math, and our eighth graders number one in English and also in math -- first time one state had been number one in all four measures. How did we do that? Well, Republicans and Democrats came together on a bipartisan basis to put in place education principles that focused on having great teachers in the classroom."
President Obama interrupted: "But that was 10 years before you took office and then you cut education spending when you came into office!"
Romney pressed on: "And we kept our schools number one in the nation- they're still number one today!... Also, if they graduated in the top quarter of their class, they got a four-year tuition-free ride at any Massachusetts public institution of higher learning."
Obama again interrupted: "That happened before you came into office!"
Romney retorted: "That was actually mine, Mr. President- you got that fact wrong!"
At this point, the moderator- who had been trying, during much of this exchange, to get the Debate back to Foreign Policy, its ostensible subject matter- broke in with a question about Romney's not wanting to cut defense spending and where he would get the money to be able to afford it.
Governor Romney answered thusly: "First of all... from the very beginning, we're going to cut about 5% of the discretionary budget excluding military- that's number one... We do it by reducing spending in a whole series of programs. By the way, number one I get rid of is 'Obamacare': there are a number of things that sound good but, frankly, we just can't afford them and that one doesn't sound good and it's not affordable, so I get rid of that one from 'Day one': to the extent humanly possible, we get that out. We take program after program that we don't absolutely have to have and we get rid of them. Number two, we take some programs that we are going to keep- like Medicaid, which is a program for the poor- take that health care program for the poor and we give it to the States to run because States run these programs more efficiently."
President Obama responded: "Governor Romney's called for $5 trillion of tax cuts that he says he's going to pay for by closing deductions. Now, the math doesn't work but he continues to claim that he's going to do it: he then wants to spend another $2 trillion on military spending that our military's not asking for. Now, keep in mind that our military spending has gone up every single year that I've been in office... What I did was work with our Joint Chiefs of Staff to think about what are we going to need in the future to make sure that we are safe and that's the budget that we've put forward. But what you can't do is spend $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military is not asking for, $5 trillion on tax cuts you say that you're going to pay for by closing loopholes and deductions without naming what those loopholes and deductions are, and then somehow you're also going to deal with the deficit that we've already got- the math simply doesn't work! But, when it comes to our military, what we have to think about is not just budgets, we've got to think about capabilities: we need to be thinking about cybersecurity; we need to be thinking about space. That's exactly what our budget does but it's driven by strategy: it's not driven by Politics; it's not driven by members of Congress and what they would like to see- it's driven by what we are going to need to keep the American people safe. That's exactly what our budget does and it also then allows us to reduce our deficit, which is a significant National Security concern because we've got to make sure that our economy is strong at home so that we can project military power overseas."
Governor Romney retorted: "I'm pleased that I've balanced budgets. I was in the world of business for 25 years: if you didn't balance your budget, you went out of business... The President hasn't balanced a budget yet: I expect to have the opportunity to do so myself... Our Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission- we're now down to 285: we're headed down to the low 200s if we go through with sequestration. That's unacceptable to me! I want to make sure that we have the ships that are required by our Navy. Our Air Force is older and smaller than any time since it was founded in 1947... since FDR, we've always had the strategy of saying we could fight in two conflicts at once- now we're changing to one conflict... This, in my view, is the highest responsibility of the President of the United States, which is to maintain the safety of the American People and I will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars, which is the combination of the budget cuts that the President has as well as the sequestration cuts- that, in my view, is making our future less certain and less secure: I won't do it!"
President Obama replied: "First of all, the sequester is not something that I proposed- it's something that Congress has proposed: it will not happen! The budget that we're talking about is not reducing our military spending- it's maintaining it. But I think Governor Romney, maybe, hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example, and 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's changed: we have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them; we have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. And so the question is not a game of 'Battleship' where we're counting ships- it's what are our capabilities. And so, when I sit down with the Secretary of the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we determine how are we going to be best able to meet all of our defense needs in a way that also keeps faith with our troops, that also makes sure that our veterans have the kind of support that they need when they come home- and that is not reflected in the kind of budget that you're putting forward, because it just doesn't work!"
Scoring: A long Round! Both candidates stated their respective cases well in their respective initial, 2-minute answers to the original question but then both candidates went "off topic" and (as I always suspected would, indeed, happen) began to more address Domestic Policy. Had this Round ended immediately after the exchange about Education Policy, Governor Romney would have won it 10-9 (largely because President Obama unceremoniously interrupted the Governor towards the end of this exchange and, further, got chided by Romney for a factual misstatement not all that unlike that Romney himself had made re: the "acts of terror" 'thing' during the Second Debate [though without the ongoing "battle" during that session!])... but the moderator managed to pull both candidates back to Foreign Policy with a budgetary question about Romney's proposed military spending, a question the Governor only obliquely addressed (and, again, without much specificity: he talked about making cuts- even getting in a "dig" at 'Obamacare'- without really saying [outside of that] what would actually be cut); President Obama, on the other hand, made it clear that his own military budget was based on need (underscoring his own oft-spoken claim that Romney's increased defense spending has not even been sought by the military): after Romney retorted (with, to the Governor's credit, no little specificity), the President countered with (in an admittedly derisive tone [hence his reference to "a game of 'Battleship' where we're counting ships"]) a reiteration of his claim of his own military budget being based on what the military actually says it needs. This, along with Obama's also countering Romney's complaint about the 'sequester' (by pointing out that it is actually being proposed by Congress and is, in addition, something Obama himself will not let happen), won the President this Round as well. Obama 10, Romney 9.
Round 4: Would either of you be willing to declare that an attack on Israel is an attack on the United States- which, of course, is the same promise that we give to our close allies like Japan- and, if you made such a declaration, would not that deter Iran?
President Obama answered: "First of all, Israel is a true friend. It is our greatest ally in the region and, if Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel- I've made that clear throughout my Presidency... I will stand with Israel if they are attacked and this is the reason why, working with Israel, we have created the strongest military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries in History. In fact, this week we'll be carrying out the largest military exercise with Israel in history- this very week! But- to the issue of Iran- as long as I'm President of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon: I've made that clear when I came into office. We then organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in History and it is crippling their economy: their currency has dropped 80 percent; their oil production has plunged to the lowest level since they were fighting a war with Iraq 20 years ago- so their economy is in a shambles... So the work that we've done with respect to sanctions now offers Iran a choice: they can take the diplomatic route and end their nuclear program or they will have to face a united world and a United States President- me!- who said we're not going to take any options off the table. The disagreement I have with Governor Romney is that, during the course of this campaign, he's often talked as if we should take premature military action: I think that would be a mistake because, when I've sent young men and women into harm's way, I always understand that that is the last resort- not the first resort!"
Governor Romney responded: "First of all, I want to underscore the same point the President made which is that, if I'm President of the United States- when I'm President of the United States- we will stand with Israel and, if Israel is attacked, we have their back- not just diplomatically, not just culturally, but militarily: that's number one! Number two, with regards to Iran and the threat of Iran, there's no question but that a nuclear Iran, a nuclear-capable Iran, is unacceptable to America...It's also essential for us to understand what our mission is in Iran and that is to dissuade Iran from having a nuclear weapon through peaceful and diplomatic means... Crippling sanctions are number one and they do work: you're seeing it right now in the economy- it's absolutely the right thing to do to have crippling sanctions: I'd have put them in place earlier, but it's good that we have them. Number two, something I would add today is I would tighten those sanctions: I would say that ships that carry Iranian oil can't come into our ports- I imagine the EU would agree with us as well- not only ships couldn't, I'd say companies that are moving their oil can't, people who are trading in their oil can't: I would tighten those sanctions further. Secondly, I'd take on diplomatic isolation efforts: I'd make sure that Ahmadinejad is indicted under the Genocide Convention- his words amount to genocide incitation: I would indict him for it. I would also make sure that their diplomats are treated like the pariah they are around the world, the same way we treated the apartheid diplomats of South Africa. We need to increase pressure time and time again on Iran because anything other than a solution to this which stops this nuclear folly of theirs is unacceptable to America. And, of course, a military action is the last resort: it is something one would only consider if all of the other avenues had been tried to their fullest extent."
President Obama commented: "Our goal is to get Iran to recognize it needs to give up its nuclear program and abide by the UN resolutions that have been in place because they have the opportunity to re-enter the Community of Nations and we would welcome that. There are people in Iran who have the same aspirations as people all around the world for a better life and we hope that their leadership takes the right decision. But the deal we'll accept is: they end their nuclear program- it's very straightforward... I'm glad that Governor Romney agrees with the steps that we're taking... There have been times, Governor, frankly, during the course of this campaign, where it sounded like you thought that you'd do the same things we did but you'd say them louder and, somehow, that that would make a difference and it turns out that the work involved in setting up these crippling sanctions is painstaking- it's meticulous. We started from the day we got into office! And the reason it was so important- and this is a testament to how we've restored American credibility and strength around the world- is we had to make sure that all the countries participated- even countries like Russia and Chin-, because if it's just us that are imposing sanctions, we've had sanctions in place for a long time. It's because we got everybody to agree that Iran is seeing so much pressure and we've got to maintain that pressure: there is a deal to be had and that is that they abide by the rules that have already been established; they convince the international community they are not pursuing a nuclear program; there are inspections that are very intrusive. But, over time, what they can do is regain credibility- in the meantime, though, we're not going to let up the pressure until we have clear evidence that that takes place. And one last thing- just to make this point: the clock is ticking. We're not going to allow Iran to perpetually engage in negotiations that lead nowhere and I've been very clear to them, you know, because of the intelligence coordination that we do with a range of countries- including Israel- we have a sense of when they would get breakout capacity, which means that we would not be able to intervene in time to stop their nuclear program. And that clock is ticking and we're going to make sure that, if they do not meet the demands of the international community, then we are going to take all options necessary to make sure they don't have a nuclear weapon."
Governor Romney replied: "I think, from the very beginning, one of the challenges we've had with Iran is that they have looked at this Administration and felt that the Administration was not as strong as it needed to be: I think they saw weakness where they had expected to find American strength and I say that because, from the very beginning, the President- in his campaign some four years ago- said he'd meet with all the world's worst actors in his first year... And then the President began what I've called an "apology tour" of going to various nations in the Middle East and criticizing America: I think they looked at that and saw weakness. Then, when there were dissidents in the streets of Tehran, the Green Revolution, holding signs saying 'Is America with us?', the President was silent: I think they noticed that as well. And I think that, when the President said he was going to create daylight between ourselves and Israel, that they noticed that as well. All of these things suggested, I think, to the Iranian mullahs that 'hey, you know, we can keep on pushing along here- we can keep talks going on, but we're just going to keep on spinning centrifuges'... It's essential for a President to show strength from the very beginning, to make it very clear what is acceptable and not acceptable- and an Iranian nuclear program is not acceptable to us: they must not develop nuclear capability! And the way to make sure they understand that is by having, from the very beginning, the tightest sanctions possible: they need to be tightened, our diplomatic isolation needs to be tougher. We need to indict Ahmadinejad; we need to put the pressure on them as hard as we possibly can because, if we do that, we won't have to take military action."
President Obama retorted: "Nothing Governor Romney just said is true, starting with this notion of me apologizing. This has been probably the biggest whopper that's been told during the course of this campaign and every fact-checker and every reporter's looked at it: what the Governor has said this is not true. And when it comes to tightening sanctions... we've put in the toughest, most crippling, sanctions ever and the fact is- while we were coordinating an international coalition to make sure these sanctions were effective- you were still invested in a Chinese state oil company that was doing business with the Iranian oil sector. So I'll let the American people decide, judge who's going to be more effective and more credible when it comes to imposing crippling sanctions. And- with respect to our attitude about the Iranian revolution- I was very clear about the murderous activities that had taken place and that it was contrary to international law and everything that civilized people stand for. And so the strength that we have shown in Iran is shown by the fact that we've been able to mobilize the world: when I came into office, the world was divided- Iran was resurgent; Iran is at its weakest point economically, strategically, militarily in many years and we are going to continue to keep the pressure on to make sure that they do not get a nuclear weapon- that's in America's national interest and that will be the case so long as I'm President!"
Governor Romney came back: "We're four years closer to a nuclear Iran and we should not have wasted these four years to the extent they continue to be able to spin these centrifuges and get that much closer- that's number one. Number two, Mr. President, the reason I call it an "apology tour" is because you went to the Middle East and you flew to Egypt and to Saudi Arabia and to Turkey and Iraq. And, by the way, you skipped Israel- our closest friend in the region- but you went to the other nations and, by the way, they noticed that you skipped Israel. And then- in those nations and on Arabic TV- you said that America had been dismissive and derisive: you said that, on occasion, America had dictated to other nations. Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations- we have freed other nations from dictators!"
President Obama responded: "If we're going to talk about trips that we've taken... when I was a candidate for office, the first trip I took was to visit our troops. And, when I went to Israel as a candidate, I didn't take donors- I didn't attend fundraisers: I went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum there, to remind myself the nature of evil and why our bond with Israel will be unbreakable and then I went down to the border town of Sderot- which had experienced missiles raining down from Hamas- and I saw families there who showed me where missiles had come down near their children's bedrooms and I was reminded of what that would mean if those were my kids which is why, as President, we funded an 'Iron Dome' program to stop those missiles. So that's how I've used my travels when I travel to Israel and when I travel to the region. And the central question at this point is going to be, who's going to be credible to all parties involved? And they can look at my track record- whether it's Iran sanctions, whether it's dealing with counterterrorism, whether it's supporting Democracy, whether it's supporting Women's Rights, whether it's supporting religious minorities- and they can say that the President of the United States and the United States of America has stood on the right side of History and that kind of credibility is precisely why we've been able to show leadership on a wide range of issues facing the world right now!"
Governor Romney replied: "I look at what's happening around the world and I see Iran four years closer to a bomb; I see the Middle East with a rising tide of violence, chaos, tumult; I see jihadists continuing to spread- whether they're rising or just about the same level hard to precisely measure but it's clear they're there: they're very, very strong; I see Syria with 30,000 civilians dead, Assad still in power; I see our trade deficit with China larger- it's growing larger every year, as a matter of fact; I look around the world and you see North Korea continuing to export their nuclear technology. Russia's said they're not going to follow Nunn-Lugar anymore; they're backing away from the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty that we had with them. I look around the world: I don't see our influence growing around the world, I see our influence receding- in part because of the failure of the President to deal with our economic challenges at home, in part because of our withdrawal from our commitment to our military and the way I think it ought to be, in part because of the turmoil with Israel."
President Obama came back: "Governor, the problem is that- on a whole range of issues: whether it's the Middle East, whether it's Afghanistan, whether it's Iraq, whether it's now Iran- you've been all over the map!... I'm pleased that you now are endorsing our policy of applying diplomatic pressure and potentially having bilateral discussions with the Iranians to end their nuclear program but, just a few years ago, you said that's something you'd never do- in the same way that you initially opposed a time table in Afghanistan, now you're for it, although it depends; in the same way that you say you would have ended the war in Iraq but recently gave a speech saying that we should have 20,000 more folks in there; the same way that you said that it was 'mission creep' to go after Gaddafi. When it comes to going after Osama bin Laden, you said 'well, any President would make that call' but- when you were a candidate in 2008, as I was, and I said 'if I got bin Laden in our sights, I would take that shot', you said we shouldn't move heaven and earth to get one man and you said we should ask Pakistan for permission- and, if we had asked Pakistan for permission, we would not have gotten him! And it was worth moving heaven and earth to get him... when we do things like that, when we bring those who have harmed us to justice, that sends a message to the world!... I make that point because that's the kind of clarity of leadership and those decisions are not always popular: those decisions generally are not poll-tested. And even some in my own party- including my current Vice President- had the same critique as you did: but what the American People understand is that I look at what we need to get done to keep the American People safe and to move our interests forward and I make those decisions!"
Scoring: Perhaps the worst Round for Governor Romney of any during the course of this Debate, though it started out rather well for him (as he very well deflected President Obama's initial claim that Romney was seriously contemplating ratcheting up to military intervention in Iran in lieu of more diplomatic initiatives). However, Romney's litany of what he would do differently from the Obama Administration (themselves blunted by his own acknowledgment that the sanctions against Iran already in place were, indeed, working) all too well lent themselves to the President's subsequent critique that "you thought that you'd do the same things we did but you'd say them louder and, somehow, that that would make a difference". After this, President Obama was able to (and quite strongly, too!) well parry pretty much everything that Romney thereafter threw his way in this Round: Obama defended himself against the idea that, somehow, the sanctions against Iran were still too weak as well as the oft-stated charge of his having gone on an "apology tour". Had this Round ended with Obama's recounting his trip to Israel as a presidential candidate some four years before, it would've been the second 10-8 Round in the President's favor so far in all three Debates but Romney was given an opportunity to recover at least somewhat with his point-by-point litany of what he sees as wrong with the Administration's Foreign Policy in general. At the same time, Obama's own litany of what he sees as wrong with Romney's Foreign Policy proposals and his then recounting the very reasons for going after bin Laden, ending with his own philosophy of decision-making, kept this Round, as well, in the President's favor. Obama 10, Romney 9.
Round 5: The United States is scheduled to turn over responsibility for security in Afghanistan to the Afghan government in 2014. At that point, we will withdraw our combat troops, leave a smaller force of Americans... in Afghanistan for training purposes... What do you do if the deadline arrives and it is obvious the Afghans are unable to handle their security? Do we still leave?
Governor Romney answered: "We're going to be finished by 2014 and, when I'm President, we'll make sure we bring our troops out by the end of 2014: the commanders and the generals there are on track to do so. We've seen progress over the past several years- the surge has been successful and the training program is proceeding apace: there are now a large number of Afghan security forces- 350,000- that are ready to step in to provide security and we're going to be able to make that transition by the end of 2014. So our troops'll come home at that point. I can tell you, at the same time, that we will make sure that we look at what's happening in Pakistan and recognize that what's happening in Pakistan is going to have a major impact on the success in Afghanistan. and I say that because I know a lot of people just feel like we should just brush our hands and walk away- and I don't mean you, Mr. President!- but some people in Our Nation feel that Pakistan isn't being nice to us and that we should just walk away from them. But Pakistan is important to the region, to the world and to us- because Pakistan has 100 nuclear warheads and they're rushing to build a lot more: they'll have more than Great Britain sometime in the relatively near future!... A Pakistan that falls apart- becomes a failed state- would be of extraordinary danger to Afghanistan and us. And so we're going to have to remain helpful in encouraging Pakistan to move towards a more stable government and rebuild a relationship with us- and that means that our aid that we provide to Pakistan is going to have to be conditioned upon certain benchmarks being met. So, for me, I look at this as both a need to help move Pakistan in the right direction and also to get Afghanistan to be ready- and they will be ready by the end of 2014."
President Obama responded: "When I came into office, we were still bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan had been drifting for a decade: we ended the war in Iraq, refocused our attention on Afghanistan and we did deliver a surge of troops. That was facilitated in part because we had ended the war in Iraq and we are now in a position where we have met many of the objectives that got us there in the first place. Part of what had happened is we'd forgotten why we'd gone! We went because there were people who were responsible for 3,000 American deaths and so we decimated al Qa'eda's core leadership in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan; we then started to build up Afghan forces and we're now in a position where we can transition out because there's no reason why Americans should die when Afghans are perfectly capable of defending their own country. Now, that transition has to take place in a responsible fashion: we've been there a long time and we've got to make sure that we and our coalition partners are pulling out responsibly and giving Afghans the capabilities that they need. But what I think the American People recognize is, after a decade of war, it's time to do some nation-building here at home and what we can now do is free up some resources to, for example, put Americans back to work- especially our veterans- rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our schools; making sure that our veterans are getting the care that they need when it comes to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injury; making sure that the certifications that they need for good jobs of the future are in place... The First Lady has done great work with an organization called 'Joining Forces' putting our veterans back to work and, as a consequence, veterans' unemployment is actually now lower than in the general population: it was higher when I came into office. So those are the kinds of things that we can now do because we're making that transition in Afghanistan."
Governor Romney was then asked, by the moderator, whether it was time for the United States to "divorce" Pakistan, to which he replied: "No, it's not time to divorce a nation on earth that has a hundred nuclear weapons and is on the way to double that at some point, a nation that has serious threats from terrorist groups within its nation... a nation that's not like others and that does not have a civilian leadership that is calling the shots there... If it falls apart- if it becomes a failed state- there are nuclear weapons there and you've got terrorists there who could grab their hands onto those nuclear weapons! This is an important part of the world for us: Pakistan is, technically, an ally and they're not acting very much like an ally right now but we have some work to do. And I don't blame the Administration for the fact that the relationship with Pakistan is strained: we had to go into Pakistan; we had to go in there to get Osama bin Laden- that was the right thing to do. And that upset them but there was, obviously, a great deal of anger even before that- but we're going to have to work with the people in Pakistan to try and help them move to a more responsible course than the one that they're on. And it's important for them, it's important for the nuclear weapons, it's important for the success of Afghanistan... It's important for us to recognize that we can't just walk away from Pakistan but we do need to make sure that as we send support for them, that this is tied to them making progress on matters that would lead them to becoming a civil society.:
Asked by the moderator about the use of drones, Governor Romney answered: "I believe that we should use any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world and it's widely reported that drones are being used in drone strikes and I support that entirely and feel the President was right to up the usage of that technology and believe that we should continue to use it to continue to go after the people who represent a threat to this nation and to our friends. Let me also note that, as I said earlier, we're going to have to do more than just going after leaders and killing bad guys, important as that is: we're also going to have to have a far more effective and comprehensive strategy to help move the world away from terror and Islamic extremism. We haven't done that yet- we talk a lot about these things but you look at the record. You look at the record of the last four years and say, is Iran closer to a bomb? Yes. Is the Middle East in tumult? Yes. Is al Qa'eda on the run, on its heels? No. Are Israel and the Palestinians closer to reaching a peace agreement? No, they haven't had talks in two years. We have not seen the progress we need to have and I'm convinced that, with strong leadership and an effort to build a strategy based upon helping these nations reject extremism, we can see the kind of peace and prosperity the world demands."
President Obama commented: "Well, keep in mind our strategy wasn't just going after bin Laden: we've created partnerships throughout the region to deal with extremism- in Somalia, in Yemen, in Pakistan- and what we've also done is engage these governments in the kind of reforms that are actually going to make a difference in people's lives day to day, to make sure that their governments aren't corrupt, to make sure that they are treating women with the kind of respect and dignity that every nation that succeeds has shown and to make sure that they've got a free market system that works. So, across the board, we are engaging them in building capacity in these countries and we have stood on the side of Democracy. One thing I think Americans should be proud of: when Tunisians began to protest, this nation- me, my Administration- stood with them earlier than just about any other country; in Egypt, we stood on the side of Democracy; in Libya, we stood on the side of the people. And, as a consequence there is no doubt that attitudes about Americans have changed- but there are always going to be elements in these countries that potentially threaten the United States and we want to shrink those groups and those networks and we can do that, but we're always also going to have to maintain vigilance when it comes to terrorist activities. The truth, though, is that al Qa'eda is much weaker than it was when I came into office and they don't have the same capacities to attack the U.S. homeland and our allies as they did four years ago."
Scoring: An easy win for the President in this Round! Governor Romney's initial answer drifted between actually praising- where not even outright endorsing!- the President's strategies in Afghanistan (thereby underscoring President Obama's argument that, in the main, Romney/Ryan's Middle East policies are, for the most part, the proverbial 'distinction as makes no difference' re: his own [something already seen so far in this very Debate!]) and no little incoherence when it came to his linking Pakistan to ultimate success in Afghanistan (Romney's so linking the two countries made perfect sense, of course-- unfortunately, his answer as such didn't! [Yet once more, Romney sought to express that which he would very much like to see without really being all that specific as to how this might actually be achieved]). This only gave President Obama an opening to then recount his own policies in Afghanistan, policies Romney had already seemed to mostly agree with! Romney was given a second (and even third) chance to clarify his policy proposals re: Pakistan with the two "follow up"s- both addressed to the Governor (something that struck me as at least somewhat unfair to the President: then again, based on my own scoring to this point, Obama was already running away with this Debate!) and the Governor did much better here: only he still seemed to be giving the President his 'props' re: having gotten bin Laden before- finally- taking on the President on many a Middle East Foreign Policy issue (though he mostly just repeated the "bullet points" of his 'litany' of same from earlier in this Debate). President Obama, however, was able to close a Round during which Romney barely laid the proverbial "glove" on him on something of a "high note" about to his own policies related to the so-called 'Arab Spring': if there was any notion of Obama Administration Foreign Policy "unraveling", it certainly didn't show up in this Round! Obama 10, Romney 9.
Round 6: The rise of China and future challenges for America... What do you believe is the greatest future threat to the National Security of this country?
President Obama answered: "I think it will continue to be terrorist networks: we have to remain vigilant, as I just said. But with respect to China, China's both an adversary but also a potential partner in the international community- if it's following the rules. So my attitude coming into office was that we are going to insist that China plays by the same rules as everybody else. And I know Americans had seen jobs being shipped overseas- businesses and workers not getting a level playing field when it came to trade: and that's the reason why I set up a Trade Task Force to go after cheaters when it came to international trade- that's the reason why we have brought more cases against China for violating trade rules than the previous Administration had done in two terms and we've won just about every case that we've filed that has been decided. In fact, just recently, steelworkers in Ohio- and throughout the Midwest, Pennsylvania- are in a position now to sell steel to China because we won that case. We had a tire case in which they were flooding us with cheap Chinese tires and we put a stop to it and, as a consequence, saved jobs throughout America. I have to say that Governor Romney criticized me for being too tough in that tire case, said this wouldn't be good for American workers and that it would be protectionist- but, I tell you, those workers don't feel that way: they feel as if they had- finally- an Administration who was going to take this issue seriously. Over the long term, in order for us to compete with China, we've also got to make sure, though, that we're taking care of business here at home: if we don't have the best education system in the world- if we don't continue to put money into research and technology that will allow us to create great businesses here in the United States- that's how we lose the competition and, unfortunately, Governor Romney's budget and his proposals would not allow us to make those investments."
Governor Romney responded: "First of all, it's not Government that makes business successful- it's not government investments that make businesses grow and hire people! Let me also note that the greatest threat that the world faces- the greatest National Security threat- is a nuclear Iran. Let's talk about China: China has an interest that's very much like ours in one respect and that is they want a stable world: they don't want war; they don't want to see protectionism; they don't want to see the world break out into various forms of chaos because they have to manufacture goods and put people to work... We can be a partner with China- we don't have to be an adversary in any way, shape or form: we can work with them; we can collaborate with them if they're willing to be responsible. Now, they look at us and say 'is it a good idea to be with America? How strong are we going to be? How strong is our economy?' They look at the fact that we owe them a trillion dollars and owe other people 16 trillion (dollars) in total, including them; they look at our decision to cut back on our military capabilities a trillion dollars. The Secretary of Defense called these trillion dollars of cuts to our military devastating- it's not my term! It's the President's own Secretary of Defense who called them devastating! They look at America's commitments around the world and they see what's happening and they say 'well, OK, is America going to be strong?' And the answer is 'yes'; if I'm president, America will be very strong! We'll also make sure that we have trade relations with China that work for us: I've watched- year in and year out- as companies have shut down and people have lost their jobs because China has not played by the same rules, in part by holding down artificially the value of their currency: it holds down the prices of their goods: it means our goods aren't as competitive and we lose jobs- that's got to end! They're making some progress- they need to make more: that's why on 'Day one' I will label them a currency manipulator which allows us to apply tariffs where they're taking jobs. They're 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's stable, we like free enterprise- but you've got to play by the rules."
When asked by the moderator whether so labeling China a "currency manipulator" risks a trade war, Governor Romney replied: "There's one going on right now that we don't know about- it's a silent one and they're winning. We have an enormous trade imbalance with China and it's worse this year than last year- and it was worse last year than the year before. And so we have to understand that we can't just surrender and lose jobs year in and year out: we have to say to our friends in China 'look, you guys are playing aggressively, we understand it, but this can't keep on going'. You can't keep on holding down the value of your currency, stealing our intellectual property, counterfeiting our products, selling them around the world, even into the United States... I want a great relationship with China: China can be our partner- but that doesn't mean they can just roll all over us and steal our jobs on an unfair basis!"
President Obama retorted: "Well, Governor Romney's right: you are familiar with jobs being shipped overseas because you invested in companies that were shipping jobs overseas. And, you know, that's your right: I mean, that's how our free market works. But I've made a different bet on American workers. You know, if we had taken your advice, Governor Romney, about our auto industry, we'd be buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China. If we take your advice with respect to how we change our tax codes so that companies that are in profits overseas don't pay U.S. taxes compared to companies here that are paying taxes, now, that's estimated to create 800,000 jobs- the problem is they won't be here, they'll be in places like China! And- if we're not making investments in education and basic research, which is not something that the private sector is doing at a sufficient pace right now and has never done- then we will lose the lead in things like clean energy technology. Now, with respect to what we've done with China already, U.S. exports have doubled- since I came into office- to China and, actually, currencies are at their most advantageous point for U.S. exporters since 1993: we absolutely have to make more progress and that's why we're going to keep on pressing. And, when it comes to our military and Chinese security, part of the reason that we were able to pivot to the Asia-Pacific region after having ended the war in Iraq and transitioning out of Afghanistan is precisely because this is going to be a massive growth area in the future. And we believe China can be a partner but we're also sending a very clear signal that America is a Pacific power- that we are going to have a presence there... We're organizing trade relations with countries other than China so that China starts feeling more pressure about meeting basic international standards. That's the kind of leadership we've shown in the region- that's the kind of leadership that we'll continue to show."
Governor Romney came back: "Again, attacking me is not talking about an agenda for getting more trade and opening up more jobs in this country! But the President mentioned the auto industry and that, somehow, I would be in favor of jobs being elsewhere. Nothing could be further from the truth! I'm a son of Detroit; I was born in Detroit- my dad was head of a car company; I like American cars and I would do nothing to hurt the U.S. auto industry. My plan to get the industry on its feet when it was in real trouble was not to start writing checks- it was President Bush that wrote the first checks: I disagree with that! I said these companies need to go through a managed bankruptcy and, in that process, they can get government help and government guarantees but they need to go through bankruptcy to get rid of excess cost and the debt burden that they'd built up... I said that we would provide guarantees and that was what was able to allow these companies to go through bankruptcy, to come out of bankruptcy. Under no circumstances would I do anything other than to help this industry get on its feet and the idea that has been suggested that I would liquidate the industry? Of course not!... that's the height of silliness!... I have the kind of commitment to make sure that our industries in this country can compete and be successful: we in this country can compete successfully with anyone in the world and we're going to! We're going to have to have a President, however, that doesn't think that somehow the government investing in car companies... making electric battery cars- this is not research, Mr. President: these are the government investing in companies!... I want to invest in research: research is great! Providing funding to universities and think tanks- great! But investing in companies? Absolutely not! That's the wrong way to go!"
President Obama came back: "I think anybody out there can check the record, Governor Romney: you keep on trying to airbrush History here. You were very clear that you would not provide government assistance to the U.S. auto companies even if they went through bankruptcy: you said that they could get it in the private marketplace- that wasn't true"
Romney interrupted: "You're wrong, Mr. President!"
Obama: "No, I am not wrong."
Romney: "People can look it up. You're right."
Obama: "People will look it up!"
President Obama continued: "But, more importantly, it is true that in order for us to be competitive, we're going to have to make some smart choices right now: Cutting our education budget- that's not a smart choice, that will not help us compete with China; cutting our investments in research and technology- that's not a smart choice; that will not help us compete with China... Those are the kinds of choices that the American People face right now: having a tax code that rewards companies that are shipping jobs overseas instead of companies that are investing here in the United States- that will not make us more competitive. And the one thing that I'm absolutely clear about is that, after a decade in which we saw drift- jobs being shipped overseas, nobody championing American workers and American businesses- we've now begun to make some real progress. What we can't do is go back to the same policies that got us into such difficulty in the first place and that's why we have to move forward and not go back!"
Governor Romney responded: "I couldn't agree more about going forward, but I certainly don't want to go back to the policies of the last four years! The policies of the last four years have seen incomes in America decline every year for middle-income families, now down $4,300 during your term; 23 million Americans still struggling to find a good job. When you came into office, 32 million people on food stamps- today 47 million people on food stamps; when you came to office, just over $10 trillion in debt- now $16 trillion in debt. It hasn't worked: you said by now we'd be at 5.4% unemployment- we're 9 million jobs short of that!... That's why it's so critical that we make America once again the most attractive place in the world to start businesses, to build jobs, to grow the economy and that's not going to happen by just hiring teachers. Look, I love teachers and I'm happy to have States and communities that want to hire teachers do that. By the way, I don't like to have the Federal Government start pushing its way deeper and deeper into our schools: let the States and localities do that!... I love teachers, but I want to get our private sector growing- and I know how to do it!"
Scoring: A very strange Final Round of the Final Presidential Debate which, in its own way, well illustrated the differences between the Major Party candidates in this Presidential Election (like I've said: early 21st Fiscal Conservatism versus early 21st Century Liberal Progressivism "straight up"!)- thus, perfect for just such a Final Final Round of Presidential Debating! For the most part, that's what this Round was, given the interplay between such differences- engendered, in this case, by the candidates' respective ideologies here applied to an economic issue with Foreign Policy ramifications. In the end, Governor Romney finally won a Round in this Debate solely due to his rather spirited defense of his real (at least according to himself) position on the Auto Industry and his ability to, once again, cite negative economic stats at the end without President Obama being able to at all address these... but, in truth, this Round was- more or less- a 'draw' in terms of the basic substance therein (leaving the real "winner" of this Round very much in the eye of the beholder [for instance: if you happen to like Government R&D (outside of the military sphere) in advanced technologies and/or feel that the Administration has- most appropriately- been going after China when it has "cheated" re: trade, then Obama "really" won this Round and- thereby- finished the Debate with a perfect '60'])... nonetheless, *I* score this Round (for the reasons already stated) Romney 10, Obama 9.
It is the position of 'The Green Papers' that any Opening and Closing Statements at these Debates, being largely repetitions of the messages of each candidate's campaign and not at all responses to "off the cuff" questions for which the candidates cannot prepare in advance, are not really part of the Debate itself. Thus, the Closing Statements from each candidate are not included herein and do not factor into the
FINAL SCORE: President Obama, 59-- Governor Romney, 55