The time has come
With the final debate over, the candidates must rely on their policies to carry them through to Election Day.
As the presidential election nears, the race to the White House continues to be a winding road for both candidates: President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney. On Monday, the two ended the debate trilogy with a focus on foreign policy.
The debate was held in Boca Raton, Fla., at Lynn University and was moderated by Bob Schieffer, CBS News’ chief Washington correspondent. Compared to the last town hall debate, all questions asked on foreign policy were from Schieffer, not the audience. Obama, Romney and Schieffer all sat at a table together rather than the podiums or chairs used in previous debates. The candidates had two minutes to answer a question, and then there was a discussion until it led into another topic.
Recent controversies in Libya have pushed foreign policy to the forefront of the candidates’ campaigns and American’s minds.
Schieffer began asking the candidates about the four Americans that died in the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, including an American ambassador: “What happened? What caused it? … Was it policy failure?”
Romney won the coin toss, so he responded first. In past debates, viewers have seen a lot of argument and disagreement, but Romney started off this debate agreeing with his opponent.
“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-Qaeda,” Romney said. “But we can’t kill our way out of this mess. . .we have to have a comprehensive strategy to help reject this kind of extremism.”
Schieffer then turned to Obama to ask his thoughts on the Libya issue.
“… I’m glad that you agree that we have been successful going after al-Qaeda, but I have to tell you that, you know, your strategy previously has been one that has been all over the map and is not designed to keep America safe or to build on the opportunities that exist in the Middle East,” Obama said.
The president and governor continued to quarrel back and forth about the issues in both Libya and Syria, but ultimately showed how they both want maintain peaceful relationships with the two countries if possible. Despite this, both candidates agreed that Bashar-al-Assad, the president of Syria, needs to be taken down.
The debate then lead into the topic of Egypt and President Mubarak. The candidates again agreed that it was necessary to say no to Mubarak, and that it was essential to stand for democracy against the Egyptians. After back and forth discussion, the debate led into a topic that interested many: America’s role in the world.
Romney was the first to respond to the topic.
“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,” Romney said. “…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.”
Obama responded to the topic of America’s role with the fact that the world needs America to be strong. He discussed how the war in Iraq has ended and that the United States was able to focus its attention on terroristic threats and Afghanistan.
After the candidates leading themselves onto a tangent about education, Shieffer reined the two in and asked Romney about his idea of wanting a bigger military – specifically a bigger navy – and where the money will come to support this idea.
Romney made it clear how he will have the budget to support his expansion of military forces: getting rid of Obamacare and allow the states to run programs like Medicaid. Romney never answered the question of why he wanted a bigger military; only how he will fund the expansion. In support of his idea, Romney cited the U.S Navy’s size as being the smallest it has been since 1917.
Obama quickly responded to Romney’s comments and spoke directly to him.
“You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships that we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military has changed,” Obama said. “And so the question is not a game of Battleship where we’re counting ships. It’s what our capabilities are.”
The debate continued its focus on foreign policy discussing the issues of Israel and if it was time to “divorce Pakistan.” The debate then moved to a controversial topic of shipping jobs overseas to China.
“I want a great relationship with China. China can be our partner, but – but that doesn’t mean they can just roll all over us and steal our jobs on an unfair basis,” Romney said.
Obama quickly pulled out another punch aimed right at Romney.
“Governor Romney’s right, you are familiar with jobs being shipped overseas because you invested in companies that were shipping jobs overseas,” Obama said. “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.”
After a lot of back-and-forth from the candidates, the debate finally concluded with both Obama and Romney giving their closing statements.