Live Blog Wrap: Foreign Policy Debate

Battle in Boca is last face-to-face matchup

President Obama and Governor Romney in the final debate of the 2012 election. Courtesy:

The debates are over and there were no real gotcha moments. It was an exercise in Romney agreeing with Obama but trying to make it sound like he failed. As CBS News’ Scott Pelley noted right after the debate, “It seemed like they both only came alive when they started talking about the economy.”

Both candidates pivoted back to the economy saying that a strong economy will help when it deals with the world. Its obvious that this election will come down to the economy and now its up to the political ads and surrogates….down the stretch they come! 


China is Now on the Clock

Romney basically states very similar policy approaches with China as the President, however he appears competent because he does know business. His approach would be similar to what he would take with Iran, except it would be economic bluster.

The President is at a disadvantage because many of Romney’s points have an emotional appeal even if its not the best course, since Romney’s initiatives would just inflame a sometimes tense relationship with China.


Helping Veterans

First real mention of helping veterans comes from the president who said that as we transition out of Afghanistan it frees up resources to help veterans to assimilate back into society. An interesting anecdote was of a combat medic who returned to the U.S. and could not find work because there was no way to convert his experience to a nursing certification; he was forced to start over.


*Yawn* Romney

Romney is still flogging the “Apology Tour” horse in hopes that visiting Arab countries as president, many for the first time in years, is somehow a bad thing.

Israel should be happy tonight, both candidates can’t love them enough. It has been said about 30 different ways already.

Romney’s foreign policy debate strategy is best summed up by Bill Maher, “What he just said, but from a white guy.”


Romney’s Tough Road

The debate has just wrapped up a discussion on Iran and all he can really do is agree with what the president has already done.

“I’m glad Governor Romney that you agree with what we have done with Iran, but you only would say it louder,” the President said.


The Military is not a game of battleship

The President owns Romney with a withering and mildly condescending explanation of how the military has evolved.

“We now have ships that are called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them”. Which was a response to an argument Romney made about the number of ships the Navy currently has, which he felt was too low.

Obama accused Romney of not understanding how the military works telling him that they no longer use horses and bayonets. Romney had told Schieffer earlier that if he had visited his website he would learn about how he would fund the military. At the end of Obama’s schooling of Romney he was able to get in one last hit on Romney’s funding math.

“We visited the website quite a bit and it still doesn’t work”, Obama said.


Funding the Military

Romney continues to want to expand the military but he doesn’t give a good reason why it needs to be. The President noted that military spending has never decreased during his tenure. “We have a military budget that is based on strategy and not on politics”, the President said.


The Syria Quagmire

The President is asked a question about what is America’s policy with Syria since the uprising has devolved into a civil war in the past year and a half. In the first months President Obama and decried the killings but the U.S. has had very little visible engagment since then.

Obama responded by saying that nation-building through military action is not the answer. Romney basically agreed. That set off a a series of discussions about Syria, Egypt, Libya, and Iran where the President said what he has done and needs to be done. Then Romney would start by agreeing with his actions but then saying we need to have a better plan.

Its a cynical argument to co-opt a mostly successful foreign policy, but then call it a failure because he [Romney] didn’t lead it.


The Arab Spring

Romney is trying to hit Obama of a scatter-shot foreign policy by blaming him for the Arab Spring and not managing it. The President hit back not only what he has done but what he plans to do militarily and diplomatically. Republicans have been complaining Obama has been light on future plans for anything; here Obama gave a rare “future policy” point.


“The 1980s called and want their foreign policy back”

The president lands a good punch by bringing up Romney’s previous statements about Russia being America’s biggest threat. Romney is staking his argument on Al Qeada as a bigger threat than it probably is.

Romney responds to the President’s Russia crack with some decent rebuttals, but gets a bit testy and appears slightly angry saying that Russia is a geopolitical foe while Iran is a national security threat. Then he falls back to some of his debate bullying behavior by talking over everyone.


“We can’t kill our way out of this mess”

Romeny starts off with an awkward reference to the Al Smith Dinner and transitions into his philosophy on foreign policy…which continues to remain vague. He credited the President with killing Osama Bin Laden in hopes of taking that argument away from him. He said, “We can’t kill our way out of this mess”.


Welcome to Florida

Bob Shieffer is now introducing the candidates. Kind of miss him on the CBS Evening News, he is one of the last of old-time newsmen. He should be a fair and firm arbiter of this discussion. Mitt Romney and President Obama both are wearing black.

The last  Presidential Debate is certainly high-stakes for both candidates. Mitt Romney has  to layout some kind of philosophy other than complaining about current administration. He also has to avoid costly gaffes like his failed “gotcha” on Libya in the last debate.

For President Obama, he righted the ship in the last debate but Romeny’s momentum in the polls has only been partially staunched. Obama has to continue to appear presidential and he is on pretty firm ground regarding his foreign policy. However Romney likely will continue to press him on Libya and the President will need to have clear and strong answers.

It’s going to be a dogfight to the end, tonight is the last unscripted chance to connect with voters before the campaign is given over too the strategists, the SuperPACS, and speech writers as we all will be bombarded with endless ads for the next two weeks.


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