Obama, Romney face off on foreign policy in last debate
Published Monday, October 22, 2012 6:33AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, October 22, 2012 11:21PM EDT
In a presidential race dominated by economic issues at home, U.S. President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney sparred over unrest abroad in their third and final debate Monday night.
Obama accused Romney of being “all over the map” on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Iran’s nuclear ambitions and other foreign affairs issues, often backing policies that are “wrong and reckless.”
Romney defended his positions, saying he has consistently advocated for policies aimed at eradicating extremism in the Arab world and building stronger relationships with U.S. allies in the region.
Early in the debate, which was moderated by CBS news anchor Bob Schieffer and held at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., Obama attacked Romney for previously saying that Russia is America’s greatest “geopolitical foe.”
“The Cold War has been over for 20 years,” Obama said. “And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.”
"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," Obama said.
Romney shot back by saying that Obama has been soft on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his iron-fist rule.
He later accused the president of going on an “apology tour,” travelling to Iran and other countries in the Middle East where he told leaders and media that America had been “dismissive” and “derisive.”
Romney also criticized Obama for skipping Israel on that trip. Obama responded by saying that, as a presidential candidate four years ago, he visited the Holocaust museum in Israel while Romney met with donors on his own trip to the country.
Obama delivered several sarcastic retorts, such as his response to Romney’s belief that the government should spend more money on the military, and increase the number of U.S. naval ships.
“We also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military has changed,” Obama said. “We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater: nuclear submarines.”
In defending his foreign policy record, Obama touted his administration’s success in “decimating” al Qaeda’s core leadership ranks, which culminated in Navy Seals killing Osama bin Laden.
Obama also said the U.S. has been instrumental in liberating Libya from Moammar Gadhafi's dictatorship and helping Afghans “take responsibility for their own security.”
Romney congratulated Obama on eliminating key al Qaeda figures, but said: “We can’t kill our way out of this mess.”
“We have to help these nations build civil societies," Romney said, displaying a more moderate stance on issues in the Middle East than his campaign rhetoric had signified.
Unlike in the previous two debates, Romney did not directly attack Obama over his handling of the recent attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya.
On the issue of Israel and Iran, Obama said the U.S. will stand with Israel if it’s attacked, but “as long as I’m president of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.”
Romney also said his party would have Israel’s back, “not just culturally…but also militarily.”
Both candidates agreed that the U.S. should not be putting troops on the ground in Syria. When Romney said America needs to take a leadership position in Syria, Obama said his administration has already done so by helping create Friends of Syria, an international diplomatic collective of countries.
While the final debate was mostly focused on foreign issues, both candidates took opportunities to attack each other’s domestic policy records. Romney once again blamed Obama for failing to reinstate the U.S. economy after the 2008 election, while Obama criticized Romney’s opposition to auto industry bailouts and tax increases for the wealthy.
Both Romney and Obama were under great pressure to deliver knock-out performances in the final debate.
Results of a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Sunday showed that the candidates are in a dead heat, with each garnering the support of 47 per cent of likely voters.
Romney was widely seen as the winner of the first debate, but analysts agreed that Obama mounted a successful comeback in the second, town hall-style debate last week.