The final debate was held at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. Bob Shieffer of CBS moderated the lively debate which focused on foreign policy. The debate and its moderator were spirited.
The moderator asked about what happened in the terror attack in
Romney spoke first. He indicated that the administration’s policy is unraveling in the middle east. Romney cited the 3000 people killed in Syria, the recent terrorist attacks in Libya, a growing influence of Al Qaeda in Mali, a de-stabilizing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the growing nuclear threat which Iran poses. He called for a comprehensive middle east policy to deal with all of these issues. At bottom, these middle eastern countries must forgo terrorism in favor of more cooperative modes. Romney cited Russia as a geopolitical foe but stressed that Iran is the greater threat right now, and criticized Obama for telling Putin that there would be more American flexibility after this election.
The former governor pointed out 30,000 people have been killed in Syria. In addition, Assad is arming the Hezbollah in Lebanon, Romney said, emphasizing he wants Assad out now. He would like to organize moderates and insurgents in Syria by providing arms to facilitate the process. Romney explained that the Saudis, Turks and Qatar are with us on this goal. At bottom, we need an effective leadership transition in Syria once Assad is out.
Obama answered by indicating that we’re out of Iraq. Al Qaeda has been decimated. Ultimately, Afghanistan must be responsible for its own defense. He called for bringing the terrorists in Libya to justice, although he pointed out that thousands march now in favor of the US presence in Libya. Obama took credit for stopping the massacre in Libya and criticized Romney for warning
against mission creep in Libya at a time we needed to take action. He cited the killing of bin Laden and the end of his reign of terror. He urged more emphasis on getting Arab scholars to speak through the UN, more foreign aid, better education in the middle east and gender equality as needed things to stabilize the middle east. Obama cited the end of the Cold War and criticized Romney for wanting to have more troops stay in Iraq. The President indicated that the religious populations require protection in the middle east, as well as affirming the rights of women. At bottom, Obama called for nation building at home. He addressed Syria by indicating that an international coalition was needed along with Syrian moderates and dissidents to get rid of Assad. He explained that we are coordinating efforts with Israel and Turkey to encourage Assad to leave either forcibly or through diplomatic efforts.
The moderator asked whether or not there were regrets that Mubarak of
Egypt is out of power.
Obama indicated that the need to protect religious minorities and the affirmation of treaties with Israel are paramount foreign policy concerns. He indicated that the young people of Egypt need jobs and housing. Obama stressed the need for continuing ongoing conferences with Egypt to rebuild the economy. In fact, we need to rebuild the economy right here in the United States.
Romney agreed that Mubarak should have been deposed. He called for a more peaceful planet with a strong economy at home and good management of the debt. He decried a trillion dollars in cuts to our military budget.
The moderator asked about what role the United States should have
in the world.
Romney indicated that we should defend freedom, affirm human rights, seek free enterprise development, encourage free elections and end major conflicts. At bottom, America must lead and we can’t do so with a weak economy. He wants to strengthen the military and protect Poland with a missile shield. Romney criticized Obama for not supporting the Green Revolution in Iran. He also criticized Obama for not meeting the 5.4 percent unemployment goal set at the commencement of this administration. He called for energy independence, greater trade with Latin America, schools which put the children first, a balanced budget and more emphasis on small business. He took credit for Massachusetts’ number one ranking in standardized English tests for 4th and 8th graders. Romney took credit for having great teachers in Massachusetts and being number one in the nation. He indicated that the top 25 percent of the students had scholarships for further study.
Obama took credit for ending the Iraq War and transitioning to peace in Afghanistan. He cited strong alliances in Asia, Europe, and Israel, and he called for rebuilding America and cutting imports of energy by 50 percent by the end of this decade. Obama criticized Romney for Massachusetts’ being 48th in the nation in education at the time he was governor. He took credit for reforming education in 46 states. Obama called for hiring more math and science teachers and reducing class size.
The moderator asked where the money will come from to do all these things around the world and at home.
Romney called for cutting discretionary spending by 5 percent over a decade. He stated that Obamacare is out. Romney would like to have the states run Medicaid where they could manage the money better. He cited Arizona and Rhode Island for their successful pilot programs. Romney cited his 25 years business experience and his governorship in Massachusetts during which taxes were cut 19 times. He cited that our navy is the smallest since 1917 with only 200 ships and the Air Force is the smallest since 1947. At bottom, he will not cut the military budget by a trillion dollars.
Obama criticized Romney for $5 trillion in planned tax cuts and $2 trillion in military spending that the military isn’t even asking for at this time. He worked with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the budget. Obama pays for programs by closing tax loopholes and reducing the deficit. He explained that his budget keeps nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers intact for modern warfare.
The moderator asked whether or not an attack on Israel would be considered the same as an attack on the United States.
Both affirmed the need to support Israel if attacked, as well as the need for Iran to give up its nuclear program. On Iran, Obama would like to keep up the sanctions. Romney stressed that Iran is perilously close to achieving its nuclear program capability.
The moderator asked what will happen in 2014, when the US is scheduled to leave Afghanistan.
Romney indicated that we would be finished by 2014. The generals believe that we are on track to get out. The surge was successful. Romney is more worried about Pakistan with its 100 nuclear weapons and the impact of the Taliban on the security of Pakistan. He wants a more stable government in Pakistan and considers it an ally in the war against terror. Romney supports the use of drones in the region. Obama pointed out that the Iraq War was ended, and that we met our objectives there. Terror was decimated on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Essentially, America needs to get back to work. He stressed that we stood for democracy in Egypt. In addition, Al Qaeda is weaker generally compared to its situation four years ago.
The moderator asked about the rising threat of China.
Obama indicated that we can be partners with China but they must play by the same trading rules. He indicated that we’ve won every major trade case brought against them and that steelworkers can now sell to China. Obama mentioned that if we took Romney’s advice, we wouldn’t have an auto resurgence and that exports to China would not have doubled. China is pivotal as an Asian growth area. He criticized Romney for not wanting to give government assistance to the auto industry. Obama indicated that two wars have been wound down. Manufacturing is returning to the US. We have the best education system. There is a need to control our energy supplies. We need a reduced deficit, as well as the rebuilding of infrastructure like roads and bridges. Obama would like less involvement of the US overseas to concentrate more fully on things which need fixing at home.
Romney indicated that China wants a stable world. In addition the, 20 million people are migrating from the farms to the cities. We owe China a trillion dollars. Trade relations with China help us, but they must stop manipulating currency; it has the effect of increasing their trade artificially because prices are down and our consumer demand responds to the lower prices of Chinese goods. Romney stressed that he is a son of Detroit. To get industry on its feet, the auto companies need to go through a supervised bankruptcy procedure. He said that we would provide loan guarantees. At bottom, we can compete with everyone. He pointed out that personal income is down by $4300 a year compared to the Bush presidency. Food stamps went up by 12 million people. Unemployment is now 8 percent and not the 5.4 percent promised by Obama. 50 percent of college students cannot get work. At bottom, we need to get the private sector going again. Romney is optimistic about the future. He wants a real peace and economic prosperity. Romney wants increased take home pay, a balanced budget, 12 million new jobs and fewer people on food stamps. He emphasized that Washington is basically broken and needs repair.
The moderator closed the debate. Both candidates had strong performances but they differed on many issues. Romney wants a more assertive military posture and a missile defense capability over Poland. Obama does not want to fund the military on programs they are not even asking for. Both affirmed 2014 as a good date for turning over security to Afghanistan.
Romney clearly wants to turn Medicare dollars over to the states, who could use the money more prudently. Obama affirms the Obamacare program and more available health care coverage. Romney called for tax cuts paid for by a five percent cut in discretionary spending. Obama fears that the math of the tax cuts just doesn’t add up. This is something former President Clinton stated at the Democratic National Convention.
Neither candidate discussed taxing junk food with an excess consumption tax to strengthen Medicaid funding and improve health outcomes for more people.