Four years of foreign policy experience plus 90 minutes of nationally televised talk time equals another debate win for President Barack Obama after sparring with Gov. Mitt Romney over foreign policy and the Middle East during their third and final matchup last Monday.
During what is arguably the most difficult presidential debate for any challenger running against an incumbent president, Romney, in large part, aligned his personal foreign policy philosophies with those of Obama.
Failing to set himself apart with any major popular policy differences, Romney lost the night to the president according to the majority of media outlets.
Major topics covered included the recent Benghazi assassination of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in Libya, nuclear weapons manufacturing prevention in Iran, the Syrian civil war, democratic imposition in Arab Spring countries, the Iraq and Afghan wars, Chinese espionage and copyright infringement. Journalist Bob Schieffer of CBS moderated the event at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.
“Gov. Romney, I’m glad that you recognize that al-Qaida’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-Qaida, 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,” Obama said in response to a criticism Romney made about failed foreign policy in the Middle East.
“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,” Obama said.
“You said we should have gone into Iraq despite the fact that there were no weapons of mass destruction. You said that we should still have troops in Iraq to this day. You indicated that we shouldn’t be passing nuclear treaties with Russia, despite the fact that 71 senators, Democrats and Republicans, voted for it,” Obama said.
Obama spent the majority of the debate attacking Romney as a ‘flip-flopper’ in foreign and domestic policy — his newest campaign strategy — while capitalizing on his own foreign policy successes, like finish the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and ending the war in Iraq.
“You’ve said that first we should not have a timeline in Afghanistan then you said we should,” Obama said. 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.”
Romney focused his attacks on the loss of an ambassador in the Middle East under the Obama administration, a lack of support for Israel against Iran, making little to no impact in reducing Iran’s nuclear weapons capability, and Russian relations.
“Russia, I indicated, is a geopolitical foe. And in the same paragraph, I said, and Iran is the greatest national security threat we face. Russia does continue to battle us in the U.N. 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,” Romney said, referencing a controversial comment Obama made to the Russian premier.
“We need a strong economy. We need to have as well a strong military. Our military is second to none in the world. We’re blessed with terrific soldiers and extraordinary technology and intelligence. But the idea of a trillion dollars in cuts through sequestration and budget cuts to the military would change that,” Romney said about a $1 trillion military spending cut that would occur under the Obama administration if elected for a second term.
With little direct foreign policy experience to draw upon and a marginal difference of opinion in current popular U.S. foreign policy, Romney had little choice but to relinquish the final debate to the president. The two were generally in agreement over a large portion of contemporary policy initiatives.
With the conclusion of the final nationally televised debate, the last skirmishes of campaign conflict will be fought on the media battleground with ad wars and speech quotes — all guaranteed to heat up with less than two weeks until the national election on Nov. 6.