The Last Word:
In what was a fairly subdued debate, all things considered, there were few highlights. Obama's horses and bayonets moment was surely very amusing, and very effectively undercut Romney's efforts to portray him as cutting the military. Romney for his part started out effectively, but did not hit the Obama administration on Libya, which surprised pretty much everyone. Despite starting off fairly well, it was noticeable the amount of times he said he agreed with the president. At points he also seemed to intentionally change the topic to the economy, so he could talk about jobs. Also, Bob Schieffer will surely make headlines for two glaring gaffes, saying that 100 had died in Lebanon in a car-bombing assassination (three died) and saying "Obama's bin Laden". Hopefully in future presidential debates, the debate commission will see fit to put moderators not just because they look grandfatherly.
All told, nobody really won the debate, but the issue of foreign policy definitely lost. Although much better than Lehrer, none of the questions posed by Schieffer were really something that showed anything we didn't know about either candiate, and Romney easily brushed aside a hypothetical Schieffer posed to him. Romney didn't appear as interested in talking about specifics because there seem to be precious few foreign policy specifics he wants to talk about, and because he can't be more of a hawk than Obama, and Obama for his part was really just waiting for a moment to bring up Osama bin Laden's demise. No undecided voter will have been swayed by this debate.
However, if really pressed, Obama did get in one zinger and looked presidential. Romney was very deferential and still can't prove that he would be stronger than Obama on national security issues. In this respect you could say Obama won, although we can do better on a foreign policy debate (spending a third of it not talking about foreign policy). Just off the top of my head, what about South Sudan-Sudan, EU crisis (without a mention of the US becoming Greece), the Malvinas/Falkland Islands fight between the UK and Argentina, or, if we really must talk about domestic policy, immigration. In any case, that's it for tonight, thanks for joining me.
10:43pm - This is clearly the moment of the night
10:40pm - So far the analysts on CBS all agree, they can't find any real substance difference between Obama and Romney on foreign policy.
10:37pm - In response to Schieffer saying at the end he would leave everyone with these words, from his mother (go vote).
10:34pm - Can't disagree.
10:33pm - Twice for jobs, once for job. Romney's closing speech is about the economy too, and a passionate appeal to vote for him. Afterwards they share what looks to be a real smile and handshake.
10:30pm - Obama's closing speech is about the economy and domestic issues. Oh and a bit of foreign policy on the side. Alright, how many times will Romney say jobs in his closing speech?
10:28pm - Romney loves teachers, and Schieffer says he loves teachers too. Good for him. As my roommate says, not a single damn question on Latin America.
10:27pm - There it is again, jobs. Foodstamps. The economy.
10:25pm - Again, it goes back to the economy. Yawn. Much of this debate really, yawn.
10:24pm - Obama says that Romney will not forget, in response to an op-ed Romney wrote about the car industries. They certainly would like to forget Matt Millen, however.
10:21pm - Obama says that the US will be a pacific power so that ships can pass through. Battleships.
10:19pm - In response to a question about a trade war with China, Romney says there is already one, a silent trade war. Again though, he uses very moderate speech and says China won't want a trade war because of how reliant they are on how much they sell the US.
10:16pm - Interesting, Romney flips the tables and talks about working with China, trying to tie it to the US's weak economy. Mitt the moderate and Obama the hawk, there you have it.
10:15pm - Oiy again! Obama is very much outhawking Romney, talking about China in response to a question about future threats. He talks about needing to play by the rules. Romney looks like he is wracking his brain trying to think of something he disagrees with.
10:13pm - Four years as president and having years of security briefings is showing how deeply involved Obama is on foreign policy matters.
10:10pm - Romney is pretty specific on Afghanistan, talking about Pashtun tribesmen coming in to Afghanistan when NATO forces leave. However, and for the fifth time at least, says he agrees with Obama on something.
10:08pm - Dear Mr. Schieffer, his name is not Obama's bin Laden. Why do we have old white guys who shouldn't be moderating, moderating?
10:07pm - Obama able to fit in a personal story for the second time, this time about veterans. Pretty effective stuff.
10:06pm - Obama talks about why we are leaving Afghanistan, because of the September 11th attacks. Although the original question is should troops stay if Afghan forces aren't ready to take over, both candidates seem want to pull out of Afghanistan.
10:04pm - Uh oh, another hypothetical, Romney does not like hypotheticals (he brushed off an earlier hypothetical). Romney on Afghanistan, he agrees with taking away troops, thinks we should watch what happens in Pakistan. Again, how is this policy different than Obama's? Obama looks calm, confident. Romney trying to overexplain.
10:01pm - Obama trying to paint Romney is a flip flopper. He's not quite Newt Gingrich, but Romney has made some changes in the last few years on foreign policy issues. Oh boy, here we go, Obama talking about getting Osama bin Laden.
9:59pm - Romney airs a list of bad things around the world as he "looks around the world" because of our economic challenges at home. That's his first point. Waiting to hear more about jobs.
9:57pm - Romney says that Obama didn't visit Israel on his "apology tour" and Obama absolutely kills it. He talks about visiting the troops and then Yad Vashem (a Holocaust musuem in Israel) to see the face of evil. Obama frankly looks very presidential.
9:55pm - Obama strikes again, and says fact checkers agree with him that there was no "apology tour". Now if only those fact checkers can talk to Scheiffer about Lebanon...
9:53pm - Romney tries to strike back with the "apology tour" line. Still can't outhawk Obama. Still laughing about horses and bayonets line.
9:49pm - Obama refutes NYT article that says there is agreement for bilateral talks between Iran and the US. Obama then goes on the offensive and states the obvious, he says the difference with Romney is that he would take Obama's foreign policy and say it louder and that would be more effective.
9:48pm - Romney begins his response by saying he agrees with Obama on sanctions with Iran, protecting Israel, and letting Iran get a nuclear bomb. So what's the difference with Obama again?
9:46pm - Obama is talking really tough, says he will defend Israel and will not allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon. Uses unacceptable many times. There is no outhawking him on this topic.
9:45pm - Oh, now that is a zinger if I ever heard one by Obama. Romney is trying to say we don't have enough ships, we have less than we did in the past. Obama says we also have less horses and bayonets than we did in the past, but that isn't hurting us now. And he name checks Battleship. "Yes, we have fewer ships than we had in 1916. We also have fewer horses and bayonettes."
9:41pm - Uh, care to explain a little further, Mr. Rove?
9:40pm - Romney wants to cut spending by 5%. Obama says the math doesn't work. The math probably doesn't work, but at the end of the day, both won't be able to present a plan now that would get through Congress.
9:38pm - Romney sticking to criticism of Obamcare, jobs, the economy. I want a debate where the word jobs is banned.
9:37pm - Now switching to education. Obama slams Romney when he was Governor for Mass, and now Romney trying to defend himself. Totally off topic.
9:35pm - For that first half hour, this is my take away. It was about a draw, both sounded fairly good, Obama was uber hawkish, and Romney namechecked Mali. The one bigge for me is Schieffer saying that 100 died in the assassination in Lebanon? What? Someone needs to fact check the moderator.
9:33pm - Oiy vay! Jobs, jobs, jobs. Can we get back to foreign policy. Politicians don't create jobs!
9:32pm - Romney throws out Latin America, interesting. Obama tries to make a new saying, calling Romney "wrong and reckless".
9:30pm - If you are still sticking with me, thank you! There has been technical issues, but hopefully all will be working now.
9:02pm - First question about the Middle East and the "New Terrorism". Right from the get go here is the Libya question. Oiy!
9:00pm - Ok Bob Schieffer, it's on you buddy. And here he is and here we go!
8:55pm - And the stage is set.
8:52pm - And there is the debate live, is anyone wants to follow it on their computer.
8:51pm - William Saleton, who I would very only rarely cite, has a very interesting article about Benghzi.
8:45pm - It looks like all of the pre-debate shows are just online, so the networks can maximize their time to show off their 8:30 - 9 shows. Just as well, something else to skip.
8:38pm - Yet again, dgjackson (Mitt's body man) is back with some excellent pre-debate pics.
8:35pm - And for my nightly question, what would you ask the candidates that you believe won't be asked? My question is about the faltering EU, what would each candidate do, or not do, to ensure the solvency of the EU? And by this I don't mean by money, I mean diplomatic pressure. I know it just won the Peace Prize, but things are not looking so great there at the moment.
8:31pm - Interesting infographic from ABC news, top 10 foreign aid recipients in 2012.
8:30pm - Hi, and welcome to my live blog for the third presidential debate. First thing on my mind is this, are there really no pre-debate shows on? I guess foreign policy really isn't the most important thing.
6:30pm - And we all know the issue that will not die will come up. There has been more news on Libya, and frankly the more the Obama administration tries to defend itself, the worse it looks. However, in a stunning move of unbelievable idiocy, the Darrell Issa led House investigation released documents that included a list of Libyans who were secretly helping US officials, thus making them unwitting targets back in Libya. Politicizing a tragic event doesn't lead to happy outcomes, it appears.
6:25pm - Also, the events in Lebanon prove how important and how badly the spill-over effect of Syria is. The assassination of Brigadier-General Wissam al-Hassan has all of Lebanon on edge, not to mention the government somewhere near collapse. Inevitably, this, if it comes up, will be what Romney will term Obama's Middle East foreign policy disaster, though Obama of course had no control over these events. In what I admit is a bit of shamless self-promotion, here's a bit more about al-Hassan and the assassination.
6:10pm - There have been a few foreign policy events which might or might not come up in the debate tonight. Without question the news of bilateral talks between the US and Iran on the nuclear issue, after the election, and denied by both the White House and the Iranian gov't, will come up. Is it true? Perhaps. But Romney might use this as a foreign policy issue that he disagrees with and could try to paint Obama as compromising on Iran. Romney has had a hard time out-hawking Obama, as Obama has been a very hawkish president. This issue has already been politicized:
6:05pm - A few things before I start the live updating. Some analysts predict that this debate will be watched by a lot less people than the other debates. Besides debate fatigue and a supossed lack of interest in foreign policy issues by the American populace, the NLCS game 7 between the Cards and Giants will start at 8, while the Detroit Lions play the Chicago Bears at 8:30 on Monday Night Football. Both games will not end during the debate, however, so I think we'll see a bit of channel flipping as people decide which of the three will be the most captivating.
On Monday at 9 p.m., President Obama and former Governor Romney will square off on an issue that nearly everyone agrees will not decide the election; foreign policy. And yet, one of the dominating talking points at the moment is the Obama administration's response to the protests on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks and the killing of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi.
Perhaps the most underrated of all issues, foreign policy is something which truly shows a president's mettle, both in approach and in substance. President Lyndon B. Johnson is just as well-known for Vietnam as he is for the Great Society, and President Ronald Reagan is just as known for combatting the Soviet Union as he is Reagonomics. President Obama has had to react to the Arab Spring, an unthinkable event where dictators in the Arab world, some in power for thirty years, have been overthrown by populations which have suffered long under authoritarian rule. The reverberations of this has spread throughout Africa and even to Europe and the United States, with protesters demanding a change to the current status quo.
Obama has been both lauded and criticized for his response to the Arab Spring, from his slow stance on recognizing the threat to overthrow former Egyptian President Mubarak, to NATO intervention in Libya, and now to a calls for greater NATO commitment to overthrowing Syrian president Bashar al-Asad. Obama has been especially attacked for "leading from behind" and his "apologies tour". Whether fair or not, Republicans and America's own allies, both in the Arab world and without, have questioned foreign policy under Obama.
Romney, for his part, has done little to prove his foreign policy experience. Despite being an international businessman, his foreign policy trip was a disaster, as he made more than one faux pas in the UK, created controversy in Israel and saw an advisor make unwelcome headlines in Poland. Further, Romney has given precious few examples of what he would do different than Obama in the realm of foreign policy, giving mostly talking points and no concrete examples.
Both candidates will try to burnish their hawkish credentials, from harsher sanctions on Iran, a strong alliance with Israel, and a call to continue drone strikes and other strikes against extremist groups such as Al Qaeda. Obama will unlikely finish this debate without bringing up the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden, and Romney will counter that any president would have done the same thing.
Also, both candidates will inevitably see a long drawn out debate on Benghazi. As Republicans have completely politicized the issue, Democrats have fought back hard, trying to point out the political nature of the attacks. However, Obama's response to the issue has been, "less than optimal". Even with Candy Crowley's alleyoop to Obama on whether he referred to the tragedy as terror or not, Romney can rebound, likely by questioning the moderator's in-debate interruption.
Finally, it should not be forgotten that there are a host of other foreign policy issues which a broad swath will listen in on, from relations to Cuba, to (hopefully, the oft ignored issue of) immigration, China and Russia, and even the war in Afghanistan. Join me Monday night for the final debate.
Final Presidential Debate:
Topic: Foreign policy
Air Time: 9:00-10:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida (Tickets)
Sponsor: Commission on Presidential Debates
Participants: President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney
Moderator: Bob Schieffer (Host of Face the Nation on CBS)
The format for the debate will be identical to the first presidential debate and will focus on foreign policy.
PolicyMic will be covering the presidential debate live. For live updates, bookmark and refresh this page.