All eyes will be on President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney as they go head to head in their third and final debate Monday night. The candidates will meet at Lynn University in Boca Raton, FL at 9:00 pm EST. Bob Schieffer will moderate the debate, set to focus solely on foreign policy, and will ask the candidates about the ongoing war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, changes in the Middle East, and future threats facing the nation.
Schieffer might also ask the candidates to expand on their plans to increase Pentagon spending. Romney has stated that, if elected, he would raise Pentagon spending to approximately 4% of GDP. This increase would equal $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years. The Republican nominee should expect to explain his plans to rectify this increase with the national debt.
Obama's defense budget would increase more slowly, but either candidate will have to deal with the immediate issue of sequestration, approximately $500 billion in automatic cuts put in place as part of the 2011 Budget Control Act. The cuts will come into effect if Congress does not produce a $1.2 trillion package of budget cuts, revenue increases or both by the end of the year.
The candidates might also be asked to expand on their policies regarding the authorization of military force. During his first term in office, President Obama chose to enter Libya on humanitarian grounds without congressional approval, and Governor Romney has stated in the past that he does not believe, "at this stage ... if I’m president, that we need to have war powers approval or a special authorization for military force. The president has that capacity now.”
This is a contentious issue that any president going forward will have to take into consideration, particularly with regard to the potential for conflict in Iran. In what promises to be an extensive discussion on Iran's nuclear program, the president will likely be asked to comment on recent reports that the country has agreed to one on one negotiations with the U.S.
While the candidates have disagreed strongly on many subjects, their policy prescriptions have been close on Iran. Look for the candidates to begin to distinguish these policies as the pressure to present a choice to the American people grows stronger.
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UPDATE: 10:30 PM Closing statements. Obama trends high on the CNN undecided ticker, Romney trends neutral. CNN instant poll seems to agree.
10:15 PM "We also have fewer horses and bayonets."
10:00 PM Ehud Barak in 2011: “I can hardly remember a better period of support, American support and backing and cooperation.”
9:55 PM Obama responds strongly on Iran and states unequivocally that he will stand with Israel if Israel is attacked. He notes that military action should be a last resort.
Romney agrees that military action should be a last resort, but differs on his definition of a nuclear Iran. Obama would attack when it becomes clear that Iran has made the political decision to pursue a nuclear weapon, Romney would launch military action to prevent a nuclear capable Iran. But what does Romney mean when he says nuclear capable?
9:42 PM Sequestration enters the debate.
FACT: Sequestration was part of the 2011 Budget Control Act, passed by Congress. Learn more here.
9:28 PM Romney quotes Admiral Mullen: "The most significant threat to our national security is our debt."
Mullen went on to say that the Pentagon has not been proactive enough in prioritizing spending, and that the department should adopt responsible fiscal practices.
Does Romney believe that translates into an increase of $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years?
9:23 PM Bits and pieces from the Twitterverse...
9:15 PM Obama: We are going to do everything we can to ensure we are helping the Syrian opposition, but we have to be careful about who we're helping.
9:05 PM The debate opens with a question about Libya, Mitt pivots to extremism and Iran, missing out on an opportunity to hit Obama on Benghazi. Gun shy.
8:55 PM Okay now I'm hungry.
8:40 PM 20 more minutes, are you just tuning in? See the live stream of the debate right here.
8:15 PM Or maybe a war game is more your speed. The Truman National Security Project has one to pass the time.
7:55 PM While you wait, a few dos & don'ts to watch for, courtesy of SNL's Weekend Update.