President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are facing off on Monday night for the third and last presidential debate of 2012 at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., starting at 9 p.m. EST.
What we should be expecting tonight is a serious display of each candidate’s foreign policy views. Neither has done much to differentiate their plan to deal with friends and foes, and it will be interesting to see what they will come up with.
Romney has generally been a strong critic of anything Obama, mostly because he views the president’s stance as too soft: he’s not doing anything about China, his response to the Benghazi consulate attack was inadequate, and the sanctions imposed on Iran are not tough enough.
However, Romney has not explained his plan very well to the American electorate. What does he have in mind?
Meanwhile, Obama will essentially defend his record. It will be moderator Bob Schieffer’s role to bring him out and ask the tough questions. One that comes to mind is the state in which the U.S. Army left Afghanistan, in light of the escalation of violence in recent months.
Another point to keep in mind is how Obama plans to deal with the Arab countries that went through the 2011 revolutionary wave, especially Egypt and its Muslim Brotherhood president. Should the United States send over $1 billion in military aid to a country led by Islamists?
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Trying to fill some dead pre-debate airtime, ABC hosts are playing the capital's game. And why do we care? It'd be better if they actually knew the answer to New Zealand's. It's Wellington, guys.
Yahoo News! reporter Chris Moody just got engaged. That's the kind of stuff you learn at a pre-debate show on ABC. Let this debate begin already!
The debate is starting, at last!
First question is about the Libya consulate attack and Romney is starting with depicting how the Middle East is becoming more and more extremist: Syria, Egypt, Iran...
Obama's point is that they have liberated Libya from 40 years of dictatorship, and that Libyans are friends of America.
Romney wants to see progress throughout the Middle East, because he considers the region is basically going down the drain. Too bad Schieffer didn't ask him what he would do exactly for that.
Obama to Romney: Your policy is so 1960s.
It's the second time tonight Obama mentions Middle East governments to protect religious minorities.
Romney's foreign policy starts with the economy. To promote peace, the U.S. has to be strong, and this starts with clearing the debt.
We just entered a dark zone where both candidates have gone on a long tangent that has nothing to do with foreign affairs. Schieffer interrupts it, but Romney absolutely wants to tell us that when he was governor of Massachussetts, the state's students were the most awesome kids in the U.S. Nice story, but off topic.
We're entering serious stuff: Israel and Iran. Obama will stand with Israel if they are attack. "As long as I'm president of the United States, Iran will not acquire nuclear weapons (...) Iran is a state that sponsors terrorism."
If Romney is president of the U.S., he will also stand with Israel, and he also agrees that a nuclear Iran is bad. However, the U.S. must tighten the current sanctions and isolate Iran diplomatically.
Whatever the U.S. does, Iran remains a very unstable state with economic means, and that is the challenge. Its location on the Persian Gulf (where a lot of oil is transported) makes for very difficult decisions if the U.S. does not want to intervene militarily. And if military action is taken, there are greater forces at work, first with Syria and Lebanon’s Hezbollah to which Iran provides arms. This represents a great threat to Israel, and the U.S. cannot afford to provoke Iran.
We're one hour into the debate and what we've heard about so far: Libya, Syria, Egypt, and Iran. Where are China, Afghanistan and Iraq?
Afghanistan is making its entry into the debate.
Coming back briefly to Iran, Mother Jones reported that Romney has stocks in a Chinese company that has dealings with Iran: China National Offshore Oil Company.
Romney basically said that if the world is messed up, it's because of lack of leadership on Obama's part: al-Qaeda is still strong, Israelis and Palestinians are not closer, the Middle East is in turmoil.
"Be strong" is definitely Romney's keyword of the night.
The real elephant in the room with China is their manipulation of the yuan. That's their real economic advantage. Unless something is done to coerce China about this, it will be very difficult for the U.S. to have a relationship with China.
Appropriate concluding wisdom from Schieffer's mom: Go vote, it will make you feel big and strong.