Tonight at 9pm, all eyes turn to Florida as the two presidential candidates embark upon their third and final debate. This exchange will focus entirely on foreign policy issues, confining the topics to specific regions of the world where the United States is deeply involved. Undoubtedly, the US's changing role in the Middle East will be discussed, as will the United State's contentious relationship with China. Iran and its nuclear program will inevitably be on the agenda, as will Afghanistan and the size of the United States military.
The Middle East topics will primarily focus on recent events in Libya, Iran, Afghanistan and let's face it, Israel is bound to come up at some point. Romney will certainly argue the Obama administration didn't do enough to ramp up security in Benghazi nor take a strong enough stance against Iran's alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons. Obama, of course, will refute all of this and discuss the delicate role the US has assumed as countries in the region move forward with new governments and tackle a plethora of internal issues from religious inclusion to women's rights. Candidates will certainly be pressed about the crisis in Syria and what they see the United States doing or not doing in response to this catastrophe. Absent will be the continued struggles in Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq and other countries of the region.
On the topic of China, the argument will surely be about toughness. Has Obama been "tough enough" with China? Romney will certainly contend that he hasn't. But things are always different from the Oval Office. Obama will argue that he has been as tough as he can while still trying to maintain a somewhat cordial and working relationship with the one of the world's largest economies that also happens to hold a huge chunk of the US debt. Needless to say, whoever is elected president must be nuanced to the subtleties of this relationship in order to maintain it. Simply stating one will "get tough" on China is lofty and abstract, although will certainly be used as rhetoric in tonight's debate.
With foreign policy topics, Romney won't be able to draw as much on his tenure as governor as he has with domestic policy. Instead, he'll of course point out what he perceives as flaws or missteps by the Obama administration and belt out rhetoric and probably little actual specific policy recommendations. Romney's small track record abroad hasn't been the greatest so far, to say the least. As The New Yorker phrased it: "On a brief foray abroad this summer, he managed, in rapid order, to insult the British, to pander crudely to Benjamin Netanyahu in order to win the votes and contributions of his conservative Jewish and Evangelical supporters, and to dodge ordinary questions from the press in Poland."
Hopefully, Obama will come out strong tonight and be confident in his significant experience in foreign policy. We certainly don't need a repeat of the first debate as tonight will leave the lasting impression, nearly two weeks before voting day.
Slinging begins at 9pm and lasts until 10:30pm.
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UPDATE: October 23rd, 11:40am Some sources for fact checking on both candidates:
New York Times: Presidential Debate Fact-Checks and Updates
Washington Post: Fact checking the third presidential debate
11:00pm Obama came out stronger tonight than Romney, and is reluctantly named winner here. It's evident that this was not the greatest debate on the subject of foreign policy. While both candidates lacked a strong and clear overarching message, I think Obama stood stronger on his specifics than Romney did. Romney seemed weak and simply to, as Anne Marie Slaughter stated "spew facts he seemed to have memorized," failing to paint any clear picture of what the heck he would do as President besides "keep America strong", which is the most annoyingly ambiguous answer a candidate can give. Of course every presidential candidate wants America to remain strong. And world peace? Duh. I found it interesting that time and again, the topic was brought back to the home front, particularly on the subjects of jobs, economy and...teachers! Again, Romney seemed to agree with many of the President's foreign policy decisions. He seemed like he was following Obama, unsure and unable to stand confident on his foreign policy...essentially a follower.
To be honest, the debate was a sort of downer. While everyone came in expecting at least some foreign policy analysis, I never really felt like we got it. There were plenty of nods to Israel, but hardly any mention of how the US will adapt to new governments and dynamics in the Middle East. There was certainly some rhetoric about women's rights and religious inclusion, which is certainly important. But again, we're left wondering how. It just seems so abstract.
Although candidates certainly weren't abstract about their undying support for drones, which was disappointing.
Also absent, Guantanamo. Of course we all know why....sadly.
11:00pm "Horses and Bayonets"
10:57pm Post-debate from Twitter-land:
10:57pm Think Progress and CBS agree:
10:33pm Schieffer leaves us with the words of his mom: GO VOTE.
10:31pm Romney says will work with "good democrats"...are there bad ones? Doesn't sound promising for bipartisanship he promises.
10:31pm Romney closing statement: absent of ANY foreign policy.
10:31pm Romney closing statemetn: I'm optimistic about the future. Want to see peace, growing peace. Opp to have real leadership. Promote principles of peace to make world a safer place. Get economy going. Two paths we can take, one rep by President, Romney says will get us on track to balanced budget. Romney says can make take-home pay grow. Romney will get people back to work with millions of new jobs. America will come back. Have to have president who can work across aisle. "good democrats."
10:29pm Obama didn't really include too much foreign policy in that closing statement.
10:29pm Obama closing statement: Over last four years we've made real progress digging our way out of policies that gave us two prolonged wars...Governor Romney wants to take us back to those polities. Talks of exception for folks at the top. Obama says wants to build on our strengths, brings manufacturing jobs back to our shores. Wants best education system in the world. Talks energy, developing oil, nat gas and energy of the future. Asking wealthy to do a little bit more. Invest in education and technology. Will maintain strongest military in the world. AFter a decade of war, we need to do nation building at home. And care for veterans.
10:28pm Schieffer: "I think we all love teachers"
10:27pm Romney" 23 million Americans still struggling to find a good job. Brings up food stamps. Is he talking about the 47%? #inconsistent
10:26pm Obama: Having a tax code the rewards those who ship jobs over seas will not help us.
10:25pm Obama: "Romney you keep trying to air brush history"
10:22pm Romney says he's a son of Detroit. #sure
10:19pm Schieffer says could start a trade war. Isn't there a risk? Romney says we have enormous trade imbalance with China.
10:19pm Romney: gotta play by the rules.
10:18pm Romney says he will label China a currency manipulator on DAY ONE.
10:17pm Romney: China wants a stable world.
10:16pm She makes a good point:
10:14pm Inskeep drops some insight:
10:13pm Next segment: rise of China.
10:12pm Binders. It's not going away, sorry Romney:
10:11pm Romney loves the word "tumult" tonight.
10:11pm Romney says he essentially would use drones and President is right to use and up the usage of drones. EEK. Sorry Romney, but this is not good for world peace.
10:08pm Romney: No, it's not time to divorce a nation on earth that has 100 nuclear weapons and is on the road to double that at some point.
10:08pm I'm waiting for drones to make an appearance. Anyone else?
10:07pm Obama: After a decade of war, it's time to do some nation building here at home. Put veterans back to work, rebuild roads, schools, etc. Brings up PTSD and traumatic brain injury.
10:07pm Obama: we've been there a long time and need to make sure we pull out responsibly.
10:06pm Obama: ended war in Iraq, focused attention on Afghanistan. Did deliver a surge on troops. Now in position where we have met many of the objectives that put us there in the first place. Decimated Al-Qaeda's poor leadership. Then started to build up Afghan forces. Now in a position where we can transition out.
10:02pm Shcieffer: "With respect, sir, you've laid out quite a program yourself."
9:56pm Obama: First trip I took was to view our troops. And the first trip I took to Israel was to a Holocaust museum.
9:56pm Wow, Romney, wow. Sounds like he's out of his league.
9:56pm Romney: "apology tour...Israel, Israel, Israel" How many times can Romney say Israel?
9:54pm Obama: This has been the biggest whopper!
9:53pm Israel, Palestine and Florida:
9:53pm Romney alleging Obama weakened image of United States. #notsurprising
9:53pm Romney brings up Green Revolution again. #Iran
9:52pm Romney sounds childish. "Apology tour." #comeon
9:50pm Obama: Need help from everybody around the world to maintain pressure on Iran. #groupeffort
9:49pm Brings up alleged bilateral talks with Iran. Obama states plainly they are not true...BUT...
9:48pm Amy Davidson with thoughts on Battleship:
9:48pm Romney claims he called for "crippling sanctions" five years ago. Absolutely the right thing to do. #what?! Don't you realize there are real people on the other side of those sanctions. People not related to the government.
9:48pm Does Romney (or Obama for that matter) realize what sanctions are ACTUALLY doing to everyday Iranians?
9:46pm Obligatory Israel nod(s):
9:45pm Obama: Iran's economy is in shambles thanks to our sanctions.
9:44pm Obama: "I will stand with Israel if they are attacked."
9:44pm Would either of you be willing to claim that an attack on Israel, is an attack on the United States?
9:43pm Obama: Romney, this isn't a game of battleship. OH SNAP!
9:42pm Wow, cocky there Romney?
9:41pm Romney: brings up Olympic experience. meh. #notimpressed
9:41pm OMG how many times can they say "economy." Hope that's not in your drinking game.
9:41pm Obama: need to think about strategy, about cyber security, and space. What we need to do to keep safe.
9:40pm Obama: "without naming what those loopholes and reductions are..."
9:40pm Obama talks about strategizing in regards to planning budgets for military. Looking forward.
9:40pm Obama: we spend more on our military than the next ten countries.
9:38pm Obama: Math doesn't work, but he claims he can do it. Claims Romney wants to make cut military isn't asking for.
9:38pm Romney: cutting about 5% of discretionary budget. Invites Schieffer to his website for details. Am, ok? But you can't just explain it?
9:37pm Am, hello? Moderator?
9:37pm Where's the foreign policy, guys?
9:35pm Obama: Teachers can make a difference. Taking direct opposite stance to Romney's anti-union. Stressing importance of education in relation to economy and growth.
9:35pm Obama moves to education policy? Am, Ok.
9:34pm I'll get us on track to a balanced budget. Will champion small business.
9:34pm Teachers union. bye bye. #Romney
9:33pm WOW. Romney brings up Latin America. Where'd that come from?!
9:33pm Isn't this a foreign policy debate?
9:32pm Romney: I know what it takes to create 7 million jobs.
9:32pm Obama says Romney going to take us back to Bush. ouch.
9:31pm Obama brings topic back home. Economy, oil imports, developing clean energy.
9:29pm I will not cut our military budget. Must stand by our allies. Brings up Israel. Surprise, Surprise.
9:29pm Amazing how both candidates continually bring things back to economy at home and jobs.
9:28pm Romney: defend freedom, human rights, human dignity, freedom of expression, elections. Promote principles around the world. End conflicts to the extend humanly possible. America must be strong, America must lead. Must strengthen economy.
9:28pm Schieffer: "that's a perfect segway into our next segment: what is America's role in the world?" Seriously? This question is so awkward and predictable.
9:27pm Romney brings up debt in relation to national security. Now military.
9:26pm Romney: calls these freedoms "our principles." Sorry buddy, we don't own the universal principle of freedom.
9:25pm Asks Romney if he would have done the same thing as Obama (re: Mubarak). Romney replies: Yes.
9:25pm Obama: things we have to do at home as well in order to make sure things work. Brings up in relation to American economy. Hard to project leadership when we're not doing what we preach.
9:16pm Obama: Mobilized sanctions against Syria, provided humanitarian, helping opposition mobilize. Syrians must determine own future.
9:16pm Onto second Mid East topic: Syria
9:14pm Israel makes it's first appearance.
9:13pm Wow, going back and forth about troops in Iraq. Ah, politics at it's finest.
9:10pm Obama says Romney stated biggest foreign policy threat is Russia, implying he is stuck in Cold War mentality. "Every time you've offered an opinion, you've been wrong!" WOW. Straightforward stab.
9:10pm Romney calls Arab spring "rising tide of chaos." How about revolution/liberation/freedom from authoritarian regimes?
9:09pm Romney: "Help the Muslim world", I'm nervous about his response. Talking about rejecting terrorists through economic development. Coordinate with "friends." Better education, rule of law, gender equality.
9:08pm Obama: brings up Libyans marching stating: "America is our friend"
9:08pm Obama brings up "liberating Libya" with coalition.
9:07pm Obama: "Secure Americans still in harms way, investigate what happened and go after those that killed Americans and bring them to justice. Important to step back and think about what happened in Libya."
9:07pm Obama: "making sure Afghans take responsibility for their own security"
9:05pm CRINGE. Romney:"World of Islam", "terrorism of some sort"
9:03pm Starting with Mid East.
9:02pm Live from Florida. (and me, from Brooklyn)
8:58pm Who's ready for some FOREIGN POLICY?!