We can probably expect to see commentary on US relations with Iran, China and Russia. Possibly North Korea, but maybe not. US policy toward the EU regarding its economic troubles. US policy in Afghanistan. Libya and the Benghazi attack (check out my pre-debate commentary on Libya). There will probably be a question on experience and temperament.
Obama needs to remind voters about how he has wound down the war in Iraq, has a timetable for withdrawal in Afghanistan, bagged bin Laden and has al Qaeda on the run, isolated and undermined Iran, bolstered our alliances and has won important trade cases against China.
Romney needs to explain how he would be tougher than Obama’s crippling sanctions on Iran without starting a huge war, how he would be tough on China when he has vast investments in Chinese sweatshops and offshored American companies, how he would build our alliances when he can’t help insulting England during the Olympics, and whether protesting in favor of other people dying in the Vietnam War while ducking it on a Mormon mission in France constitutes foreign policy leadership.
It is 8:59 PM EST and Wolf Blitzer’s beard is neatly trimmed.
Bob Scheiffer kind of looks like he has something up his sleeve when he says “the questions are mine.”
Unexpected threat. Changing Middle East. Libya.
Obama needs to knock this one out of the park. Check the link above.
Romney said women! But in the Middle East… burkas/binders? “Iran four years closer to a nuclear weapon.” Not true. Romney says we can’t kill our way out of this. Uhh, which of the last two presidents tried to kill their way out of terrorism?
Obama: “Al Qaeda’s core leadership has been decimated.” Obama lays out a plan for justice in Libya. Obama touts international coalition to free Libya. Broader context, smart move. Obama is going after Romney more directly. Romney says we need to kill the bad guys (after saying we can’t just kill bad guys).
Romney says he wants the Middle East to reject terrorism on their own. Good idea. How? R says don’t want another Iraq. Who does? R says gender equality, education, rule of law to build societies across the middle east. Is he advocating regime building? Why is he harping on Mali?
Obama reminds Romney he said Russia is more important than al Qaeda. O says R wants foreign policy of 80s, social policies of 50s, economic policies of 20s! WHAM!
Obama serves Romney on his poor judgement. Romney smirks.
R: “The things I’ve said, they’re not accurate.” Ha!
R keeps saying “rising tide of tumult and chaos.”
Obama calls R on contradicting a speech from a few weeks ago about troops in Iraq. R wants troops back in Iraq.
O dismisses nation building, R kind of rolls his eyes.
Obama describes vision of international cooperation without getting US overly entangled in Syria, without arming unknown rebels.
R says Syria is a humanitarian disaster. Has Romney ever cared about humanitarian issues before?
R says Syria is Iran’s route to the sea!!! FALSE! Iran and Syria are not geographically contiguous!
Just lost my CNN feed. Waiting for NBC to load up.
O says R said going after Gaddafi was “mission creep, mission muddle.” O touts his coalition again. Really hammering this point.
R: I don’t want our military involved in Syria. Then how is he going to remove Assad? He says we need to make sure they have weapons. They ARE getting weapons! From Saudi, Qatar and possibly Turkey. Those weapons have Made in the USA stamped on them. He’s saying what the president is doing now as if it’s a new idea.
O: he doesn’t have different ideas. Nice.
O: democracy in Egypt is the right course, but we are pressuring them to protect minorities. This really is the middle road and greatest benefit and most Americans should realize this.
Obama has come back to “nation-building at home” a couple times.
Romney would not have supported Mubarak but wishes we had a better vision. Again, repeating what Obama has done. No new ideas. That the protests “exploded” as Romney said has more to do with food shortages and decades of supporting Mubarak regardless of his ignoring our pressure to reform.
Romney just quoted Ahmedinajed regarding our debt. Like Ahmedinejad is a reliable source on the US economy.
R: nowhere in the world is the US more influential than it was four years ago. Most of Europe and Asia wouldn’t see it that way. The fact that we’re pulling soldiers out of hellholes does not make us less influential.
R: America can’t go to war but has to be strong. We’ve got to strengthen the middle class and the military. And presumably cut taxes and pull money off of trees.
R: playing the Israel fiddle. The extent to which there’s any ‘strain’ in the US Israel relationship is reflective of the extent to which Netanyahu’s relationship with the rest of his government is strained.
O: our alliances are stronger. Obama is giving a blatantly domestic policy pitch here. Build the middle class, create jobs, etc. O: Romney says Bush was good for economy, Cheney was good for foreign policy.
R: “I know what it takes to get the economy going.” Oh my god, I’m so sick of that line. DETAILS, governor. Saying, I know it! proves nothing. Your record isn’t that amazing. You were born on third base, you don’t have some arcane wisdom that escapes the rest of us and that we should just trust you.
R: “We’re on the road to Greece.” So, we’re in Macedonia? The economy is growing. Greece is bankrupt. We’re not on the road to Greece.
O: pitching to teachers. Pointing out R’s cluelessness on education. Points out MA was 48th on job growth in the US in his governorship.
Obama sounds very genuine tonight.
R saying bipartisan support on education.
O jumps in: ten years earlier! and you cut it! Anyone know about this? Post in the comments.
R: come on our website. I’ll get rid of Obamacare. Thank god the insurance companies will be able to let 45 million Americans choose between going bankrupt and dying again. I’m so relieved.
Tax cuts. Is this a foreign policy debate?
Obama points out how bloated the defense budget is. He worked with the joint chiefs. Says R wants to give the military more money they don’t want, cut taxes, close loopholes, and deal with deficit. “The math doesn’t add up.”
O: budget is based on strategy.
Romney’s angry face!
R: I balance budgets. I’ve been in business for 25 years. Congratulations! Arithmetic?
R: Navy is smallest since 1917. That is PREPOSTEROUS BULLSHIT! I can’t be kind about this. That is a crock of shit!
O: We have fewer ships. We also have fewer horses and bayonets. This is not a game of battleship! BAM!!! Shut down! Romney looks like he needs to go to the bathroom.
O: I will stand with Israel if they are attacked. This week, we are carrying out largest joint military exercise in history. That’s true.
O: Strongest sanctions against Iran. Crippling their currency.
O: shows strong leadership on Iran and red lines.
R: gives Obama credit for the sanctions. Didn’t see that coming.
R: we need to tighten those sanctions. Check. We need diplomatic isolation against Iran. Check. We have those, governor. Ahmedinejad’s words are genocide. Uhhhh….. what??
O: need to encourage Iranian leadership and empower the good guys in Iran.
O: meticulous work in implementing sanctions against Iran. A testament to our credibility that we got Russia and China.
Obama lays out a fairly clear image of his policy and principles on Iran. He sounds tough and reasonable. Hopefully Ohio will see that.
R: says Iran saw weakness. Romney starts peddling rightwing media conspiracy theories about apology tour.
O: apology tour not true. We have the toughest sanctions against Iran. Calling Romney out on his Chinese business connections.
O: If we’re going to talk about trips we’ve taken. Talks about Israel’s history and culture. Not to go to fundraisers.
O: Who is going to be credible? He’s said this a few times.
R: dodges question on Israel bombing Iran, changes topic. “Rising tide of chaos, tumult.” Romney is trying to blame history on Obama. As powerful as he is, governor, he doesn’t control the Middle East.
O: It was worth moving heaven and earth to get bin Laden. Obama says he helped bring closure for people.
R: trying to argue the debate rules. Scheiffer puts him in his place. Romney brushes it off. Point for Bob.
What do we do if Afghans can’t handle their security?
R: we’ll bring our troops out by 2014. He is contradicting his previous statements that we shouldn’t give a date for withdrawal.
R: Pakistan has 100 nuclear warheads. That sounds extremely high. Need to check that.
Romney seems skittish on this issue, doesn’t go after the president directly.
O: we refocused on Afghanistan after “drifting for a decade.” Good point. We’re rebuilding Afghan forces. Americans don’t need to die when Afghans can defend their country. We’re pulling out responsibly.
Obama touts back to work programs for veterans.
Scheiffer says “Obama bin Laden” ugh… awkward…
Romney pressing on can’t leave Pakistan. They have too many nukes and too unstable. Romney is going into some detail and doesn’t blame president. Trying to sound knowledgeable on the region? I don’t get it.
Romney says we need to move the world away from terror and Islamic terrorism. How is he planning to do that? Another ‘vote for me and find out!’ argument like his tax plan.
O: Attitudes about Americans have changed because we’ve supported the people. We are shrinking the extremists. Al Qaeda is much weaker than it was 4 years ago.
O: Terrorist networks still number one threat. China is an adversary and potential partner. Touting trade cases against China. O: my administration helps workers on trade. Going straight for Ohio and the Rust Belt here.
R: says government doesn’t make businesses. That’s not what Obama said. Romney says we shouldn’t be protectionist. That would make us pretty unique if we had no tariffs. R: “If I’m president, America will be VERY strong.” Okay, that’s kind of scary.
R: On day one I will label China a currency manipulator. That’s highly protectionist, governor! Launching a trade war with China on the first day, not a good idea.
Bob’s on it.
Romney uses his hands to make a graph. This much trade above this table is a trade war.
O: I bet on American workers. If we took your advice, we’d be buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China. US exports to China have doubled since I came into office. Need to check on that.
O: touts pivot to Pacific. US can trade in Asia. Putting pressure on China.
R: “I’m a son of Detroit.” Romney touting Detroit bankruptcy. Is that a good strategy?
O: “that’s not what you said.”
O: pretty confident that R is fibbing on this. Government can’t invest in companies. He cites Tesla. Tesla is a successful company.
R: filibustering. Shameless.
O:/R: people will look it up. Oh, I will look it up.
Romney clearly knows he’s weak on “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” Obama says he’s trying to airbrush history.
R: can’t go back to the last four years. Yes, nothing ever happened before January, 2009.
R: I’ve been to so many swing states and saw the humans there.
R: filibustering again.
O: We’re digging out of Bush policies that created two long wars, deficits and economic crisis. Romney wants to go back, and give folks at the top more money. I will reward companies investing here, retaining workers. I want the best education system in the world. Invest in future energy. Asking the wealthy to do a little more. I will maintain the strongest military and go after those who want to harm us. We need to do nation building at home. We pull together. I will fight for you.
R: I’m optimistic and excited. I want to see peace. We’ll make the world a safer place. I want to make sure we get this economy going. “Heading towards Greece.” President means less take-home pay. I’ll make more jobs (I thought government doesn’t create jobs). Romney touts MA experience. (Actually we sent him packing after one term, he was so unpopular he didn’t run again.) I’ll hold a torch (I’m the Statue of Liberty).
My closing statement. The race is tied. This debate was slightly more polite than last time, but still stern at times. They retraced a lot of familiar ground and made a lot of clear pitches to the battleground states. But the clear difference between them was on their degree of comfort striking a tone of balance and leadership. Romney basically repeated most of Obama’s policies as his own as though they were new ideas, but he would be tougher (and as Obama said “louder”) about them. At many points, Obama caught Romney in an exaggeration or an outright lie. But most importantly, Obama seemed to be almost teaching Romney about the complexities of the world, and his balanced, strong leadership on them. Romney’s response to this was frequently to filibuster and bluster. I give the president another win in his column, though it’s not resounding or explosive in a way that is likely to move the needle. The race goes on, essentially tied.