Obama Takes Firm Hold of Final Presidential Debate
By Allison DeAngelis
BU News Service
President Obama took a strong hold of Monday’s final presidential debate on foreign policy, promising that “as long as I’m president of the United States, Iran will not get a nuclear weapon” and cautioning against Mitt Romney’s quick calls for military action.
Moderator Bob Schieffer led the debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton Florida, the same day that multiple polls showed the candidates in a dead heat for the presidency.
Polls from CNN and Reuters/Ipsos showed the candidates tied at 47 and 46 percent respectively; Romney had previously trailed the president, but has gained ground in the polls in the last week.
In light of the now-nonexistent buffer between the two candidates, Obama stayed firm on his U.S. foreign policy decisions in the last four years and saying that America needed to advance in a “careful, thoughtful way.”
The proliferation of nuclear weapons in Iran took center stage for part of the debate. Both candidates said that they had plans for working with Iran while criticizing each other; Romney critiqued the president’s work on his foreign policy tour after he took office in 2008.
“I think they saw weakness where they expected to see American strength,” he said. Obama was quick to counter the governor, saying that Romney has been “all over the map” when it comes to foreign policy.
In one example, Obama called out Romney on his priorities when it came to national threats. “I’m glad that you recognize that al-Qaeda’s a threat,” he said, “because a few months ago when you were asked what’s the biggest geo-political threat facing America, you said Russia, not al-Qaeda. And the 1980’s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.”
Romney clarified that he said Russia was a geo-political “foe” and that the nation still fights the U.S. in the United Nations.
The president also pointed out that Romney spoke about taking pre-mature military measures when it came to issues such as Libya. “I think that would be a mistake,” he said, “because whenever I send young men and women into harm’s way, I understand that that is a last resort.” Romney later agreed and said that he views military action in the same way.
Discussion strayed from foreign policy roughly a third of the way into the debate, as Romney pivoted into talking about the economy and the national debt, which he called the “biggest national security threat we face.”
“For us to be able to promote those principles of peace requires us to be strong. And that requires for us to have a strong economy at home,” he said.
Balancing the budget in terms of military spending became a contested issue between the two candidates, with the former Massachusetts Governor saying that the U.S. should not cut military spending in the face of uncertainty.
However, the president rebuked Romney, saying that he “wants to increase military spending by $2 trillion that the military’s not asking for…we spend more on our military than the next ten countries combined.”
One of the lighter moments in the debate came when Romney pointed out that the Navy and Air Force have fewer and older ships and airplanes than in the past.
In his rebuttal, Obama “You mention the Navy, and how we have fewer ships than we did in 1916,” said Obama. “Well, governor, we also have fewer horse and bayonets because the nature of our military has changed.”
Playing offense to the president, Romney referred at least three tunes to a future in which Romney would be the president. When it came to pulling out of Afghanistan, he told viewers, “When I’m president, we’re going to be finished by 2014.”
Romney pointed out the president’s defensive charge several times during the night, telling him “attacking me is not talking about an agenda.”
The lively debate was the final time the two candidates will face off before the Nov. 6 election.