On Monday, October 22, 2012, almost 60 million Americans witnessed the final debate between President Barack Obama and Governor Willard Mitt Romney. You may recall that during the first debate, Romney denied most of the policies that he had been articulating during the campaign but he was never challenged by President Obama. During the second debate, Romney attempted to “bully” the President but ended up getting trapped in his own rhetoric regarding Libya. However, this past Monday, a still different Romney showed up and President Obama went after him.
For example, Romney agreed with the President’s draw-down schedule for Afghanistan but just two weeks ago in a keynote foreign policy speech at the Virginia Military Institute, Romney said of the Afghanistan drawdown, “I’ll evaluate conditions on the ground and weigh the best advice of our military commanders. And I will affirm that my duty is not to my political prospects, but to the security of the nation.” Here Romney seems to be suggesting the possibility of U.S. combat troops remaining in Afghanistan after the scheduled drawdown at the end of 2014. However, during Monday’s debate, Romney endorsed the Obama position: “When I’m president, we’ll make sure we bring our troops out by the end of 2014. The commanders and the generals there are on track to do so.”
President Obama exposed Romney as “all over the map” and inexperienced on key national security. Romney’s performance was less aggressive than Obama’s, and Romney was often on the defense during most of the 90-minutes. “I know you haven’t been in a position to actually execute foreign policy—but every time you’ve offered an opinion, you’ve been wrong,” Obama said in reference to Romney’s initial support for the Iraq war.
The President entered the debate “determined not to lose” which became evident by his harsh criticism of Romney while consistently landing well-placed zingers. “The Cold War’s been over for 20 years,” he said concerning Romney’s campaign comment that Russia is America’s primary geopolitical foe. President Obama later said, “Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets,” in response to Romney’s criticism that America has fewer Navy ships than in the past. “We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines,” the president added, a touch of ridicule in his voice.
It was also interesting to note that Romney did not criticize Obama’s handling of the murder of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens in Libya, a topic Romney brought up during the last debate when he walked into a self-inflicted trap. Instead, Romney said the Middle East is in “tumult” and “chaos,” and suggested Obama’s strategy of killing Al Qaeda leaders in drone strikes is not enough to bring stability to the region.
“We can’t kill our way out of this mess,” Romney said. “We’re going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the …world of Islam and other parts of the world reject this radical violent extremism, which certainly [is] not on the run.”
Romney also bought up another lie on Obama that he has been advocating for what he called Obama’s Middle East “apology tour,” which Romney said projected weakness abroad. “The president began what I’ve called an apology tour of going to nations in the Middle East and criticizing America. I think they looked at that and saw weakness,” Romney said. Obama called this a “whopper” and criticized Romney for fundraising on his recent trip to Israel. “When I went to Israel as a candidate, I didn’t take donors,” Obama said. “I didn’t attend fundraisers. I went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum there, to remind myself of the nature of evil and why our bond with Israel will be unbreakable.”
Romney’s refusal to actively engage the President during the debate may have been strategic in an attempt to win independent voters. Romney agreed with the President on many key foreign-policy issues including the use of drone strikes to kill people believed to be terrorists, harsh sanctions on Iran, and a strategy of avoiding military involvement in Syria.
During the debate, I believe that reasonable minds would conclude that Willard Mitt Romney knows absolutely nothing about National Security. Rather than choose a vice presidential candidate with some knowledge, Romney selected Paul Ryan whose National Security experience consists of him voting to go to war in Iraq. In addition to the debate revealing Romney’s ignorance in National Security matters, he continued to promote a myriad of lies, fibs, half truths and whoppers according to Think Progress:
1) “Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea.” Romney is wrong. Syria may be Iran’s only ally but it does not share a border with Iran. Iran has 1,500 miles of coastline leading to the Arabian Sea and can reach the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal.
2) “And what I’m afraid of is we’ve watched over the past year or so [in Syria], first the president saying, well we’ll let the U.N. deal with it….Then it went to the Russians and said, let’s see if you can do something.” While Russia and China have vetoed multiple resolutions at the U.N. Security Council on Syria, the United States has also been working through the Friends of Syria group and other allies in the region. Obama’s approach “would essentially give U.S. nods of approval to arms transfers from Arab nations to some Syrian opposition fighters.”
3) “Former chief of the — Joint Chiefs of Staff said that — Admiral Mullen said that our debt is the biggest national security threat we face. This — we have weakened our economy. We need a strong economy. We need to have as well a strong military.” If Romney is worried about the national debt, why does he want to increase military spending from 3.5 percent of GDP to 4 percent? This amounts to a $2.1 trillion increase over ten years that the military says it does not need and Romney has no plan to pay for it.
4) “[W]hen — when the students took to the streets in Tehran and the people there protested, the Green Revolution occurred, for the president to be silent I thought was an enormous mistake.” Obama spoke out about the Revolution on June 15, 2009, just two days after post-election demonstrations began in Iran, condemning the Iranian government’s hard-handed crackdown on Iranian activists. He then reiterated his comments a day later in another press conference. Iranian activists have agreed with Obama’s approach.
5) “And when it comes to our economy here at home, I know what it takes to create 12 million new jobs and rising take-home pay.” The Washington Post’s in-house fact checker tore Romney’s claim that he will create 12 million jobs to shreds. The Post wrote that the “‘new math’” in Romney’s plan “doesn’t add up.” In awarding the claim four Pinocchios — the most untrue possible rating, the Post expressed incredulity at the fact Romney would personally stand behind such a flawed, baseless claim.
CONTINUED ON PART II