On Monday, Oct. 22, President Obama and presidential hopeful Gov. Mitt Romney faced off in the final presidential debate before election day on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
While the subject of the debate was intended to be foreign policy, the discussion was often redirected to education and strengthening the American economy.
Moderator Bob Schieffer opened the debate with a question about the events in Benghazi which led to the death of American ambassador Chris Stephens.
Romney said there is a “reversal in the hopes we had for that region” and congratulated Obama on the killing of Osama Bin Laden, but stated, “We can’t kill our way out of this mess.”
Romney further expounded on the “enormous threat” in the region which is proven by recent terrorist events. He said the threat is not going to go away.
In rebuttal, Obama first discussed Afghanistan and the terrorist group Al-Qaeda. “Al-Qaeda’s core leadership has been decimated,” he said. He also said he would like to “transition out of Afghanistan” and “rebuild alliances and make friends around the world to combat future threats.”
In direct reference to the terrorist attack in Libya, Obama said “when we received that phone call … we did everything we could to secure individuals in harm’s way.”
Obama then addressed his administrations success in removing dictators in the Middle East, to which Romney stated his “strategy is broader than that,” referring to “killing” Middle Eastern leaders.
Romney said his strategy involves getting the “Muslim world to be able to reject extremism on its own.”
Obama repeated a criticism he has had before, stating, “a few months ago when you (Romney) were asked what was our biggest threat, you said Russia. You seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s. Every time you’ve offered an opinion, you’ve been wrong.”
Romney repeatedly fended off attacks on his personal record and policies.
“Attacking me is not an agenda” said Romney.
Both candidates stated gender equality was an important principle in the Middle East.
Scheiffer then shifted the discussion to Syria, asking the candidates if America should reassess its policies in regard to the nation.
Obama responded “we have provided humanitarian assistance and helped the opposition mobilize. Syrians have to decide their own future.”
The candidates largely agreed on the policies currently in place in Syria. Romney stated that he was staunchly against having a military presence in Syria.
The discussion turned to what Romney feels is America’s receding international power. “The last three years [the economy] keeps slowing down its growth rate.
We’ve got to strengthen our military long term. We don’t know what the world is going to throw at us down the road,” Romney said.
Romney then switched to Israel, stating “the tension between Israel and the United States was very unfortunate,” and criticized what he called the President’s silence in Tehran.
Obama responded by stating “Our alliances have never been stronger, in Asia, in Europe, in Africa, with Israel,” before criticizing Romney’s budget plan, which he claims will increase American debt and make the nation weaker.
Romney responded by stating he knows “what it takes to create 12 million new jobs and raising take home pay. We’re nine million jobs short of (Obama’s promise).”
Obama then attacked Romney’s education history as Governor of Massachusetts, claiming his own plan is to hire more math and science teachers because these are the areas in which America is falling behind.
Romney responded by saying students in Massachusetts tested exceptionally well in those subjects, after which he and Obama disagreed about whether Romney was in office at the time of these test scores.
In reference to the budget, Romney stated he wanted to cut discretionary spending and then give control of programs such as Medicare to the states, which he believes can budget them more effectively than the national government.
In one of the most talked about highlights from the debate, Obama fielded off Romney’s criticism of his military spending by sarcastically responding we have a smaller military force because a bigger one is no longer necessary due to modern technology.
In discussing Iran, both candidates agreed nuclear programs in the nation were dangerous for America and its allies. Romney cited the need for “crippling sanctions,” to which Obama replied that Romney did not understand the difficulty in creating such sanctions.
Both candidates largely agreed on policies in Afghanistan, and Romney came out in favor of the use of drones, stating that America “should use any and all means necessary.”
Romney also pledged to bring troops home from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Obama stated that China was a threat to America, as well as the shipment of jobs overseas. Romney once again concurred, stating that he would label them “a currency manipulator” on day one of his presidency.
Both candidates felt China could be a partner in the future. Obama ended the debate by stating he will “always listen to your voices. I will fight for your families.” He repeated his stance that America must do “nation building here at home.”
Romney used his closing speech to state he will “work across the aisle,” implying his commitment to working with a bipartisan Congress.
“This nation is the hope of the Earth,” Romney said. “I’ll lead you in an open and honest way.”