Final Presidential Debate

11:26 PM, Oct 22, 2012   |    comments
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LIVE DEBATE BLOG from USA Today's David Jackson 

11:07PM EDT October 22. 2012 - BOCA RATON, Fla. -- President Obama and Republican opponent Mitt Romney each argued Monday that the other would provide poor U.S. leadership for the world, in part because their domestic policies don't work.

WEB EXTRA: Carl Calabrese and Bruce Fisher analyze the final presidential debate

Obama said Romney has changed positions too many times, creating the prospect of weak leadership, and that his proposed tax cuts and budget cuts would make the United States less competitive with other countries.

"Governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s," Obama told Romney during the debate at Lynn University. "Just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s."

Romney, meanwhile, said high unemployment and slow growth are undercutting U.S. influence in the world, whether it involves curbing China's unfair trade practices or blocking Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

"In order to be able to fulfill our role in the world, America must be strong -- America must lead," Romney said. "And for that to happen, we have to strengthen our economy here at home."

Some highlights from the debate:

10:31 p.m. -- Romney gives his final statement of the foreign policy debate, but emphasizes the struggling economy instead. The businessman says he knows how to rebuild the economy through "strong leadership."

10:29 p.m. -- Obama gives a final statement, saying voters have a choice. The president says he is winding down two wars and helping an economy that cratered under his Republican predecessor (George W. Bush) -- policies that Romney now wants to emulate.

10:28 p.m. -- Again, the foreign policy debate turns to the economy.

Romney cites a litany of bad statistics; Obama says Romney's tax cuts will damage necessary investments.

10:20 p.m. -- Romney defends his pledge to brand China a currency manipulator on "Day One," saying it will not start a trade war. Says we can work with China, but can't "roll over" for it, either.

Then -- an argument about auto policy breaks out.

Obama notes that Romney has had investments in China -- and, straying from topic, notes that he opposed the auto bailout.

Romney says "attacking me is not promoting an agenda" and still says the auto companies received too much government money. Says suggestions he would "liquidate" the car industry is "the height of silliness."

Obama tells Romney: "You keep on trying to airbrush history." Then, returning to China, Obama says Romney's budget will hurt American competitiveness.

10:18 p.m. -- As part of the China discussion, Schieffer asked the candidates to name the top national security threat to the United States.

Obama said terrorist groups.

Romney says "a nuclear Iran."

10:15 p.m. -- The China issue comes up.

Obama says his team has taken China to the World Trade Organization repeatedly over unfair practices -- specifically cites cases affecting Ohio, which just happens to be a key state in this election.

Romney says Obama hasn't done enough to restrain Chinese practices, particularly currency manipulation.

10:14 p.m. -- Obama says his administration is working to shrink extremism, and the al-Qaeda terrorist group has diminished on his watch.

10:11 p.m. -- Some agreement: Romney says he believes in drone strikes, just as the Obama administration is reportedly doing.

10:09 p.m. -- Is Pakistan an ally? Should we cut them loose?

No, says Romney, saying we have to stay involved with Pakistan for a basic reason: They have nuclear weapons. We don't want them to fall into the hands of terrorists. "We're going to have to work with the people of Pakistan," Romney says.

10:03 p.m. -- On Afghanistan: Will U.S. troops still leave in 2014, even if the Afghans aren't ready to take over their own security?

Yes, says Romney, but notes that the U.S. will still need to help both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Obama says he is following through on pledges to surge troops to Afghanistan to help their security forces; now we're in a position "to transition out" by 2014. "After a decade of war, it's time to do some nation building here at home," Obama says.

10 p.m. -- The shape of the debate is clear: Romney talks about troubles in the Middle East, a rising China and other global challenges -- and blames them largely on a lack of leadership by Obama, including a bad economy.

Obama, meanwhile, notes that Romney has changed his positions on Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and even whether we should go after Osama bin Laden. "You've been all over the map," Obama tells Romney, a line he has echoed throughout the evening.

9:57 p.m. -- When Romney notes that Obama has not visited Israel as president, Obama responds that he did visit it as a candidate. He then talks about actions to defend Israel.

9:50 p.m. -- Will we talk one-on-one with Iran? And make a deal to stop its nuclear program?

Obama says newspaper stories about direct negotiations are "not true," and that Iran knows it has to give up its nuclear weapons program. "The clock is ticking," he says. Obama again questions Romney's lack of diplomatic experience and how it might affect a sensitive issue like Iran.

Romney says Iran has seen American "weakness," and that has hurt efforts to stop its nuclear programs. Notes that Obama did not back Iranian dissidents, made "an apology tour" of the world, and has undercut allies in Israel.

Obama: "Nothing Gov. Romney has just said is true." Describes the "apology tour" claim as "a whopper." Says "the world was divided" when he became president.

Romney claims: "We're four years closer to a nuclear Iran." Also notes that Obama has not visited Israel.

9:46 p.m. -- Moderator Bob Schieffer asks: Will we defend Israel if they are attacked? And what if Iran gets nuclear weapons?

Obama: "I will stand with Israel if they are attacked." Also adds he will not let Iran get a nuclear weapon, but adds that Romney seems willing to take "premature military action."

Romney also says, "If Israel is attacked, we will have their back." Also says he will stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, saying he will "tighten" sanctions now in place. "A military action is the last resort," he says.

9:43 p.m. -- The candidates mix it up over possible Pentagon budget cuts -- the so-called "sequester" that will kick in if Congress can't agree on a debt cut deal.

Obama says the sequester is a congressional idea, and "it will not happen." Also mocks Romney for promoting old weapons systems, and "this is not a game of Battleship."

9:40 p.m. -- Still on the economy: Romney says he can cut the federal budget by eliminating unnecessary programs and shift more programs to states.

Obama says Romney can't finance proposed tax cuts that add up to $5 trillion without raising other taxes or cutting important programs. "The math simply doesn't work," he says.

9:38 p.m. -- An economic argument has broken out here at the foreign policy debate.

Romney again bashes Obama on debt and slow growth.

Obama says Romney's plan will do nothing to reduce debt, and his tax cuts will hurt programs like education; he also attacks Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts.

"Let me get back to foreign policy," Schieffer says.

9:30 p.m. -- Topic: What is America's role in the world?

Romney says it's to spread freedom -- and that the U.S. must improve its economy in order. Romney is seizing every opportunity to talk about the economy.

Obama says "America remains the indispensable nation," and he has improved global alliances that frayed under Republican predecessor George W. Bush. He also talks about the economy, saying the money spent on Iraq and Afghanistan can be spent here at home.

9:24 p.m. -- Egypt surfaces.

Obama says he has no regrets about pulling support for Hosni Mubarak. Expresses confidence in the new government in Cairo.

Romney also says he would not have "stuck with Mubarak," as Schieffer put it. Romney again goes back to talking about unrest in the Middle East, and says the U.S. must provide strong leadership -- including a strong economy, a subject on which he bashes Obama; talks about rising debt and the prospect of Pentagon budget cuts.

Obama objects.

9:17 p.m. -- The talk turns to Syria -- should we give more help to the rebels there?

Obama says the U.S. is working with allies on sanctions designed to pressure Bashar Assad into leaving office. Says the problem with giving rebels weapons -- as Romney has suggested -- is that the weapons could be turned back on us. "I am confident that Assad's days are numbered," he says.

Romney says Syria is a humanitarian disaster, and the rebels need more American help, though he recognizes the potential problems with arming them. Calls for more U.S. leadership; Obama says he's supplying it.

9:15 p.m. -- Obama is really going after Romney, saying he keeps shifting his positions on a variety of geopolitical issues.

9:10 p.m. -- Obama hammers Romney for once saying that the biggest threat to U.S. has been Russia, as well as other positions that were "wrong" on such issues as Iraq and Afghanistan. Says Romney has foreign and economic policy views that go back to the 1950s and even the 1920s, has been "wrong and reckless," and also notes Romney has no foreign policy experience.

Romney says Obama is distorting his views, and "attacking me is not (an) agenda."

9:07 p.m. -- Obama promotes his foreign policy record, including the winding down of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also vows to track down the killers of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Libya; notes that the U.S. and NATO partners ousted Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Then Obama turns on Romney, saying his foreign policy strategy has been "all over the map."

Romney says his strategy has been consistent -- kill terrorists, but also get Middle East nations to reject extremism. Cites a "rising tide of chaos" during the Obama years.

9:03 p.m. -- First question: Libya. Schieffer asks Romney about his claim that Obama's Middle East policy is "unraveling."

Romney says the Middle East is a serious situation, with "disturbing events" that include the killing of a U.S. ambassador and rising terrorism, not to mention the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. He congratulates Obama on killing Osama bin Laden, but adds we "can't kill our way out of this problem."

9:02 p.m. -- The candidates appear on stage to loud applause. Show time!

8:52 p.m. -- Schieffer warms up the crowd. He also asks them to behave during the debate, saying: "We have to be quiet as mice."

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