Monday, October 29, 2012

In the Final U.S. Presidential Debate, Romney and Obama Converge in the Middle

On Monday 22, October 2012, the two presidential candidates squared off for the third and final presidential debate at Florida's Lynn University. For both President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney, this debate presented the last opportunity to address an audience of such magnitude. It was moderated by Bob Schieffer from CBS News.

Although the candidates’ demeanours were combative they appeared to hold roughly similar positions on many issues.

The main topic addressed was US foreign policy. This was introduced in the very first question that called for the candidates’ thoughts on the attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya, which left four Americans dead including the US Ambassador.

Both candidates felt that the disruptions in the Middle East were a call for the U.S. to become involved and a chance for “American leadership”. In Romney’s words, there is a necessity to help the world of Islam “ reject this radical violent extremism” which he described as a threat to America, its allies and the world.

While the president maintained that the U.S. has taken up the call of leadership, Romney argued that under the Obama administration, this was a missed opportunity. The president countered that Romney’s approach was “wrong and reckless”. He cited Romney’s vacillation on whether there should be a timeline in Afghanistan and his misguided (according to the president) opinion that the U.S. should station troops in Iran despite the non-existence there of weapons of mass destruction.

However, when addressing the approach that the U.S. should take regarding its intervention in the Middle East, both Obama and Romney stated that other means, in addition to military force, should be incorporated.

In terms of military strength, Romney advocated for strengthening the military by increasing military spending while the president reiterated that he intended to maintain America’s military position as the strongest military in the world. Both parties clearly accepted the importance of a strong American military.

There was also substantive agreement concerning diplomatic relations with Iran, and Iran’s possession of nuclear material. Romney’s position was that strong disincentives should be implemented toward Iran including economic sanctions. However, as the president then indicated, that was in fact the policy which his administration had implemented. The president further added that ‘the clock is ticking’ and that he would approve taking all necessary measures to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons.

On the controversial question of the timeframe for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, Romney stated that if elected president he would “make sure we bring our troops out by the end of 2014”, citing that the Afghans would by that time be able to properly undertake control of their own affairs. Again, this was a position that the president also assumed on behalf of his own administration. Romney’s position was notably inconsistent with that expressed by his running mate, Paul Ryan, during the only vice-presidential debate of this election season. In that debate Ryan avoided committing to the 2014 transition date explaining that doing so would be to “broadcast to [America’s] enemies” the date of the troops’ withdrawal.

The debate was rounded off with a segment on China. The issues addressed were China’s growing economic strength, its unfair economic practices and the outsourcing of American jobs to China. Romney’s strategy was distinctive in its severe approach, which included labelling China a ‘currency manipulator’. Obama, on the other hand, proposed less direct tactics involving the organization of trade relations with countries other than China so that China would feel more pressure about meeting basic international standards.

The full transcript of the debate can be found here:
Transcript on Foreign Affairs Debate

By Leanna Seetahal (FDA Researcher, Writer, and Lawyer)

Questions for Readers:

Is the U.S. government's expenditure on military (25 percent of 2012 U.S. budget) justifiable considering the more than $16 trillion of U.S. debt?

Are Romney's and Obama's agreement on the increased use of military drones in the best interests of Americans in terms of their overall security and well-being?

Are Romney's and Obama's agreement on foreign nation building in the best interests of the countries which American nation building is imposed on?

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