Obama Won The Foreign Policy Debate: Live Coverage


On Monday, President Obama and Mitt Romney will square off in the third and final debate, focusing on foreign policy. The debate will take place at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida and will begin at 9:00PM EST.  

The latest round of polling shows a very tight race with a number of key battleground states still considered toss-ups. President Obama’s commanding lead on foreign policy has narrowed over the last few weeks, though he still holds a four point advantage on the issue of who voters trust most to make decisions about foreign affairs. 

Former Governor Romney will strive to paint the president as a weak leader while he attempts to sell himself as a potential commander in chief. While the Romney campaign has made gains, this is not an area of natural strength for him. President Obama has a track record of success to stand on while the former governor of Massachusetts lacks any substantial foreign policy experience and has struggled in the past when addressing these issues. His international tour was marked by gaffes and blunders while the consensus was that he performed poorly in making his argument about the Libya attacks during the last debate.

President Obama will defend his efforts to isolate Iran, end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, pivot to Asia, dismantle Al-Qaeda, and kill Osama bin Laden. The real story for the few remaining undecided voters who will be tuning in, however, will be more about feel than content. Strong Leader / Weak Leader impressions are formed at the gut level, and both candidates will need to look and sound like they are the right person to be controlling the nuclear codes.  

Final Presidential Debate:

Topic: Foreign policy

The format for the debate will be identical to the first presidential debate and will focus on foreign policy.

PolicyMic will be covering the presidential debate live. For live updates, bookmark and refresh this page.

Tuesday Morning Take-Away

Obama was the clear winner last night, coming across as strong, engaged and knowledgeable. Romney didn’t make any huge missteps, but certainly looked and sounded like a pretender to the throne. A man who has memorized lots of talking points, but seems unclear how the pieces actually fit together. The larger dynamic is that Romney’s goal was clearly to represent himself as a moderate – veering much farther from the foreign policy of George W Bush (and most of their shared advisors) than he did from the foreign policy of president Obama. While this pivot to “moderate Mitt” may sit better with voters, they should keep in mind two things: There’s no reason to think that he was lying about his hawkish inclinations during the primaries and exposing his true beliefs tonight. The reverse is just as likely to be true. And even if Romney really doesn’t believe in irresponsible adventurism abroad, the NeoCon staff he’ll put in place certainly do.

One of the scariest results of Romney’s vacuous ideological flexibility is not “hypocrisy" per se, but the fact that his lack of core beliefs will make him dangerously susceptible to the influence of his advisors -- people whose policy preferences and views are NOT being vetted in the light of day.

I don’t feel the need to go over the standard highlights and lowlights that the chattering class at-large is all grinding through. Instead, I want to highlight two moments from last night that I don’t think are getting enough press:

Romney said that China wants “the world to be free and open.” While the Chinese certainly desire a stable global economic system, the entire reason that the Romney campaign talking-point on Asia is “getting tough on China” is because they believe in strategic, rather than free, trade. The Chinese model is one of control – not openness. It’s certainly possible, even likely, that this was simply word vomit resulting from applying memorized bromides to whichever country he happened to be talking about. (Hard to go wrong with "X country really wants freedom"). But this is a guy whose entire argument for his candidacy is that he’s a savvy and experienced global businessman. He’s BEEN to China, right? Read about it maybe? Done business there? The Chinese simply aren’t big proponents of freedom and openness and Romney getting something this important so wrong could be sufficient evidence of him not clearing the Command in Chief bar. While Romney hued identically to Obama’s current policy on Iran, he made one rather strange departure, declaring that he would “make sure that Ahmadinejad is indicted under the Genocide Convention. His words amount to genocide incitation.” From best I can tell this was a completely new talking point and I’m not sure where it came from. Kevin Drum points out this morning that the Fox News crowd generally hates international laws like these in general, and appeals to refer people to the Hague in particular. Drum is probably right that if this were espoused by Obama or another Democrat that the Right would scream about facile subservience and failure of American assertiveness. I think the more interesting question, though, was posed last night by Spencer Ackerman: “Has anyone ever been indicted for inciting genocide without involvement in genocide?” Romney is clearly alluding to the Iranian President’s remarks that have been roughly translated to suggest he would like to see Israel wiped off the map. But Israel hasn’t been wiped off the map. I’m not an international legal expert, but Ahmadinejad must have done a pretty poor job inciting Israel's extermination if it hasn’t happened despite the fact that he’s the president of a country with an ample military at its disposal. I’d also be curious to see what this policy looks like if logically expanded to other leaders, countries, and contexts. It’s simply a pretty odd foreign policy position to roll-out this late in the race and it just strikes me as ill-conceived. 

10:35 PM I'll write more tomorrow, but Romney really appeared to lack a basic level of comfort and facility discussing foreign policy. Obama was clear, effective, and scored a number of memorable deep cuts. Romney's content was often incoherent and came off as simply "What He's Doing, but louder." No vision coming from that camp. Style-wise, I think that he appeared eratic and ill-prepared. Obama however seemed reasuring and confident. Clean win for Obama and I think Romney made a lot of people nervous. 

10:29 PM Nailed it!!

10:25 PM The factchecks are going to SLAY Romney on this "I <3 the car industry" business. Private capital WAS NOT available to support a privately funded managed bankrupty. #FACTS 

10:19 PM 

Good article at Foreign Policy and what would actually happen if Romney did that. Short story...not much. It's pretty much just a hollow talking point. 

10:14 PM Glad that he asked about drone policy! Unfortunatly Romney passed up an opportunity to make a genuine, legitimate critique and instead doubled down. He didn't give the impression that he really has any particular view on drones...or the potential problems that pose. That's unfortunate. 

9:55 PM  Here's my take on the current Iran sanctions strategy that I posted a couple days ago:

9:50 PM Is there really such a thing as "Incitation of genocide?" This is a new talking point from Romney, right? He wants to drag Ahmadinejad to the Hague somehow? 

9:45 PM "He says we have fewer ships, but we also have fewer horses and bayonettes. We have these things called air craft carriers and planes land on them." -Obama #SickBurn DAAAAAAMN

9:41 PM Here's the Obama Defense spending plans. Keep in mind that we're building down from two major wars...

9:38 PM Right. We get it. Mitt would rather talk about the economy than pursue his current strategy of reciting rambling, incoherent versions of extant Obama foreign policy and asserting that they're attacks...or something. 

9:35 PM And We're back! Sorry for the technical difficulties!

9:10 PM "My strategy is clear..to go after bad guys and kill them." -Romney "We can't kill our way out of these problems." - Romney 5 minutes previously. Isn't that the definition of All Over The Map?

9:07 PM Follow up -- so Mitt Romney is opposed to the Arab Spring? Thinks it was a bad idea? Let's be clear. 

9:00 PM


8:25 PM Foreign aid is less than 1% of the Federal budget, but here's where most of it goes:

8:10 PM Not sure which topic it fits best into, but I really hope they get asked about drone policy. The president has a lot of authority to determine where they get sent and what parameters they operate within...and the whole topic is waaaay underdiscussed. 

7:48 I don't know if this will come up tonight, but there's been very little domestic media coverage of the big protests in Kuwait. The government responded by violently cracking down and it's worth thinking about how Obama / Romney would respond if an organized opposition asks for US support. Stay Tuned!

7:22 PM  While you're waiting for the debate to start, take 20 minutes to play this awesome webgame / simulation that puts you in the oval office to make decisions about military action against Iran.  #HINT Not really any good options. Courtesy of the Truman National Security Project at www.tellmehowthisends.com

7:15 PM This is kind of amazing

5:30 PM

I don't think obsessing over the exact timeline of the Benghazi attacks is the best way to address or contextualize the event in Libya, but accuracy IS important and the attack is sure to come up tonight. If you're interested in what really appears to have gone done -- Mother Jones has a deets.

"Bottom line: There were conflicting reports on the ground, and that was reflected in conflicting and sometimes confused reports from the White House. I don't think anyone would pretend that the Obama's administration's response to Benghazi was anywhere near ideal. Nevertheless, the fact is that their statements were usually properly cautious; the YouTube video really did play a role; the attack was opportunistic, not preplanned; and it doesn't appear to have had any serious connection with Al Qaeda. It's true that it took about 10 days for all this to really shake out, but let's be honest: 10 days isn't all that long to figure out what really happened during a violent and chaotic attack halfway around the world. I get that it's a nice opportunity for Republicans to score some political points in the runup to an election, but really, there's not much there there."

12:15 PM

Here are the topics for tonights debate. So that you know what to expect...and to help you formulate your drinking games. 

Update: 8:30AM

In the lead-up to tonight’s debate, there will be lots of discussion about the Obama Administration’s foreign policy and the attacks leveled by Mitt Romney. While the policy analyst in me finds that exciting, the political scientist in me realizes that policy content is probably not going to change the minds of anyone watching the debate. Appeals to “style” or “feel” may sound silly to hard-boiled analysts, but political scientist John Sides points out that there is legitimate poli-sci theory we can draw upon to understand why this matters. Put simply: “Popular people are more persuasive — an idea that social scientists refer to as source credibility.” So how popular -- and thus credible -- are each of the candidates at the moment?

So both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have net-positive favorability ratings, but Romney appears to have a slight edge -- having made strong gains after his first debate appearance.The President's rating has been much more stable. As we think about how effective each of their messages are tonight, keep in mind that source credibility is likely to be as important as content. That's why it's so vital for Romney and Obama to not simply say smart things, but appear strong and likable.