Foreign Policy Presidential Debate Tonight: Who Won the Debate? Obama By A Hair


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Tonight's final presidential debate starts at 9:00 p.m. from Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., and it promises to be the most crucial debate of this election as President Obama and Governor Romney square off over foreign policy. 

The discussion so far this campaign has hinged on domestic policies, specifically the economy and jobs. What we will see tonight will likely have a far more reaching impact for audiences at home and abroad. While the candidates are certain to rehash the president's role and responses to the attacks on the US embassy in Libya, this is only a single concern compared with the broader view of foreign policy.

As the head of state of the last superpower, the president plays a singular role in portraying America and its values abroad. Other nations judge America by its politics and by its leader, and in an ever more global economy, our choice of president has an unusually distinct impact on world affairs. Not only does it affect our trade opportunities and thus our potential for economic growth, our choice will affect the security of our nation.

Iran will be a key issue. Saturday night the New York times reported that "The United States and Iran have agreed in principle for the first time to one-on-one negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, according to Obama administration officials, setting the stage for what could be a last-ditch diplomatic effort to avert a military strike on Iran." This was later denied by the administration according to a Washington Post editorial. The editorial also noted that Iran has made many such moves like this in recent history, potentially, to give them more time while they work to create a nuclear weapon. Such a destabilizing turn of events could lead to another costly war in the Middle East. With Romney vying for more defense spending, is he planning to get directly involved with this conflict or just preparing for the worst? If it comes down to it, would Obama support Israel in a preemptive attack on Iran?

The president said in last week's debate that "some jobs won't come back, because they're low-wage, low-skill jobs." After many years of isolationism, China is now pivotal trading partner of the US and holds a large amount of US debt, not to mention many of our former jobs. Our fates are now intertwined, and both countries will be manipulating one another in the coming decade. Since China's currency is pegged to the dollar, how can Obama address the idea of currency manipulation and level the playing field for American business without alienating an important trading partner? For Romney, how can trickle down economic policies (as evidenced by his idolization of Reagan era policies) succeed when ultra capitalists find overseas jobs more affordable than those at home, even without tax incentives and after penalties? 

Tonight will be the most crucial discussion of America's future in a globalized world we have yet seen, and the significance of this discussion cannot be understated. According to Politico's Dylan Byers, Bob Schieffer has selected the official debate topics that will include: 

* America’s role in the world

* Our longest war – Afghanistan and Pakistan

* Red Lines – Israel and Iran

* The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism – I

* The Changing Middle East and the New Face of Terrorism – II

* The Rise of China and Tomorrow’s World

Refresh for live updates during tonight's debate, and stay tuned for the best clips from last week's debate, analysis, and even some of the irreverent humor from around the Internet! Remember it's important to get prepared before the debate kicks off, so check out my list of necessary items at the very bottom of last week's live presidential debate blog.


Wrap Up: I really don't know what, if anything, has changed with this debate. We know where the candidates stand, and they seemed to hit on those points very dramatically. Obama's new point was that we need to focus on nation building here at home instead of abroad, and I couldn't agree more. Romney said that "Washington is broken," as politicians have been saying for generation, but continued with America still being the "hope of the Earth." Both candidates seemed optimistic and energized, but I think Obama takes the slight advantage as the one who is the incumbent.

For lack of a better term, this debate was a draw. I wish the candidates had actually spent more time on foreign policy, though, in the end, doesn't it always come back to domestic policies? I think Obama's domestic policies are superior, and they kept bringing back to that, so I have to crown him as the winner of the debate (but through no landslide). He did hit the point of Romney's waffles on the subject quite well though near the beginning, and I think wins on that alone. He's also been more consistant on veteran's benefits and standing up for their rights - actually, I don't recall Romney really talking about it at all, so Obama definately wins on that too.

Next up, election night!

Update 10:30 PM - Bob wins: "I think we all love teachers."

Update 10:20 PM  - Obama seeming harder on China, to line up with Rs, Romney seeming a little softer, to appeal to more of the Ds - or at least the slightly undecideds. Romney going on about currency manipulation, and I agree! I think we still need a balanced approach, but we have to be tough and protect itellectual property. Even so, we need a partner with China, and can't start a trade war.

Obama thinks we need to shift back to our home workers. Obama hits good points that the jobs we would create here would leave again very quickly under Romney plan. BUT, US exports have doubled and currencies are in a good position he says - and I agree that long term, we need to have more education to make up for trade defecits, but what about the short term? "Basic international standards"and making China meet them is important though for human rights.

Update 10:15 PM - The drone question we've all been waiting for! But . . . Romney doesn't really answer. Doesn't seem like Obama is either. I didn't think they'd really answer, but I was hoping. But Obama does answer something important - it's about our image around the world. That's really important.

Update 10:09 PM - Obama says that we should be done with Afghanistan in 2014, ready or not really, but not Pakistan because of their nuclear capability - here's a foreign policy tidbit, we don't really know how many nukes they have! Romney is right that we need to be harder on Pakistan and work to keep those weapons out of bad hands.

Obama agrees that we should get out of Afghanistan, "responsibly." Says we should focus on here at home instead of abroad - keeping infrastucture in shape and helping veterans.

Update 10:05 PM - Obama tries to show he is a strong leader - even saying that he disagreed with his Vice President over the use of force in Pakistan.

Update 10:00 PM - Romney avoiding question again about wether "bombers are on the way" call from Israel. This is a real possibility and don't know why he's not considering it - we DO NOT control Israel by any means.

Update 9:50 PM - Obama talking about a nuclear arms race. Thought it might come to this - another cold war. Also says that we will stand with Israel if they are attacked. But what if they attack? Obama says we should not be sending men and women into harm's way with preemptive strike.

Romney agrees that we have Israel's back militarily, incinuating that Obama doesn't. Agrees that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon, and that we should have crippling sanctions . . . and then tighten them again . . . and then isolate them, and indict Iranian leader as humanitarian danger.

Update 9:45 PM - "We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them." - Barack Obama

Update 9:44 PM - Still waiting for foreign policy debate. Military is at least on topic. Anybody have a timer on how long we've not been talking not about foreign policy? Bob is getting walked all over according to the crowd here, poor Bob.

Update 9:42 PM - Candidates STILL on about domestic policy - but sometimes mentioning other countries!

Update 9:38 PM - Um, where are the candidates going with this domestic policy stuff? Isn't the point of this debate foreign policy? Both candidates REALLY off topic now, Obama not even bringing it back to foreign policy.

Update 9:33 PM - 

Even if Obama goes back to domestic policy, at least he keeps bringing it back to foreign policy!


Obama says America has to stand with democracy. Now we need to keep religious minorities alive, have to protect women and Israel. Obama says we're organizing young leadership conferences - and that at home we need to focus, because we've spent too much time nation-building overseas.

Romney we need more representative government - also that Mubarak was unsupportable for crushing his people. "Blessed with great soldiers." We must stand by our principles as well. Romney keeps bringing the points back to his talking point - domestic policy including economy and strong military.

Update 9:10 PM - Obama speaking on what he has actually done, Romney speaking on coming up with a more comprehensive defense policy for middle east. Romney says we can't kill our way out of this, then says we should go after and kill anti-American groups.

Update 8:59 PM: Predictions - Time for a couple of pre-debate predictions:

Iran - Both candidates will take a hard stance on this issue, as they ought to. Betting that Obama will want to try negotiation and let Israel take the lead on anything dealing with Iran. Think Romney will avoid the questions, but in reality will be getting ready for a fight by encouraging defense spending.

China - Obama will refer back to education and getting people back to work, but Romney will focus on currency manipulation. Both are going to say we need to be "tougher" on China.

Update 7:20 PM - A couple amusing predebate videos, for those who haven't seen them, to check out so you can at least start the debate in a positive mood!