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Obama vs. Romney, Round 3: Highlights From the Final Presidential Debate

Barack Obama And Mitt Romney Participate In Second Presidential Debate
John Moore, Getty Images

Tonight in Boca Raton, Florida, President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney sat down for their third and final debate before the upcoming election. Bob Schieffer of CBS News was the moderator. The debate’s focus was foreign policy.

Here are some noteworthy moments from the discussion:

This time, like in the first debate, Obama wore a blue tie and Romney a red one. It was switched in the second debate.

On the Middle East in general:

  • Romney, after congratulating the president on the killing of Osama Bin Laden: “We can’t kill our way out of this mess. … We must have a comprehensive strategy to combat this kind of extremism. … The key is to get the Muslim world to reject extremism on its own.”
  • Obama: “The 1980s are calling and asking for their foreign policy back. … You seem to want to import the policy of the 1980s, the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.”
  • Romney: “Attacking me is not an agenda.”

On Syria: Neither candidate said he wanted American troops directly involved. They seemed to largely agree on most policy here, even if they tried to pick smaller fights.

  • Obama: “I am confident that Assad’s days are numbered.”
  • Romney: “Assad must go. I believe Assad must go.”

On Egypt:

  • Obama: “They have to abide by their treaty with Israel. That is a red line for us.”
  • Romney turned the discussion back to the economy: “For us to be able to promote the principles of peace requires us to be strong. And that begins with a strong economy.”
  • Romney: “We are the great nation that has allies, 42 around the world.” 

On what America’s role in the world is:

  • Romney: “America has the responsibility and privilege of helping defend freedom and promote the principles that make the world more peaceful.” 
  • Obama: “America remains the one indispensable nation … and it is stronger now than it was when I came into office.” 

Both men used this opportunity to pivot to the economy.

  • Obama said Romney wanted to take the country back to the policies of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
  • Romney: “I know what it takes to create 12 million new jobs and rising take-home pay.”

After a brief talk about education policy, the moderator tried his hardest to bring things back to foreign policy, but that didn’t last long.

  • Obama, regarding Romney’s comment that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916: “We also have fewer horses and bayonets. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”

On Israel and Iran:

  • Obama: “I will stand with Israel if they are attacked.” 
  • Romney: “I would make sure Ahmadinejad is indicted under the genocide convention.” 
  • Romney: “Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators.”
  • Obama: “It was worth moving heaven and earth to get [Bin Laden].”

On Afghanistan:

  • Romney: “We’ll be finished by the end of 2014 … The surge has been successful.”
  • Obama: “There’s no reason why Americans should die when Afghans are capable of defending their own people. … After a decade at war… it’s time to do some nation-building at home.”

On China:

  • Romney: “It’s not government that makes business successful. … We’ll make sure that we have trade relations with China that work for us.”
  • Obama: “U.S. exports [to China] have doubled since I’ve come into office.”

Bob Schieffer concluded the debate by mentioning one point of agreement between the two candidates: “I think we all love teachers.”


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