The third debate was a clear win for Barack Obama but it is too soon to determine if undecided voters saw enough to realize that Mitt Romney isn’t even ready to take a 9 a.m. call on foreign policy matters. Mitt Romney will definitely keep the fact checkers busy tonight. He tried to shake the Etch-A-Sketch tonight, changing his former views to agree with Obama on as many foreign policy issues as possible. Romney even avoided confronting Obama on Libya after learning the hard way in the second debate that the facts support Obama and not the wild claims of the right wing noise machine.
Obama was ready with both zingers and an overall condemnation of Romney’s policies:
But Governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.
You say that you’re not interested in duplicating what happened in Iraq. But just a few weeks ago, you said you think we should have more troops in Iraq right now. And the — the challenge we have — I know you haven’t been in a position to actually execute foreign policy — but every time you’ve offered an opinion, you’ve been wrong. You said we should have gone into Iraq, despite that fact that there were no weapons of mass destruction.
You said that we should still have troops in Iraq to this day. You indicated that we shouldn’t be passing nuclear treaties with Russia despite the fact that 71 senators, Democrats and Republicans, voted for it. You said that, first, we should not have a timeline in Afghanistan. Then you said we should. Now you say maybe or it depends, which means not only were you wrong, but you were also confusing in sending mixed messages both to our troops and our allies.
Obama soon went further in his attack on Romney’s flip-flopping:
Governor here’s one thing I’ve learned as commander in chief. You’ve got to be clear, both to our allies and our enemies, about where you stand and what you mean. You just gave a speech a few weeks ago in which you said we should still have troops in Iraq. That is not a recipe for making sure that we are taking advantage of the opportunities and meeting the challenges of the Middle East.
Romney was shaking the Etch-A-Sketch when he denied his previous support for keeping troops in Iraq (video above).
He was also trying to rewrite history when he denied saying that he considered Russia our number one geopolitical foe as he said in the video above.
Obama even tried to tie Romney to Bush and Cheney:
Both at home and abroad, he has proposed wrong and reckless policies. He’s praised George Bush as a good economic steward and Dick Cheney as somebody who’s — who shows great wisdom and judgment. And taking us back to those kinds of strategies that got us into this mess are not the way that we are going to maintain leadership in the 21st century.
The debate wandered onto domestic policy, giving Obama the opportunity to once again show that the math does not work for Romney’s economic policies:
Look, Governor Romney’s called for $5 trillion of tax cuts that he says he’s going to pay for by closing deductions. Now, the math doesn’t work, but he continues to claim that he’s going to do it. He then wants to spend another $2 trillion on military spending that our military is not asking for.
Now, keep in mind that our military spending has gone up every single year that I’ve been in office. We spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined; China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, you name it. The next 10. And what I did was work with our joint chiefs of staff to think about, what are we going to need in the future to make sure that we are safe?
And that’s the budget that we’ve put forward. But, what you can’t do is spend $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military is not asking for, $5 trillion on tax cuts. You say that you’re going to pay for it by closing loopholes and deductions, without naming what those loopholes and deductions are. And then somehow you’re also going to deal with the deficit that we’ve already got. The math simply doesn’t work.
Romney tried to attack Obama, and pander to ship builders in Virginia, by campaigning on an imaginary Naval Ship Gap. Obama mocked him with a Bayonet Gap:
But I think Governor Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works.
You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.
And so the question is not a game of Battleship, where we’re counting slips. It’s what are our capabilities.
Romney was not only wrong on the principle, he was wrong on the facts. He got Three Pinocchios for his claim that the Navy is as small as in 1916.
Obama repeatedly responded to Romney’s lies, including the lie that Obama started his presidency with an apology tour:
Nothing Governor Romney just said is true, starting with this notion of me apologizing. This has been probably the biggest whopper that’s been told during the course of this campaign. And every fact checker and every reporter who’s looked at it, Governor, has said this is not true.
Obama accused Romney of being “you’ve been all over the map” on many issues, such as going after Osama bin Laden:
When it comes to going after Osama bin Laden, you said, well, any president would make that call. But when you were a candidate in 2008, as I was, and I said if I got bin Laden in our sights I would take that shot, you said we shouldn’t move heaven and earth to get one man.
And you said we should ask Pakistan for permission. And if we had asked Pakistan permission, we would not have gotten him. And it was worth moving heaven and earth to get him.
Romney tried to rewrite history on the auto bailout. I think that Mitt Romney bringing up the auto industry is like Bill Clinton discussing extra-marital sex or George Bush bringing up drunk driving. Obama didn’t let him get away with changing his position here:
The — look, I think anybody out there can check the record. Governor Romney, you keep on trying to, you know airbrush history here. You were very clear that you would not provide, government assistance to the U.S. auto companies, even if they went through bankruptcy. You said that they could get it in the private marketplace. That wasn’t true.
Obama tried to preserve his lead in the first debate and, as a consequence of not being aggressive enough, the momentum has been going in Romney’s direction. Democratic victories in the Vice Presidential and second Presidential debate slowed that momentum, leaving Obama with a slight lead going into this debate. The question now is whether Obama’s victory in this debate will stop the movement towards Romney and preserve Obama’s slim lead, and hopefully develop some momentum for Obama.