Candidates seek final word in last debate
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 01:10
As President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney went head to head to assert themselves as the better foreign policy leader, students gathered at Rev’s Grill in the Memorial Student Center to watch and absorb the political debate.
The final presidential debate Monday night covered issues from America’s role in the global scene to the rise of China and was followed by a question and answer session with Bush School faculty Lorraine Eden, professor in the Department of Management, and Charles Hermann, director of the international affairs master’s program.
Obama and Romney both began by outlining their contrasting views of what America’s presence in Libya should be.
Romney said the U.S. needs a comprehensive and robust strategy to deal with the threatening problems of the Arab Spring.
“We can't kill our way out of this mess,” Romney said. “We're going to have to put in place a … strategy to help the world of Islam and other parts of the world reject this radical violent extremism, which is certainly not on the run.”
Obama said Romney’s stances on international issues were unfocused and the key to keeping Americans safe is through rebuilding alliances and strengthening the U.S.
“We're now able to transition out of Afghanistan in a responsible way, making sure that Afghans take responsibility for their own security,” Obama said. “And that allows us also to rebuild alliances and make friends around the world to combat future threats.”
Eden said Obama’s whole debate plan seemed to continuously revert to rebuilding the nation and compared it to the arguments of a columnist for The New York Times.
“I felt like I was listening to Thomas Friedman talk,” Eden said. “Thomas Friedman’s column for months now has been about the importance of nation building.”
Romney said the role of the U.S. on the global scene is defending freedoms, human rights, human dignity and free enterprise. To reach this goal, Romney said as president, he would work to strengthen the economy, military and allies.
Obama said a balanced budget is not possible with Romney’s suggested increased military spending. Instead, Obama said in order to take a major role in the world arena, the U.S. must cut spending responsibility.
Both candidates did agree, however, that the U.S. should take an attack on Israel as an attack on the U.S. itself.
“If Israel is attacked, we have their back,” Romney said. “Not just diplomatically, not just culturally but militarily.”
Paulina Romero, senior international studies major, said the safety of Israel will be an issue that won’t go away.
“There is no way that the United States will ever abandon Israel as an ally,” Romero said. “But finding ways to balance Israel as an ally and creating new diplomatic relations and allies will be beneficial to the United States.”
While candidates also agreed that troops should be withdrawn from Afghanistan in 2014, Obama focused on helping veterans transition back to civilian life.
“What we can now do is free up some resources to … put Americans back to work, especially our veterans, making sure that our veterans are getting the care that they need when it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, making sure that the certifications that they need for good jobs of the future are in place,” Obama said.
The final topic of the debate — dealing with the problem of the rise of China — was met with different responses, but ultimately the same support of leveling the playing field.
Obama highlighted the unfair trade cases filed against China under the Obama administration and said the U.S. has to look into education, research and technology to be able to compete with other nations.
Romney said the President must label the Chinese as currency manipulators to really begin crack down on unfair practices.
The debate watch was organized by the MSC Wiley Lecture Series which has offered showings of the all the presidential debates and the vice-presidential debate.
Sarah Armstrong, chair of MSC Wiley Series and senior political science major, said the object of the debate watch was to encourage discussion among students and promote a variety of opinions and ideas.
“I think that it’s important to draw the students out to a public setting like this to watch the debates,” Armstrong said. “If you’re at home hanging out with your friends, then you’re going to stay within that specific mindset that you and your friends have rather than going out where you’re discussing with people from across the political spectrum. When you’re in that environment, that’s when you have really honest and comprehensive discussion of what’s going on.”