We have reached the final presidential debate of the 2012 cycle! Well, there is still one more debate between the thrid party candidates to be held just 24 hours after this one but we are officially done with debates including Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, which is a breath of fresh air!
Now while this debate was much better than the first, which saw the president damn near comatose at the podium, this wasn’t as great as the last outing, which saw both men going for blood and a few tense moments where I was almost certain that someone was going to administer an illegal low blow to his opponent. That never happened however and the potential of it happening in last night’s debate, was far less likely. So even though both men seemed to get under the skin of one another, it remained pretty civil and straightforward, other than the subject of foreign policy somehow turning into domestic issues due to the candidates inability to stay on topic for more than a few seconds. It’s all good though, they’re politicians, they pander, they filibuster, they divert and they also lie. Maybe in this instance, it was to cover up the fact that both of them have shit policy in regards to foreign affairs and truthfully, there really isn’t that much contrast between them on handling enemies and allies, foreign aid and military management.
So, as I’ve done for the last three debates, it is time for me to look at the facts, examine them and cross reference the top fact checking sources in an effort to shed light and bring transparency to the lies and deceit that have been pretty blatant over the course of all these debates – from both sides. So let’s get right to it.
Now while the candidates did get distracted during this specifically foreign policy debate and wandered off into domestic issues, I am ignoring those bits because for the most part, those facts have already been checked over the course of the previous debates.
The first issue to examine is regarding Pakistan, or as Obama calls it “Pockyston”, and the claim Obama made that Romney once said that we should ask them permission before going into their country to “kill or capture terrorists”. The fact is, Obama’s claim isn’t true. Before I break it down, here’s Obama’s full statement on the subject:
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 for permission, we would not have gotten him. And it was worth moving heaven and earth to get him.
There are two things wrong with this, the first being that, as a candidate for the presidency in 2007, Obama said that he would attack “high-value” terrorists in Pakistan with or without approval of the Pakistani government. Here’s that quote:
If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.
Shortly after that, Mitt Romney commented on Obama’s statement during a radio interview. Romney called the comment “ill-considered” and followed that up by saying:
I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours. … I don’t think those kinds of comments help in this effort to draw more friends to our effort.
Furthermore, at a Republican primary debate during the 2008 election cycle, Romney was asked what he would do if intelligence had come to him with good evidence that Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan but that the Pakistani government wouldn’t allow the United States entry to go capture him. Romney said that going in without permission would be an option, regardless of the Pakistani government’s wishes. Here is his full answer on that question:
It’s wrong for a person running for the president of the United States to get on TV and say, “We’re going to go into your country unilaterally.” Of course, America always maintains our option to do whatever we think is in the best interests of America. But we don’t go out and say, “Ladies and gentlemen of Germany, if ever there was a problem in your country, we didn’t think you were doing the right thing, we reserve the right to come in and get them out.” We don’t say those things. We keep our options quiet. We do not go out and say to a nation which is working with us, where we have collaborated and they are our friend and we’re trying to support Musharraf and strengthen him and his nation, that instead that we intend to go in there and potentially bring out a unilateral attack.
Going back to Obama’s statement about Pakistan last night, he referenced the moving “heaven and earth” issue again, which we already fact checked in one of the previous debate articles. Again, Obama remarked that Romney wasn’t willing to “move heaven and earth” to get bin Laden. Obama’s comment takes Romney’s quote completely out of context, as the former Massachusetts Governor actually said that the U.S. shouldn’t just focus on one man but rather a strategy that would help “defeat the Islamic jihad movement” as a whole.
On the issue of troops in Iraq, Obama accused Romney of lying about the Obama Administration’s position on leaving some troops there. Romney said:
..with regards to Iraq, you and I agreed, I believe, that there should have been a status of forces agreement. Did you..
Obama cut in:
That’s not true. … what I would not have done is left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down. That certainly would not help us in the Middle East.
Okay, the truth is that President Obama did indeed leave several thousand troops in Iraq. The only disagreement between both men was over the size of these residual forces. The Obama Administration wants 3,000-4,000 troops stationed in Iraq while Mitt Romney wants anywhere from 10,000-30,000.
Next up is the highly criticized ”smallest Navy” exchange. Romney claimed that our “Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917.” His comment isn’t accurate. When looking at the sheer number of ships in the Navy’s fleet over time, FactCheck.org states:
There were 342 total active ships as of April 6, 1917, when the U.S. entered World War I. There were 282 active duty ships as of April 2012, according to a Congressional Research Service report in August. That’s down from the Naval History and Heritage Command’s count of 285 as of September 2011. However, 282 ships is the same number in service during George W. Bush’s last year in office, and a slight increase over the number in 2007, when the size of the fleet was actually at its lowest.
Additionally, with major advancements in military and naval technology, ships today can do a lot more than the ships of yesteryear. Just because there are less ships, that doesn’t mean that the Navy is weaker. Realistically, due to their advanced technology, our Navy is much stronger than it has been in the past. As Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has pointed out, comparing past fleets to today’s fleet is “like comparing the telegraph to the smartphone.” Furthermore, the U.S. Navy recently presented Congress with a plan projecting that size of the Naval fleet could increase to 300 ships by the end of the decade.
Moving on, the subject of veterans’ unemployment came up. On the subject, Obama stated:
The first lady has done great work with an organization called Joining Forces putting our veterans back to work. And as a consequence, veterans’ unemployment is actually now lower than general population, it was higher when I came into office.
The unemployment rate of the general population was 8.5 percent (not seasonally adjusted) when Obama took office. The unemployment rate for veterans was at 7.4 percent at the same time, which isn’t higher than the general population. Both rates climbed during Obama’s presidency, the rates topped off at 10.6 for the general population and 9.9 for veterans. Most recently, the numbers shrunk to 7.6 for the general population and 6.7 for veterans. It is worth pointing out though, that the rate for veterans of our most recent wars – Iraq and Afghanistan – is at 9.7 percent currently and had once peaked at 15.2 percent.
This foreign policy debate couldn’t be complete without Romney once again bringing up that Obama has been on an “apology tour” since being president. He stated:
And then the president began what I’ve called an apology tour of going to — to various nations in the Middle East and — and criticizing America. I think they looked at that and saw weakness. … And I think that when the president said he was going to create daylight between ourselves and Israel that they noticed that as well.
Defending himself, Obama said that nothing Romney said was accurate, especially the part about apologizing to foreign countries. Obama added that every fact checker out there has claimed that this isn’t true. Backing up Obama on this point, FactCheck.org wrote:
Obama is certainly right about the assessment of fact-checkers, including FactCheck.org. We pored over the speeches that Romney cited in his book “No Apology” to back up his claim that Obama went on an “apology tour,” and we concluded that “we didn’t see that any of them rise to the level of an actual apology.” Our fact-checking colleagues at PolitiFact and the Washington Post Fact Checker reached the same conclusion: Obama never apologized.
It didn’t end there however, as Romney kept pushing the issue. He stated:
Mr. President, the reason I call it an apology tour is because you went to the Middle East and you flew to Egypt and to Saudi Arabia and to Turkey and Iraq. And, by the way, you skipped Israel, our closest friend in the region, but you went to the other nations. And by the way, they noticed that you skipped Israel. And then in those nations and on Arabic TV you said that America had been dismissive and derisive. You said that on occasion America had dictated to other nations. Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators.
The truth is, Obama’s “dismissive” and “derisive” comments were not made in the Middle East but were in fact made during a speech that the president gave in Strasbourg, France. Obama’s remarks weren’t to the Middle East, they were given to a European audience, which as any geography teacher will point, is an entirely different continent. Analyzing the context of the Obama speech Romney is referencing, the president spoke openly about the tensions between the United States and the Arab world – placing blame on both sides of the coin. Obama called for a “new beginning” and expressed the desire for peace. He never apologized.
Early in the debate, Obama blasted Romney over who was America’s “number one threat”. Obama claimed that Romney said Russia was the “biggest geopolitical threat facing America” not Al-Qaeda. Romney quickly responded saying that his words had been twisted by the president. The statement that Obama is referring to comes from an interview Romney did in March with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Here’s the part of the interview, Obama is citing:
Romney: [T]his is to Russia, this is, without question, our No. 1 geopolitical foe. …
Blitzer: But you think Russia is a bigger foe right now than, let’s say, Iran or China or North Korea? Is that – is that what you’re suggesting, Governor?
Romney: Well, I’m saying in terms of a geopolitical opponent, the nation that lines up with the world’s worst actors. Of course, the greatest threat that the world faces is a nuclear Iran. A nuclear North Korea is already troubling enough.
If you take Romney’s comments outside of their full context, it is easy to paint a pretty cut and dry picture but realistically, his definition and the criteria to fit that definition are so loose it is hard to really take anything away from his original comments other than the fact that he sees a lot of foes out there. Although, he didn’t mention Al-Qaeda. Regardless of that, it has been pretty clear that Romney sees them as a major threat just based off of all the things he’s said about them and Osama bin Laden for years.
As has become his modus operandi, Mitt Romney overstated some numbers. This time, he inflated the size of the federal debt that the United States owes China. Romney said, “we owe them a trillion dollars and owe other people $16 trillion in total, including them.” Well, it is true that the U.S. owes China $1.2 trillion but the U.S. owes other nations a total of $11.3 trillion, which includes China. So Romney’s misrepresentation of these numbers is a difference of $4.7 trillion – over 40 percent more than the real figure.
Another minor thing worth mentioning is that Romney claimed that “terrorism” wasn’t mentioned back in the 2000 presidential debates between George W. Bush and Al Gore. He’s wrong. Al Gore did mention terrorism during the third debate. Answering an audience question about which candidate would be better at handling the Middle East crisis, Gore citied his experience as a member of the House Intelligence Committee and that he’d become familiar with ways to “diffuse these tensions and deal with non-proliferation and deal with the problems of terrorism and these new weapons of mass destruction.”
So while we haven’t yet reached the end of this long and arduous journey, we are pretty damn close to Election Day and other than the upcoming presidential debate between third party candidates, there might not be much more in the way of news regarding the 2012 race. Sure there will be jabs from both men – aimed to maim one another but that will most likely be the gist of it. We’ll hear about this poll and that poll and none of the numbers will end up being accurate in the end. Then again, every poll is different and I’m sure one of them will be in the ballpark because if you throw a bunch of random numbers out there, one of them has to be close, right? I guess the polling agency that comes closest should be awarded free smoothies for their staff.
The real numbers to watch are the Electoral Votes. In just two weeks, Barack Obama has faltered quite a bit to the point where his nearly 50 point lead in Electoral Votes has now dropped down to a 5 point deficit behind Mitt Romney. Now this doesn’t mean that Romney is going to run away with it or that the momentum is set in his favor, it just means that the race is a hell of a lot closer than it was before the debates. This also means that the end result will just be much more interesting, as it is anyone’s game right now. Personally, I still think that Obama will edge it out but my confidence in that forecast is a lot weaker than it has ever been. Truthfully, does it really matter what happens anyway?
Both men are damn near identical on foreign policy, as neither will end the wars, neither will bring our troops home and both can potentially be persuaded to engage American forces in more pointless conflicts. It’s funny that the issues of border security or Operation: Fast and Furious didn’t come up. Hell, Benghazi was barely mentioned and neither was the Libyan invasion of 2011 that saw the demise of Muammar Gaddafi. It’s as if all that shit was brushed under the rug for safer discussions or to spare Obama from having to deal with the repercussions of his poor foreign policy choices. But don’t get it twisted, Romney probably would’ve done things the same way Obama did. Republicans and Democrats both have a shitty track record on foreign policy and if these men’s answers didn’t make that abundantly clear over the course of the debate, you may need to check yourself before you wreck yourself.