Obama, Romney clash in fiery debate

2012-10-17 07:26

Hempstead - A combative Barack Obama landed telling blows on challenger Mitt Romney on Tuesday as naked dislike boiled over between the White House foes in a tense debate three weeks from election day.

President Obama bounced off the ropes after a dismal showing in their first encounter two weeks ago, knowing his tumbling poll numbers could doom him to the historical ignominy of a single term without a sharp intervention.

Early signs were that Obama's passion-fuelled performance will revive optimism and enthusiasm among Democrats in his bid for a second term, though Romney, touting entrepreneurship, scored blows of his own on the economy.

Benghazi attack

In one spellbinding exchange, Obama stared directly at Romney and rebuked him over his criticism of his White House for its handling of an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi on September 11, which killed four Americans.

"The suggestion that anybody on my team, whether it's a secretary of state, our UN ambassador, anybody on my team, would play politics or mislead when we've lost four of our own, Governor, is offensive," Obama said wagging his finger at Romney across the stage of their town-hall debate.

"That's not what we do. That's not what I do as president, not what I do as commander-in-chief," Obama said, in a fiery moment in one of the most ill-tempered and contentious White House debates ever.

Seeking to recover, Romney then seemed to stumble, accusing the president of taking days to call the attack, which killed US ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, a "terror attack".

But Obama snapped back that he had indeed referred to the assault as "an act of terror", telling Romney: "check the transcript" before moments later fixing his rival with a withering stare and saying "Please proceed Governor".

CNN moderator Candy Crowley confirmed that Obama did in fact use the phrase "act of terror" in the White House Rose Garden the day after the attack.

The exact quote confirms that Obama did imply the assault was an act of terror, despite Republican claims he laid the blame fully on an anti-Muslim YouTube video made on US soil.

"No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation," Obama said in the remarks on September 12.

Slanging match

Democrats seized on the moment to question Romney's credentials to serve as commander-in-chief even before the debate ended, while conservatives were hammering Crowley for what they said was an unfair intervention.

As anger crackled in the debate hall, the candidates were freed from podiums at Hofstra University, New York and roamed the floor, often encroaching on each other's personal space.

Minutes into the clash, Republican Romney and Democrat Obama stood just a few feet apart, trading charge and counter charge in a furious verbal slanging match over economic policy.

In another heated exchange over energy, Romney triggered an audible gasp of shock in the hall hosting the debate, when he told the president: "You'll get your chance in a moment, I'm still speaking."

"Not true, Governor Romney, not true," Obama said, after Romney savaged the president's record on oil production over the last four years.

Romney's strongest moments came when he delivered stinging indictments of the Obama economy, charging the president with miserably failing to restore speedy jobs growth and to cut ballooning deficits.

"The president wants to do well, I understand," Romney said, in a sorrowful tone of voice.

"But the policies he put in place have not let this economy take off as it could have."

'On a road to Greece'

Romney also furiously accused Obama over debt.

"We've gone from $10 trillion of national debt to $16 trillion of national debt. If the president were re-elected, we'd go to almost $20 trillion of national debt. This puts us on a road to Greece," he said, before also vowing to stand up to China over what he says are trade and currency abuses.

Obama hit back that Romney had invested in companies in China that were pioneers of outsourcing US jobs.

"Governor, you're the last person who's going to get tough on China."

When Romney tried to counter-attack, asking Obama if his pension scheme included investment in low wage economies abroad, the president openly mocked him.

"I don't look at my pension. It's not as big as yours. I don't check it that often."

Just 21 days before the election, the obvious antipathy between the candidates reflected stakes that could hardly be higher as national polls and the race in battleground states tightens into a dead heat.

At moments, Romney quibbled with Crowley, charging that Obama had interrupted him in contravention of the rules of the debate.


Romney, a 65-year-old former governor of Massachusetts, took the first question of the clash, about the jobs crisis, and bemoaned the plight of ordinary Americans who he said had been "crushed over the last four years".

"I know what it takes to create good jobs and to make sure you have the opportunity you deserve," Romney said.

Obama, 51, was quick off his stool in response, looking 20-year-old questioner Jeremy Epstein straight in the eye, fixing him with an intense stare as he promised to quicken the US economic recovery.

Supporters of both men were gathering at debate watching parties and another huge television audience was expected, though perhaps not so big as the 70 million that tuned into the first clash.

In one festive scene at The Apollo, the legendary Harlem theatre that helped launch the Jackson Five, Billie Holliday and James Brown, was packed with an excited crowd hoping to see the biggest political talent show on earth.

"President Obama has his own swagger. He needs to look in the mirror and rediscover his mojo," said Esther Armah, a radio host.

-    To watch a video of the complete second US presidential debate click here.

- Are you in the US? Send us your stories and observations in the run-up to election day.

  • - 2012-10-17 07:42

    YES WE CAN!!!!

      colin.dovey - 2012-10-17 08:59

      Zuma has not got the b*lls to debate.....if he did, he would lose hands down. Such a pity, because it would make our political landscape so much more interesting, seeing as how we cannot choose our leaders directly. That is where our form of democracy is flawed. Sad.

      jason.dutoit - 2012-10-17 10:16

      america is a republic, not a democracy

      albert.m.burger - 2012-10-17 13:07

      Ah the choice between a Duche and a Turd... Here we have just Turd.

  • shaunpatrickdaly - 2012-10-17 07:53

    Watching these two debate is like listening to Steers and McDonalds argue over who has healthier food.

      henry.vanderburpenfart - 2012-10-17 08:26

      I'm gonna have to side with Steers on that one, but I know what you mean.

      classwar.trotsky - 2012-10-17 08:42

      Ha ha ha ha ha. Good one!

      ian.frost.9047 - 2012-10-17 09:00


      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 10:04

      Democracy cannot be the process of choosing a politician on the grounds that they are the least distasteful of the two major parties on offer. That is not democracy; that is the Coke-Pepsi challenge.

      albert.m.burger - 2012-10-17 12:58

      ...the laaaaand of crispy fries, and the hoooome of the Big Mac! Play ball! Jinne soma got me lus for some drive thru! ...oh are we talking politics...

      vambozha.mutemi.9 - 2012-10-17 13:59

      ha ha ha good one Shaun

  • kobus.hattingh.5 - 2012-10-17 07:56

    Romney for President!!!

      diana.gill.18 - 2012-10-17 10:07

      For South Africa?

      renierf1 - 2012-10-17 10:28

      Oh Gosh.... Here comes Adriaan with his rubbish again.... Seems like he trolling the internet looking for places to make comments about things he knows nothing about. And what chances are you taking with Obama Adriaan? Which part of the US are you currently living in? Economically speaking Obama has only exacerbated the issues they have had. It's time for someone with some business b*lls to make some hard economic decisions and lead the US away from the brink of collapse. This right-wing nonsense you keep talking about has no ground. Everyone was saying that Romney was too moderate for the GOP, so he can hardly be described as a right wing fanatic. And let me remind you, that Obama isn't an atheist either. So he is a religious left wing leader? And who is this US? Once again, are you a US citizen? Get a life, or even better, get an education

  • james.eayrs - 2012-10-17 08:01

    The DA should press relentlessly for a public debate between HZ and JZ. it most probably won't materialize as JZ scampered down the rabbit hole after the first challenge, but it's invaluable points scoring, especially now in the build-up up to the US elections and the coverage their presidential candidates are receiving with their debates.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 08:11

      What will this debate achieve, what does the US presidential debate achieve?

      sterling.ferguson.5 - 2012-10-17 08:16

      The voters can't elect the president in SA like the US.

      tito.mario.927 - 2012-10-17 08:25

      What happened to the robust debates we had during the 1994 election. Post apartheid a lot of this has vanished from the SABC horizon.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 08:33

      Sterling, what are the electoral collages for, if US voters elect their president directly? Who and how are the ballots tallied in the US?

      alastair.grant.98 - 2012-10-17 08:35

      Fidel, if that's a serious question, here's the answer. As long as our leaders speak from notes prepared by others, we will never get to know their true worth. We want, and need, leaders who are well informed, and capable of responding to issues as they happen. In a debate like this, those who want us to vote for them are deliberately put in a position where their wit and knowledge is exposed by someone who, quite clearly, is not trying to make them look good. It's hard to think of a better way of proving to the voters that someone is, or isn't, the kind of person they want to entrust with their future. It's pretty obvious why the leader of our great nation isn't prepared to debate the issues of the day with the leader of our official opposition.

      nrgx.nrg - 2012-10-17 08:38

      @Fidel - What does it achieve??? ...TRUE DEMOCRACY!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 08:43

      Alastair, a president is responsible for all ministers appointed by him/her, does it then follow that she/he should be versed in all those ministries? A president is a unifying symbolic political figure who doesn't necessarily needs to understand how the military, health, education, etc work, hence all the many advisers (DGs) appointed in various ministries.

      letsallbefriendsdammit - 2012-10-17 08:51

      Fidel, these debates outline the strategies of the two candidates and often the opposition will highlight what they believe to be certain weaknesses in the opponent's plan and will question the other candidate on it to see their response. This gives voters a much greater understanding of who they are voting for than say a poster or billboard would. Don't try tell me Jacob's that busy that he can't engage the main opposition in necessary debate

      nrgx.nrg - 2012-10-17 08:54

      @Fidel...please read your comment again, but this time use your analogy in any other form if PROFESSION. eg. a doctor, a symbol of healing, a trust of understanding your body...Would you go to a mechanic when you are sick because he says he knows how your body works too? Point is, the HIGHEST PROFESSION OF THE COUNTRY...PRESIDENCY, does not need to know how a country works is exactly the same as saying a mechanics opinion is as trustworthy as a doctor when it comes to health. DO YOU SEE THE LACK OF LOGIC NOW?

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 08:58

      @nrgx What is the opposite of "true democracy" and how would you define it. There are, have been, and can be as many forms of democracy as people need to deliver the reality of human dignity and well-being to all. You live in one of the most liberal democracies in the world, but because it doesn't follow Washington's example, it is not true democracy to you. Would you have called for the same debates if Mbeki or Mandela were steal president, because as I recall Mbeki gave Tony Leon a hiding every time there was a televised debate in parliament. Debates do take place in this country in parliament where the opposition gets to grill the president. But of course it must be done the American way!

      nrgx.nrg - 2012-10-17 09:10

      @Fidel...the definition of democracy is just a "google" away, i fear you miss the point though. You ask, in fact, you imply that i my opinion would be different if it were Mbeki and Mandela that had the debate... First of I am offended by the implication, but I wont get drawn into that now, and second...ABSOLUTELY, i would/will encourage any presidential debate, and dont know what you think a debate is, but it most certainly is NOT what is portrayed in our parliament! Let me ask you this, do you feel "democracy" is defined by what the presidency says, or by the true meaning of the word?

      letsallbefriendsdammit - 2012-10-17 09:15

      "steal president". how ironic

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 09:21

      @nrgx Zuma and the ANC knows how a country should work, which is different from applying that knowledge, which is where the ANC lacks. In any other profession a CEO resembles the president, but has also divisional managers (experts in their fields whether its finance, legal, marketing, communications, etc) responsible for the implementation of the companies' objectives and its day to day running. Again the president and his cabinet are political figures responsible for giving political legitimacy and guidance for decisions taken by the state. Where the ANC fails is appointing these political figures at administrative level where minimal political bureaucracy is required, instead of expert professionals.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 09:27

      "Let me ask you this, do you feel "democracy" is defined by what the presidency says, or by the true meaning of the word?" I've already answered this question. Democracy is no panacea. It is a system made within the context of history and the diversity of human identities. It is not one institutional form, or a single set of processes. I asked you what "TRUE DEMOCRACY" is?

      nrgx.nrg - 2012-10-17 09:28

      Fidel...You are absolutely right, the anc does fail in its appointment. We both agree there! "giving political legitimacy and guidance"...excellent selection of words, please try vision these same words when you read the everyday news headlines...corruption, murder, crime, bankrupt, racism, you know the rest. Is this your idea of legitimacy? is this idea of guidance? I dont know about you, but will never nurture MY children with these values...WOULD YOU?

      nrgx.nrg - 2012-10-17 09:36

      Fidel - Forgive my ignorance, but I thought the question of "true democracy" is answered by the mere fact democracy is not defined by country (i.e US democracy or African democracy) colour or denomination. I find it irrelevant to explain democracy further, if you refuse to question or challenge what "our leaders" perception of democracy is. Its as simple as this, you are either a communist or democrat, you cant lead a democratic nation with communist views.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 09:38

      @letsallbefriendsdammit "steal president". how ironic" I've only had one cup of coffee to date and my fingers aren't ready to match my brain.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 09:43

      @nrgx The ANC are a bunch of useless corrupt twats, but a political debate is never going to reverse this or make the populace vote otherwise. People in this country vote for different reasons, and until the opposition and its supporters wake up to this reality, instead of trying to Americanise our politics, they all pissing in the wind.

      nrgx.nrg - 2012-10-17 09:55

      @Fidel - Ok so if you admit that the anc are "bunch of useless corrupt twats", why would you lay your trust in them for the only reason that you have a "personal" vendetta against the US? Yes, democracy is SLIGHTLY different in each country, ONLY, because we are all different people, however, who said that embracing it means embracing the US. Is this some unique, sub-conscious hate towards the pale-skins?

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 10:13

      You have made a cardinal mistake of assuming, that because I disagreed with your views re presidential debate, I must be pro ANC. You then proceed to insinuate that my disagreement with this view is related to my hate for pale skinned people, even though I have pointed out in my preceding comment the reasons for my disagreement. Who is playing the race card now?

      nrgx.nrg - 2012-10-17 10:29

      Fidel - "Who is playing the race card now"... "who only finds a problem with it now" Not so great when the shoe is on the other foot!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 10:40

      Your response neither support you argument nor distract from mine. You have lost this argument sir/madam, give it up before you make a bigger prat out of yourself.

      sxp - 2012-10-17 10:40

      Fidel, at least it will show Zoomer to us for what he really is. He knows, you know and I know exactly how Zille will chew him up and spit him out. CHICKEN!!!!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 10:54

      And how will that enhance the politics of this country. South Africans know about all of Zuma and the ANC' shortcomings already and there's nothing that a political debate can do to illuminate these flaws. What you are all looking for is to have a chance to have a jab at Zuma, something that print media already does in any case. It is political activism that can change the fortunes of the opposition in this country and not some cheap version of Americanised political debate. Get off your comfort zones and start canvassing in townships and convince the people why they should be voting for the opposition (or is that beneath you). The ANC holds branch meetings every month in most townships. It also has a 100 year head start that could never be reduced by Zille debating with Zuma. These are the realities of politics in this country!

      nrgx.nrg - 2012-10-17 11:09

      A loss - interesting outcome, resorting to insults means that the argument is won. I wonder where one learns that...perhaps "african democracy"! A hollow victory is no victory at all, by your standards, we all lose!

  • andrew.arnesen - 2012-10-17 08:34

    Two clowns, one a bald-faced liar, the other an out-of-touch billionaire... So spoiled for choice!

  • Diran - 2012-10-17 08:35

    Obama all the way

      sxp - 2012-10-17 10:42

      Clearly you want to see the USA go tits up then. In your dreams will the southeners forever take the shyte forced on them by these liberal idiots.

  • allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-10-17 08:37

    Debates like this can only benefit a democratic nation , putting candidates , idea's, opinion ,policy and character up for scrutiny by the public and opposition . Not just spoon feeding the public unchallenged policy via closed door oligarchy opinion.

  • John - 2012-10-17 08:44

    I would have hoped that far more South Africans would have seen the benefit of an open debate between the leaders of the two or even 4 biggest political parties debating key issues. Also allowance should be made for phone-in callers and journalists to ask the appropriate questions.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 09:00

      In what language would this debate take place to appeal to "far more South Africans"?

      mfundi.ndaba - 2012-10-17 09:29

      @fidel,In English, what do you think? Why do you have to ask non constructive questions?

      RyanG - 2012-10-17 09:32

      I do think it would be unfair if the debate was conducted in one language, yet the solution is a simple one, hire translators.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 09:48

      @Mfundi My question are non constructive to who? In future, please give it just a few seconds - in your case it might take a little longer - of thought between (mis)reading comments and responding. Thanks

      mfundi.ndaba - 2012-10-17 09:56

      @fidel - This is why things never get done in South Africa. Because we loooove sitting and debating issues that could be solved in one second. Really!! English would be spoken and then the pressing issues. Out here talking about '(mis)reading' comments instead of coming up with more intellectual debates you ponder on a useless matter.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 10:01

      "I would have hoped that far more South Africans would have seen the benefit of an open debate" Mfundi, how is a debate conducted in English able to appeal to "far more South Africans"? You should take a course in remedial reading. It will help you understand better what others are actually saying.

      mfundi.ndaba - 2012-10-17 10:08

      @Fidel, kanti when the president is addressing the nation, what language does he use? Who do you think he's trying to appeal to? As I've said if you had more intelligent things to say you would not be basking in this minor language issue. Things in SA need to get done but instead we have people like you Fidel in office, who want to sit the entire day discussing trivial matters. I'm done with this, I will entertain you when you have something constructive to add or ask.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 10:33

      My response to John was both clear and concise, if you can't grasp the logic in my point there is little more I could say to illuminate you on the matter. In any case, ad hominem insults are just a waste your time, and the News24' server space!

      sxp - 2012-10-17 10:43

      Fidel, English will work just fine. Most people will be glued to their seats watching Zuma get thrashed.

  • graeme.aitken.545 - 2012-10-17 08:53 you know how a mushroom grows ? AFRICAN leaders treat all their citizens like mushrooms, keep then in the dark and feed them sh*t. Debate allows the opposition to expose failures and weaknesses,that AFRICAN governments prefer to hide from the public...that's the point FIDEL....would you prefer to remain a mushroom ?

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 09:08


  • matthys.debeer.5 - 2012-10-17 09:17

    I wish our politicians where intelligent enough to hold a debate, sounds interesting and entertaining.

  • GalacticThomas - 2012-10-17 09:39

    Debate is all good and nice for tv but in reality dey stil don't do what dey promised

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-17 09:45

      A noisy political circus. Just another entertaining reality show!

  • diana.gill.18 - 2012-10-17 10:10

    The only good point of watching those two debating is that they bring so a lot of hidden rubbish out to the surface. Still doesnt make anyone of them to look presidentworthy.

  • sxp - 2012-10-17 10:38

    These two both are owned by the banks under their behind the scenes Zionist Jewish bosses. The Americans elect either to be bitten by a blue or red dog, but both have the end they all die. At least Romney sees the problem they have with unemployment, debt and the Chinese....something Obummer has consistently missed. If he gave the bailout money to the people and not the banks, he would have been a sure winner, which again makes me sure that he is an idiot for missing such an opportunity to be the man of the people.

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