Obama savages Romney in last debate

2012-10-23 07:16

Washington - Barack Obama pummelled Mitt Romney as "all over the map" on foreign policy, dismissing his "wrong and reckless" leadership in a heated final debate of a knife-edge White House race.

With just two weeks until polling day, Obama has unexpectedly found himself running neck-and-neck with his once unfancied challenger, and Monday's face-off on world affairs was perhaps a last chance to land a decisive blow.

"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," President Obama told his foe, coming out swinging in the debate in Boca Raton, Florida.

Played it safe

Republican challenger Romney played it safe, avoiding any catastrophic error that would have undermined his claims to be commander-in-chief, but was often on the defensive, apart from when lambasting Obama over the struggling economy.

"Attacking me is not an agenda," the former Massachusetts governor told the president, and renewed charges that Obama had mounted "apology tours" abroad, prompting the president to accuse him of telling a "whopper".

Obama had the best lines of the night and sharply cross-examined Romney on his approach to Syria, Iran and trade rows with China, accusing him "airbrushing history" by dumping earlier hawkish conservative positions.

The Republican, who has spent months attempting to paint Obama as weak and as an appeaser, actually backed much of the substance of the president's global strategy, courting wavering voters ahead of the November 6 election.

He endorsed Obama's decision to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, supported the president's lethal drone war against terror suspects and congratulated him for hunting down Osama bin Laden, in clear bid to moderate his image.


Romney vowed to press China harder on trade and currency issues but toned down earlier rhetoric, following warnings his approach could spark a trade war.

"We can be a partner with China. We don't have to be an adversary in any way, shape or form," he said, despite his vow to brand Beijing a currency manipulator on day one of his presidency.

An instant poll by CBS News found that Obama won the debate by 53% to 23%, after a clash that appeared to polish his leadership credentials and saw him showing the passion missing in his disastrous first debate.

CNN's poll found Obama beat Romney to 48% to 40%.

But foreign policy is seen as unlikely to decide the election, with voters pre-occupied by the sluggish economy, and it will take several days to gauge whether the clash had any impact in the tied up polls.

Dotty Lynch, professor of Public Communication at American University said that by agreeing with Obama on foreign policy - the incumbent's strong suit - Romney had tried to manoeuvre the evening onto more favourable ground.

"By agreeing on the big points of foreign policy, Romney played it safe tonight, and tried to move the conversation to the economy where he thinks he's stronger," she said.

Obama looked bemused, puzzled and exasperated by Romney's tactics, staring intently at him as he spoke, apparently trying to keep frustration in check, as he nodded to debate moderator Bob Schieffer that he wanted a rebuttal.

"On a whole range of issues, whether it is in the Middle East, Afghanistan, whether it is in Iraq, whether it is in Iran, you have been all over the map," he told his challenger as they sat side-by-side on a semi-circular table.

Horses and bayonets

Obama dismissed Romney's claims that that he had run down the armed forces to levels not seen since early in the 20th Century.

"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," he said, to laughter from the audience.

"We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines."

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, warned Islamic extremism was rampant in post-Arab Spring societies and blamed a lack of US leadership over the last four years, and cautioned "we can't kill our way out of this mess".

Romney also called on Obama to do more to end violence in Syria and demanded tightened sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme.

"I thought they saw weakness where they had been expected to find American strength," Romney said of leaders in Tehran.

The Republican also accused Obama of creating unhelpful tension between America and its ally Israel.

Foreign tour

Obama also launched a scathing attack on Romney's foreign tour as a candidate earlier this year, saying when he had been running for the White House he visited US troops and the went to Israel to reflect on the Holocaust.

"I didn't take donors," Obama charged, alluding to the fact that Romney carried out a political fundraiser with wealthy Jewish supporters in Israel.

The president, who withdrew troops from Iraq, pointed to Romney's past statements in support of maintaining an unpopular US military presence in the country, invaded in 2003 under former Republican president George W Bush.

And he mocked Romney's previous statement that Russia was America's top geopolitical foe.

"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," Obama said.

The rivals are effectively tied in national polls after Romney surged following his first debate win in early October and started chipping away at Obama's foundation in the swing states that will decide the election.

- Are you in the US? Send us your thoughts about the run-up to the elections.

  • lulama - 2012-10-23 07:27

    Wish the american 'circus' was over already.

      summer.mackenzie.96 - 2012-10-23 07:29

      and here we just have an ongoing circus

      megala.arxithia - 2012-10-23 08:29

      The American 'circus' is democracy in action. Two big parties with their voters in mind are sluggin it out. In SA, one major party messing up and robbing the country blind remains in power because of no reason other than the fact that South African's vote on race. That to me is the real circus that is turning into a bloodbath slowly but surely!!

      Willie - 2012-10-23 09:17

      Our SA circus is permanent no chance of stopping in a million years

      francois.smith.7 - 2012-10-23 12:41

      Then don't read stuff on it.

      jack.russel.14268769 - 2012-10-23 12:56

      I recall the 1st debate where Romney kicked Osama to the curb, and not a peep in the press

      tom.guy.37669528 - 2012-10-23 16:16

      The US circus is all about who can appease the Wall Street oligarchs the most, while still making out to be "for the people" in the most convincing way.

      roi.boss1 - 2012-10-23 19:21

      So funny little nobodys calling Obama Osama. Now that there is a lolest moment

  • elewies - 2012-10-23 07:27

    Watching the debate now. Damn Romney is just all over the place.

      jo.barton.92 - 2012-10-23 07:37

      I would love to see Zuma debate against Obama, he is so scared to take Zille on, can you imagine how Obama would have torn him apart?

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-23 08:56

      Really Kevin, what do you know about African political traditions? Ever heard of the concepts of Imbizo, lekgotla,etc. didn't think so. Your ignorance about African affairs would be shocking weren't it for the fact that ignorance pumps adrenalin into the veins of its victims with an unusual aplomb!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-23 10:05

      One of two things, either your memory span is roughly equivalent to a fruit fly's, or you just have some sort of disorder that causes your memory to reset every night.

      mike.lindsay.7927 - 2012-10-23 10:40

      Fidel. We await your full response to Bussbar's question. - 2012-10-23 10:54

      Yes c'mon Fidel, where is the articulate response? Or has this fruit fly climbed into your ear and sucked your brains out ( then subsequently died of starvation...). The only time an Imbizo was held was to decide whether to rape, murder and pillage or change the order to pillage murder then rape. The lekgotlas were then held to decide whether the goats would be included in the above chain of events...

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-23 11:10

      Stupid questions have no answers. If you have no idea how nation states developed, including those in Europe, I am under no obligation to educate you.

  • marc.vantubbergh - 2012-10-23 07:55

    politics is just the ,very distracting, entertainment wing for big business....keeps us riveted to our seats with fear and laughter.

      elewies - 2012-10-23 21:52

      "Politics is theater for ugly people"- James Carville (I think its him that said it)

  • gift.rode - 2012-10-23 07:58

    Americans are thorough when it comes to their presidential elections here we just go and vote for credible opposition because the anc chossses the president for us

  • brian.semake - 2012-10-23 07:59

    I wish one day in South Africa we could have a system whereby we can vote for a candidate of our own choice rather than having to vote for someone imposed on us

      elewies - 2012-10-23 08:32

      You don't have to vote ANC. If you don't like the candidate they put forward, vote for another party's candidate

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-23 08:46

      No one is imposed on you, Zuma was voted for by ANC branches, who are free to nominate anyone in the ANC). Both parties in the US had primaries (elective conferences of presidential candidates), not dissimilar to the ANC elective conferences.

      sarecen.smith - 2012-10-23 14:47

      u dont have to,or are you stuck in a vote for anc only mind set..

      shannon.wright.9887 - 2012-10-23 19:19

      @Fidel: American primaries are quite different to ANC elective conferences, as American voters choose the candidates. So you actually have two choices: you vote for the person you like best in the primary, and then you vote again in the general election. Quite unlike the ANC choosing your candidates for you.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-24 07:21

      "Fidel: American primaries are quite different to ANC elective conferences, as American voters choose the candidates." It's not American voters who choose their (party)candidates, it's the voters of the respective parties, not dissimilar to ANC members choosing their candidates!

  • larry.piggott1 - 2012-10-23 08:02

    I think that this reporter was listening to a different debate? I feel that Romney and Obama were equal in this. On Domestic economy, Romney was ahead and he held his own on Foreign policy.

      nick.armstrong.1800 - 2012-10-23 14:10

      Well said Casters - on every point! :)

      koo.doyle - 2012-10-24 10:27

      I think you were listening to a different one. It is clear that Obama had the upper hand.

  • clem.human - 2012-10-23 08:06

    I am embarrassed to compare SA leadership with American leadership - must be nice to have potential leaders who are not crooks and womanisers like dear Jacob Zuma, apart from an absolute moron. Anyway, we get what we deserve

      koo.doyle - 2012-10-23 08:15

      Like Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton? Or how about a real moron like George W? The majority of politicians are crooked in some way.

      darryl.rebello.90 - 2012-10-23 09:13 seems that you are the angry person whose response to another person's view is to be insulting...seems that you are a recent graduate of the JULIUS MALEMA SCHOOL of PUBLIC DEBATE...and I really mean to be insulting here...and I also don't think Obama was any great shake

      koo.doyle - 2012-10-24 10:28

      casters if you want to see a moron, look in the mirror you brainless tool.

  • Megan Fourie - 2012-10-23 08:06

    Maybe we should try to do our elections the american way. We only make the ANC stronger with all these small parties. I bet that we will win against the ANC if we stand together!

      Tshepo Tyma Nathan - 2012-10-23 10:41

      Good luck Megan. I think u gonna need 1, if you really think you can oust the ANC.

      sivinhoricardo.mdazuka - 2012-10-23 15:22

      Who are ''we'' exactly? DA? White?

  • robbie.crouch - 2012-10-23 08:12

    The media's picture is skewed towards Obama... not that it matters much... both candidates are less evolved than pond scum.

  • Truth.nnete - 2012-10-23 08:50

    Why foreign policies are important to USA what makes other countries their business?SMH

  • angela.nair.3 - 2012-10-23 11:07

    I love Obama - he can park his shoes under my bed anytime!!! Thats how a politician should look - a lean, mean fighting machine - not these ugly bunch of money grabbing politicians that we have - if they get their priorities right and went to the gym more often then things would be great here - better the American circus then the South African farce - our politics are like a comedy of errors - God knows where we headed - our youth are suffering - our school kids are going to be non achievers - job creation is getting out of reach - Ancyl ordered tons of t-shirts and caps for youth day - instead of a job agenda - it is truly time to say - Cry the beloved Country!

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-23 12:28

      Mr Trollip, is that you?

  • Carlton - 2012-10-23 11:15

    Why do we care who the Americans vote for, I dont see Americans giving a rats a** who we vote for. Do they even know where South Africa is, bet they think its an island somewhere South of Haiti. And I would vote Romney never been a socialist.

      pule.lepitla - 2012-10-23 14:37

      STFU you Carlton FOOL! U care more than anyone on this site!

      pule.lepitla - 2012-10-23 14:46

      STFU you Carlton FOOL! U care more than anyone on this site!

  • gerrit.vanpletzen - 2012-10-23 12:18

    Romney is a wanker!

  • gerrit.vanpletzen - 2012-10-23 12:20

    @ Fidel. Do you say South Africa is a developing nation state ?

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-10-23 12:27

      Why are you people persistent in asking stupid questions, a self serving practice that enables some abstract commentary that has no relation to the facts at hand. Is this some kind of therapy, or some grief coping mechanism that you've developed.

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