Final Debate: Horses, Bayonets and More

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) debates with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at Lynn University on October 22, 2012 in Boca Raton, Florida. President Barack Obama debates Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at Lynn University on October 22, 2012 in Boca Raton, Florida. (Marc Serota/Getty)

President Obama and Mitt Romney traded barbs over Libya, Egypt, Iran, military spending, and more. Michele Kelemen, NPR correspondent covering diplomacy and the foreign desk, discusses last night's final debate.

→ Post-Debate Resources: Transcript and Audio | AP Fact-Check |  Live Chat Transcript

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Watch Video Highlights and the Full Debate Below



Michele Kelemen

Comments [32]

Mr. Brian Lehrer,

I heard a snippet of your show this morning discussing the last presidential debate.
You said, in effect, maybe after replaying the "horses & bayonets" clip, that President Obama was insulting Romney
every chance he got during that debate.

Well, I was insulted by your remark.
So, I ask: Where have you been for the past four years? You do realize that every negative, condescending, racial insult has been hurled at President Obama (and his wife!). What do you think of a person like John Sununu? Every sentient person of color is most likely aware of such insults, if they are not considering themselves caucasian.

Occasionally, you have to give up trying to achieve "balance".
Thank you.

Oct. 23 2012 07:12 PM
JT from LI

@Calls'em as I sees'em
Watch Fox "News" for 1/2 a day? I have a few friends that unfortunately watch Fox. Any time they come to me with some new "facts" about Obama it takes me approximately 5 seconds to search on the internet to show that Fox was wrong. Either facts are deliberately distorted, quotes are taken out of context or things are just made up. You should watch this short clip from last night's Daily Show to see some of the actual "facts" stated on Fox:

Oct. 23 2012 02:54 PM
michele from Westchester

Just wondering why everyone refers to Romney as "Governor". This is a pet peeve of mine, in general, in the way it ignores a major point of the founding of this country: no more aristocracy. So why do we perpetuate a sense of entitlement re elected positions, where simply winning one election one time gives one permanent status? In an election year this seems particularly egregious, and if I were, e.g., a 4th grade teacher I'd be pretty upset at how difficult it makes it for my students to learn US civics and history.

Oct. 23 2012 12:01 PM

@Calls'em from McLean, VA

Facts from the real world:

1. Bush and the GOP doubled the national debt from $5t to $11T. FY 2009 deficit was $1.5T. Bigger than any deficit under Obama.
2. The GOP cut $450M from the State Dept's security budget over the last 2 years. Part of the blood in Bengazi is on the elephant's hide.

I know these won't jibe with the FoxNews versions that you have bathed yourself in but it can't hurt to try.

Oct. 23 2012 11:31 AM

It's the big irony of the "horses and bayonetts" comment that we just dedicated a statue at the World Trade Center that honors the horseback riders who were the first to invade Afghanistan?

Oct. 23 2012 11:30 AM
Calls'em from McLean, VA

@ Erica P - Love the "Rmoney." Nothing gets past you schoolmarm liberals. "Rmoney" says it all. Romney is successful and has made tons of money including billions for millions of people in their pensions, stocks, bonds and mutual funds; and 0bama is a zero who has wasted trillions and run up our debt to the breaking point. Technically, given his debt, 0bama is less than zero or "0bama

Oct. 23 2012 11:20 AM

@ Calls'em from McLean, VA

"Romney is leading 51-45% nationally..." Among landline phone users who take calls from blocked phone numbers. Not really representative, is it?

Romney is behind Obama among women, latinos, blacks, young. Romney leads among men, rural voters, military. How many votes has Rove managed to cage? We shall see.

If Romney loses will the GOP man-up and start voting on things? I doubt it. They behave like spoiled children who think the country 'belongs' to them.

Oct. 23 2012 11:17 AM
JCL from Cold Spring, NY

Obama could have summed up Romney's "I'll say anything, anytime, anywhere" nonsense and had the sound byte that keeps giving with two sentences last night.

"I'm glad to hear you suddenly agree with literally every foreign policy position I've undertaken. I have a position at State opening up at the start of my second term; I'll put your resume in my binder full of Yes Men."

Oct. 23 2012 11:16 AM

@Calls'em as I sees'em from McLean, VA

Here's a tip: if you're at all interested in having people take you seriously, avoid churlish ploys like spelling Obama with a zero. No quicker way to signal to people that you're not worth spending a whit of time with. (This applies equally to tactics such as spelling the other guy's name as "Rmoney.")

Oct. 23 2012 10:49 AM
Calls'em from McLean, VA

All you liberals are whistling past the grave yard. Romney is leading 51-45% nationally, winning or drawing near everywhere, even among women. 0bama has been a miserable failure in the past with no specific plans for the future that he is willing to talk about, though he still wants "cap & trade" to drive energy and food prices even higher among other horrors of statism run amok. Most of you folks will be broke, hungry and homeless if 0bama is reelected. Half of you libs would be voting for Romney if you watched Fox News for 1/2 of the day for the next two weeks. You rarely hear the truth on this station, though it has great coverage of everything but politics. It is totally biased for the left.

Oct. 23 2012 10:47 AM
dan from brooklyn

@ JT from LI:

Agree completely. It's astounding that he's been able to change his positions, in open view, so many times and still remain a viable candidate. I think the media overall have greatly enabled Romney in this regard. He's pretty much been allowed to lie openly throughout this campaign and get away with it. Hopefully the voters can see past the spinning, flip-flopping, etch-a-sketching, etc., but it still does not speak well for this country that an election between these two candidates could even be close.

Oct. 23 2012 10:41 AM
seth mosler from manhattan

there are no undecided voters. There is a Black progressive running against a White conservative. People say they are undecided to get attention.

Oct. 23 2012 10:39 AM
mem from NYC

Who was that lefty peacenik that was claiming to be Mitt Romney?

Oct. 23 2012 10:39 AM
JT from LI

@Calls'em as I sees'em
I'd be calm like Romney if I could say anything I wanted and get away with it.

@Martin Chuzzlewit
Wow. No defense of Romney? Just a complaint that people aren't in love with him? That's OK. We understand.

Oct. 23 2012 10:32 AM

Romney showed himself to be a liar and a bully.
Don’t we deserve better. It’s up to us now!

Oct. 23 2012 10:28 AM
Leo from queens

Mr. McLean VA: Obama's point is that the military (and Navy) are much more complex) than just the number of ships it has. We spend more than the next 10 largest militaries combined. Granted, Obama did not do a great job of emphasizing the work that is being done with cyber warfare and other more nimble units designed to fight these none state groups.
Romney did not show he is an intelligent, reasonable person. He showed he has no values and no convictions and will do and say ANYTHING to get his next price without regards to the consequences. He showed ignorance.

I loved his recitation of facts that we all know: "The Taliban and Hakani are in Pakistan..." or NON FACTS such as " Syria provides Iran access to the sea!!" This is an ignorant fool. God helps us if he wins

Oct. 23 2012 10:26 AM

@Calls'em as I sees'em from McLean, VA

You do realize that:

A the polling has Obama winning this debate 53-42
B. Submarines were first used in the Revolutionary War (The Turtle). The Civil War vessel Hunley (9 man crew) certainly was a boat but I'm not sure if CSA craft should be counted as 'we'.
C. Your style of rhetoric is patronizing. I trade in it and thus can spot it right away.

Try arguing from facts to conclusion.

Oct. 23 2012 10:25 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Ah, yes - two Americans, running for President, pandering for the "pro-Israel" vote in Florida.

"Martin Chuzzlewit" - that didn't make your list of "ugly and divisive identity politics" Didn't think so.

Oct. 23 2012 10:24 AM
Amy from Manhattan

I didn't hear Mitt Romney say anything about (yet again) *how* he'd pursue nonmilitary means of nationbuilding; what does he even mean by supporting moderates in other countries? And how would he pay for it when he wants to add more funding for the military & cut just about everything else?

Oct. 23 2012 10:22 AM
Nancy from Manhattan

The point is, Romney's alleged positions taken in the debate last night cannot be trusted because they're the opposite or different from positions he's taken over the years, particularly in the primary competition. Hopefully the remaining undecided voters will compare Romney's statements last night and in weeks/months/years past.

And by the way, although I'm glad you're focusing on content, let's not forget to mention that the President was strong and decisive while Romney was mealy-mouthed and almost rambling in spots.

Oct. 23 2012 10:20 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Now Romney is the Peace and love candidate. If you are a true conservative, you should be nervous that President Mitt will inevitably turn back to a quasi-liberal Massachusetts Republican. We all know he will.

Oct. 23 2012 10:17 AM
Rich P from Long Island

I just wonder if Mitt's air force will have planes with windows that roll down.

Oct. 23 2012 10:17 AM

risk of continuing proliferation of n korea missles?

global/national environment as national security (or moral) issue?

Oct. 23 2012 10:16 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

I’m Barack Obama ……. and I approve this message.

(Thanks, Brian. Things aren’t going so well right now. I’m going to need all the help that you folks at NPR promised me.)

Oct. 23 2012 10:16 AM
Leo from QUEENS

Romney did not embrace Obama. He latched on to Obama like a leech. The objective was to reject his real policies and views and to make voters who are not too engaged to feel that there is no difference between him and Obama.

This guy has no core, no morals and no values. That is extremely dangerous considering the war criminals who orquestrated the Iraq war who he has on staff formulating his foreign policy.

This is a malleable piece of clay to be molded by whomever controls him.
Shameless performance!!

Oct. 23 2012 10:15 AM

you can't have a debate if the 2 guys agree on everything.

Oct. 23 2012 10:14 AM

btw we could bring the troops home today.

Oct. 23 2012 10:12 AM
Calls'em as I sees'em from McLean, VA

At first I didn't realize what the heck Romney was doing, but as I watched 0bama's lips turn purple, I remembered Mohammad Ali's old game of "Rope a Dope." While 0bama seemed petty and angry, Romney seemed stalwart and steady. 0bama acted to invigorate his declining base by being animated, confrontational and lying, but Romney showed that he is an intelligent, reasonable and peaceful man and he probably picked up a couple of percentage points among the ever decreasing "undecided voters." Well played President Romney, well played. BTW - the Army still uses horses in tough terrains all over the world, the Marines still use bayonets and both submarines and air craft carriers are not new, we have submarines since the Civil War and carriers were first tested by the US in 1910. 0bama should also know that neither of those vessels are "boats." It continues to be clear that he never learned American history while in school as a kid in Indonesia and I guess he was too high in high school to remember much. The truth hurts, but not as much as the deliberate lies of this regime.

Oct. 23 2012 10:12 AM

Obama ran as a peace candidate and he has been anything but. We need a completely new foriegn policy not screwing and killing people. Obama won the debate because he had more "zingers", not because he had better ideas. We are lost.

Oct. 23 2012 10:11 AM
JT from LI

Romney used the primaries to reverse his positions from the past and the debates to reverse his positions from the primaries. His big plan is quite simply to fix everything. He won't tell us how but he will fix them. Everything Obama has done has been disastrous, except for where Romney says he would have done the same. But he only says he would have done the same if he was talking to the undecided folks. He told conservatives that he would look at what Obama plans to do and then do the exact opposite of Obama.

No matter how much you hate Obama and his policies, I don't see how anyone can vote for Romney. He's changed positions on almost everything this year, in some cases twice, and he has not said what he will do about anything. He's a salesman doing whatever he has to to close the deal. Is this really the best candidate the republicans could find?

Oct. 23 2012 09:57 AM
Joe Mirsky from Pompton Lakes, NJ

“I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. That includes all elements of American power: A political effort aimed at isolating Iran, a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored, an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.

Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”
— President Obama, address to the American-Israel Public affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference Washington, D.C. March 4, 2012 11:10 - 11:42 A.M.

“This is a president who has failed to put in place crippling sanctions against Iran. He’s also failed to communicate that military options are on the table and in fact in our hand, and that it’s unacceptable to America for Iran to have a nuclear weapon.”
—Mitt Romney, Snellville Georgia, March 4, 2012 1:09 P.M.

Sanctions choke off Iran oil output
Iran’s oil production has fallen to a 10-year low and could drop to levels last seen during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s as sanctions over its nuclear programme disrupt an industry already suffering from years of underinvestment….
Tehran’s oil output had already been in long-term decline as previous US sanctions deterred foreign oil companies from investing, starving Iran of the technology needed to boost its flagging production.
— Financial Times March 14, 2012.

Oct. 23 2012 09:45 AM
MFan from Staten Island

I admit, I watched the last two, but I did not watch the debate last night because I CANNOT STAND to hear another thing about the freaking Libyan embassy. The fact that we're talking about this at all in a presidential debate is absurd. There are simply more important things for a president to have on his agenda than the status of each of our ~200 embassies. Not to downplay any loss of four lives, but as just two examples: 1,500+ die every day from cancer, 800+ from obesity. Let's have 90 minutes on that, please?

Besides, what could their differences on foreign policy possibly be? They are both hawks with just slightly different approaches on who and what to bomb. The notion that Obama is "weak" on foreign policy is such an utterly laughable canard that facts to not corroborate.

Oct. 23 2012 08:44 AM

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