Tonight, Breitbart News will bring you live fact-checking from the Third Presidential Debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, FL, which will focus on foreign policy. (We will also bring you live scores from Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, and from the Monday Night Football clash between the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions.) We will begin at 8 p.m. EDT, with the first pitch in San Francisco. And as a primer for tonight’s foreign policy clash, we recommend this A-Z review of the Obama Doctrine here at Breitbart.com.
8:40 p.m. – The debate is still 20 minutes away, but the first run has been scored–by the San Francisco Giants, who put one run on the board in the bottom of the first inning. Both teams have been hitting well so far.
8:45 p.m. – The Cardinals leave two in scoring position and the Giants’ Matt Cain escapes in the top of the 2nd.
8:50 p.m. – Over at Monday Night Football, the Detroit Lions won the coin toss, but went three-and out. The Chicago Bears scored a touchdown on their opening drive–unusual offensive sparkle in the 1st Quarter.
9:00 p.m. – The Giants put another run on the board before retiring in the bottom of the 2nd inning, and lead St. Louis 2-0, as the audience prepares for the curtain to rise on the debate in Boca Raton, FL.
9:04 p.m. – The first segment concerns Libya–just as in the Vice Presidential debate. This is a question both Obama and Romney have expected, and each is invited to give his thoughts on what happened in Benghazi.
9:05 p.m. – Romney’s response is very cautious, sketching a broad overview of the Arab Spring and the many threats that we and our allies face. He does not attack Obama on Libya, but focuses on the fact that the changes in the region have taken a turn for the worse, especially with Iran moving closer to a nuclear weapon. He speaks specifically about the role of women in the region and gives the President credit for the Osama bin Laden mission but states that “we cannot kill out way out of” the problems facing us in the region.
9:08 p.m. – Obama touts his record, including his record against Al Qaeda and against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. He sounds strong, confident, and calm. Then he turns to Romney and attacks his policies directly, suggesting that they would make Americans less safe, and hinting Romney has held more radical past views.
9:10 p.m. – Romney, sounding more strident, recounts the numerous setbacks that have been suffered in the region. Obama attacks again–the left has to be loving this–by saying that while he’s glad Romney says Al Qaeda is a threat, he recently said Russia was the number one threat. He continues, offering rehearsed lines, attacking Romney directly: “Every time you’ve had an opinion, you’ve been wrong.” This is a carefully rehearsed attack, accusing Romney of inexperience and of embracing outdated policies. Obama contrasts his “strong, steady leadership” with “wrong, reckless leadership” from Romney.
9:13 p.m. – Romney counters more strongly, correcting Obama on his Russia policy, and attacking Obama’s infamous statement to Russia’s leaders that he would have more flexibility after the election. “After the election, we’ll have more backbone,” Romney says. He also takes Obama on over Obama’s claim that Romney would have wanted more troops in Iraq, pointing out that Obama had the same position until failing to secure a Status of Forces agreement. Obama counters with talk about equitable development across the region.
Score: 10-8 Obama. Both candidates said more or less what they needed to; Obama was more confident.
9:17 p.m. – The Chicago Bears have kicked a field goal and now lead the visiting Lions 10-0 in the 1st.
9:20 p.m. – The second question is about Syria. Obama claims that his policy is succeeding at encouraging the forces of moderation inside the country, and says that Romney’s approach of arming opponents of the regime (wasn’t that something Vice President Joe Biden said the administration was doing?) was dangerous. Romney counters by painting a broader strategic picture, pointing out that Syria is one of Iran’s most important allies and that his policy is to identify genuine allies among the opposition to receive support.
9:21 p.m. – Obama respondes by referring to Libya, defending his intervention and again attacking Romney’s policy, in which Romney suggested that going after Gaddafi was “mission creep.” (Romney is not given a chance to respond to Obama’s attack. At all. The pattern continues.) Schieffer instead asks whether Romney would put a no-fly zone over Syria. Romney explains that he would not involve the U.S. military in Syria, particularly because the U.S. has partners in the region with enough resources to do what is necessary. Obama answers that Romney does not have different ideas because “we’re doing what we should be doing.”
Score: 10-9 Obama. And let it be noted that Obama won the round because he got a free shot at Romney.
9:25 p.m. – The third question is about Obama’s response to Egypt, and whether he was right to back the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. Obama launches into a long monologue about how his administration is trying to help foster greater openness and enlightenment in the region, and then turns his answer towards discussing how he wants to focus more on nation-building at home. When it’s Romney’s turn, he explains why he, too, supported Mubarak’s ouster. He then takes a step back to describe America’s mission in the Middle East, noting that we have no choice but to be involved in the region, and so we need to be strong. That means a strong economy, a lower debt, and a prepared military, as well as strong allies in the region.
Score: 10-9 Romney. Romney’s answer was bigger, more sweeping in scope, and more fluent.
9:29 p.m. – In San Francisco, the Giants have a 7-0 lead as they rack up 5 runs in the bottom of the 3rd.
9:30 p.m. – A reader notes that the camera has zoomed in far closer on Obama than on Romney.
9:32 p.m. – The fourth question is about America’s role in the world, and how each candidate would define it. Romney answers well, placing an emphasis on values of freedom and human rights. He takes his first jab at Obama–indirectly–by pointing out that the U.S. failed to stand with the Iranian people when they rose up against their leaders. Obama’s vision is of an “indispensable” America, and he claims that America is stronger now than it was four years ago. He adds that the U.S. needs to develop more at home, citing “clean energy” technologies and blasting Romney’s budget plan–a refrain that sounds awkward in this context.
9:33 p.m. – Obama’s attack on Romney’s domestic policy gives Romney an opportunity to drive home his policies, including his five-point economic plan, which he does with fluency and conviction. He does seem somewhat more comfortable with domestic policies, and it was likely a mistake for Obama to leave him this opening. Obama does not counter by stating what his own economic plan would be, but simply by attacking Romney’s policies. Obama then pivots to education policy, repeating lines from the first debate about how he would hire more teachers–and then attacking Romney for allegedly opposing more teacher hires. Romney counters by defending his education record in Massachusetts. Obama interrupts–not for the first time–and says, “That happened before you came into office!” Twice. Romney grants him the first, but not the second.
Score: 10-9 Romney. Romney took advantage of the opportunity left by Obama to talk domestic policy.
9:40 p.m. – We’re seeing Schieffer start to direct questions at Romney that are specific to Romney–and here, in the fifth question, he asks Romney how he would pay for increased defense spending. Romney defends his budget–but Schieffer interrupts several times. This question is a setup for Obama to attack Romney and is typical of the behavior we saw from Candy Crowley in the second debate, though Schieffer is more subtle.
9:42 p.m. – Romney counters Obama by talking about his experience balancing budgets in business and in government. He turns the discussion back to military budgets–and Schieffer seems to want to stop him from doing so, despite complaining earlier that the debate had wandered off foreign policy. Romney unloads a well-rehearsed argument about the dangers of pending cuts to the armed forces. Obama tries to evade responsibility for the sequester, saying that “it’s something Congress has proposed”–but, of course, he signed it. Obama says that Romney hasn’t studied the military, and offers condescending (but in his mind, no doubt, effective) put-downs about how this isn’t a game of Battleship and we don’t have bayonets anymore, either.
Score: 10-10 Draw. A setup by Schieffer leads plenty of numbers from Romney and snark from Obama.
9:46 p.m. – Over in Chicago, the Lions block a field goal attempt by Robbie Gould, leaving the score 10-0.
9:50 p.m. – The sixth question is about Israel, Iran, and red lines. Obama talks about the importance of the alliance with Israel, and claims that he has united the world against Iran. He adds–of course–an attack on Romney’s policy, or rather a straw-man version thereof, suggesting that Romney would embark on “premature” military action. Romney’s response is comprehensive, calling not only for economic sanctions but for indicting the Iranian regime for genocide. He adds that a military response “is the last resort.”
Score: 10-10 Draw. Each candidate gave a fairly good summary of his own positions. Obama still attacking.
9:55 p.m. – The seventh question, a follow-up to the sixth, is about what a “deal” with Iran would look like. Obama starts off by denying reports of a deal for talks with Iran in the New York Times, then states that a deal would involve Iran giving up its nuclear program (this is not, in fact, Obama’s actual position). Obama again attacks Romney: “You’d do the same things we did, but say them louder.” Romney is not taking the bait, so far, and looking back on the first half of the debate–especially the first question–it is clear that he has made a strategic choice to play it safe and solid.
Romney’s response criticizes “this administration” for “weakness, where they [Iran] expected to find American strength.” (Hang on–reports of a “safe and solid” strategy may be premature.) Romney brings up Obama’s record of weakness, going back to Obama’s commitment in 2008 to meet enemy leaders without preconditions, and tracing Obama’s policies to the present, including the Obama administration’s attempt to create (but not acknowledge) “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel. Romney calls for a policy of greater pressure.
Obama says that “nothing” Romney says is true, and tries to defend against the “preconditions” claim by citing fact-checkers. (However, it is, indisputably, true.) He goes after Romney for allegedly investing in a Chinese state oil company with dealings with Iran. And he says that he was “very clear” about Iran’s “murderous” actions. (Which, of course, was not how he reacted, at all.) Obama closes by saying he will not allow Iran to achieve a nuclear weapon.
Romney responds by saying that the administration has given Iran four more years to move closer to a nuclear weapon–and adds that Obama’s “apology” tour visited everyone except Israel, and that our enemies noticed. Obama–clearly irritated–talks about his visit to Israel as a candidate, including Yad Vashem (which he makes a show of explaining to Romney is the Holocaust museum). Obama ends by posing the question as which candidate is going to be be more credible as a leader, and who will “stand on the right side of history.”
Score: 10-9 Romney. Obama had three chances to speak; Romney had only two, but Romney was forceful.
10:00 p.m. – The score is still 10-0 in Chicago late in the first half, but the Bears’ Charles Tillman has forced yet another fumble. In San Francisco, at the top of the 5th, the score is still 7-0 in favor of the Giants.
10:04 p.m. – The eighth question is about a hypothetical situation involving bombers in the air. Romney rejects the hypothetical and talks about how the U.S. is now weaker throughout the world. Obama responds by accusing Romney of having inconsistent positions, and suggesting that he would not have gone after Osama bin Laden. Romney asks for a chance to respond, and Schieffer rejects it. Again, again, again.
Score: 10-9 Obama. And largely because Romney was prevented from responding. What could he do?
10:07 p.m. – The ninth question is about Afghanistan, and Romney answers first, talking about how he wants to bring American troops home but wants to ensure that Pakistan does not become a failed state. (Again–for the fourth time this evening, I believe–Romney stresses areas of agreement with Obama.) Obama talks about his record, and paints a broad picture about why he sent additional troops to Afghanistan in the first place. This is a wise move, because it takes the focus off a troubled withdrawal that Obama calls “pulling out responsibly.” Obama, once again, turns the conversation towards “nation-building” at home, focusing on veterans coming back from war and looking for work, and mentioning the First Lady. An excellent answer.
Score: 10-8 Obama. Romney looked competent but Obama was able to make the most of the question.
10:10 p.m. – The tenth question is about whether we should “divorce” Pakistan. For some reason Romney is called upon to answer first, yet again. (This would be the fourth question in a row where Obama has the last word–another mainstream media moderating failure.) Romney says we should not and cannot divorce Pakistan.
10:11 p.m. – Schieffer does not ask Obama to answer the tenth question, but moves on to an eleventh, asking Romney whether he approves the use of drones. Romney gives a straightforward answer, stating that he approves of the use of drones but that we need to look at the bigger picture, and whether the U.S. is achieving its broader goals in countering Iran, pushing Al Qaeda “on its heels,” and encouraging peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Obama’s answer is that America should be proud of having stood up for democracy. But he adds an awkward declaration: “This nation–me–I stood up…”.
Score: 10-9 Romney. Romney was more successful in describing a foreign policy in need of change. (I am scoring the tenth and eleventh as one question, despite Schieffer asking Romney as a compound question.)
10:17 p.m. – Both candidates are asked what the greatest threat to America is. Obama says China, and talks about how he has fought for American industry, adding the by-now-customary attack on Romney’s position, saying that Romney’s budget and policies are weak. Romney, addressing Obama directly, says that the real threat is a nuclear Iran–and then returns to the issue of China. He argues that China sees the U.S. growing weaker because of the administration’s policies, citing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta describing the upcoming defense cuts as “devastating.” Romney pledges to label China a currency manipulator on “day one,” and to act against Chinese intellectual property theft, enforcing a free trade that requires playing by the rules.
10:20 p.m. – Schieffer follows up with Romney by saying that “some people” would say his policies would ignite a trade war. Romney answers very well, saying that a) China doesn’t want a trade war, and b) it is already winning a silent trade war, i.e. the trade balance between our two countries. Obama counters by attacking Romney, snarkily, for investing in “companies that ship jobs overseas.” He brings up the auto bailout, again, saying that if Romney had his way we’d be buying cars from China instead of selling them to China (a complete distortion not only of Romney’s position but also of the way the auto industry works. China is buying American cars made in China–not made in the U.S. by American workers and exported to China).
10:24 p.m. – Romney counters on the auto industry, talking about his roots in Detroit and explaining his opposition to the bailout–which, he points out, was a Bush policy. Obama interrupts over and over again, looking smug and glowering on the split screen. Romney continues to speak, and seems to be inviting the moderator to, you know, moderate the debate. “I’m still speaking,” Romney says–at least twice–and Obama seems to know that he has overstepped a boundary. Romney turns directly to Obama and talks about how his policies of intervention are failing. Obama accuses Romney of distorting his past position and Romney, now, interrupts for the first time this evening: “You’re wrong.” He says it with conviction, and Obama looks less certain. Obama’s attempt to channel Biden in this question seems to have strengthened Romney’s answer.
Romney answers–Schieffer has, finally, let him answer last–countering Obama’s statement that “we don’t want to go back to the past” by agreeing, saying that “the past” are the four years of Obama’s term. Romney talks about the hardships of the last four years–and Obama looks directly at him, alternately glowering and smirking. (He evidently thinks he is winning, but I don’t think he knows how strange it looks on television.)
Score: 10-8 Romney. This was Romney’s best round, and Obama damaged himself by interrupting.
10:30 p.m. – Closing statements begin, and Obama has the first opportunity. He points at the camera, warns about going back to the policies of the past, and talks again about “nation-building at home.” It sounds quite boilerplate, and a little too stern. Romney begins: “I’m optimistic about our future.” Unlike Obama, he touches on foreign policy, folding his hands in a quaint manner, smiling gently at the camera. He ends on a note of bipartisanship–“We’re going to need a president who can work across the aisle”–and cites his record in Massachusetts. He ends by describing the task ahead as one of completing the work of prior generations.
Score: 10-9 Romney. A more optimistic, less awkward, and rather more presidential closing statement.
10:36 p.m. – Fox News suggests that Obama spoke for longer than Romney, once again. Adding scores now.
10:38 p.m. – Final Score: 114-113 for Romney. Romney won a narrow victory tonight, against an aggressive opponent, a time disadvantage, and a moderator with a thumb on the scales. He could have attacked Obama on Libya, but did not, and chose his areas of disagreement very carefully. Obama did not waste an opportunity to attack his opponent–and that was to his detriment, because it took him away from the task of outlining a clear agenda for the next four years beyond “nation-building.” Romney did what he came to do, which was to look stable and presidential. Obama failed to disqualify–or defeat–his opponent.
10:45: p.m. – The other two contests tonight are nowhere near as close–in fact, both are shutouts so far, with the Bears now leading the Lions 13-0 in the 3rd, and the Giants still up 7-0 over the Cardinals in the 7th.
12:00 a.m. – The Bears are on top of the NFC North, and the Giants win the pennant.