As Obama/Romney Agree on Afghan War, Israel & Syria, 3rd Parties Give Alternative
In the last of our exclusive "Expanding the Debate" series, we bring you highlights of our coverage of last night’s final presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney, with the added voices of third-party candidates. As Obama and Romney faced off for the last time before the general election, we once again broke the sound barrier by inserting Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party into the discussion. In an evening focused on foreign policy, both Obama and Romney shared wide agreement on issues including support for the Israeli government, the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, and opposition to U.S. military involvement in Syria. But they clashed over a few key points, including military spending, negotiating with Iran, and responding to the Libyan embassy attack. Before a live audience in San Rafael, California, we aired the Obama-Romney debate and paused the tape to give Stein and Anderson a chance to respond in real time to the same questions put to the major-party candidates.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re on the road in our 100-city tour in San Rafael, California.
President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney squared off Monday night in Boca Raton, Florida, in their final presidential debate before the November 6 general election. In a debate focused on foreign policy, both candidates agreed on a number of issues, including the secret drone war, U.S. support for Israel, the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, and their opposition to U.S. military involvement in Syria. But they clashed over military spending, Iran and Libya. Several key international issues were not addressed at all, including climate change, the economic crisis in Europe, and the U.S.-backed drug war in Latin America.
Last night, Democracy Now! broke the sound barrier once again by adding the voices of two third-party presidential candidates that were excluded from the debate: Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party. We aired the Obama-Romney debate, pausing the tape after each question to give Dr. Stein and Rocky Anderson a chance to respond to the same questions put to the major-party candidates. We also invited Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, but he declined to join us. We recorded the show in front of a live audience here at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael, California.
Today we bring you highlights from our "Expanding the Debate" special. We begin with debate moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News.
BOB SCHIEFFER: The first segment is the challenge of a changing Middle East and the new face of terrorism. I’m going to put this into two segments so you’ll have two topic questions within this one segment on the subject. The first question—and it concerns Libya. The controversy over what happened there continues. Four Americans are dead, including an American ambassador. Questions remain: What happened? What caused it? Was it spontaneous? Was it an intelligence failure? Was it a policy failure? Was there an attempt to mislead people about what really happened?
Governor Romney, you said this was an example of an American policy in the Middle East that is unraveling before our very eyes. I’d like to hear each of you give your thoughts on that. Governor Romney, you won the toss. You go first.
MITT ROMNEY: Thank you, Bob. And thank you for agreeing to moderate this debate this evening. Thank you to Lynn University for welcoming us here. And Mr. President, it’s good to be with you again. We were together at a humorous event a little earlier, and it’s nice to maybe be funny this time, not on purpose. We’ll see what happens.
This is obviously an area of great concern to the entire world, and to America, in particular, which is to see a complete change in the—the structure and the—the environment in the Middle East.
With the Arab Spring came a great deal of hope that there would be a change towards more moderation and opportunity for greater participation on the part of women in public life and in economic life in the Middle East. But instead, we’ve seen, in nation after nation, a number of disturbing events.
Of course, we see in Syria 30,000 civilians having been killed by the military there. We see in—in Libya, an attack apparently by—I think we know now—by terrorists of some kind against—against our people there, four people dead. Our hearts and—and minds go to them. Mali has been taken over, the northern part of Mali, by al-Qaeda-type individuals. We have in—in Egypt, a Muslim Brotherhood president. And so, what we’re seeing is a pretty dramatic reversal in the kind of hopes we had for that region. And, of course, the greatest threat of all is Iran, four years closer to a nuclear weapon.
And—and we’re going to have to recognize that we have to do as the president has done. I congratulate him on—on taking out Osama bin Laden and going after the leadership in al-Qaeda. But we can’t kill our way out of this mess. We’re going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the—the world of Islam and other parts of the world reject this radical violent extremism, which is—it’s certainly not on the run. It’s certainly not hiding. This is a group that is now involved in 10 or 12 countries, and it presents an enormous threat to our friends, to the world, to America, long term, and we must have a comprehensive strategy to help reject this kind of extremism.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, my first job as commander-in-chief, Bob, is to keep the American people safe. And that’s what we’ve done over the last four years. We ended the war in Iraq, refocused our attention on those who actually killed us on 9/11. And as a consequence, al-Qaeda’s core leadership has been decimated. In addition, we’re now able to transition out of Afghanistan in a responsible way, making sure that Afghans take responsibility for their own security. And that allows us also to rebuild alliances and make friends around the world to combat future threats.
Now, with respect to Libya, as I indicated in the last debate, when we received that phone call, I immediately made sure that, number one, we did everything we could to secure those Americans who were still in harm’s way; number two, that we would investigate exactly what happened; and number three, most importantly, that we would go after those who killed Americans, and we would bring them to justice. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
But I think it’s important to step back and think about what happened in Libya. And keep in mind that I and Americans took leadership in organizing an international coalition that made sure that we were able to, without putting troops on the ground, at the cost of less than what we spent in two weeks in Iraq, liberate a country that had been under the yoke of dictatorship for 40 years, got rid of a despot who had killed Americans. And as a consequence, despite this tragedy, you had tens of thousands of Libyans after the events in Benghazi marching and saying, "America is our friend. We stand with them."
Now, that represents the opportunity we have to take advantage of. And, you know, Governor Romney, I’m glad that you agree that we have been successful in going after al-Qaeda, but I have to tell you that, you know, your strategy previously has been one that has been all over the map and is not designed to keep Americans safe or to build on the opportunities that exist in the Middle East.
AMY GOODMAN: Third-party candidate, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, you have two minutes to respond to the question about the situation in Libya.
DR. JILL STEIN: Thank you, Amy, and thank you so much toDemocracy Now! for expanding this debate in a way that’s absolutely essential. And as we are getting set up here, I couldn’t hear all of the comments of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, but I’ll respond generally to the issue of Libya and the tragic events at the embassy.
And, you know, it’s very clear that there is blowback going on now across the Middle East, not only the unrest directed at the Libyan embassy, likewise at the embassies really across the Middle East, including in Egypt. We are seeing in Afghanistan our soldiers are being shot at by the police forces that they are supposed to be training in Afghanistan. We’re seeing in Pakistan that 75 percent of Pakistanis actually identify the United States now as their enemy, not as their supporter or their ally. And, you know, in many ways, we’re seeing a very ill-conceived, irresponsible and immoral war policy come back to haunt us, where United States foreign policies have been based, unfortunately, on brute military force and wars for oil.
Under my administration, we will have a foreign policy based on international law and human rights and the use of diplomacy. And instead of fighting wars for oil, we will be leading—as America, we will be leading the fight to put an end to climate change. In Afghanistan and Iraq, we have spent about $5 trillion. We have seen thousands and thousands of American lives lost, hundreds of thousands of civilian lives lost, about a trillion dollars a year being spent on a massive, bloated military-industrial-security budget. Instead, we need to cut that military budget, rightsize it to year 2000 levels, and build true security here at home, bringing our war dollars home.
AMY GOODMAN: Rocky Anderson, presidential candidate of the Justice Party, you have two minutes.
ROCKY ANDERSON: Thank you.
The question was whether the killings at the embassy in Libya were a policy failure, whether they reflected a policy failure. And it is so clear to everyone that the policy failure has been in the way the United States has treated so many nations in the Middle East. We’re like the bully that never got counseling, and we keep wondering, why don’t they like us?
We invaded Iraq and occupied that country. It was completely illegal. Two United Nations secretaries-general declared that it was illegal. It was a war of aggression, and it was all done on a pack of lies. Now, we aggravate the situation by keeping bases in so many other nations, including Saudi Arabia, bolstering these tyrants and, at the same time, engaging in direct, unmanned drone strikes in at least four sovereign nations, killing, in the process, hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent men, women and children. That is the policy failure: our belligerence, our efforts to control, to dominate and to make certain that we will always have that control over the resources in these nations. That’s what this is all about.
We took over the government. We overthrew the Mosaddegh government in Iran in 1953. We’re still paying a heavy price for that. We have a history of doing that in this country. And I think that the American people have finally got it, that we need to start building friendly relationships with these nations and not go around with the kinds of belligerence where not only do we attack these countries, but Mitt Romney calling Russia our greatest geopolitical foe, for heaven’s sakes, when we ought to be working with Russia to bring about a peaceful resolution of what’s happening in Syria. So, this is a holistic problem with a—an imperialist foreign policy that we have to turn around, and the American people can see to it if we join together.
AMY GOODMAN: Justice Party presidential candidate Rocky Anderson. When we come back, we’ll continue with our "Expanding the Debate" special and get responses from all four candidates to moderator Bob Schieffer’s next question on the Middle East, which focused on Syria.