Obama-Romney: Abridged Transcript
October 23, 2012 § Leave a comment
ROMNEY: Mr. President, we were together at a humorous event a little earlier, and it’s nice to maybe funny this time, not on purpose. We’ll see what happens. But we can’t kill our way out of this mess. 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.
OBAMA: I’m glad that you agree that we have been successful, but I have to tell you that, you know, your strategy previously has been one that has been all over the map.
ROMNEY: My strategy is pretty straightforward, which is to go after the bad guys, to make sure we do our very best to interrupt them, to — to kill them, to take them out of the picture. It’s wonderful that Libya seems to be making some progress, despite this terrible tragedy. But next door, of course, we have Egypt.
OBAMA: A few months ago when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said the social policies of the 1950s. You said we should have gone into Iraq. Not only were you wrong, but you were also confusing.
ROMNEY: The things I said–they don’t happen to be accurate. But — but the rising tide of tumult and — and confusion. And — and attacking me. Take advantage of the opportunity, and stem the tide of this violence. I’ll give you more flexibility after the election. After the election, with regards to Iraq, you and I agreed—
ROMNEY: Oh you didn’t? You didn’t want a status of…
OBAMA: What I would not have had done was..
ROMNEY: I’m sorry, you actually — there was a — there was an effort on the part of the president (CROSSTALK)
ROMNEY: …that your posture. That was my posture as well. You thought…
ROMNEY: … I thought, but you know what? The answer was we got…
ROMNEY: … through whatsoever.
OBAMA: This was just a few weeks ago
ROMNEY: No, I…
ROMNEY: …I’m sorry that’s a…
OBAMA: You — you…
ROMNEY: …that’s a — I indicated…
OBAMA: …major speech.
ROMNEY: …I indicated that you failed to put in place a status…
ROMNEY: … at the end of the conflict that existed.
OBAMA: Governor — here — here’s — here’s one thing…
OBAMA: I’ve learned as Commander in Chief.
SCHIEFFER: Let him answer…
OBAMA: You’ve got to be clear about where you stand and what you mean. We are taking advantage of the opportunities of the Middle East. We do have to make sure that we’re protecting women, coordinating with Turkey and other countries in the region that have a great interest in this. Assad’s days are numbered. But what we can’t do is to simply suggest that.
ROMNEY: Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea. We don’t want to have military involvement there. And so the right course for us, is working through our partners and with our own resources, to identify responsible parties within Syria, organize them, bring them together in a — in a form of — if not government, a form of — of — of council. And then make sure they have the arms necessary to defend themselves.
OBAMA: We organized the Friends of Syria. That’s the kind of leadership we’ve shown. That’s the kind of leadership we’ll continue to show.
ROMNEY: This isn’t — this isn’t going to be necessary.
SCHIEFFER: Egypt. Mubarak. Regrets?
OBAMA: America has to stand with democracy. The notion that we would have tanks run over those young people who were in Tahrir Square, that is not the kind of American leadership that John F. Kennedy talked about 50 years ago. These countries can’t develop if young women are not given the kind of education that they need.
SCHIEFFER: Governor Romney?
ROMNEY: I felt that — I wish we’d have had a better vision of the future. I wish that, looking back at the beginning of the president’s term and even further back than that, that we’d have recognized that there was a growing energy and passion for freedom in that part of the world, and that we would have worked more with our friend and with other friends in the region such that it didn’t explode in the way that it did. our purpose is to make sure the world is more — is peaceful. We want a peaceful planet. We want people to be able to enjoy their lives.
OBAMA: America remains the one indispensable nation. That’s the kind of leadership that we need to show. We’ve developed oil and natural gas. Governor Romney has praised Dick Cheney as somebody who shows great wisdom and judgment. We are going to maintain leadership.
ROMNEY: I’ve got a policy for the future. Twelve million new jobs. The opportunities for us in Latin America we have just not taken advantage of fully. As a matter of fact, Latin America’s economy is almost as big as the economy of China. Latin America is a huge opportunity for us. Two-thirds of our jobs come from small businesses.
OBAMA: Governor, when you were in Massachusetts, small businesses development ranked about 48th, I think out of 50 states in Massachusetts, because the policies that you are promoting actually don’t help small businesses. I want to hire more teachers, especially in math and science, because we know that we’ve fallen behind when it comes to math.
SCHIEFFER: Let me get back to foreign policy.
SCHIEFFER: Can I just get back…
ROMNEY: Well — well, I need to speak a moment…
ROMNEY: … if you’ll let me, Bob, just about education…
ROMNEY: … because I’m — I’m so proud of the state that I had the chance to be governor of.
We have every two years tests that look at how well our kids are doing. Fourth graders and eighth graders are tested in English and math. While I was governor, I was proud that our fourth graders came out number one of all 50 states in English, and then also in math. And our eighth graders number one in English and also in math. First time one state had been number one in all four measures.
OBAMA: Ten years earlier…
ROMNEY: And that was — that was — that was what allowed us to become the number one state in the nation.
OBAMA: But that was 10 years before you took office.
ROMNEY: The first — the first — the first — and we kept our schools number one in the nation. They’re still number one today.
SCHIEFFER: All right.
ROMNEY: And the principles that we put in place, we also gave kids not just a graduation exam that determined whether they were up to the skills needed to — to be able compete, but also if they graduated the quarter of their class, they got a four-year tuition- free ride at any Massachusetts public institution of higher learning.
OBAMA: That happened before you came into office.
ROMNEY: The good news is (inaudible). I’d be happy to have you take a look. Come on our website. You look at how we get to a balanced budget within eight to 10 years. Some programs that we are doing to keep, like Medicaid, which is a program for the poor and we give it to the states to run. As a governor, I thought please, give me this program. But the military — let’s get back to the military, though.
SCHIEFFER: That’s what I’m trying…
OBAMA: He should have answered the first question.
ROMNEY: I’m pleased that I’ve balanced budgets. I was on the world of business for 25 years. If you didn’t balance your budget, you went out of business. I went into the Olympics that was out of balance, and we got it on balance, and made a success there. I had the chance to be governor of a state. Four years in a row, Democrats and Republicans came together to balance the budget. The president hasn’t balanced a budget yet. I expect to have the opportunity to do so myself.
SCHIEFFER: All right.
ROMNEY: I’m going to be able to balance the budget.
SCHIEFFER: Governor, you say you want a bigger military. You want a bigger Navy. Where are you going to get the money?
ROMNEY: Our Navy is old — excuse me, our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. Our Air Force is older and smaller than at any time since it was founded in 1947. We’ve changed for the first time since FDR — since FDR we had the — we’ve always had the strategy of saying we could fight in two conflicts at once. Now we’re changing to one conflict.
OBAMA: We also have fewer horses and bayonets. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.
And, you know, we visited the website quite a bit and it still doesn’t work.
But to the issue of Iran, as long as I’m president of the United States Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. I made that clear when I came into office.
ROMNEY: It’s absolutely the right thing to do, to have crippling sanctions. I would have put them in place earlier. It is also essential for us to understand what our mission is in Iran. This nuclear folly of theirs is unacceptable to America.
OBAMA: You know, there have been times, Governor, frankly, during the course of this campaign, where it sounded like you thought that you’d do the same things we did, but you’d say them louder and somehow that — that would make a difference. The clock is ticking.
ROMNEY And then the president began what I have called an apology tour, of going to various nations in the Middle East and criticizing America. I think they looked at that and saw weakness.
Then when there were dissidents in the streets of Tehran, a Green Revolution, holding signs saying, is America with us, the president was silent. I think they noticed that as well.
OBMA: Nothing Governor Romney just said is true.
ROMNEY: You went to the Middle East and you flew to Egypt and to Saudi Arabia and to Turkey and Iraq. And by the way, you skipped Israel. And by the way, they noticed that you skipped Israel. And then in those nations, and on Arabic TV, you said that on occasion America had dictated to other nations. Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations.
OBAMA: I went to Yad Beshef, the Holocaust museum there, to remind myself the nature of evil.
SCHIEFFER: What if — what if the prime minister of Israel called you on the phone and said, “Our bombers are on the way. We’re going to bomb Iran.”
What do you –
ROMNEY: Bob, let’s not go into hypotheticals of that nature. The president received a letter from 38 Democrat senators saying the tensions with Israel were a real problem. They asked him, please repair the tension — Democrat senators — please repair the tension…
SCHIEFFER: All right.
ROMNEY: … the damage in his — in his own party.
OBAMA: You know, after we killed bin Laden I was at ground zero for a memorial and talked to a young women who was four years old when 9/11 happened. And the last conversation she had with her father was him calling from the twin towers, saying “Peyton, I love you and I will always watch over you.” And for the next decade, she was haunted by that conversation. And she said to me, “You know, by finally getting bin Laden, that brought some closure to me.”
ROMNEY: Well, we’re going to be finished by 2014. And I don’t mean you, Mr. President, but some people in the –.
OBAMA: I was having lunch with some — a veteran in Minnesota who had been a medic dealing with the most extreme circumstances. When he came home and he wanted to become a nurse, he had to start from scratch. And what we’ve said is Let’s change those certifications. The first lady has done great work with an organization called Joining Forces putting our veterans back to work. And as a consequence, veterans’ unemployment is actually now lower than general population. It was higher when I came into office.
SCHIEFFER: Is it time for us to divorce Pakistan?
ROMNEY: It’s not time to divorce a nation on Earth that has 100 nuclear weapons and is on the way to double that at some point. Pakistan is — is technically an ally, and they’re not acting very much like an ally right now. And I — I don’t blame the administration for the fact that the relationship with Pakistan is strained. We — we had to go into Pakistan. We had to go in there to get Osama bin Laden. That was the right thing to do. And — and that upset them.
OBAMA: In Egypt we stood on the side of democracy. In Libya we stood on the side of the people. In respect to China, we had a tire case in which they were flooding us with cheap domestic tires — cheap Chinese tires. And we put a stop to it.
ROMNEY: China has an interest that’s very much like ours in one respect, and that is they want a stable world. They don’t want war. They don’t want to see protectionism. They’re stealing our intellectual property, our patents, our designs, our technology, hacking into our computers, counterfeiting our goods. We like free enterprise.
OBAMA: And, you know, that’s — you’re right. I mean that’s how our free market works. But if we had taken your advice, Governor Romney, about our auto industry, we’d be buying cars from China instead of selling cars to China.
ROMNEY: Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m a son of Detroit. I was born in Detroit. My dad was head of a car company. I like American cars. And I would do nothing to hurt the U.S. auto industry. My plan to get the industry on its feet when it was in real trouble was not to start writing checks. It was President Bush that wrote the first checks. And fortunately–
OBAMA: Governor Romney, that’s not what you said…
OBAMA: Governor Romney, you did not…
ROMNEY: You can take a look at the op-ed…
OBAMA: You did not say that you would provide government help.
ROMNEY: I said that we would provide guarantees, and — and that was what was able to allow these companies to go through bankruptcy and come out of bankruptcy. The idea that has been suggested that I would liquidate the industry, of course not. Of course not.
OBAMA: Let’s check the record.
ROMNEY: That’s the height of silliness…
OBAMA: Let — let — let’s…
ROMNEY: I have never said I would liquidate…
OBAM: …at the record.
ROMNEY: …I would liquidate the industry.
OBAMA: Governor, the people in Detroit don’t forget.
ROMNEY: We in this country can — can compete successfully with anyone in the world, and we’re going to. But investing in companies? Absolutely not.
ROMNEY: That’s the wrong way to go.
OBAMA: The fact of the matter is…
ROMNEY: I’m still speaking. So I want to make sure that we make — we make America more competitive.
ROMNEY: …the most attractive place in the world.
ROMNEY: …because the private sector
OBAMA: I’m — I’m — I’m happy.
OBAMA: …to respond to you…
ROMNEY: …if — if you’re…
OBAMA: …you’ve had the floor for a while.
ROMNEY: …get someone else’s.
OBAMA: The — look, I think anybody out there can check the record. Governor Romney, you keep on trying to airbrush history
ROMNEY: You’re wrong…
OBAMA: …they would have gone through a…
ROMNEY: …you’re wrong.
OBAMA: No, I am not wrong. I am not wrong.
ROMNEY: People can look it up, you’re right.
OBAMA: People will look it up.
OBAMA: But more importantly it is true that in order for us to be competitive, we’re going to have to make some smart choices right now. Education. We’ve now begun to make some real progress. We’ve got to go forward, not back.
ROMNEY: When you came to office 32 million people on food stamps. Today, 47 million people on food stamps. When you came to office, just over $10 trillion in debt, now $16 trillion in debt. It hasn’t worked. You said by now we’d be at 5.4 percent unemployment. We’re 9 million jobs short of that. I’ve met some of those people. I’ve met them in Appleton, Wisconsin. I love teachers—
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor?
ROMNEY: But I love teachers.
SCHIEFFER: I think we all love teachers. Gentlemen, thank you so much for a very vigorous debate. We have come to the end. It is time for closing statements.
OBAMA: America continues to be the greatest nation on earth.
ROMNEY: I’d like to be the next president of the United States.