Friday, October 26

Transcript of President Obama and Governor Romney in the Third Presidential Debate Part 2

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President Obama and Governor Romney in the Third Presidential Debate

Lynn University
Boca Raton, Florida
Part 2 of the Transcript

MR. SCHIEFFER:  Governor, can I just ask you, would you go beyond what the administration would do?  Like, for example, would you put in no-fly zones over Syria?
GOVERNOR ROMNEY:  I don’t want to have our military involved in Syria.  I don’t think there’s a necessity to put our military in Syria at this stage.  I don’t anticipate that in the future.  As I indicated, our objectives are to replace Assad and to have in place a new government which is friendly to us -- a responsible government, if possible.  And I want to make sure they get armed and they have the arms necessary to defend themselves, but also to remove Assad.
But I do not want to see a military involvement on the part of our troops.  And this isn’t going to be necessary.  We have -- with our partners in the region, we have sufficient resources to support those groups. 
But, look, this has been going on for a year.  This is a time -- this should have been a time for American leadership.  We should have taken a leading role -- not militarily, but a leading role organizationally, governmentally -- to bring together the parties there, to find responsible parties. 
As you hear from intelligence sources even today, the insurgents are highly disparate; they haven’t come together; they haven’t formed a unity group, a council of some kind.  That needs to happen.  America can help that happen.  And we need to make sure they have the arms they need to carry out the very important role, which is getting rid of Assad.
MR. SCHIEFFER:  Can we get a quick response, Mr. President?  Because I want to ask about Egypt.
THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll be very quick.  What you just heard Governor Romney said is he doesn’t have different ideas, and that’s because we’re doing exactly what we should be doing to try to promote a moderate Syrian leadership and an effective transition so that we get Assad out.  That’s the kind of leadership we’ve shown.  That’s the kind of leadership we’ll continue to show.
MR. SCHIEFFER:  May I ask you, during the Egyptian turmoil, there came a point when you said it was time for President Mubarak to go.
MR. SCHIEFFER:  Some in your administration thought perhaps we should have waited a while on that.  Do you have any regrets about that? 
THE PRESIDENT:  No, I don’t, because I think that 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. 
But what I’ve also said is that now that you have a democratically elected government in Egypt, they have to make sure that they take responsibility for protecting religious minorities -- and we have put significant pressure on them to make sure they’re doing that; to recognize the rights of women, which is critical throughout the region.  These countries can’t develop if young women are not given the kind of education that they need.  They have to abide by their treaty with Israel.  That is a red line for us, because not only is Israel’s security at stake, but our security is at stake if that unravels.
They have to make sure that they’re cooperating with us when it comes to counterterrorism.  And we will help them with respect to developing their own economy -- because ultimately, what’s going to make the Egyptian revolution successful for the people of Egypt but also for the world is if those young people who gathered there are seeing opportunities.  Their aspirations are similar to young people’s here.  They want jobs.  They want to be able to make sure their kids are going to a good school.  They want to make sure that they have a roof over their heads and that they have the prospects of a better life in the future. 
And so one of the things that we’ve been doing is, for example, organizing entrepreneurship conferences with these Egyptians to give them a sense of how they can start rebuilding their economy in a way that’s non-corrupt, that’s transparent. 
But what is also important for us to understand is, is that for America to be successful in this region, there are some things that we’re going to have to do here at home as well.  One of the challenges over the last decade is we’ve done experiments in nation-building in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, and we’ve neglected, for example, developing our own economy, our own energy sectors, our own education system.  And it’s very hard for us to project leadership around the world when we’re not doing what we need to do here.
MR. SCHIEFFER:  Governor Romney, I’m going to hear your response to that.  But I would just ask you, would you have stuck with Mubarak?
GOVERNOR ROMNEY:  No.  I believe, as the President indicated, and said at the time that I supported his action there.  I felt that -- I wish we would 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 would 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 aggressively with our friend and with other friends in the region to have them make the transition towards a more representative form of government, such that it didn’t explode in the way it did. 
But once it exploded, I felt the same as the President did, which is these freedom voices in the streets of Egypt were the people who were speaking of our principles.  And President Mubarak had done things which were unimaginable, and the idea of him crushing his people was not something that we could possibly support.
Let me step back and talk about what I think our mission has to be in the Middle East and even more broadly -- because 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 and know they’re going to have a bright and prosperous future and not be at war.  That’s our purpose.  And the mantle of leadership for promoting the principles of peace has fallen to America.  We didn’t ask for it, but it’s an honor that we have it.  But for us to be able to promote those principles of peace requires us to be strong, and that begins with a strong economy here at home.  And unfortunately, the economy is not stronger. 
When the President of Iraq -- excuse me, of Iran, Ahmadinejad, says that our debt makes us not a great country, that’s a frightening thing.  The former chief of -- the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that -- Admiral Mullen -- said that our debt is the biggest national security threat we face. 
We have weakened our economy.  We need a strong economy.  We need to have, as well, a strong military.  Our military is second to none in the world.  We’re blessed with terrific soldiers and extraordinary technology and intelligence.  But the idea of a trillion dollars in cuts through sequestration and budget cuts to the military would change that.
We need to have strong allies.  Our association and connection with our allies is essential to America’s strength.  We’re the great nation that has allies -- 42 allies and friends around the world.  And finally we have to stand by our principles. 
And if we’re strong in each of those things, American influence will grow.  But, unfortunately, in nowhere in the world is America’s influence greater today than it was four years ago. 
MR. SCHIEFFER:  All right.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY:  And that's because we’ve become weaker --
THE PRESIDENT:  Bob, I think --
GOVERNOR ROMNEY:  -- on each of those four dimensions.
MR. SCHIEFFER:  You’re going to get a chance to respond to that because that's a perfect segue into our next segment, and that is what is America’s role in the world.  And that is the question:  What do each of you see as our role in the world?  And I believe, Governor Romney, it’s your turn to go first.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY:  Well, I absolutely believe that America has a responsibility and the privilege of helping defend freedom and promote the principles that make the world more peaceful, and those principles include human rights, human dignity, free enterprise, freedom of expression, elections -- because when there are elections, people tend to vote for peace.  They don't vote for war.  So we want to promote those principles around the world. 
We recognize that there are places of conflict in the world. We want to end those conflicts to the extent humanly possible.  But in order to be able to fulfill our role in the world, America must be strong.  America must lead.  And for that to happen, we have to strengthen our economy here at home.  You can't have 23 million people struggling to get a job.  You can't have an economy that over the last three years keeps slowing down in its growth rate.  You can't have kids coming out of college, half of whom can't find a job today, or a job that's commensurate with their college degree.  We have to get our economy going.
And our military -- we’ve got to strengthen our military long term.  We don't know what the world is going to throw at us down the road.  We make decisions today in a military that will confront challenges we can't imagine.  In the 2000 debates, there was no mention of terrorism, for instance.  And a year later, 9/11 happened.  So we have to make decisions based upon uncertainty, and that means a strong military.  I will not cut our military budget.
We have to also stand by our allies.  I think the tension that existed between Israel and the United States was very unfortunate.  I think also that pulling our missile defense program out of Poland in the way we did was also unfortunate in terms of, if you will, disrupting the relationship in some ways that existed between us.
And then of course, with regards to standing for our principles, when the students took the streets in Tehran, and the people there protested, the Green Revolution occurred.  For the President to be silent, I thought was an enormous mistake.  We have to stand for our principles, stand for our allies, stand for a strong military and stand for a stronger economy.
MR. SCHIEFFER:  Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT:  America remains the one indispensible nation, and the world needs a strong America, and it is stronger now than when I came into office.  Because we ended the war in Iraq, we were able to refocus our attention on not only the terrorist threat, but also beginning a transition process in Afghanistan.
It also allowed us to refocus on alliances and relationships that had been neglected for a decade.  And, Governor Romney, our alliances have never been stronger -- in Asia, in Europe, in Africa, with Israel, where we have unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation, including dealing with the Iranian threat. 
But what we also have been able to do is position ourselves so we can start rebuilding America.  And that’s what my plan does -- making sure that we’re bringing manufacturing back to our shores so that we’re creating jobs here, as we’ve done with the auto industry -- not rewarding companies that are shipping jobs overseas; making sure that we’ve got the best education system in the world, including retraining our workers for the jobs of tomorrow. 
Doing everything we can to control our own energy.  We’ve cut our oil imports to the lowest level in two decades because we’ve developed oil and natural gas, but we also have to develop clean energy technologies that will allow us to cut our exports in half by 2020.  That’s the kind of leadership that we need to show. 
And we’ve got to make sure that we reduce our deficit.  Unfortunately, Governor Romney’s plan doesn’t do it.  We’ve got to do it in a responsible way by cutting out spending we don’t need, but also by asking the wealthiest to pay a little bit more. That way we can invest in the research and technology that’s always kept us at the cutting edge.
Now, Governor Romney has taken a different approach throughout this campaign.  Both at home and abroad, he has proposed wrong and reckless policies.  He’s praised George Bush as a good economic steward and Dick Cheney as somebody who shows great wisdom and judgment.  And taking us back to those kinds of strategies that got us into this mess are not the way that we are going to maintain leadership in the 21st century.
MR. SCHIEFFER:  Governor Romney, wrong and reckless policies?
GOVERNOR ROMNEY:  I’ve got the policy for a future, an agenda for the future.  And when it comes to our economy here at home, I know what it takes to create 12 million new jobs and rising take-home pay.  And what we’ve seen over the last four years is something I don’t want to see over the next four years.
The President said by now we’d be at 5.4 percent unemployment.  We’re 9 million jobs short of that.  I will get America working again and see rising take-home pay again, and I’ll do it with five simple steps.
Number one, we are going to have North American energy independence.  We’re going to do it by taking full advantage of oil, coal, gas, nuclear, and our renewables.  Number two, we’re going to increase our trade.  Trade grows about 12 percent per year.  It doubles about every five or so years.  We can do better than that, particularly in Latin America. 
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.  We’re all focused on China.  Latin America is a huge opportunity for us -- time zone, language opportunities.
Number three, we’re going to have to have training programs that work for our workers and schools that finally put the parents and the teachers and the kids first, and the teachers unions are going to have to go behind.
And then we’re going to have to get to a balanced budget.  We can’t expect entrepreneurs and businesses, large and small, to take their life savings or their company’s money and invest in America if they think we’re headed to the road to Greece.  And that’s where we’re going right now unless we finally get off this spending and borrowing binge.  And I’ll get us on track to a balanced budget.
And finally, number five, we’ve got to champion small business.  Small businesses are where jobs come from.  Two-thirds of our jobs come from small businesses.  New business formation is down at the lowest level in 30 years under this administration.  I want to bring it back and get back good jobs and rising take-home pay.
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let’s talk about what we need to compete.  First of all, Governor Romney talks about small businesses, but, 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’re promoting actually don’t help small businesses.  And the way you define small businesses include folks at the very top -- they include you and me.  That’s not the kind of small business promotion we need.
But let’s take an example that we know is going to make a difference in the 21st century, and that’s our education policy. We didn’t have a lot of chance to talk about this in the last debate.  Under my leadership, what we’ve done is reformed education, working with governors -- 46 states.  We’ve seen progress and gains in schools that were having a terrible time, and they’re starting to finally make progress.  And what I now want to do is to hire more teachers, especially in math and science, because we know that we’ve fallen behind when it comes to math and science.  And those teachers can make a difference.
Now, Governor Romney, when you were asked by teachers whether or not this would help the economy grow, you said this isn’t going to help the economy grow.  When you were asked about reduced class sizes, you said class sizes don’t make a difference.  But I tell you, if you talk to teachers, they will tell you it does make a difference.  And if we’ve got math teachers who are able to provide the kind of support that they need for our kids, that’s what’s going to determine whether or not the new businesses are created here.  Companies are going to locate here depending on whether we’ve got the most highly skilled workforce. 
And the kinds of budget proposals that you’ve put forward, when we don’t ask either you or me to pay a dime more in terms of reducing the deficit, but instead we slash support for education, that’s undermining our long-term competitiveness.  That is not good for America’s position in the world -- and the world notices.
MR. SCHIEFFER:  Let me get back to foreign policy.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY:  Well, look --
MR. SCHIEFFER:  Can I just get back to --
GOVERNOR ROMNEY:  Well, I need to speak a moment if you’ll let me, Bob --
GOVERNOR ROMNEY:  -- just about education, because 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.
How did we do that?  Well, Republicans and Democrats came together on a bipartisan basis to put in place education principles that focused on having great teachers in the classroom, and that was --
THE PRESIDENT:  Ten years earlier, Governor.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY:  -- and that was what allowed us to become the number-one state in the nation.
THE PRESIDENT:  But that was 10 years before you took office.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY:  And this is -- and we were --
MR. SCHIEFFER:  Gentlemen.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY:  Absolutely --
THE PRESIDENT:  And then you cut education spending when you came into office.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY:  The first -- and we kept our schools number one in the nation.  They’re still number one today.
MR. SCHIEFFER:  All right.
GOVERNOR 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 be able to compete, but also if they graduated in the top quarter of their class they got a four-year, tuition-free ride at any Massachusetts public institution of higher learning.
THE PRESIDENT:  That happened before you came into office, though.
MR. SCHIEFFER:  Governor --
GOVERNOR ROMNEY:  That was actually mine.  Actually, Mr. President, you’ve got that fact wrong.
MR. SCHIEFFER:  Let me just -- I want to try to shift it, because we have heard some of this in the other debates.  Governor, you say you want a bigger military, you want a bigger Navy.  You don’t want to cut defense spending.  What I want to ask you -- we’re talking about financial problems in this country -- where are you going to get the money?
GOVERNOR ROMNEY:  Well, let’s come back and talk about the military, but all the way through.  First of all, I’m going through from the very beginning -- we’re going to cut about 5 percent of the discretionary budget, excluding military.  That’s number one, all right?  And that’s --
MR. SCHIEFFER:  But can you do this without driving us deeper into debt?
GOVERNOR ROMNEY:  The good news is -- I’ll be happy to have you take a look.  Come on our website; you’ll look at how we get to a balanced budget within 8 to 10 years.  We do it by getting  -- by reducing spending in a whole series of programs.  By the way, number one I get rid of is Obamacare.  There are a number of things that sound good, but, frankly, we just can’t afford them, and that one doesn’t sound good and it’s not affordable.  So I get rid of that one from day one.  To the extent humanly possible, we get that out.  We take program after program that we don’t absolutely have to have and we get rid of them.
Number two, we take some programs that we are going to keep, like Medicaid, which is a program for the poor -- we take that health care program for the poor and we give it to the states to run because states run these programs more efficiently.  As a governor, I thought, please, give me this program.  I can run this more efficiently than the federal government.
MR. SCHIEFFER:  Can he do that?
GOVERNOR ROMNEY:  And states, by the way, are proving it.  States like Arizona, Rhode Island have taken these Medicaid dollars, have shown they can run these programs more cost-effectively.  And so I want to do those two things.  It gets us to a balanced budget within 8 to 10 years.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY:  Let’s get back to the military, though. 
MR. SCHIEFFER:  Well, that’s what I’m trying to find out about.
THE PRESIDENT:  He should have answered the first question.
Look, Governor Romney has called for $5 trillion of tax cuts that he says he’s going to pay for by closing deductions.  Now, the math doesn’t work, but he continues to claim that he’s going to do it.  He then wants to spend another $2 trillion on military spending that our military is not asking for. 
Now, keep in mind that our military spending has gone up every single year that I’ve been in office.  We spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined -- China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom, you name it -- next 10.  And what I did was work with our Joint Chiefs of Staff to think about what are we going to need in the future to make sure that we are safe, and that’s the budget that we’ve put forward.
But what you can’t do is spend $2 trillion in additional military spending that the military is not asking for; $5 trillion on tax cuts.  You say that you’re going to pay for it by closing loopholes and deductions without naming what those loopholes and deductions are, and then somehow you’re also going to deal with the deficit that we’ve already got.  The math simply doesn’t work. 
But when it comes to our military, what we have to think about is not just budgets.  We’ve got think about capabilities.  We need to be thinking about cybersecurity.  We need to be thinking about space.  That's exactly what our budget does, but it’s driven by strategy.  It’s not driven by politics.  It’s not driven by members of Congress and what they would like to see.  It’s driven by what are we going to need to keep the American people safe.  That's exactly what our budget does.
And it also then allows us to reduce our deficit, which is a significant national security concern, because we’ve got to make sure that our economy is strong at home so that we can project military power overseas.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY:  Bob, I’m pleased that I’ve balanced budgets.  I was in the world of business for 25 years.  You didn't balance your budget, you went out of business.  I went to 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 our state; four years in a row, Democrats and Republicans came together to balance the budget.  We cut taxes 19 times, balanced our budget. 
The President hasn’t balanced a budget yet.  I expect to have the opportunity to do so myself.  I’m going to be able to balance the budget.
Let’s talk about military spending, and that's this -- our Navy --
MR. SCHIEFFER:  Thirty seconds.
GOVERNOR ROMNEY:  Our Navy is old -- excuse me, our Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917.  The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission; we’re now down to 285.  We’re headed down to the low 200s if we go through with  sequestration.  That's unacceptable to me.  I want to make sure that we have the ships that are required by our Navy. 
Our Air Force is older and smaller than 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. 
Look, this, in my view, is the highest responsibility of the President of the United States, which is to maintain the safety of the American people.  And I will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars, which is the combination of the budget cuts the President has, as well as the sequestration cuts.  That, in my view, is making our future less certain and less secure --
THE PRESIDENT:  Bob, I just need to comment on this.  First of all, the sequester is not something that I proposed.  It’s something that Congress has proposed.  It will not happen.  The budget that we’re talking about is not reducing our military spending, it’s maintaining it. 
But I think Governor Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works.  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 has changed.  We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them.  We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.  And so the question is not a game of Battleship where we’re counting ships; it’s what are our capabilities.
And so when I sit down with the Secretary of the Navy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we determine how are we going to be best able to meet all of our defense needs in a way that also keeps faith with our troops, that also makes sure that our veterans have the kind of support that they need when they come home.  And that is not reflected in the kind of budget that you’re putting forward, because it just doesn’t work.  And we visited the website quite a bit and it still doesn’t work.
MR. SCHIEFFER:  A lot to cover.  I’d like to move to the next segment:  Red lines -- Israel and Iran.  Would either of you -- and you’ll have two minutes -- and, President Obama, you have the first go at this one.  Would either of you be willing to declare that an attack on Israel is an attack on the United States -- which, of course, is the same promise that we give to our close allies like Japan.  And if you made such a declaration, would not that deter Iran?  It’s certainly deterred the Soviet Union for a long, long time when we made that promise to our allies.

Continue to President Obama and Governor Romney in the Third Presidential Debate Part 2

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