Candidates sit down for final stand-off

Gabrielle Moreira

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The final presidential debate between President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney saw more agreement than not on foreign policy and several shifts of discussion to domestic issues.

The candidates discussed conflicts in the Middle East, such as Syria, Libya, and Egypt, the war in Afghanistan, sanctions on Iran, Israel, the U.S.’s role on the world stage, and trade policies with China.

The debate was held at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. with Bob Schieffer, host of CBS’ “Face the Nation” as the moderator. There were six 15-minute segments and each candidate was allowed two minutes to respond to questions.

Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran

On the issue of Afghanistan, Romney agreed with the Obama administration’s timeline to withdraw by 2014, marking a sharp turn in his previous position. Earlier this year, when the Obama administration announced their plans to withdraw, Romney criticized the decision, according to an ABC news article.

“Why in the world do you go to the people that you’re fighting with and tell them the date you’re pulling out your troops? It makes absolutely no sense,” he said in the article.

Romney said that in order to withdraw from Afghanistan, nuclear-armed Pakistan must be stable.

“A Pakistan that falls apart (and) becomes a failed state would be of extraordinary danger to Afghanistan and us,” Romney said.

Obama maintained his position that withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan would be completed by 2014. The president stated that it was important to withdraw from Iraq to focus on Afghanistan, which he said was ignored by the Bush administration.

“And we’re now in a position where we can transition out, because there’s no reason why Americans should die when Afghans are perfectly capable of defending their own country,” Obama said.

Romney said he agreed with the “crippling” sanctions on Iran that the Obama administration has supported, but he called for even tougher ones.

U.S. role on the world stage

When the candidates were asked what they see as America’s role in the world, each laid out their views, but ultimately pivoted back to the issue of the U.S. economy.

“America has a responsibility and the privilege of helping defend freedom and promote the principles that make the world more peaceful,” Romney said.

Romney also said the U.S. must stand by its allies and said he would strengthen a relationship between America and Israel that he contends has suffered under the Obama administration.

He then used the question as an opportunity to chastise Obama’s track record on the economy: “You can’t have 23 million people struggling to get a job,” he said.

Obama said that the U.S. is “one indispensable nation” and is stronger since he’s been in 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,” he said. “It also allowed us to refocus on alliances and relationships that had been neglected for a decade.”

Obama added that his administration has engaged in “unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation” with Israel in dealing with the “Iranian threat.”

Seizing his own opportunity to talk about the economy, Obama said the U.S. needs to bring more manufacturing jobs back to the states, highlighting the auto industry. He also said the U.S. must invest in education and clean energy.

U.S. trade policies with China

On the subject of China, Romney said if he were to become president he would label China a “currency manipulator.” He stated that China “has not played by the same rules” because the country was “stealing intellectual property, patents, designs, and technology.”

Romney also said he would become a partner with China, but according to his website, he would pose sanctions against China if talks failed.

Obama immediately took the opportunity to attack Romney for investing in companies that shipped jobs overseas, alluding to Romney’s investments through the private equity firm, Bain Capital.

He added that during his first term, U.S. exports to China had doubled and that “currencies are at their most advantageous point for U.S. exporters since 1993.”

“We absolutely have to make more progress and that’s why we’re going to keep on pressing,” Obama said.