If that doesn’t match up with what your ears heard President Obama say, it’s because the transcript says otherwise.
No. 1 Threat?
In one of his first zingers of the night, Obama mocked Romney’s foreign policy chops, saying that Romney once called Russia — “not al Qaeda” — the “biggest geopolitical threat facing America.” We score this one for Romney.
Obama: Governor Romney, I’m glad that you recognize that al Qaeda’s a threat because a few months ago when you were asked, what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia — not al Qaeda, you said Russia. And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.
Romney responded by saying that his words had been twisted.
Romney: First of all, Russia, I indicated, is a geopolitical foe, not –
Obama: Number one –
Romney: Excuse me. It’s a geopolitical foe. And I said in the same paragraph, I said, and Iran is the greatest national security threat we face. Russia does continue to battle us in the U.N. time and time again. I have clear eyes on this.
And so, to the transcript of an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer earlier this year:
Romney, March 26, 2012: [T]his is to Russia, this is, without question, our No. 1 geopolitical foe. …
Blitzer: But you think Russia is a bigger foe right now than, let’s say, Iran or China or North Korea? Is that – is that what you’re suggesting, Governor?
Romney: Well, I’m saying in terms of a geopolitical opponent, the nation that lines up with the world’s worst actors. Of course, the greatest threat that the world faces is a nuclear Iran. A nuclear North Korea is already troubling enough.
So, this debate kerfuffle comes down to a distinction between biggest “foe” and biggest “threat.” Obama said Romney called Russia “the biggest geopolitical threat facing America … not al Qaeda.” Romney called Russia “our No. 1 geopolitical foe.” And Romney is correct that he quickly noted in the same interview that “the greatest threat that the world faces is a nuclear Iran.”