Romney: It’s clear that Governor Romney is working hard to look thoughtful and “strategic,” not aggressive or eager for conflict. I understand the political strategy, but his first answer to the Libya question was not strong enough. He missed his moment to hit the president on a bad, and deteriorating, situation. The Obama administration’s story is still not straight, and the people responsible for the killing of our ambassador have not been brought to justice. Overall, his approach is summed up in this quote: “We don’t want another Iraq or another Afghanistan,” but instead we need economic development and a holistic strategy in the Middle East. On Syria, Romney was trying to have it both ways — we need leadership, but are not willing to commit U.S. resources. Tough to bifurcate. He did have a great response on Russia and “more flexibility” from Obama. He also had a great answer on debt and sequestration — an eloquent indictment of Obama’s economic policy.
Obama: The president went straight to his talking points — “I ended the war in Iraq and refocused on al-Qaeda.” Then he pulled the old bait and switch — accusing Romney of not having a strategy and saying he has sent clear messages over the last four years to our enemies and allies. Wow, a total flip on one of his weakest foreign-policy flanks. As I mentioned this afternoon, Obama has been all over the map on supporting allies and opposing enemies. Also, Obama is clearly trying to tie Romney to more war in Iraq (wants 10,000 more troops), and hit him for a lack of “experience” in foreign policy (through a back-handed reference). Obama also used a talking point to make Romney look weak on al-Qaeda; “strong and steady versus wrong and reckless” is how Obama framed it. On Syria, “organizing the international committee” is not leadership, Mr. President. A good insight into his thinking.