It was clear early on that no one there really wanted to discuss foreign policy. At every opportunity, both candidates veered off to domestic issues. And the moderator let them run. Just about any issue quickly became an excuse to revisit domestic issues.
Probably the most interesting dispute in the debate came when the president got one of his many digs in at Romney, alleging that he advocated destroying the auto industry through bankruptcy.
As Bob Shieffer began to try to move on, Romney cut in and insisted on addressing the question. Romney said he never had advocated that the auto industry be abandoned, but rather that he had advocated an ordered bankruptcy that would allow GM and Chrysler to properly shave their debts and regain the footing.
According to Romney, his New York Times op ed on November 18, 2008 had argued that the government should back the loans required to get the companies moving again. This resulted in some back and forth, with the president insisting that Romney was wrong and appealing to the transcript again, as he had successfully with Candy Crowley last week.
The fact checking on this one was not difficult at all. In the New York Times piece Romney wrote, “The American auto industry is vital to our national interest as an employer and as a hub for manufacturing. A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs. It would permit the companies to shed excess labor, pension and real estate costs. The federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk.”
Another fact check moment occurred when Romney argued that the president had sought to keep troops in Iraq, and that the negotiations to arrange that had collapsed. The president, in suggesting that Romney was wrong, artfully framed his position as having been that he did not want to see 10,000 troops stay in Iraq.
After the debate, CNN quickly fact checked it and found that the administration had sought a “status of forces agreement,” which would have left between 3,000 and 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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