A feisty President Obama and a more subdued Mitt Romney traded jabs over foreign policy in the final presidential debate on Monday in Boca Raton, Fla. Out of the whole 90-minute debate, audiences will most likely remember Obama’s “horses and bayonets” dig.
Obama senior adviser David Plouffe, who told msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell “the president comes up with all our best lines,” also said that moment illustrates Romney’s out of date views.
“Governor Romney wants to spend $2 trillion more on defense than our generals want,” said Plouffe. “He talks about our Navy and our capabilities as if it is the last century. And I think for someone who is auditioning to become commander in chief, that ought to frighten people, because he doesn’t have a grasp that this is about capability and a new technology, and he’s viewing everything like he does on social and economic policy—through the rear-view mirror.”
During the debate, Obama challenged Romney’s “all over the map” leadership and painted him as naive on foreign policy. He dinged Romney for previously referring to Russia as our biggest geopolitical foe, saying, “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back!” Obama also criticized Romney for his sometimes hazy stances on foreign policy. “Here’s one thing I’ve learned as commander in chief,” the president said. “You’ve got to be clear… about where you stand.” He accused Romney of trying to “airbrush history” on his positions and argued the country needs to focus on nation-building at home.
Romney credited Obama with nailing Osama bin Laden, but slammed him on his overall handling of Islamist extremism. “We can’t kill our way out of this mess. We’re going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the world of Islam and other parts of the world to reject this radical violent extremism,” Romney said. “We don’t want another Iraq. We don’t want another Afghanistan.”
Romney surprisingly agreed on many of Obama’s talking points. Romney said he agreed with Obama on removing Mubarak and, in a reversal, agreed with the administration that troops should leave Afghanistan by 2014. He had previously criticized the White House for offering up a specific deadline. Obama called him out on this over Syria, saying, “He doesn’t have different ideas.”
Candidates have two weeks left to prove their final case to voters.